When I moved to Denver from Boulder, Fire on the Mountain became my local substitute for Boulder’s Mountain Sun Pub & Brewery. The wing joint's hippie tendencies, beer passion and well-executed bar food was only enhanced by the coincidental use of the word "mountain" in both names (Fire on the Mountain was founded in Portland and isn't related to the Boulder brewpub). But over the years FotM has become its own Denver institution. I know many a Denverite who will make the journey from downtown to West 32nd Avenue just to enjoy some Grateful Dead, catch a little sports and imbibe beers over a basket of exquisitely fried tater tots.
Those folks, and the uninitiated, will be more than satisfied with Fire on the Mountain’s newest location on the southeast corner of Logan and Alameda in Washington Park West. Though from the outside the building is lackluster, with its stucco finish and tiny parking lot (that currently lacks a bike rack), entering the colorful establishment feels like you've made it to the party — instead of to a former mortuary (which it is).
The kitchen and bar glow with a Fiestaware orange and green paint job, surrounded by exposed brick walls and stained-glass lampshades reminiscent of Pizza Hut’s early days. Filing through the order line, à la Chipotle, can be a bit of a bummer, especially because a dividing wall closes you off from all the fun on the other side.
But arriving for happy hour this past Friday, we immediately found tables and no line at the counter, which provided its own challenge, because we had to make beer and food decisions on the fly. Happy-hour offerings include a dollar off brews, a long list of discounted grub, and Friday’s special: $8 Buffalo nachos. These are not to be confused with totchos, the latest trend that substitutes tater tots for nacho chips — but you can score those during FotM's Tuesday happy-hour special. Of course we had to get both anyway, and given our group size, we also went whole hog on assorted wings (always bone-in), chips and queso, fried cauliflower and two rounds of seitan "wings" for good measure.
Fire on the Mountain has always been on point with its beer list, and with the Great American Beer Festival around the corner, this week is a superb time to plan a trip. The bar always manages to procure a secret keg or two for those lucky enough to stop in, and with this new location bristling with twice the tap handles as the original, you could really be in for a treat. My companions fawned over Ratio’s King of Carrot Flowers bright saison, while my brother and I jumped the gun on winter with La Cumbre’s beastly seven-malt Malpais Stout. These carried us through our frisbee full of nacho chips and somewhat soupy queso, and almost lasted until the totchos touched down. Grateful to FotM servers for taking and delivering our beer orders (so we didn't have to step up to the counter), we asked for another round, which included Green Flash’s piney-flavored West Coast IPA.
I’ll come right out and say that I’m not a tater tot enthusiast, but the group demanded we indulge. I'm still not a convert, but I can verify that Fire on the Mountain knows how to a fry a mean tot. It’s like this crunchy potato matrix that stands up to a slather of sauce yet gives way to pillowy spud interiors. Needless to say, we demolished them before the wings arrived. On the chicken wing side, we tried lime-cilantro, Jamaican jerk, spicy peanut, hot Buffalo, and the month’s special, garlic parm. The Buffalo sauce rose to the occasion where others so often fail: not too acidic and with a lingering spice that wasn’t prohibitive, but did invite a cooling beer back. Likewise, the Jamaican jerk, though not complex like some jerk rubs, allowed for my friend to maintain her “proper jerk levels” and was surprisingly tasty paired with blue cheese. The bright and citric lime-cilantro sauce is a tried-and-true, while I can take or leave the spicy peanut, mostly because that’s not what I’m going for at a place like Fire on the Mountain. The garlic parm, though, tasted odd on chicken wings — but that didn’t keep me from wanting to smother all manner of other edibles, especially the more carb-heavy apps, with the sauce. Also, what’s with the anemic celery sticks in restaurants; is there a celery shortage somewhere that I don’t know about?
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Where the tots and wings impressed, the seitan really disappointed. They tasted like granular hockey pucks that had been cut into slices, so dense and dry that if you didn’t have a drink nearby you'd probably steal your neighbor's to get them down. According to my vegetarian friends, FotM could learn a few things from City, O’ City’s softer, chewier seitan counterpart. The cauliflower, on the other hand, presented a thin tempura-esque shell around crunchy veg, a little fresher and crisper than previous over-fried cauliflower iterations I’ve had over the past weeks.
Apart from the seitan snafu, Fire on the Mountain Wash Park has a great thing going. The central location and easy, inexpensive bar food make for a great place to drink good beer while catching a game — especially if you live east of Broadway. That said, if you’re heading out on a Friday, hitting the bar straight from work is the best bet, so that you can make it in for the end of happy hour while claiming a coveted table before the sit-down crowd hits at about 7 p.m. And for an early-week happy hour, FotM has one of the best deals in town: $3 drafts on Mondays!
Fire on the Mountain is located at 300 South Logan Street and hosts happy hour from 3 to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday. Call 303-480-9464 or visit the restaurant's website for details.