Happy Place: Linger, 2030 West 30th Avenue, 303-993-3120
The Hours: Tuesday through Friday from 4 to 6:30 p.m. (Food service begins at 4:30 p.m.)
The Deals: $3.50-$7 small plates; $3 select draft beer; $4-$5 specialty cocktails; $5 glasses of house red and white wines.
Were we happy? Flip the page to find out.
The Digs: For Justin Cucci's maiden voyage into the Denver restaurant scene, he flipped an abandoned gas station into a chic restaurant that was different from anything Denver had ever witnessed. And now he's done it again, only this time his building of choice happened to be a former mortuary. Flaunting spectacular views of downtown, not to mention one of the best bar scenes in Denver, Linger has created major hype in the short time since its birth in June. Rightfully so -- the airy space has so much flair and personality, so much kitsch and trendiness, that the see-to-believe allure is capable of hypnotizing even the most severe skeptic.
All of which leads to this: It's easy to fall for Linger. We were quick to swoon over the eco-friendly recycled funk that makes up the décor, which is similar to Linger's sister restaurant, Root Down, yet unique enough to maintain its own identity. Every time we walk in, we gasp at the view as if we were seeing the Denver skyline for the first time; we sip cocktails and enjoy the summer breeze pouring in from the extravagant open windows that line all three levels of the restaurant; we grab our virgin friends by the elbow to show them the bar illuminated with Lite-Brites; we discus how amazing the kitchen looks from above; and we covet the bar tables that have been crafted out of old casket rollers.
The Verdict: It was our third visit to the bar, which sits above a sweeping staircase overlooking the dining room, and we scored stools facing the unobstructed urban landscape. It had just gone 5 p.m. on a Tuesday and the place was pulsating. Bartenders laughed with a group of women sporting full sleeves of ink and leisurely drinking beer; a trio of grandmothers inhaled sweet potato fries and shared photographs while nursing margaritas; the dudes next to us were planning a camping trip and clearly had a penchant for shooting whiskey. Shiny, happy people were everywhere.
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SHOW ME HOW
Linger's happy hour roster, sporting small plates from around the globe printed on faux toe tags, is a miniature version of Cucci's eclectic dining room menu. The Mongolian barbecue duck sliders, served on warm, squishy, steamed sesame buns, stole our hearts with the first bite of meaty, hoisin-y goodness. The Bhel Puri -- a tangy version of the traditional Indian dish of puffed rice, warm vegetables, and tamarind -- is a refreshing option for those seeking to escape the usual heavy bar food. We were also briefly romanced by the wok-seared jalapeno poppers and the sag paneer fries. Decisions, decisions! The cocktails are shaken with Root Down quality and precision, and the list offers everything from Caipirinhas to vodka green tea coolers. The staff is just as stoked about Linger as the patrons are, and drinking past happy hour lets you linger while night falls over the downtown cityscape.
Overall Grade: A