Marcella’s in LoHi has quickly become my favorite Italian place in Denver since it opened last fall. It’s just the best mix of being hip, bright, friendly, delicious, well-located, and affordable. If nothing else, you have to come for the 4-6:30 M-F happy hour where almost the entire menu is 50% off. That includes the cocktails, beer, most wines, appetizers, meats/cheeses, soups/salads, pizzas, and more. Basically everything but the entrees and super expensive wines! (But if you’re interested in the super expensive Italian wines, this is a great place to try them by the glass, when most places only let you do it by the bottle.)
I recently got the chance to try the new additions to their menu, and I highly recommend you try them, too! Without further ado… the new stuff:
If you’ve lived in Colorado for any amount of time, you’ve probably tried 1,000 renditions of a brussel sprout dish. In my opinion, Panzano and Marcella’s have the best ones. These come with apples, almonds, ricotta, and grainy mustard. The mustard is a new addition to the dish I haven’t had anywhere else — and I’m a sucker for spice and vinegar. The only thing that could make these better would be bacon.
Another new antipasti (appetizer) is the Spicy N’Duja — which is a paté sausage mixed with orzo, corn, and broccolini. And no, if you haven’t heard of this before, you’re not weird. I haven’t either. Honestly, I wished this was meatier and spicier. Apparently one person complained about the spiciness level and ruined it for the rest of us 😉
Sorry to interrupt the scheduled programming of “new dishes” here — but this oldie, but goodie, deserves a special mention. Don’t ever leave Marcella’s without getting the Melted Pecorino Cheese with crostini, apple, and truffle honey. (It’s also on happy hour for 50% off.)
So full disclosure: I don’t usually eat a lot of cooked fish. I’m more of a sushi fan — or a crab/crawfish fan. But this new fish entree is pretty fantastic. It’s the Barramundi with farro, broccolini, fennel, and lemon caper vinigrette. As far as Italian fish dishes go, this is definitely at the top of my list.
This is the new Chianti Braised Short Rib with radiatore pasta, capers, and horseradish. If you’re a short rib fan, you won’t be disappointed by these. They’re juicy and just-fatty-enough and tender and flavorful and all those other amazing adjectives.
Now for my favorite item of the night: the Pork Osso Buco with brussels, carrots, polenta, and sweet garlic. If you don’t know what Osso Buco is, you need to go eat as much of it as possible — immediately. Traditionally, it’s a Milanese speciality of cross-cut veal shanks slow-braised until they’re so tender they just fall apart, and paired with some sort of vegetables. It’s an awesome meal to make at home if you have the time. There’s also a pretty fantastic pre-made boxed version of these at Costco. But nothing beats an expert restaurant preparation. I’ve never had a pork rendition before — but holy crap, was this amazing. Honestly, if nothing else on the entree menu — try this. And I am also willing to throw all the money at Marcella’s in the future if they will do the traditional veal version of these, because now I’m convinced they know what they’re doing. (The reason they’re not doing veal is because they’re trying to lower the consumer price point.) Also on the seasonal menu, the ricotta cheesecake with an almond crust, strawberry sauce, and real strawberries. If you’ve never had it, ricotta cheesecake is an amazing cheesecake.
This is on the regular menu, but the Profiteroles dessert just needs a mention. Pistachio, chocolate, and vanilla gelato — with warm chocolate ganache. Like sex on a plate. I’ll leave you with that.
The recently-opened Citizen Rail on 16th & Wewatta in LoDo has brought an awesome new happy hour to the area — and it definitely stands out among all the other downtown options with the quality of the food and drink options.
Happy hour runs daily 2:30pm – 6pm, but get there early, because it gets packed!
During happy hour, you can get select specialty cocktails for $7, beer for $4, wine for $5, or a “combo” such as a glass of rose + mezcal (or a glass of stout + bourbon) for $7. What I like is that the happy hour wine options aren’t your typical Chardonnay and Merlot, but a Spanish Albrarino and Garnacha.
A must-order during happy hour is the Crispy Artichokes & Dungeness Crab (photo at the top of this post). Not only does it look like a work of art, but it’s also delicious. They get those artichokes perfectly crispy, which goes so well with the tender crab. And it’s only $9 during happy hour, vs. $16 during dinner.
Another amazing happy hour option is the Hickory-Braised Oxtail & Rice Grits (below) — $6 during happy hour instead of $13. Oxtail is generally my favorite cut of meat, because of how tender and juicy you can get it if you cook it right — and this is cooked right.
A little less unique, but no less delicious, are the Mesquite Fired Mussels ($8 during happy hour, or $14 during dinner).
What Citizen Rail is actually known for is it’s dry-aged steaks — which are butchered in house and displayed in a glass room for everyone to see. And what a beautiful sight it is. I love what lengths they go to for sourcing their meat, too:
“When it comes to sourcing proteins, Chef Graves is meticulous. He searches out wild venison from Texas, tender Sonoma ducks, cattle raised on spring water and pristine Wyoming pasture. Adjacent to the grill, you’ll find sides of pasture-raised beef and house-butchered Colorado lamb slowly maturing in Citizen Rail’s dry-aging room alongside hand-cut venison and pork steaks, rabbit and fowl.”
One of the in-house dry aged options is the 36oz Tomahawk steak (for two). If you like your steaks with that salty bit of crust and a good amount of marbling, this is for you.
Or you can go the 18oz bone-in rib eye route, which I think was my preference. For sides, I highly recommend the duck fat roasted potatoes (let’s be real, you can’t go wrong roasting anything in duck fat).
To be completely honest, I’m not entirely sure what dessert we ordered, but it had chocolate and ice cream — and it was delicious. I have no idea how we managed to eat it after everything else, but we did. From appetizer to dessert, I really can’t point out any down sides with the meal.
If anything, I would say the chicken entree isn’t for everyone: I tried my friend’s, and it had a little too much of a smoky flavor and not enough crispiness on the outside for me. But if you come to a steakhouse to get chicken, you’re probably doing it wrong.
Humboldt Farm, Fish & Wine is one of my top 2 or 3 favorite places to go on a Sunday for happy hour. They have a perfect patio for lounging about — and also $1 oysters ALL SUNDAY. Happy hour starts at 3pm — so if you get here early, just gorge yourself on some oysters first, and then order more food off the HH menu once 3 rolls around. I’m sure the brunch is also delicious, but I just love the HH menu here too much.
$1 Oyster Sundays
Yes, you heard that right. They’re $1! That’s cheaper than anywhere else in the area (even Jax does them for $1.50 for happy hour, and they don’t even open until dinner). And these aren’t just their happy hour oysters. ALL the oysters must go. So premium oysters are all $1. That’s pretty much my definition of the best deal ever.
Just note: it’s only while they last, so if you show up after me on a Sunday, sorry! 😉
The Happy Hour: 3pm-6pm every day
You always need to know a few spots that have HH every day, not just weekdays. And this is one of them. Wines and beer run just $4-$6 for some fantastic options, and cocktails are $6.
I’m also pretty much in love with the HH menu here. So far, I’ve tried everything on it but the mussels (but I hear Mondays are now Bottomless Mussels day, so I’m sure to remedy that shortly).
I’ve tried a lot of different chicken liver patés around Denver, and this is one of my favorites (and only $5 during HH). The trout one is also good, but I prefer the chicken. Unfortunately, I think they only have the trout one now.
The Humboldt Burger won Westord’s best burger a few years ago, and you’ll see why when you try it. There’s a $4 mini slider version of it on HH, too!
The veggies here are surprisingly good too (I only say surprisingly because I’m mostly a carnivore). We got the brussel sprouts and crispy broccoli — and holy crap, that crispy broccoli is one of my favorite veggie dishes ever.
I can’t not mention the wine. As a California transplant, I love wine. I drink a lot of it, and I know my way around it pretty well. So trust me when I say Humboldt has a fantastic selection of affordable, unique wines. I’ve had probably half of the white wines here — and I have yet to be disappointed. They’re also currently doing a Summer of Rosé, so ask your server about that!
If any of you know me, you know that I absolutely LOVE a good happy hour. And I’ve been to a lot of them. There’s probably not a place downtown I haven’t tried for happy hour. And one of my favorites has always been Panzano. It’s somewhat of a downtown institution — having been around for years.
I just love the variety of always-changing cocktails they have, as well as the extensive happy hour food options. You can easily have an entire dinner here during happy hour — and I often do. Plus, happy hour is 7 days a week (which is awesome if you’re looking for a weekend option) — and it starts at 2:30pm (sometimes you just need to get away a little early).
Happy Hour: 2:30pm-6pm, 7 days a week
- $4 draft beers
- $5 glasses of wine, or $12 carafes
- $6 cocktails (these are absolutely fantastic and a must-try)
- $9 barrel-aged cocktails (if you’re looking for something fancy)
- $4-$8 eats (I love the extensive selection of Italian small plates)
- See the menus
Make sure you get here by 5pm though, because the entire HH lounge is usually packed by then.
There are tons of fantastic cocktails you can get for happy hour — and they’re just $6 (all the options in the left and right columns). I also highly recommend trying one of the barrel-aged bourbons if that’s something you’re into, since Panzano has a whole back room where they age liquors in mini barrels.
One of my personal favorites on the cocktail list is the “R and R” (Grey Goose vodka, raspberry liqueur, muddled raspberries, rosemary, splash of soda). It’s not always available, but there’s always something similarly refreshing.
Another really great option that’s perfect for summer is the “Cucumber Mint Mule” (Bombay Sapphire gin, lime juice, ginger beer, muddled mint and cucumber).
Holy crap, look at all those food options! I mean really, this looks more like a full menu than a happy hour menu. This is what I mean about easily being able to have dinner here — all for happy hour prices.
These Cavolini di Bruxelles (brussel sprouts) come with an apple cider reduction, pistachios, rosemary salt, and sliced green apple. And despite the lack of bacon, they taste fantastic.
The plates below were 2 of favorites here (sorry for the smartphone photo — I’ve been here multiple times, and not always with my SLR). It’s the lamb ragu and veal scallopini, but I think they’ve been switched out on the latest version of the menu. Not to worry though, there’s now a tortellini bolognese with ground veal short rib — as well as a braised lamb and polenta ravioli. So decadent, meaty dishes will always be a staple here.
What I do wish they’d bring back though, is the Capesante (pan-seared scallop, spinach, ricotta gnudi, spring vegetables, basil leek nage, saffron pecorino, fried shallots, and mint).
Having spent most of my life in the San Francisco Bay Area, I’m a sucker for raw oysters. They’re pretty much one of my essential food groups. I have to admit, I was a bit concerned when I first moved to Denver, because being landlocked in the middle of the country doesn’t exactly scream “fresh seafood.” However, you’d be amazed how much great seafood there is in Denver, with many restaurants flying it in every morning. And one of my personal favorites is Jax Fish House in LoDo (1539 17th Street). Not the least because they have:
$1.50 Oyster Happy Hour
HAPPY HOUR is 4-6pm every day (and all day Monday!), and now there’s a late happy hour too (which they surprisingly don’t mention on their website). It goes for the last hour that they’re open (9-10pm M-Th, 10pm-11pm F-Sat, 8-9pm Sun… I think.
When you eat as many oysters as I do, happy hour oysters are a big deal. I don’t think there’s a deal like this anywhere even close to here.
Two suggestions when it comes to the oysters:
- Ask for the mignonette sauce. It comes with the oysters at a lot of places, but you have to request it here. I’m not sure why.
- If you decide to not order off the happy hour menu, I highly recommend the Kumamotos from the West Coast (my personal favorite in flavor, but they are slightly smaller).
Another must-try on the happy hour menu is the panang curry mussels. It’s one of my favorite preparations of mussels I’ve ever tried, and I usually get these every time I’m here.
If you’re ok ordering off the regular menu, one of my favorite things to get here in the winter is the clam chowder. It’s made to order, uses fresh clams, and has tons of bacon — and everything is better with bacon.
Another one of my winter favorites is the gumbo (it’s almost as good as the étouffée at Sassafras, which is saying a lot). And it even comes in a $4 happy hour version (shown below).
One of my year-round favorites is the peel-and-eat shrimp ($6 on happy hour), which comes with a spicy mayo and what I think is chili powder. Whatever it is, it makes the shrimp much more flavorful than most places’. Just be ready to get a little messy.
And if you’re more of a raw fish fan, there’s always some sort of poke concoction on the menu. Lately it’s been a spicy ahi tuna poke that I absolutely love.
And of course there’s a full seafood bar, so you can always get a chilled seafood platter or market-price crab (I’m a big fan of the snow crab).
The Cucumber Lemon Press ($4 during happy hour) is one of my favorite cocktails I’ve ever had. I could drink these forever. They’re light and refreshing and go with everything. I think the only thing I would rather drink with oysters is a white wine that’s specially made to go with oysters, but the only place I’ve seen do that is Rodney’s Oyster House in Toronto. Of course they have delicious wine here, too, but I recommend trying the Press first.