There are easy lunches and then there are really easy lunches. At the Corner Office, lunch is easy enough — a good menu (chicken and waffles!) in an interesting room, with excellent service. But lunch is even easier at McCormick's Fish House & Bar, a place where you can stop in for a quick beer and a bite and end up staying for days.
The McCormick's tucked into the corner of the Oxford Hotel was the first restaurant I visited in Denver. I interviewed for this job in the front bar, where I began thinking that maybe the rumors were true and there really was more to Denver than ski chalets, bull testicles and hippies. And I've been back to this bar many times since. The space is both elegant and spare, warm enough to feel homey, straight enough to lend more than a smidge of class, with an imposing long bar that stands as one of Denver's best hotel hangouts — even if I generally steer clear and set myself up in one of the tables pressed up against the street-facing windows. Unlike the nearby Cruise Room — with its art-deco style, Queen Mary inspiration and history dating back to the repeal of Prohibition, McCormick's has been around since just 1987. The menu's focus has always been fish, of course, but today it's flavored by Colorado cuisine, Asian influences and Mexican standards.
Last week, I stopped in for whiskey but wound up having a late lunch. From the ridiculously cheap happy-hour lineup that starts at 3 p.m., I got an order of grilled fish tacos (not the traditional white fish and cabbage, but a nicely grilled, marinated tilapia with a bare spark of chile heat) as well as turkey pinwheels that were like something out of a 1980s homemaker column, touched with sriracha mayo and roasted red peppers. Off the regular menu, I added a very decent basket of fish and chips done as well as any kitchen outside the Catholic neighborhoods of the East Coast could be expected to manage.
It was a fine lunch that stretched longer than any reasonable man's lunch hour should, enjoyed with the sure knowledge that I wasn't the first to linger over-long in this great old bar, wouldn't be the last and probably wasn't even responsible for the longest lunch of the day. As a matter of fact, the only hard thing about my easy lunch was seeing it finally come to an end.