To break away from the happy hour crowd in a hard-drinking town like Denver, you've got to go above and beyond above and beyond. So to pinpoint the best of the best, we took myriad factors into account: duration, frequency, quantity and quality of both the food & drink selection, value relative to regular prices, and vibe. These 10 places either meet all of our happy-hour criteria or compensate with some element too unusual to ignore; so much the better if they happen to be just slightly off-the-radar (which is why we ruled out these guys).
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Adrift Tiki Bar & Grill (address and info)
When it is: Sunday-Thursday, 5pm-7pm; Friday-Saturday, 4pm-7pm
What you’re getting: Look, this is Denver’s only Tiki bar; it would have to really suck not to earn a mention. Instead it oozes Polynesian-cool inside and out on its two patios, all while pouring spot-on yet half-off mai tais and other classics. The eats are just okay -- but since happy hour here runs later than most (another bonus), you’ve got time to grab a bite at nearby Leña or Gozo.
Cafe Brazil (address and info)
When it is: Tuesday-Friday, 4:30-6:30pm; Saturday, 9-10:30pm
What you’re getting: An exception to just about every rule we set -- the hours are short, the selection limited, the discounts marginal. But the tradeoffs are totally charming. For one thing, the staff of this much-adored South American fixture couldn’t be more gracious, even during Saturday night happy hour (a rarity in itself). For another, your first round comes with free tapas, and they’re fantastic, especially the textbook tortilla española. Finally, on Tuesdays, you can even score a free caipirinha -- that is, if you’re willing to do a one-minute dance for the bartender. Which of course you are!
Charlie Brown’s Bar & Grill (address and info)
When it is: Daily, 4pm-6:30pm and 10:30pm-12:30am
What you’re getting: Two-for-one deals on already-cheap drinks. Equally cheap grub and lots of it. Sing-alongs in the piano bar. A smoking patio, where there’s a free pig roast every Friday in summer (replaced by free wings the rest of the year). Oh, and the aura of onetime patron Jack Kerouac. This place may be old-school, but it never gets old.
Hasu Asian Bistro & Sushi (address and info)
When it is: Daily, 2:30-6pm
What you’re getting: Basically your most unreasonable demands fulfilled. It’s silly to expect a restaurant with some of the best Chinese food in town to make superb sushi too. But Hasu does. So then it’s a little greedy to expect to get that sushi at a discount all afternoon while washing it down with two-for-one drinks. But you will. With a smile. Not sure what you did to deserve that.
Machete Tequilas + Tacos (address and info)
When it is: Monday-Friday, 2pm-7pm
What you’re getting: From the CBD to Lodo, you’ll stumble across your share of swanky happy hours. Edging into Ballpark, you’ll hit on some of the cheapest. But guaranteed you’re not going to find one that’s as good for as long as Machete’s. The killer tacos rock all the harder when they’re $1-2 bucks less than usual for five hours straight, paired with margarita and beer specials. And here’s what’s mas loco: the Cherry Creek flagship’s happy hour runs even longer, from 11am-6pm on weekdays and all day Sunday.
Linger (address and info)
When it is: Tuesday-Friday, 4pm-6:30pm
What you’re getting: A madhouse, for better or worse. We searched lo and hi (heh) for someplace less obvious, but we just kept circling back to Denver’s favorite former mortuary -- and so does everybody else. That’s because what its happy hour lacks in length, it makes up for in strength, with a slew of cocktails and truly creative small plates that, at $5 a pop, seem too good to be true; ditto the half-price deal on some 20 wines by the glass. As for atmosphere, it doesn’t get better than vintage wallpaper, Lite-Brite bar tops, and a rooftop deck -- unless, that is, you can’t even squeeze your way through the mob to soak it all up.
Dunbar Kitchen & Tap House (address and info)
When it is: Daily, 2:30pm-6:30pm
What you’re getting: Here’s the deal. Yes, many of the best restaurants in town are in RiNo, and yes, many of them host wildly popular happy hours. But they tend to be short, with limited offerings. You want both quality and quantity -- and you’ll get it at this easygoing newcomer (which is technically in Five Points, but that’s close enough considering how blurry the neighborhood boundaries are anyway). All afternoon, the ever-changing, mostly local taps flow for $3.50 a pint, while surprisingly decent wines by the glass are half or nearly half off. As for the snack selection, it’s really just an extension of the equally well-priced appetizer section on the regular menu, so feel free to mix and match.
Lou’s FoodBar (address and info)
When it is: Tuesday-Sunday, 2-6pm and 9pm-close
What you’re getting: The whole package. In a neighborhood that’s still pretty sleepy, a chef like Frank Bonanno could get away with doing the bare minimum. Instead, his comfort-food and cocktail joint boasts one of the most generous happy-hour programs around -- not only extensive, but downright cheap, too, with all drinks and most snacks priced at $4 or less. Even so, they’ve got that Bonannian touch: think salted palomas and fat, juicy pigs-in-a-blanket or mortadella spread on grilled focaccia -- not to mention pickle-brined wings that are on special all Wednesday long.
Humboldt Farm-Fish-Wine (address and info)
When it is: Daily, 3pm-6pm
What you’re getting: On 17th Ave, the happy-hour stakes are sky-high. If we could give a four-way tie with Ace, The BSide, and P17, we would. But this contemporary-American haunt just squeaks past for one key reason: consistency. From the choice martinis to grown-up refreshments like $4 steak tartare (what) to the efficient delivery, the whole experience is as smooth as pearl, no matter how packed the place gets. And speaking of pearls: $1 oysters all Sunday ’til they’re gone.
Homegrown Tap & Dough (address and info)
When it is: Monday-Friday, 3-6pm
What you’re getting: Pizza and beer are this Park Burger sibling’s bread and butter, so deals on pints and pies come as no surprise. But given the caliber of its 21 craft drafts, a $2 discount amounts to a real bargain (in some cases, less than you’d pay at the brewery), and $7 for an 8in pizza as ridic as the Croque -- white sauce with ham, eggs, and potato chips -- seems almost stupid. Still, the real surprise awaits wine drinkers, who’ll find not only $3 glasses but also 25% off select bottles -- except on Mondays, when they’re 50% off all night.
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1. Adrift Tiki Bar and Grill218 S Broadway, Denver
2. Charlie Brown's Bar & Grill980 Grant St, Denver
3. Hasu Asian Bistro & Sushi250 Steele St, Denver
4. Machete Tequila + Tacos2817 E 3rd Ave, Denver
5. Linger2030 W 30th Ave, Denver
6. Dunbar Kitchen & Taphouse2844 Welton St, Denver
7. Lou's Food Bar1851 W 38th Ave, Denver
8. Humboldt1700 Humboldt St, Denver
9. Homegrown Tap and Dough1001 S Gaylord St, Denver
10. Cafe Brazil4408 Lowell Blvd, Denver
Say "aloha" to Mile High's lone true tiki bar. Adrift serves up "Prohibition-era tropical libations" and island-worthy small plates amidst a sea of bamboo, a scattering of carved heads large and small, and red leather booths sitting under portraits of tropical girls with ukeleles.
Charlie Brown's offers up traditional American fare, a smoking patio, and one of the best happy hours in Denver -- plus, it has a free pig roast every Friday in summer (replaced by free wings the rest of the year). Oh, and the aura of onetime patron Jack Kerouac. This place may be old-school, but it never gets old.
You could hit this slick basement-level lair just to fill up on sesame chicken and salmon rolls. But you’d get zero stars for bravery, and you deserve better. Hasu happens to be run by the family behind the former East Asia Garden. At Hasu, they’ve expanded their selection to offer colorful clay pots bobbing with spicy chunks of fish or eggplant and gingko nuts, succulent "mashed garlic white meat" (spoiler alert — it’s fatty pork), and still other discoveries like "the chicken braise a mushroom".
Machete's mixing up seriously strong margaritas from one of the largest tequila menus in Denver, as well as slinging quesadillas, nachos, ceviches, and street-style tacos that are all totally delicious.
If you think an ex-mortuary can't serve up some killer apothecary-esque cocktails, you're dead wrong. Ok, ok, but seriously, the views at Root Down's fancy sister spot are spectacular, and with a rooftop patio and dinner menu featuring gourmet dishes from around the world, you will definitely be tempted to linger.
Historically speaking, Dunbar has one of the best happy hours in Denver -- all afternoon, the ever-changing, mostly local taps flow for $3.50 a pint, while surprisingly decent wines by the glass are half or nearly half off. As for the snack selection, it’s really just an extension of the equally well-priced appetizer section on the regular menu, so feel free to mix and match.
Lou's Food Bar serves up a menu of French-inspired American comfort food, ranging from burgers and sandwiches to fried organic chicken and fresh fish. This family-centric eatery also offers occasional cocktail classes and charcuterie lessons.
Farm fresh ingredients, impressive wine and beer lists, and a menu of land and sea based dishes like a Friday & Saturday-only lobster risotto or a red-wine demi'd filet mignon leaden with Moody Blue cheese.
This pizza place calls itself an "Italian restaurant with a little Colorado flair", which means good food with a great beer selection. The kitchen has a blast rolling out featured special pizza's topped with chicken, candied bacon, and ranch dressing one day, and gorgonzola, pears, and balsamic the next. There are plenty of salads, pasta's, and delicious appetizers like chicken parmesan sliders and sausage stuffed olives choose from as well. The beer and wine list is also impressive, with a selection that will satisfy everyone.
The staff of this much-adored South American fixture couldn’t be more gracious, even during Saturday night happy hour (a rarity in itself). Also at happy hour, your first round comes with free tapas -- and they’re fantastic, especially the textbook tortilla española. Finally, on Tuesdays, you can even score a free caipirinha -- that is, if you’re willing to do a one-minute dance for the bartender.