Happy Place: R Bar, 3209 East Colfax Avenue, 303-320-8635
The Hours: Daily from 5 to 7 p.m. and 10 to 11 p.m.
The Deals: $6 house wines; $3.50-$4.50 draft beers; $6 cocktails; $5-7 food specials
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The Digs: Once upon a time, on a corner of East Colfax, there sat a lovely little restaurant called Café Star. It was filled with bright, bold colors -- reds, blues and greens -- and the bar was separated from the dining room by a breathtaking wall of stained glass in similar hues. That bar, in fact, was one of our favorite places to consume magical adult beverages. It was an entertaining place, a merry abode where townsfolk congregated from near and far. A fair princess named Rebecca Weitzman twinkled behind the kitchen line and prepared some of the most delicious food in the land. But one day, the princess decided to leave Café Star and pursue her dreams in New York City, where she's now cooking and living happily ever after.
Café Star couldn't survive without her, and soon morphed into the sister restaurant of the long-standing Highland eatery, Trattoria Stella. The evil owners destroyed the enchanted bar, and made it an entirely separate watering hole called R Bar. (Okay, owners Tom and Marna Sumners aren't really evil, but the Gollums at Café Society miss the original cocktail lounge. A lot.) R Bar is a dark and mystical forest, where the extremely hospitable bartender elves pour drinks and crank Flogging Molly tunes. A large screen hangs in the bar, where boozing inhabitants watch sporting events; occasionally, disc jockeys play music. There's a patio, too, which makes patrons happy.
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The Verdict: R Bar is dark and kind of dingy (but in a clean way, if that makes any sense). The bar top is really high -- almost too high -- and you feel a bit like a toddler when you're in a bar stool, elbows hoisted above ninety degrees to reach your beer, while your feet dangle high over the wood floor. The décor isn't anything remarkable, either, but we'll tell you what is: the happy hour lamb chops -- delicious, fatty little lamb lollipops seared, perfectly seasoned and served with wilted spinach and pomegranate demi ($6). They pair surprisingly well with the (shitty) cab offered during happy hour, and we seriously thought about ordering another round or two and skipping the rest of the menu altogether. Instead, we opted for the crisp-fried gnocchi, served with spicy fra diavolo sauce and Parmesan, and while it was an interesting "bar food" version of the little potato pillows, we prefer the more traditional preparation. The barkeeps at R Bar give the room a good vibe, and even on an early night when we were the only ones in the room, our bartender seemed genuinely happy to be there -- entertaining without being intrusive, and graciously meeting our every need.
Overall Grade: B