If you're one of the many people working downtown who uses Union Station as your transportation hub, good for you. Not only are you doing your part for the environment, but you're also saving time and a wee bit of sanity. That's why you deserve a nice happy hour after work. And why not? After all, you don't have to worry about driving afterward. These nine places will have you well fed and juiced up for that journey home.
1899 16th Street
This new restaurant is named after you, the intrepid mass-transit tripper. Right under the Kimpton Hotel Born you will find chef Christian Graves whipping up all sorts of modernized steakhouse favorites — even for happy hour. From 2:30 to 6 p.m., grab a seat at the bar or a table outside under the heat lamps and order the $7 wood-grilled oysters; a giant $6 Scotch egg with housemade fennel pollen sausage; crispy artichokes with Dungeness crab and lemon curd for $9; and a $11 charcuterie board laden with truffled chicken-liver mousse, Fra'Mani salami, aged ham, house pickles, mustard and bread. This is around 30 percent off the usual fare, and staff assured us the size is just as hearty as it is at dinner. On the drink side, tip back a glass of $5 wine, $4 craft beer or $7 cocktail like the house gin and tonic with herbs and spices or the Brown Derby with bourbon, honey and grapefruit. Or, if your work day proved exceptionally crazy, consider one of the $7 pairings such as a glass of rosé with a shot of mezcal or a stout with a side of bourbon. Once you're done, simply stumble out the hotel's revolving door and onto the train platform.
Hearth & Dram
1801 Wewatta Street
There are happy-hour menus — and then there are happy-hour menus showcasing forty different cocktails. That is what you will find at this downtown spot, and they only cost $8 each. If you hanker for whiskey, choose from twenty different tipples including the Manhattan, whiskey sour and Old Fashioned. Also on the epic drink menu: Negroni, mai tai, margaritas and other classic cocktails. Chase a drink with a plate of savory crab beignets, perfect housemade Hawaiian rolls and a stack of delicately fried and oh-so-addictive tempura onion rings. And, if you really want to go the distance and turn your happy hour into dinner, the special menu also includes a grilled bologna and cheese sandwich, bacon cheeseburger and the smoked-brisket patty melt. Get these items every day from 3 to 6 p.m., and, yes, that even means on the weekends.
Next Door American Eatery
1701 Wynkoop Street
For those looking for a healthier happy hour, this mini-chain right inside Union Station has some good gluten-free and vegetarian options. For example, between 3 to 6 p.m. daily, guests can sit at the bar or patio and order veggie or chicken tostadas, kale chips, a dish of pickles, chorizo-stuffed dates, meatballs with polenta or a simple side of guacamole and chips — all for $3 to $5 each. Pair the food with the restaurant's own Next Door red or white blend for $6; a $4 Upslope lager or Avery IPA; or a $6 cocktail such as the peach bourbon or the margarita. It's not the largest menu on the train-station block, but the vibe is mellow and comfortable.
Public School 303
1959 16th Street
Although it's not directly at Union Station, this American comfort-food eatery is just a block away (and halfway between the A Line platform and the main stop for several other lines). Dubbed "recess," the daily 3 to 7 p.m. happy-hour menu proves just as fun as its namesake. Nibble on discounted items including $5 Parmesan truffle fries with ginger aioli; $8 chorizo macaroni and cheese; $8 ahi tuna poke with taro chips; and $5 bacon cheddar tots with sriracha ketchup, to name a few. On the drink side, well cocktails are $5, handles of craft beer run between $4 and $6, and house red or white wine is $15 for a half-liter or $5 a glass. It's not a bad way to end the work day, even if you end up at the office on the weekend.
Stoic & Genuine
1701 Wynkoop Street
What's not to like about a special oyster happy hour? At this elegant seafood restaurant, guests can visit between 2 to 6 p.m. Sunday through Friday and settle into as many $2 oysters as they desire. The lineup changes, but usually there are three offerings. Other highlights include smoked-ricotta tater tots, oyster po'boy sliders on Parker House rolls and calamari carbonara. And what goes better with shellfish than a glass of wine? For $3, choose from a couple of different varietals or go for a vodka with hous-made soda (like peach, lemon-coconut or pineapple). It's one of the cheapest high-end happy-hour deals around, and while you won't necessarily get full, you will have the most pleasant ride home.
Denver Union Station
1701 Wynkoop Street
Okay, so maybe this is a given. After all, the Terminal Bar is in the terminal. But that doesn't mean you can't indulge in some liquid fun before you board the train home. Happy hour is Monday through Friday from 4 to 6 p.m. Specials include certain craft beers under $5 and Francis Ford Coppola Winery chardonnay and pinot noir for $7. Well cocktails run $6, and for an extra dollar, you can sip on a solid paloma or Hemingway daiquiri while you sit in one of the lobby's comfy chairs. There may not be any snacks or tasty bites, but it's the closest in feel to a train-station bar.
Thirsty Lion Gastropub
1605 Wynkoop Street
Sometimes you just need to have a happy hour like one in the movies — meaning a dimly lit, no-frills bar with cheap drinks. This small chain has all that, starting with margaritas, wine and well drinks for $4.95 and $1 off all draft beers. There's also discounted food to soak up all that booze. Perhaps you want some gooey jalapeño cheese dip or hand-cut fries with peppercorn ranch to go with your drinks; that's only $4.95. Bump up the price by a dollar and you can get banh mi sliders, artichoke spinach dip and soft baked pretzels with beer fondue. Then, if you really want to splurge, try the bacon-wrapped prawns with Newcastle-laced barbecue sauce or the grilled salmon cakes at $6.95 a pop. Basically you can eat the whole menu with your co-workers and drink plenty on the cheap — and all before 6 p.m.
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1650 Wewatta Street
A $5 menu of goodies proves a great way to end your day. Given that all the drinks and bites at this eatery right next to Union Station come Southern style, well, you know everything's going to be hearty and filling. On the happy-hour menu, food items include bacon pralines, raw oysters with pickled-pepper mignonette, and pimento-cheese nachos. Also look for the $5 chef's Mason jar, which can be filled with roasted-apple tahini and hominy, bacon and pimento cheese, or Creole-roasted eggplant; it's served with carrots, potato chips and biscuit crackers. As for drinks, get $2 off all draft beers and signature cocktails as well as $6 glasses of house wine. Enjoy this trip to the South Monday through Friday from 4 to 7 p.m.
1659 Wazee Street
Walk one block south of the train station, and you can sidle up to the bar and order a superb Old Fashioned for $5 and a dish of sweet and spicy bar nuts. Not enough? Urban Farmer also offers deviled eggs with housemade bacon and maple-bourbon sauce; homemade Parker House rolls and blue cornbread with whipped butter; and confit chicken with blue cheese. The $9 farmer flatbread is a good way to see what local produce chef Chris Starkus is working with, and it happens to go marvelously with a $6 glass of sparkling wine. All of this can be had Monday through Friday from 3 to 6 p.m. Just be warned: You might want to get a later train home and stay for the New York steak tasting plate.