Late-night happy hours are rare and wooly beasts, usually built around cheaper drafts and wells and a couple of snacks. But Tom's Urban has always served a full menu at all hours, even if now it now closes at 12:30 a.m. Monday through Wednesday and 2 a.m. Friday and Saturday. The board itself has gotten a tune-up to standardize the food for franchising to other locales, like the L.A. Live complex. (Slogan: "Where culture comes to die!")
No longer open 24 hours or focusing on Colorado ingredients, this leaves the original, Larimer Square Tom's in a bit of a lurch. What's here that can't be found elsewhere? Well, for one thing, try getting a downhome bite to eat after 10 o' clock anywhere else downtown. At Tom's, 10 p.m. signals the beginning of happy hour (also served weeknights from 2 to 6 p.m.), with $2 off cocktails, beers, wine, sliders and pizza, along with some $4 appetizers.
The servers at Tom's have always been surprisingly friendly, even at the end of the 2 a.m. bar rush, and they were no different on a slow weeknight. I was allowed to put top-shelf Breckenridge Bourbon in my Sidecar ($6) and was walked through the happy-hour specials. Ginger chicken pot stickers ($4): "Good deal," the server said. Street tacos ($4 each): "Good deal." Two kinds of fries ($4): "Pretty good deal, but not great."I started with the pot stickers: If they're good enough for Tom Ryan, the man who invented the stuffed-crust pizza, they're good enough for me. The verdict: a sight better than what's served at P.F. Chang's and its ilk, with a bit of craft in the citrus-ginger glaze. The pork belly in the street taco, however, wasn't treated with the respect it deserved; it was gummy and swimming in a bland chipotle aioli. The parsley-garlic fries also suffered from too much bland, oily glaze.
What's coming out of the kitchen is unmistakably chain-like, albeit with a touch of whimsy that elevates it above the likes of Bar Louie. But Denver's shameful lack of late-night eats already puts Tom's in front of the pack after midnight.