Although it has always been an old standby of mine, I didn’t intentionally set out to review Mead St. Station this week. Rather, I was putzing around in the West Highland neighborhood and taking advantage of my favorite free Saturday activity: wine tastings at Mondo Vino. My companion and I had walked into the liquor store with no intentions to purchase, but exited with a sleek and slender magnum of alvarinho after a number of samples, and so had left jonesing for sustenance.
When in Highlands Square and feeling snacky, Mead St. is often top of mind. It’s quieter than Fire on the Mountain, or at least feels intimate, with its hard wood, exposed brick and dark interior, and a little less bourgeois than Pizzeria Locale or Trattoria Stella. Plus, Mead St. Station has been a staple in the neighborhood for more than two decades and in the Burke family for the past eight years. The feel of the place has remained largely the same over the years, with warm lighting that simulates old streetlights, booths that remind me of old church pews and encourage the same sort of physical suffering, and historical photos that make you want a tour of north Denver history.
Since our wine sampling and purchasing ended at 5 p.m., it made sense to hit up happy hour and grab a bite. At most happy hours, I usually post up at the bar, but here I prefer the high-tops. We chose $3.50 pints of an Avery IPA and a 90 Shilling and glanced over the nine-item happy hour menu. While I wanted to compare last week’s Park Tavern fried pickles ($3), our attentive server recommended the sliders ($3.50 to $4), and my companion was sold on the Mexi-poutine ($5).
From White Wedding to Carry On Wayward Son, loud ’70s and ’80s rock continued to be the soundtrack of the evening, and I witnessed an older couple struggle to communicate with each other across their table. When the food arrived, I wanted to hug the server for her beef and cheese slider tip. It was like the best Arby’s sandwich you can dream of: sliced beef topped with a cheese-whiz-esque, er, dairy product and horseradish atop one of those fluffy-tangy potato rolls that’s been toasted until crispy and just a bit greasy.
The beef slider was great, but I should have started with the chicken sandwich while it was crispy and hot, with the right amount of pickle to brighten it up. The third, a beef burger slider, was half backyard/half greasy chain burger, somehow medium rare (a feat for its size) without being juicy, and topped with shredded lettuce and diced tomatoes and onions. My partner let me dig into the Mexi-poutine, which tasted like standard, if legitimately spicy, green chile poured over thick restaurant fries. I also added an order of that trend of trends: fried Brussels sprouts ($5). As overdone as these have become, I don’t know if I’ll ever get sick of this, the year of the Brussels sprout. I’d like to say I’m a good judge of them, but if they’re crispy, well salted and not too oily, I’m totally in. Unlike Park Tavern’s messy lot, I appreciate that these sprouts came with the chipotle aioli on the side, and my companion commented that the feta added a nice tang.
I looked around and realized that the place was filling up with families with kids coming in for an early meal before the serious drinkers took over. Mead St. Station is a truly family-friendly pub in a neighborhood begging for welcoming establishments where you can fill up for under $20 a person at happy hour (or even less, if you're not drinking). And my desperate need for a phone charger was met with a similarly welcoming amenity: built-in charging stations, something you never think about at a bar until you’re in a pickle. This simple pub has managed to meet the needs of its clientele while maintaining its old-school vibe, and for that, I am grateful.
Mead St. Station is located at 3625 W 32nd Avenue; happy hour is Monday through Saturday from 3 to 6 p.m. and from 9:30 to close. Call 303-433-2138 for more details.
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