Critic's Notebook

Terra Plata’s Tamara Murphy Didn’t Invent the Happy Hour…

…well okay, in this town she kind of did. We spoke about that legendary happy hour’s effect on her late, great Brasa—and its effect on Seattle.

By Kathryn Robinson January 30, 2012

Murphy at work in Terra Plate. Photo courtesy of the Terra Plate Facebook page.

On the phone with Terra Plata owner and chef Tamara Murphy last week, I asked her about her former restaurant, Brasa —the Belltown Iberian restaurant that held down the 2100 block of Third Avenue from 1999 to 2010—and the happy hour that set off a city-wide frenzy.

“We survived WTO, we survived 9/11,” Murphy reflected. “Brasa was a big restaurant; it was difficult. I’d periodically thought about selling, but I wanted to get to the end of my ten-year lease. Right after 9/11, we started happy hour. I’m not the inventor of the happy hour, but I think Brasa was the first that took its menu and said, ‘We’re gonna do it with food.’”

Here the restaurant critic interjects: Do you remember that food? In what was then a brazen move, Murphy slashed her bar menu prices in half between the weekday hours of 5pm and 7pm, luring in half the city for big $7 preparations of steak-frites and chorizo clams and Spanish pork sandwiches called bocadillos…and more. These careful preparations not only represented the dinnertime steal of the century, they lit a fire across the city. Now every joint from Barolo to Japonessa makes happy hour food deals a major part of their draw, having learned well the lesson of Brasa: Lure ‘em with food, lube ‘em with drink—and watch ‘em stay for dinner.

Er…sometimes. “Yes we wanted bodies, and people did drink,” recalls Murphy. “But it became a bit of a Catch-22. We’d get so many people in for happy hour we’d have to seat them in the dining room. Sometimes it was hard for diners to get a seat for dinner.”

She shuttered Brasa and now can be seen lunch, dinner, and brunch at Terra Plata. Which has, as of this writing, no happy hour menu.

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