I thought the first time I ate at There… would be the last time, and this was only partially due to the irritating name. It’s like the “Who’s on first” of restaurants:
“Where do you want to eat tonight?”
You get it. After spending my second evening there, I can’t help but wonder whether the restaurant’s name is meant to be a built-in word game for hammered millennials with nothing better to do than participate in hook-up culture and snicker about homonyms — though on a recent Sunday, the former activity appeared more the entertainment of choice than wordplay. This observation remained consistent over my two visits to the place.
I ended up at There… because it's one of few restaurants in town that extends its happy hour through the weekend. Every day from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m., you can choose from a combination of options for all types of imbibers — wine, booze, beer — and there’s a $2 discount on all dishes on the “First Act” list, the restaurant's name for appetizers. This is the second-most-positive thing I have to say about There... . At the top of my very short list is the employee who greeted us at the corner eatery's velvet-curtained entryway and walked us through the four involved menus — perhaps the most considerate and articulate host/server I’ve ever met. I hope he finds a new job at a much finer establishment.
I have no idea what There… is trying to be, and I’m not sure it does, either. A red light at the entryway makes it feel like you’re walking into a brothel, and a quick look down the bar backed up this observation. Women and men, beyond intoxicated before sundown on a Sunday, pressed against each other while three-year-old R&B tracks played over the sound system. Beside the entryway, a small stage sits in exactly no one’s direct sight line. But maybe the stage is not meant to be the focal point; this is a restaurant, after all — or at least I thought so.
To best take advantage of happy hour, it pays to come with wine lovers, because for 29 bucks you can get a bottle (the bar's first-level red, white or pink) plus four tostadas, steamed buns or lettuce wraps (or a combo of two and two). If wine isn’t your jam, you can go for a $7 shaken martini (a respectable $5 savings) or $10 “black list” cocktail (from a not-so-secret secret menu), a $3 savings. Beer people can enjoy $3 pours but are limited to Telluride Brewing beers, of which there are three, one on draft and two in a bottle. We opted for the wine deal, but also felt compelled to grab a martini and a couple of “black list” drinks, despite the overplayed banned-book trend and and shabby presentation; the four menus are all just shoved into a worse-for-wear copy of Catcher in the Rye with its cover taped on upside down.
We split the four small plates into two tostadas and two steamed buns, and threw in two lettuce wraps ($7; outside of happy hour, each set of two will run you $9 to $14). We waited, and waited, for our drinks to come, but the baby-faced bartender was too preoccupied taking shots with the women seated in front of him to prepare our cocktails. Our server, however, arrived with the wine, accompanied by one hovering drunk customer from the bar. Meanwhile, another drunk man took the opportunity to get closer to the woman who appeared to be the first drunk man’s girlfriend.
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The mezcal and Chartreuse-based Pina Verde (missing its ñ on the menu) and ginger-infused Saketini eventually arrived. The first was well-balanced and refreshing, the second boozy and intense, as a martini should be. When the food followed soon after, we were taken aback by the tiny portions, but realized they were exactly on par with menu’s stated “palm-sized bites." The fusion-y bao were like mini pork tenderloin sandwiches inside squishy buns, mustard and all, which I found more strange than novel. The tiny wagyu tostadas would have been divine if the chopped raw onion had been halved, and I would have have preferred yolk (a nice touch with tartare), or nothing, to the distraction of mustard on top. The creative shiitake, blueberry, feta and pepita lettuce wraps were a unique and successful effort, though one per person was plenty.
With the snacks quickly polished off we were left to try and make conversation while what I imagined to be a Denver rendition of Vanderpump Rules unfolded. First, the baby-faced bartender recruited several women to join in a shotsky. Then one of the men at the bar got so drunk he fell off his chair, hitting his nose on the bar. No, he wasn't escorted out; instead, he came over to our table, pointing to each of us in turn saying, “Lesbian, lesbian, gay,” before returning to his perch to slobber over a woman seated next to him. After a word with the bartender, in which one of my understandably unsettled companions recommended cutting off the drunken offender, we received an apology and a plate with apples, cheese and honey — a nice gesture, but short of the mark. We corked our wine and asked for the check before departing past the coat rack filled with Canada Goose jackets and the velvet ropes outside, never looking back.
There… might be a great place for people in Telluride looking for a party, but not for folks looking for a low-key (and woman-positive) happy hour. The cocktails are well balanced and flavorful, though the food seems confused, if creative, and well executed about half of the time. The bar offers a brand of hook-up and party culture that the deals may not offset for certain folks. The rest is up to you.
There... is located at 3254 Navajo Street and serves happy hour from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. Call 720-500-3254 or visit the restaurant's website for more details.