Ah, to be a tourist on the 16th Street Mall. The lights, the music, the... smells. Perhaps you'll grab a sandwich from Acme Delicatessen
in Union Station as you gawk at the high ceilings. Or you'll be entranced, as so many others are, by the Cheesecake Factory and its fiesta-colored doggie bags of wonder. Eagle-eyed visitors will spot something interesting in between: the friendly confines of Lucky Pie Pizza and Tap House
, which promises genuine local flavor to fuel a day of sightseeing. Locals, too, will thrill to its recently retooled happy hour, with funky snacks and cheap pizzas from 4 to 6 p.m. daily.
Since opening at 16th and Wazee back in 2012, one of Lucky Pie's best qualities has been its casual charm. It's a concept from Louisville, y'see, where the people are friendlier, healthier, happier and always clad in jogging shorts and baseball caps. There have been a number of shake-ups and refreshes in its history, often to bolster the antipasti selections, but the pies and local beers have remained the main draws. Time to admit my bias up front: One of my favorite things in the world is a happy hour that offers cut-rate pizza, as Lucky Pie certainly does ($5+). More on that later.
Weekend afternoons pack this place, but Monday evenings are substantially quieter, and it's a credit to Lucky Pie that it can accommodate both extremes comfortably. Happy hour is served all over the restaurant, and it begins quite agreeably with $3.50 drafts from Odell, Avery and Denver Beer Co., which should satisfy a thirst for everything from stout to saison. Also up to bat are cheap wines ($3 merlot!), $4 margs and house cocktails, and boilermaker combos like Tullamore Dew and PBR ($7). Fantastically reasonable drink prices: Now, that's a lucky find in LoDo. The happy-hour menu was recently bolstered to include more snacks, most of which sit below the $5 mark, adding up to a slightly confusing — but far from boring — bench of appetizers that range from fries ($3) to fried olives ($4), with more decadent goodness in between.
Fritto misto ($5) arrives as an assortment of pickled veggies, from half-moons of squash to teensy peppers, all breaded and tossed in a simple paper boat. With a ton of fried fingerlings, each popping with a bit of briny flavor, it's a cracking good snack that feels light, even when you follow it with an equally fattening pizza. But before that, I had to try some bacon peanut brittle ($3), really just for the hell of it. I don't know if this stuff is made in-house, but it's the real deal — warm, still plenty sticky, and responsible for some extensive future dental work. Certainly, it's a decadent treat, but it sits uneasily with everything else on offer here. Perhaps it'll pair well with a dark beer — or make for a cheap stocking stuffer.
Finally, $5 pizza is a must, especially if you haven't tried Lucky Pie's version yet. Choose a regular pie or the Cheech, topped with smoked mozzarella, and add some toppings ($1-$4). Your personal-sized pizza will come out hot and topped with plenty of fresh basil. I added some healthy-looking coppa, just one of the interesting add-ons along with stuff like fried eggs, giardiniera and housemade Berkshire sausage. I prefer my pies blackened and bubbly, but Lucky Pie's light touch with the oven makes it even easier to appreciate the organic golden brown crust and bright marinara sauce, one of the best red bases in town.
Kudos to Lucky Pie for offering snacks that nearly overshadow the main event, but pizza is still the centerpiece here, even at happy hour. My advice: Sample snacks and slices to your heart's content, then take some leftover pizza to go. This is one to-go box that won't identify you as a tourist.
: The delivery zone is small, but if you're fortunate enough to be in the area, Lucky Pie will ship its pizzas and various sundries with Delivery Dudes