A few years ago, Park Tavern was not a place you would have taken your parents. Since a 2017 remodel, however, the dank Cap Hill watering hole has let in some light, revamped its food menu and generally cleaned up the joint. Now the sliding floor-to-ceiling windows open up to a sidewalk patio, from which you can see the huge, steel-framed bar inside. And while the pool tables remain, the new dining room, with its modern aesthetic and hard, hard, hard-wood seats, makes bringing ’round the folks a safe bet. I personally miss the parquet wood floors and tacky green awnings, but one great thing hasn’t changed: The happy hour remains one of the best deals in the area, including two-for-one wells, drafts and wines (all from $4.50 to $7).
Park Tavern’s primary happy hour lasts until 7 p.m., only to start up again at 9, making it easier to hit up other establishments in the neighborhood for dinner — although the 21 TVs throughout the place might make it tough to leave if you're a sports fan. Perhaps the best part about the split happy hour is that you don’t have to drink your two-for-ones all at once. The Park hands out tokens with each happy hour drink, which, as long as you don’t lose them with the rest of your loose change, you can cash in for a drink in the future — at any hour. Foresee yourself coming here a lot? Bank some tokens during happy hour and make your folks think you’re a high roller as you buy them full-price drinks with your chips.
Liquor drinkers beware, though; I made the mistake of ordering a specialty cocktail without fully understanding the (unwritten) happy hour rules — and the delivered $8 jalapeño margarita was so spicy that I couldn’t drink it (nor could anyone else at the table). A vodka cranberry and the rest of our beers, however, were standard and the service efficient, if a little goofy (you'll know what I'm talking about if you are graced with a certain tenured server).
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Reviews since the remodel mention Park Tavern’s updated and upgraded menu, and the website does wonders with high-res food images, but I would call most of the happy hour snacks pretty standard bar food. The fried pickles, my favorite of the lot, were like bursts of vinegar inside a downy pillow, more fluffy than crunchy. The Brussels sprouts were delicious, but covered in such a hefty squirt of aioli that we all agreed it could be an indication that they were insecure about their sprouts. The nachos were “meh,” but not for a lack of toppings; the messy kitchen-sink pile arrived so quickly that it wasn’t surprising when we found half the ingredients to be tepid at best.
Watching some of the non-happy hour meals come out of the kitchen made me a bit jealous to be confined to the discount menu. But at the price, I still would have preferred to spend my dining dollars elsewhere. Overall, one friend put it best: “The reason I go is because it is where it is; I can easily get back from work, meet up with friends, early or late, and not break the bank if I stick to happy hours and tokens.” Luckily for the tavern, there are plenty of hours to which that logic applies.
Park Tavern and Restaurant is located at 931 East 11th Avenue and serves happy hour from 9 a.m. to noon Monday through Friday, and from 4:30 to 7:30 p.m. and 9 p.m. to close Monday, Wednesday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Tuesdays offer $2 wines, wells, domestic drafts and $2 tacos, while Thursdays have happy hour on drinks only all day. Call 303-832-7667 for more details.