When LoHi SteakBar opened its doors ten years ago, my brother and I, who lived in the neighborhood, were stoked to have a posh corner joint nearby. In the early years, the place was classy but not overly crowded, and with a happy hour that made it a reasonable evening out on our limited paychecks. You could stop by for happy hour after work (from 3 to 6 p.m.) or after 10 p.m. for a nightcap — without ever thinking “I shouldn’t have done that.” So when I decided to revisit my old haunt last Friday, I assumed the SteakBar would have ample room, because despite LoHi’s exploding population, surely drinkers and diners would be earning their restaurant cred at nearby Ash'Kara, Williams & Graham or the trendy Avanti F&B. I was wrong.
By the time I arrived, at about 5:40 p.m., the dining room, we were told, was booked up with reservations, and the first-come, first-served community table was also spoken for. While it would take some time for the various booths and tables to reach capacity, the dark, Euro cafe-style space steadily filled over the next hour, turning it into a lively establishment. Luckily, there were a couple of seats at the marble bar, ideal for our purposes.
LoHi SteakBar has held on to part of its former happy-hour offerings — half-off wines and well cocktails — but only one beer of the day enjoys the same discount when it comes to drafts. With that in mind, we started with a house wine and the house beer, Great Divide American Blonde Ale, for $3 each. On LoHi’s website, all the happy-hour snacks are priced below the $6 mark, but on the most recent printed menu, the high comes in at $8, for an order of chicken wings.
Had I not let my companion order, I would have avoided those $8 chicken wings altogether, but on the bright side, I have this PSA to offer: If you like wings, you should not order these dry, stringy chicken parts. While the Buffalo sauce was inoffensive (that’s a high bar for me), there is nothing else good to say about them, except that you now have an excuse to avoid the most expensive item on the happy-hour menu.
For all that the chicken wings were not, however, the two slider choices were sublime. It appears that LoHi isn’t called “SteakBar” for nothing. Both $3 sliders — the mini blue smoke burger and the mini steak sandwich — came out perfectly medium rare, quite a feat for such small disks of beef. Moreover, the blue cheese crumbles, caramelized onions and bacon melded so well with the juicy burger that I found it difficult to save a bite for my friend. Fortunately, the man didn’t mind, because he was absorbed in the steak slider’s melt-in-your mouth beef, which, like the burger, came on a bun that stood up to the juice without being too stiff or bready. Pro tip: Eat that steak slider over the plate. It’s like diffusing a bomb; you need to have two hands on it.
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The mussels arrived hot and fresh in a bowl surprisingly large for the $6 price. Over the past weeks, I’ve had several bowls of mussels; LoHi has produced the plumpest shellfish with the simplest broth meant to let the seafood shine. I like richer broths, too, but I respect the kitchen here for executing on behalf of the mussels.
Given the meat and seafood success, we should have opted for the $1 oysters or the $5 crab cake, but instead settled for potato skins, a bar-food standard that my companion summed up with “They were a little meh on flavor, but what else do you want?” That said, there was nothing wrong with the hearty potato dish.
Even with one or two disappointments, the bill felt so reasonable we couldn’t help but feel satisfied — especially because we were only charged $7 for the $6-cum-$8 wings. With its well-to-do clientele, the space can seem stale at first, but sink into the atmosphere and you can still feel LoHi SteakBar's neighborhood character — something that can be difficult to find around here these days.
LoHi SteakBar is located at 3200 Tejon Street and offers happy hour from 3 to 6 p.m. and 10 p.m. until close every day (though the kitchen closes an hour before the bar). Visit the restaurant's website or call 303-927-6334 for more details.