Happy Place: Highland Pacific Restaurant and Oyster Bar, 3934 West 32nd Avenue, 303-477-6644.
The Hours: Monday through Saturday from 5 to 6:30 p.m.
The Deals: $3 Bud Light drafts, well cocktails and wines by the glass; $1 oysters; $3-$11 appetizers.
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The Digs: Parked next door to Basil Doc's Pizza, Highland Pacific, a popular bar and restaurant among locals who appreciate its fresh seafood and live music, caps the west end of the popular 32nd Avenue strip in Northwest Denver. The bar stools are almost always filled with regulars shooting the shit and tipping back pints, while the dining room, slightly more sophisticated than the airy sea tones, light wood, and endless bottle shelves that grace the bar, swarms with families. On live music nights -- Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday -- the entire space is filled with the jovial vibe of imbibers taking advantage of the late-night drink specials.
The Verdict: For my weekly jaunt for snacks and adult beverages, a very pregnant girlfriend joined me at Highland Pacific, and she reminded me that she was eating for two right before we ordered enough food to feed a small village. The happy hour menu at Highland Pacific reads well and offers something for whatever you're craving: gnocchi, oysters, mussels, mahi mahi ceviche, a cheese plate, and even hush puppies.
The baked gnocchi was dense with a firm, buttery crust drizzled with crème fraiche, topped with cheddar and pancetta and served piping hot. For bar gnocchi, they were sufficient, but we longed for a more traditional preparation. The cheese plate, accessorized with walnuts, blueberries and grapes, would have been better with more variety; on our visit the cheese selection consisted of three hard-aged varieties. But we relished the hush puppies served with a tangy chipotle dipping sauce, and were impressed by how well the dish went with our happy hour merlot. Happy hour at Highland Pacific is a good place to chill out and catch up with a friend, but we enjoy it the most on live music nights.
Overall Grade: B-