I resisted Happy Hour at McCormick & Schmick’s long and hard. I stood firm even after Alexis dutifully informed me that they had a ridiculously cheap appetizer menu, including a hamburger and fries platter for an implausible $1.95. Why did I do this? Because sometimes I’m a surly closed-minded, reverse-elitist, curmudgeon, that’s why. I’d developed an unfounded image in my head that M&S was a snooty chain, with desperate mahogany and faux English pub style pomp that appealed to rotund, self-important, business douchebags talking at great length about cigars, gambling, the titties on their waitress and the bear guns they’re gonna bring on their fly fishing trips to Montana. Sticking to my surly, closed-minded, reverse-elitist, curmudgeon guns, even in the face of reliable supporting evidence, I would not relent.
Finally, for want of a Happy Hour joint that was connected to the Skyway and could seat us in less than 40 minutes, unlike the now dismissed Vincent, my companion and I reluctantly walked into the 800 Nicollet Mall location of McCormick & Schmick’s and the second I laid eyes on my burger, I knew I’d be coming back soon. Indeed, I’ve been there about once a week ever since.
I resolved to sample as much on the HH menu as possible, even the appetizers priced at a ruinous $4.95, but by my third visit I realized that about 80% of the menu was in constant flux. Trying to taste everything was gonna be like trying to finish a bottle of beer at a Mexican wedding – you can get close, but then you look away for a split second and someone swoops in and replaces it with a full bottle.
There’s been some definite highs and lows on the menu. The Cajun Burger with fries ($1.95!) – more of a full meal than an appetizer and the plate that kicked off my torrid love affair with M&S – is surprisingly thick and tasty, especially considering what you’d be served for the same price at McDonald’s. I also loved the Mahi Mahi Cakes with Thai peanut sauce ($1.95!!), which, though quite small, unloads a wonderfully sharp, seasoned flavor that you wouldn’t want to eat too much of anyway. The subtler Salmon Cakes with apples and fried leeks (Yes! $1.95!!!) don’t make the saliva glands work as hard, but eaten first, you’ll never notice. The Smoked Salmon Crostinis with dill cream cheese ($3.95) and the Salmon Skewers with peanut sauce and stir fried vegetables ($4.95) are more memorable, as was the Seafood Newburg ($4.95), a lovely pile of shrimp and bay scallops over rice with a lobster cream sauce.
Unfortunately, there’s some doosies on the menu too. Avoid the Bay Shrimp Cocktail, with a paradoxically uninspired, drowned, messy appearance that got even worse inside the mouth. Same goes for the House Made Potato Chips with bacon and blue cheese sauce that looked and tasted like something kids would make for themselves after getting home from latchkey.
The Fish and Chips ($4.95) seemed rather plain compared to most of the rest of the menu and the Blackened Chicken Quesadilla ($3.95) was certainly tasty, but not overly striking. Meanwhile, the Chipotle Pork Tostadas ($1.95!!!!) defied all expectations from price and appearance, wowing and satisfying so thoroughly that we ordered a second plate 15 minutes later.
If your Happy Hour goals start and end at drink specials, then you should keep on walking down to Brothers or something similar. Presumably to compensate for the practically free, extraordinary food specials, the happy hour prices on beer and wine by the glass barely inspire a lip twitch, much less joy. Get too reckless with the drink orders and you might as well have ordered a meal off the standard menu in the adjacent restaurant.
And yes, McCormick and Schmick’s draws a certain number of the clientele depicted above – guys that behave in a manner and volume suggesting that they own the joint and won’t move their fat asses out of the way even after you say ‘excuse me’ three times – but there’s an equal number of people who in all probability hate these characters as much as I do and are simply there for the amazing food deals and a careful glass or two of wine, before retiring back to their condos to lock the doors, pull down the shades and get a serious drink on.
McCormick & Schmick’s Seafood Restaurant
800 Nicollet Mall
Every day 4-6:30pm
Fri & Sat 10-11pm