The "24" at the end of the name of Tom's Urban has been severed from the Larimer Square eatery's sign and its identity, shortening the hours and rearranging the furniture for a different crowd. The restaurant now closes before the real creatures of the night come out to play, but is it still a place for solid late-night food in LoDo? Or in trying to be all things to almost all people, does Tom's fall asleep at the wheel?
Late-night happy hours are rare and wooly beasts, usually built around cheaper drafts and wells and a couple of snacks. But Tom's Urban has always served a full menu at all hours, even if now it now closes at 12:30 a.m. Monday through Wednesday and 2 a.m. Friday and Saturday. The board itself has gotten a tune-up to standardize the food for franchising to other locales, like the L.A. Live complex. (Slogan: "Where culture comes to die!")
No longer open 24 hours or focusing on Colorado ingredients, this leaves the original, Larimer Square Tom's in a bit of a lurch. What's here that can't be found elsewhere? Well, for one thing, try getting a downhome bite to eat after 10 o' clock anywhere else downtown. At Tom's, 10 p.m. signals the beginning of happy hour (also served weeknights from 2 to 6 p.m.), with $2 off cocktails, beers, wine, sliders and pizza, along with some $4 appetizers.
The servers at Tom's have always been surprisingly friendly, even at the end of the 2 a.m. bar rush, and they were no different on a slow weeknight. I was allowed to put top-shelf Breckenridge Bourbon in my Sidecar ($6) and was walked through the happy-hour specials. Ginger chicken pot stickers ($4): "Good deal," the server said. Street tacos ($4 each): "Good deal." Two kinds of fries ($4): "Pretty good deal, but not great."
I started with the pot stickers: If they're good enough for Tom Ryan, the man who invented the stuffed-crust pizza, they're good enough for me. The verdict: a sight better than what's served at P.F. Chang's and its ilk, with a bit of craft in the citrus-ginger glaze. The pork belly in the street taco, however, wasn't treated with the respect it deserved; it was gummy and swimming in a bland chipotle aioli. The parsley-garlic fries also suffered from too much bland, oily glaze.
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What's coming out of the kitchen is unmistakably chain-like, albeit with a touch of whimsy that elevates it above the likes of Bar Louie. But Denver's shameful lack of late-night eats already puts Tom's in front of the pack after midnight.