In my opinion, happy hour is the best time of the day. I love me some happy hour — especially when it’s happy hours (because who would be cruel enough to limit it to just 1?). The decision isn’t whether to go, but where to go. I can usually be found somewhere downtown for happy hour at least a couple of times a week, so I guess you could call me knowledgable on the topic — and I have a collection of favorite spots that changes from time to time as new spots open and menus change. So as of October 2017, these are my top recommendations.
Happy Hour: 2:30pm-6pm every day
If you’ve read my blog before, you know that Panzano is hands-down one of my favorite HH spots. The cocktail selection is absolutely fantastic (and just $6). One of my all-time favorites is the “R and R” (Grey Goose vodka, raspberry liqueur, muddled raspberries, rosemary, splash of soda). It’s only available when in season, but there’s always something for everyone on the cocktail menu. Currently, I’m a fan of the Brezza Fresca (gin, st. germain liqueur, lemon juice, cane simple, cucumber). For the fancier crowd, they also have classic barrel-aged cocktails for $9 such as the Manhattan and Negroni, among other options. And the beer is only $4 and wine $5.
The happy hour food selection is equally impressive ($5-$8). You can easily have a full dinner here at happy hour prices. This menu has changed a lot over time, but there’s been a delicious constant: Cavolini di Bruxelles (fried brussels sprouts, apple cider reduction, pistachios, rosemary salt, sliced green apple) — shown below. The mushroom pizza has always been on the menu for a long time (and is equally delicious). I know, I’m surprised I’m recommending vegetarian options, too!
I’m excited to go back and try some new things on the happy menu: the Polpetti la Fiorno (veal and pork meatballs), the Anatra Pizza with duck confit, the Bolognese di Manzo (cheese tortellini with ground beef tenderloin and veal short rib), and the Doppio Ravioli di Vetri (braised lamb & polenta ravioli). I’ll post some photos and thoughts once I do!
Happy Hour: 4-6pm every day and all night Monday
(Plus I think they still do happy hour for the last hour they are open, even though it’s not on their website: 9-10pm M-Th, 10pm-11pm F-Sat, 8-9pm Sun)
If you could call me a “regular” anywhere, it’s here. If I’m not checking out a new spot downtown so I can review it, I’ll usually post up at the bar at Jax and order a refreshing cucumber lemon press (pictured above). The only down side is that they don’t open until 4pm — and I’m often out before that.
I’m also an absolute oyster fiend (and generally love all other seafood, too) — which is another reason Jax is a favorite of mine. They have $1.50 oysters during happy hour, which is the cheapest oysters you’ll find around town (unless you go to Humboldt in Uptown on a Sunday for $1 oysters). And that matters when you love oysters as much as I do.
On top of that, there are $5 cocktails (or $6 for sangria), $6 wines, and tons of other fantastic happy hour bites. I recommend trying the spicy panang curry mussels ($9) and gumbo ($5) on the happy hour menu.
3. Blue Sushi
Happy Hour: Mon-Sat 3pm-6:30pm, Fri-Sat 10:30pm-midnight, Sun 12pm-8pm
Blue Sushi has been one of my absolute favorite happy hour places since it first opened in downtown Denver a few years ago. It’s pretty hard to beat $6.50 fancy signature martinis, $3.50 sake bombs, $3.50 wines, $3.50 margaritas, $2 cold sake, and $4.50 hot sake. And for food, they have $5.50 sushi rolls and a long list of $4-$9 specials. AND you have happy hour pretty much all day Sunday. On top of that, it’s a really fun, hip place that’s not like your traditional sushi restaurant.
My top recommendations? The Samurai Saketini (cucumber-infused vodka, sho chiku bai sake, fresh lime, simple syrup). And for food, the ceviche (pictured above) is pretty awesome and $6.50 during happy hour (white fish, rock shrimp, cucumber, cherry tomatoes, avocado, cilantro, sweet onion jalapeño salsa, wonton crisps, chili oil ). It’s the only place I’ve encountered that makes it fresh-to-order, which means you can get no cilantro!
The yellowtail serrano (5 pieces) is only $8.50 during happy hour — compared to the $12-$18 prices you’ll see at most restaurants for the equivalent. Another must-try is the Itchy Salmon (baked salmon, spicy crab, serrano, cilantro, ponzu) for $4.50 — it’s almost impossible to describe the warm, tender texture and fantastic flavor of this and the Itchy Seabass (which is also amazing, but not on the happy hour menu).
4. Stoic & Genuine
Happy Hour: 2pm-6pm every day but Saturday
Stoic & Genuine had previously gotten only special mention from me and wasn’t actually on this list, because it had weird times for happy hour (ending at 4:30pm), and really only included oysters and drinks. But things have changed! Stoic now does happy hour 2pm-6pm (which is plenty of time to get nicely full and drunk). Plus, the happy hour now includes not just $2 oysters, but also delicious bites such as this $6 crab cake slider. And the wine and specialty cocktails are still just $3!
5. Citizen Rail
Happy Hour: 2:30pm-6pm every day
This is a brand new addition to my list — and a new addition to Denver. Fair warning: happy hour here gets packed pretty fast. During happy hour, they have some classic cocktails for $7, select beers for $4, wines for $5 (like the Albarino pictured), and combos like a glass of rose + mezcal or a glass of lager + whiskey for $7.
As for food, some really amazing options here. For example, the crispy artichokes and dungeness crab ($9) pictured below are pretty much a work of art — and equally delicious. The braised oxtail with rice grits ($6) is also an incredibly flavorful option that’s more on the comfort food side. And the mesquite fired mussels ($8) are a close third on my list.
Special mention now goes to Marcella’s — a lively new Italian restaurant that just opened across the I-25 from downtown on Central Street. It’s half off most of the food and drinks (M-F 4pm-6pm), and 25% off bottles of wine every Sunday and Monday.