Happy Place: Cru Wine Bar, 1442 Larimer Street, 303-893-9463
The Hours: Monday through Friday from 4 to 7 p.m.
The Deals: $3 off wines by the glass; $3-$6 small plates.
Were we happy? Flip the page to find out.
The Digs: Cru, a sibling of an unsuspecting chain of wine bars, resides in Larimer Square amid the convivial traffic of boutique shoppers and LoDo diners, and at first glance, the space seems fresh with its light wood tones and cavernous French decor. But once you're comfy, the energy becomes sterile and that franchise feeling sets in. There's a small patio facing Larimer, and the bistro-style bar area has small tables that back up to the wall and the floor-to-ceiling wine racks. There's another patio out back, but when it's bereft of bodies, it feels more like solitary confinement than a private nook in which to enjoy a glass of vino.
The Verdict: The air was warm, and we were in the mood for a springtime glass of rosé. There were plenty of open stools at the bar, the staff greeted us affectionately, and while there are plenty of chain wine bars that haven't quite dialed in their wine lists, Cru, thankfully, is not one of these bars. And when our server poured us two generous glasses of Alois Lageder rosé, things started looking up.
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The happy hour menu is a random medley of the usual suspects, and we decided on the goat cheese beignets and fried potstickers. Safe enough, right? The goat cheese beignets arrived as three plump, perfectly golden spheres drizzled in honey, and upon cutting into the first orb, goat cheese oozed from the center onto our plates. But the amount of cheese was overwhelming, and we remarked at how surprising it was that so much cheese could fit into one little ball. The flavors were nothing to write home about, either, and while goat cheese and fried dough pairs wonderfully with crisp, cold wine, we found ourselves longing for a little more acid in the dish itself. The potstickers, dressed in a mango salsa that was no more than diced fruit and zucchini, left much to be desired and were so flat that, this time, we questioned whether someone had forgotten to fill them.
The most shining aspect of the Cru experience is the staff, a friendly group of individuals who obviously care about what they're doing. Even better, the scripted server-speak that's evident in many chain restaurants doesn't exist here. Our glasses were always full and they were more than willing to assist us in whatever we needed. But sadly, the stellar service isn't enough to make us want to return any time soon.
Overall Grade: C+