Happy Place: 8 Rivers, 1550 Blake Street, 303-623-3342
The Hours: Monday through Friday, 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. and all day Sunday
The Deals: $3 Red Stripe lager; $3-4 house wines and sangria; $5 well drinks, Appleton rum, and mojitos; $20 mojito pitchers; $5 small plates.
What did we think? Flip the page for our verdict.
The Digs: Two years ago, chef/owner Scott Durrah plucked his tiny Jamaican eatery from the cozy nooks of Highland Square (now home to Venue) and relocated to a larger space just four blocks south of Coors Field. Although the vibes of the two neighborhoods are drastically different, Durrah's LoDo location has successfully attracted the same laid-back, hakuna-matata crowd of the former joint. The restaurant is bigger and accommodates twice as many patrons as before, but the energy of 8 Rivers still makes us feel like we're lounging in a Boston Beach cafe. A mural of Bob Marley greets guests as they saunter in from the patio, while reggae music plays at a pleasing volume. Packed with more rum than we'd know what to do with, the bar runs along the south side of the room and is often filled with boisterous laughter. Booths and tables are scattered throughout, and plush seats lure thirsty customers to the fireplace, which opens to the dining room. If we were any more comfortable, we'd take off our shoes, kick back and light a spliff.
The Verdict: 8 Rivers greeted us with open arms on a rainy afternoon, and we quickly accepted its embrace. Our server was quick to recognize our dire need for cocktails, and a pitcher of dirty mojitos (the "dirty" constitutes raw cane sugar) arrived at mach speed. We started slurping and began to peruse the food menu. After a brief debate as to whether Caribbean gumbo was really "gumbo" we decided on coconut shrimp, jerk pork bites and plantain wonton wraps.
It was in the following moments that 8 Rivers lost a few points in our Happy Hour Book. Upon placing our food order, our server distributed silverware rollups and appetizer plates to our table. Wet appetizer plates. Appetizer plates with enough water left on them from the dishwasher to make a small puddle on the table when tipped on their side. Regardless of the stature, cuisine, menu prices, or volume of a restaurant, serving customers plates that are still dripping with dishwater is inexcusable and lazy. For shame!
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Aside from this setback, happy hour at 8 Rivers is a relaxing affair. The drinks were delicious and the food wasn't half bad. We could eat fistfuls of the plantain wonton wraps: tiny, bite-sized pieces of plantains wrapped and fried to perfection, served with a fruity tropical chutney. Even though it's rather hard to mess up coconut shrimp, the flavors were clean and had us smacking our fingers, and the jerk pork bites were plentiful and perfectly seasoned, but without the dipping sauce they would have been unpleasantly dry.
Overall, 8 Rivers is pretty awesome. Unpretentious and upbeat, we found these digs to be far more genuine and hospitable than many of its stuffy neighbors. We could easily stay long past happy hour.
Overall Grade: B+