HOURS: Mon-Fri 4-6pm
PRICES: $5 small plates and $5 house red and white wine

It was 5:30pm on a weekday. I arrived at Cafe Paloma, a little Lebanese place in Pioneer Square, to partake of the happy hour. A chalkboard near the door said HH lasts from 4 to 6pm, Monday through Friday.

I’d been here many times for weekday lunches—I love Lebanese food—and always wanted to try it chilled out, like the wine-swigging tourists lounging in their bistro chairs like so many expats in a Hemingway novel. What a perfect happy hour place, I’d think to myself, while lunching on lemony lentil soup or a piquantly dressed green salad studded with feta and chunks of tomato.

But here is the thing: Cafe Paloma only serves dinner on Thursdays and Fridays. So every other day it closes at 6pm. What I’m saying here is that Monday through Wednesday, when happy hour is over, the whole show is over. Meaning if you arrive at 5:30, this might happen to you:

I placed my happy hour order after I was seated; it appeared around 5:45. Just before she brought it to me, I heard my server tell a companion on the other side of the divide from the dining room that she hoped to catch a 6:10 bus, followed by something semi-audible about her son.

I gulped a little wine and baba ghanoush (which was fluffy and a little earthy—footy, almost, but in a good way). Guiltily, I imagined her young child alone on some daycare steps waiting for her, elbows on his little thighs, chin cupped warily in palms. He could be 17 for all I know, but I imagined him to be around five, with his mother’s big brown eyes. The eggplant dip landed with a thud in my stomach, and next thing I knew I was begging for the check. By 6pm I was out the door, heaps of hummus and baba left on the table beside my hastily paid tab.

Paloma is a great spot, a sweet little gem in a neighborhood that needs them. And the people that run it are so clearly lovely. Still and all, I don’t want you thinking you’re going to relax there and instead you end up awkwardly gulleting vegetarian dips as the little hand clicks towards six. That’s not fun. So if you go, go early or go on nights when dinner is served or ask a lot of questions before you sit down.

If you get the all clear, don’t miss the velvety textured hummus, that ethereal/barnyardy baba, or the red pepper dip. Just make sure you have time to eat them.