Sure, Rob and Karin Lawler know cheese. The Truffle Cheese Shop on 6th Avenue became a foodie destination with the two forces of the Lawler's friendliness and their knowledge of good cheese and practices. But is it easier to go from being a cheesemonger to a dinnermonger than it is to make that a word? The Truffle Table, a casual charcuterie restaurant with an unconventional happy hour, manages to set itself apart from the LoHi hustle.
There is a menu at the Truffle Table, but the chalkboard lists of the day's cheeses and meats may be the bigger draw. As at the parent shop, the folks behind the counter are happy to guide you through creating your own smorgasbord. The menu itself is unfussy and wholesome, with most items as uncomplicated as a grilled cheese sandwich with prosciutto ($12) or macaroni & cheese & bacon ($9). The happy hour menu, served Tuesday through Sunday from 4 to 6 p.m., is pared down even more -- a bowl of Sriracha caramel corn ($3), some butternut squash hummus ($4) and a board with three pre-selected cheeses ($10). There's no pretense of this happy hour being a full-course feast; Truffle Table is making the most of its small space by sticking with simple dishes.
I loved the Truffle Table's predecessor, the now-departed Cellar Wine Bar and its happy hour, so Truffle Table had to go a ways to impress me. Thankfully, they've taken up the Cellar's mantle as Westword's Best Wine Bar in Denver. The Truffle offers up two nice French wines and a sangria for $5 a glass at happy hour. My fruit-stuffed glass of pear-mint sangria was plenty tasty, but in hindsight I would rather have paid a few more bucks to sample something from that award-winning wine list.
The squash hummus looked good in construction-vest orange with some raw veggies. Whether you like it or not depends on whether you prefer your hummus sweet and smooth or savory and chunky. This was the former, but fortunately Truffle Table will supply plenty of fresh bread, toasted baguette slices and crackers. Save a few slices for that cheese board, mind. The three cheeses are picked for you, but they work so well together you won't feel restricted. Frilly shavings of Swiss Tete du Moine are flanked by a hearty Sardinian Pecorino and a Spanish goat cheese with a soft rind. Accompanied with only a smear of honey, a few almonds and dates, these cheeses combine to make one of the most interesting happy hour dishes I've tried of late. The rich and briny Pecorino especially is a standout.
Make no mistake, there are more interesting and challenging cheeses at the Truffle Table on any given day, but this cheap plate is a perfect introduction to what the restaurant has to offer. Don't think of happy hour here as a place to cobble a cheap meal together, experience it as the beginning of a lovely evening -- and possibly the beginning of an education in cheese.
Perfect for: Unlike its clamorous neighbors just up and down the block, the Truffle Table is more laid-back -- perfect for meeting friends for a glass of wine and snacks before they drag you to somewhere with an hour wait and $14 cocktails.
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Don't miss: It's not a happy hour special, but every Wednesday night is raclette night -- sort of like fondue, but with less overtones of boring '60s house parties. At $40 per couple for all-you-can-eat cheese, bread, veggies and salumi, if that's not romance, I don't know what is.