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.