Two words for you, as you contemplate what to order at Señor Bear’s hora loca, or happy hour: Gordo Crunch.
The Gordo is a flour-tortilla-swaddled crispy taco shell filled with juice-oozing chorizo and topped with shredded iceberg lettuce, jack cheese and a couple of racy chilies. It’s served embedded in a swipe of guacamole, which you should add generously as you eat. This is the pinnacle of drinking food (and, we imagine, even more pleasurable if you’ve recently smoked weed). If your guilty pleasures include the occasional trip through a Taco Bell drive-thru, you’ll pick up on the wink at the chain’s Gordita Crunch. Even if you’re above fast food, deign to stoop here: We could eat a half-dozen in one sitting and then roll home to bed. That you can only get this snack during happy hour, which runs daily from 3 to 6 p.m., is reason enough to recommend a special trip.
Before Señor Bear opened its doors in LoHi last June, owners Juan Padro, Katie O’Shea, Max MacKissock and Blake Edmunds billed it as a creative take on a Latin American restaurant that would draw influence from several cuisines in South and Central America and the Caribbean but wouldn’t adhere strictly to traditional recipes. When it opened, ambition and whimsy marked its approach, and Edmunds’s kitchen has steadily ramped up its game since then, tightening the menu while expanding the inspiration to more regions and rounding out the short list of offerings to draw in the neighborhood. The current menu channels everything from Peruvian Chinese food to Puerto Rican mofongo to Oaxacan mole; crispy pig tail and french fry-topped broccoli get equal billing with more recognizable chimichurri-topped steak and rice and beans.
During the hora loca, which takes its name from a wild party hour that transitions guests from ceremony to reception during Latin American weddings, Edmunds and crew dial up the whimsy further to put out a board of bar food that plays to hedonistic impulses and encourages patrons to let loose. Supplement the Gordo Crunch with sweet-spicy pineapple-and-habanero-glazed XXX chicken wings and a smaller pot of the dinner-menu queso, a gooey dip littered with pepitas. More virtuous eaters — and those hoping for a glimpse of Señor Bear’s regular M.O. — should head toward the seafood tostada. The kitchen here works magic with bright, balanced ceviches, and the rotating happy-hour version lets you experience that at a discount.
The only thing we’d skip on this list is the empanada; the chicken-filled fried pocket is considerably blander than its menu counterparts, even after it’s spritzed with lime and mopped through the accompanying pool of tangy crema. Go for a second (or third...or six...) Gordo instead.
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As for drinks, deep discounts on a fairly broad list further encourage indulgence. In addition to cheap Tecate, a $4 michelada and discounted red and white wine, Señor Bear offers a happy hour run of drinks that spell festive fun: margaritas, palomas, Cuba libres. A real party demands a frozen drink, though, and you can get Señor Bear’s daily offering — recently, an apricot-infused margarita; another time, a tequila-spiked frosé — for $4 less than normal.
Despite its name and inspiration, Señor Bear's hora loca isn’t yet drawing a raucous party: For now, happy hour is busy and enthusiastic, but the crowd skews toward adult professionals (you'll spy several glasses of red wine). Sit at the bar, where the energy is; after a couple of drinks, patrons tend to get friendly and introduce themselves. In warm months, the patio — frozen drink in hand — is the place to be.