Happy Place: Boulder Café, 1247 Pearl Street, 303-444-4884.
The Hours: Daily from 3 p.m. to close.
The Deals: Half-priced beer, cocktails, wines by the glass, and appetizers.
Were we happy? Flip the page to find out.
The Digs: The Boulder Café is predictably Boulder: one part tourist, one part hippie, and one part frat party all rolled together into one eclectic drinking experience. From the outside, this Pearl Street tavern looks classy, but when you walk through the front doors, the vibe quickly becomes seedier. A wooden wraparound bar overflows with bodies, which isn't surprising, considering that the Boulder Café offers happy hour every day starting at 3 p.m. -- and it continues until you can't drink anymore (or puke). The joint's bartenders are frank and cop an attitude quickly, but if you aren't easily offended, it only adds to the experience.
The Verdict: "Those wine bottles haven't been dusted in years," said a friend, staring up at the bottles stacked in the cabinets above the bar. We barely heard her; we were too engrossed in the seafood case that caps the end of the bar -- and pondering how many half-priced cocktails it would take to feel comfortable ordering raw oysters from a place like the Boulder Café.
But shady or not, the Boulder Café's happy hour is a steal of a deal. The menu offers a gazillion appetizers, all of which are half-priced. Intrigued by two dudes with dreadlocks shooting shots of whiskey and eating fondue across the bar, we ordered the cheddar and Colorado ale dipping pot, which arrived with a plate of chicken sausage, vegetables, sliced apples, and deep-fried potatoes.
To put it bluntly, the fondue was just flat-out gross. It had started to separate long before it hit our space at the bar, and the chicken sausage sat cold and congealed on the end of our plate. The sliced cubes of baguette were stale, and we ended up eating just the potatoes as we sipped our beers and watched the scene on the Pearl Street Mall.
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If you're shopping and need a cheap shot or two to get a second wind, the Boulder Café has you covered, but the food leaves a lot to be desired.
Overall Grade: C