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Originally published March 23, 2010 at 7:02 PM | Page modified March 24, 2010 at 10:54 AM

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Happy Hour: It's deep-fried and $5 at Cheesecake Factory

Cheesecake Nation, get ready: Cheesecake Factory now offers happy hour.

Seattle Times staff reporter

Happy Hour |

Last month, corporate heads at The Cheesecake Factory announced what amounts to earth-shattering news in Cheesecake Nation: the chain would launch happy hour nationwide, including its three restaurants in the Seattle area. Fans went wild. Messages were sent in ALL CAPS. Others with lots of exclamation points.

When its restaurants in Southern California rolled out happy hour weeks earlier than planned, folks in the O.C. just about lost it.

So how could I not be there for the happy-hour launch in downtown Seattle last Thursday?

To the uninitiated, Cheesecake's happy-hour menu is like its regular spiral-bound menu: a large food selection and large portions.

The appetizers cost $5 each, one of the cheapest happy hours around. And you'll likely leave with a doggy bag.

In downtown Seattle, the menu features 40 happy-hour items, borrowing from Tex Mex, Pan Asian, soul-food and classic bar food, to name a few genres.

The taquitos — chicken bits rolled in tortillas — are the size of egg rolls, served with scoops of sour cream, salsa and guacamole. Bulky. Crunchy. Goes well with a beer. Nothing wrong with that.

That's how I would describe the plate of Southern Fried Chicken sliders, too. Come to think of it, that's how I would describe about a half-dozen other appetizers — just crunchy vessels for dipping sauces, usually sour, spicy, sweet or creamy.

Cheesecake does chicken wings. But it features another version during happy hour, called Buffalo Blasts — minced white meat tossed with "Buffalo" sauce and stuffed in wrappers for deep-frying. The final result is a tempuralike texture mimicking chicken skin.

A poor's man wings? A deconstruction? Not sure. But it's a travesty of a take on the classic pub grub. The portion size was that of a family-style entree you would get at some Italian restaurant.

In Cheesecake Nation, folks are more likely to be in awe of getting all that food for $5 than to quibble about inferior wings.

The Cheesecake Factory, 700 Pike St. in downtown Seattle, 401 Bellevue Square in Bellevue and 230 Strander Blvd. near Southcenter Mall. Happy hour 4-6 p.m. Mondays-Fridays at the bar. Appetizers ($5) and other food items ($3.95-$6.95), beer $3, well drinks and wine $4 and selected cocktails $5. Each restaurant's menu may vary (thecheesecakefactory.com).

Tan Vinh: 206-515-5656 or tvinh@seattletimes.com

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