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M-Th: 5pm-10pm F-Sa: 5pm-1am
More known as an upscale Middle Eastern restaurant, Saffron also offers one of the best happy hours downtown. Owned and operated by Palestinian-brother-duo Sameh and Sayed, cousins of the owner of Holy Land, this place oozes quality, in both its food and its service. You can find Sayed out on the floor charming the pants off of diners and drinkers and Sameh in the kitchen cooking up the delicious storm that earned him a James Beard nomination every day of the week. Bartender Terry, also there every day, will attend to your every desire, even plugging the meter for you when you decide you need to stay another hour. Specialty cocktails are a mere $5, appetizers are only $3.50, and domestic taps are only $2. Bartender Terry will direct you to the Cuban in the Middle East, a potent mojito-like drink with mango and ginger beer, and you'd do well to listen to him. Another interesting option is the iced Arak - Saffron is the only bar in town where you can find this Middle Eastern specialty. It comes out clear, and, similar to Pastis, becomes opaque when mixed with water. The flavor is similar to both Pastis and Abysinthe, because of the anise, but goes down smoother. The appetizers are all amazing (remember: James Beard nominee). The meatballs (spicy!), the lamb BLT (home-made lamb bacon!), and the french fries with feta fondue (feta fondue!) are the stand-out best, and at only $3.50 each, you won't break the bank trying them all. The appetizers on the regular menu, or mezze, meaning tapas, are also reasonably priced. If you're feeling really adventurous, get the lamb brain for $5. If not, just go for the fried mussels, also only $5, and out of this world.
Saffron is a great place to go before heading over to First Ave or spending a night at the downtown bars. With a weekend happy hour running from 11-1, it's also the perfect place to get some post-boozing food without having to wait in line. And, once the new Twins stadium is complete, it'll be the perfect place to get some real, cheap food and cheap beer before a game, avoiding the spendy stadium snacks.