Best Happy Hour 2021 | Señor Bear | Best of Denver® | Best Restaurants, Bars, Clubs, Music and Stores in Denver | Westword
Danielle Lirette

Señor Bear's dinner menu spans several Latin American countries, and the happy-hour slate does, too — but with entirely different dishes created to inspire smiles and whimsy. Part of what makes the pre-dinner snack and drink specials here such a find is that nothing is just a tossed-off reject from dinner or a filler made from cheap ingredients. The Gordo Crunch is a little miracle inspired by Mexican-American fast food, a soft tortilla layered on a crunchy one and filled with mild chorizo, cheese, lettuce and special sauce. There are also plates of chicharrones, bowls of guacamole, mini servings of oozy queso with toasted chile oil, and even a seafood (for happy hour? Outrageous!) tostada. Drinks come priced for multiple rounds, too, so don't come by car unless someone else is driving.

Danielle Lirette

The Tommy's house margarita at Dos Santos gets people in the door, and it keeps those people coming back. One glance around the patio or through the glass doors at all the guests with margs in hand is enough to stop passersby in their tracks. True to an ideal house marg, this one is simple and addictive, made with nothing more than Arette blanco tequila, fresh lime juice and agave syrup. The price is right, and the balance of sweet and tangy is the perfect accompaniment for happy hour bites or tacos all night.

Eric Gruneisen

If there were a love song to the Nob Hill Inn, it would be played on a steel guitar. The song would have some twang to it, and it would be sad and satisfying and honest. But last year, it was almost silenced. The Nob Hill Inn has been a drinker's paradise for more than seventy years — serving everyone from Bob Dylan to politicos who used to make deals over the phone in corner booths — but this classic, down-and-dirty watering hole on Colfax almost dried up entirely during the pandemic. Without a kitchen or passable alternative, the place closed for months while it sold pizza and to-go drinks out of the back door and regulars hosted fundraisers. "We've had hard times before," said John Plessinger, whose father bought the Nob in 1969 and put it in his name. "But nothing like this." Still, Denver's best dive bar survived, and today the Nob Hill Inn is again pouring drinks at its horseshoe-shaped bar.

Mark Antonation

You know you're getting something good when Frasca Food & Wine co-owner Bobby Stuckey opens a wine bar. Not only has Stuckey earned the highest ranking from the Court of Master Sommeliers, but he's also part owner of a winery in Italy. The restaurateur is also an audiophile, and at Sunday Vinyl, his wine bar by Union Station, you can find his love of both wine and vintage records on display. The sound system is as high-end as many of the bottles in the cellar, and there's good food to accompany both, making this a destination on its own and not merely a parking spot for customers awaiting a table at Stuckey's other project, Tavernetta, right next door.

Courtesy of Attimo

Colorado has its own vineyard and wineries, mostly on the Western Slope, but when Snooze co-founder Jon Schlegel decided to plunge into the world of wine, he looked abroad, and ended up living in Italy to learn the business. As a result, all the wines at his year-old winery in the Ballpark neighborhood start with grapes from the rolling hillsides of Italy. They're crushed there, too, before the liquid is shipped to Denver for resting, blending and aging. So when you enjoy a glass or a bottle at the winery, you're drinking Barolos, Nebbiolos, Barbarescos and other wines made according to Italian tradition and with 100 percent Italian ingredients.

Mark Antonation

Chad and Marla Yetka named their urban winery after their first precious pooch, Bigsby the golden retriever. His image can be found — with pipe, top hat and tie — on the winery's bottles, above the bar and on the sign gracing the venerable brick building facing the light rail line in RiNo. Bigsby is long gone, but you can hang out with other pups on the patios at Bigsby's Folly or just bring your own, provided your pet follows in the footsteps of that perfect gentle-dog namesake. The wines, made from California-sourced grapes, are worthy of praise, too. And with a full food menu, Bigsby's is a great destination whether you're just in for a few sips or looking for dinner, drinks and celebrations. RiNo is going to the dogs, and that's a good thing.

The Unfound Door

Ashmead's Kernel, Dabinett, Porter's Perfection and Ruby Jon. Are these racehorses getting ready for the Kentucky Derby, or canine Best of Show winners? No, they're just a few of the many apple varieties — some of which are grown and harvested in Colorado — that Talia and Daniel Haykin use to make sparkling ciders that rival wine in complexity, aroma and food-friendly balance. You can find Haykin ciders at some of Denver's finest restaurants (a testament to their quality), on liquor store shelves and at the Aurora cidery, making it easy to pair them with your own culinary creations at home.

Danielle Lirette

Whiskey doesn't get much more Colorado than Laws. The distillery works with specific farmers in the San Luis Valley and on the eastern plains to source corn, rye, wheat and barley for its lineup of spirits. Those heirloom grains give the whiskeys (all Laws makes) a distinct terroir, bolstered by years in oak barrels. Laws was the first distillery in Colorado to produce a "bottled in bond" bourbon, meeting strict criteria for ingredients, age and provenance, and the attention to detail shows in each rich and complex sip.

Most tasting rooms are little more than extensions of the distilleries themselves, but this space is a standout. The Family Jones Spirit House was the first distillery-restaurant in metro Denver, and its tasting room is actually a posh and inviting eatery. The distilling equipment towers over the bar on a mezzanine level, its shiny copper reminiscent of a church's pipe organ. Below, neat pours of the distillery's many products — some of which have never been bottled for sale outside the establishment — can be sampled alongside creative cocktails. If you fancy a bite to eat, so much the better, since the food menu is on par with the booze.

Wild Provisions Beer Project

They don't give Michelin stars for taprooms, but maybe they should. Because Wild Provisions Beer Project is certainly "worthy" of a detour, as the famous French restaurant guide suggests for its rated restaurants. An offshoot of 4 Noses Brewing, Wild Provisions, which opened in May 2020, specializes in two different styles of beer with centuries-old traditions: Belgian wild ales and Czech lagers. Both are brewed here using extremely specialized equipment, including a decoction mashing system, horizontal lagering tanks, open-topped fermenters and two coolships. The gorgeous taproom is just as well thought-out, with a wood-paneled half-circle bar and traditional side-pull, Czech-style faucet taps. Make the detour.

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