Back before LoDo was stuffed with happy hours pushing all manner of liquids and solids,McCormick's Fish House and Bar
-- an outpost of the McCormick's and Schmick's empire that opened in the Oxford Hotel in 1987 -- was legendary for its cheap time, when everything was $1.99. And that included a burger and fries that was renowned as the best deal in the area. Today the prices are much higher and McCormick's is part ofcolossal seafood conglomerate Landry's
, but the franchise was still namedbest happy hour in America last year by The Daily Meal and USA Today
. Does this old standby still have the goods, or has it been shown up by its spunky neighbors?
See also: Happy Hour at La Biblioteca: Study Hard
I came not to bury McCormick's, but before I had walked through the doors I was already nursing a grudge against Landry's and its ocean of mediocrity -- especially after what that company did to the once great, now okay Cruise Room. Happy-hour prices now range from $2.99 for hummus and pita chips to $6.99 for fish tacos. But to get in on any of this food necessitates a beverage purchase of at least $3.25 -- that's not tough hurdle, there are happy-hour drafts in the $4 range and $6 cocktails -- but I've never seen a one-drink minimum at a happy hour before.
Happy hour runs from 3 to 6 p.m. and 9 p.m. to close Monday through Thursday and 2 to 5 p.m. on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, with a second late-night happy hour from 10 p.m. to close on those days. The afternoon happy hours can be busy; the after-work crowd didn't bother to remove their ties and sport coats before settling down with $3.25 Bud Lights and plates of oysters. A Mariner's Mojito ($6) came to me, looking pretty ugly with a wad of mint leaves on top (wha?) and a floater of dark rum. Refreshing but too sweet and light, it's a classic example of a chain-approved cocktail.
There's still a cheeseburger and fries on the happy-hour menu, but it's now $5 rather than two bucks. A Lincoln gets you an average-sized burger (mine was burned to a crisp), fixings and a fistful of fries. I also tried a roasted mushroom flatbread ($7), which will go down as one of the top worst things I have ever eaten. Ever swallow a mouthful of white flour as a kid? Then eat some soggy mushrooms and plastic-y mozzarella? If so, you can grasp the experience. I asked for a box rather than the trash can to save the feelings of my server, who was kind and attentive in the midst of happy-hour hysteria.
Though some of the old McCormick's spirit remains in the cheap eats (and the $1 Irish coffees during snowstorms), savvy diners know what to expect from franchise restaurants, and the offerings generally pale compared to their independent neighbors. Saving a few bucks is great, but between soulless food and soulless atmosphere, your afternoon happy hour is better spent elsewhere.
Perfect for: When you need to eat for nothing more than $8.25, but will settle for nothing less than white tablecloths and mahogany. Also, picky grandparents.
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Don't miss: The Irish Coffee is still made with care and perfect on a cold night.