Happy Friday: Denver's ten best bar snacks

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1. Frico caldo, Frasca Food and Wine,1738 Pearl Street, Boulder

Frasca's bar may have just a few seats, but it's worth getting there early to nab one (or a spot on the patio) so that you can suck down a glass of wine while devouring the frico caldo. For this delightful appetizer, crushed potatoes and gooey montasio cheese are pressed into a cast-iron grill pan,and fried until golden-brown and crispy, then cut into four triangles and topped with shallot vinaigrette.

2. Sweet potato fries, Root Down, 1600 West 33rd Avenue

Root Down's bar, located in a former garage that's been tricked out with vintage posters, old telephones and plush round booths, may be one of the coolest venues in which to enjoy a drink. And while marveling at the décor over that drink, we like to order the sweet potato fries, which are thin and crispy and served with a tangy lime dipping sauce that enhances our snacking pleasure.

3. Fried brussels sprouts leaves, Happy and Bitter Bar, 835 Walnut Street, Boulder

Sometime in the history of bars, owners realized that salt makes you thirsty, loosening your purse strings and enticing you to order another round. The fried brussels sprouts leaves at the Bitter Bar are, therefore, a perfect bar snack: airy, light, crispy -- and salty enough that you'll need at least a couple of rounds of cocktails from the Bitter Bar master mixologists to to wash these delightful vegetables down.

4. Garlic fries, the Kitchen [Upstairs], 1039 Pearl Street, Boulder

Whenever we sit down at the long wooden bar at the Kitchen [Upstairs] and order the garlic fries, we try to convince ourselves that we're just going to eat two and let our fellow revelers have the rest. Since these fat strips of potato come out crispy and hot and doused in garlic butter, though, that never, ever happens, and we load up on them like junkies finally getting a fix.

5. Mac and cheese wedges, Cherry Cricket, 2641 East Second Avenue

Sometimes we want fresh produce, high-quality meats and house-baked bread. And sometimes we want fat and starch rolled in more fat and starch and then dropped in the deep-fryer. When it's the latter we're craving, we find it at the Cherry Cricket, where elbow macaroni smothered in orange American cheese is battered and fried, then served with ranch dressing. They go great with a cold beer, a game of darts and Motown on the jukebox.

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Laura Shunk was Westword's restaurant critic from 2010 to 2012; she's also been food editor at the Village Voice and a dining columnist in Beijing. Her toughest assignment had her drinking ten martinis and eating ten Caesar salads over the course of 48 hours. She still drinks martinis, but remains lukewarm on Caesar salads.
Contact: Laura Shunk