If you've noticed a pattern in my happy-hour wanderings, you're not alone. I've covered more late-afternoon discounts on 17th Avenue than on any other street — deliberately so. To stroll down the Avenue is to witness Denver in full form: merriment, drinking, fine food — and the leaching of gentrification more visible by the moment. One of the more arresting sights is Argyll Whisky Beer, a concept that closed in Cherry Creek in 2011 and reopened in Uptown three years later. It transformed the former Las Margaritas into a sharp gastronomic pub, long after "gastropub" became a forbidden word in the industry. Chances are good you've already experienced it for yourself — the place is busy almost every evening — but if not, I can tell you that Argyll has captured what makes for a vital, modern restaurant in the years since the first Argyll departed. And as Argyll has adapted and remodeled, so, too, has its happy hour, offered Monday to Friday from 3 to 6 p.m.
Maybe it's the power of suggestion, or a touch of Macbeth's bitches' brew, but I always end up eating more at Argyll than I really should. I've downed crispy pub chips alongside thick-cut fries alongside burgers and had and evening of whiskey and light appetizers turn into a tipsy feast. In a demonstration of solidarity with lunch, brunch and dinner, happy hour alone can fill up a stomach and an evening with ease.
The menu has changed a bit recently, replacing discounted sandwiches with house flatbreads and adding bourbon flights and rotating taps to the special drinks list. The Negroni ($6), Old Fashioned ($4) and Manhattan ($5) were seductive, but a flagon of ale was what the evening required. Dad and Dude's Toffee Porter ($4), imported from Aurora, was one of the tap specials, along with Fort Collins Brewing pulls (both $5) and cans of Rainier ($2). A Willy Wonka-worthy confection, the porter was light, with a pinch of salty sweetness and a creamy finish.
Argyll's Dinner menu is a sheet of hits, but this place was built on pub snacks. Four plates are available for $6 each, like deviled eggs, smoked trout toast and the crown jewel, the Scotch egg. For inexplicable reasons, I chose the country pâté from this lineup, but I have no regrets. The dish is served as a heavy brick with some jam, pickled veggies and not enough bread. Whatever may be hiding in this Technicolor pâté (damn, they even left the bone in here), the overall flavor is pretty mild, even considering the condiments and the whole-grain mustard piled on top. That's not an insult; this plate is ideal for sharing as a complement to a fine Islay whisky. I would suggest Bruchladdich Port Charlotte ($12), one choice from a jaw-dropping selection of strong spirits from Scotland to Japan.
With the knowledge of Argyll's past successes in frying potatoes — those thick, sweet chips and the giant, starchy rectangles that used to be served alongside burgers and sandwiches — I wasn't about to turn down a plate of happy-hour fries ($4). With drizzles of aioli and gravy, the nest of fries is a bit ridiculous, but not at poutine levels of excess, and somehow every single shoestring had the perfect allotment of salt grains. Add that to the ribbons of tangy gravy with fattened-up onions, and these are exemplary happy-hour fries.
Flatbreads at happy hour are a common sight all over town, if not always a welcome one. But Argyll is no pizza dilettante; it's been slinging these for quite a while. Although the sausage and goat-cheese toppings on my flatbread ($7) were an uneasy fit with the rest of my meal, it was still everything I could need in a main course. Bright tomato sauce is lightly applied to housemade bread, with clumps of goat cheese, slices of fennel-tinged sausage pulled from the charcuterie board and strings of broccolini for good measure.
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With every stool occupied, there was only one man to serve the whole rail, turning an afternoon lark into an hours-long ordeal. Argyll is a place created to sip slowly, but not this slowly. But banish the service hiccups and there's nary a blemish on this happy hour. This far from the Atlantic, it's lovely to find good interpretations of U.K. cuisine, and Argyll stays afloat in a sea of Uptown happy hours.
Perfect For: A Valentine's Day dinner. Okay, no restaurant dinner is going to be "perfect" on V-Day, where parking and paying the bill alone will enlarge your heart with hate instead of love. But if the eatery's culinary shindigs are any indication, Argyll has something special in store for Sunday. The menu offers the usual prix-fixe staples and aphrodisiacs with an Anglophilic twist, for the reasonable price of $40. Hit the link or call 303-847-0850 for reservations.
Don't Miss: Even my gluttony has limits. For everyone else, there's the Scotch egg, one of our favorite dishes in Denver. One runny egg, coated in sausage, deep fried. No need to say any more.