Happy Place: Café|Bar, 295 South Pennsylvania Street, 303-362-0227.
The Hours: Monday through Friday from 3 to 6 p.m.
The Deals: $3 draft beer and well cocktails; $5 wines by the glass; $5-$8 food specials.
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The Digs: Café|Bar is still a baby -- a ten-month-old baby to be exact -- but it carries the confidence of a bistro that's been around the block more than once. The industrial space is rustic enough to remind us of a mountain dining hall, with accents like exposed piping and tree trunk stools around the community table. The main dining room is separate from the bar and the open kitchen, and provides a more intimate and quiet place to enjoy a meal and a few drinks. The bar runs along the south wall, a cozy enclave that gives way to more ample seating around the hot line of the kitchen. The patio out back is spacious, and the foliage makes it feel more private than it should for being mere steps from Alameda Avenue. In addition to smaller tables, the patio boasts a second community table.
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The Verdict: Café|Bar belongs on a list of reputable Wash Park happy hours for many reasons. The vibe is chill but sophisticated, the staff is friendly and courteous, the booze is cheap, and ordering just a couple of the happy hour appetizers will guarantee that you'll have an adequate base for all of the wine you're about to consume. During our mid-week visit we turned to the bison sliders (with sweet potato fries, of course) and the savory Hazel Dell mushroom perogies. For a second round of snacks, we opted for the duck leg drumettes and the manilla clams. Dredged in pesto broth and swimming with sautéed leeks, the clams proved to be the perfect accompaniment for a sauvignon blanc. The bar itself is inviting -- particularly on rainy days -- but we prefer to catch our buzz on the patio. If you're up for dropping some extra cash, the cocktail list is diabolically divine but far more pricey than the happy hour libations. The staff knows what they're doing and are always up for conversation, which scores points in our book.
Overall Grade: A-