, 909 17th Street, 303-296-3525
The Hours: Everyday from 2:30 to 6 p.m.
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The Deals: $3 draft beers; $4 wines by the glass, $5 specialty cocktails; $3-4 happy hour small plates
The Digs: Panzano is cool. Panzano is chic. And, most important, Panzano is comfortable. This corner restaurant sits at the junction of 17th and Champa streets adjacent to the Hotel Monaco, and the walls of windows peering out onto the hustle of downtown remind happy-hour patrons of their impending decompression. The scent of truffle oil permeates the lounge; the bar stools are cozy, the booths even more so. We like.
The Verdict: Truth be told, this was a virgin experience. The comrades had praised Panzano many times over the years, but more hip places like Lola and Bistro One have always triumphed in the arena of places to sip, grub and catch up with a buddy. A visit to Panzano was long overdue and we weren't disappointed. The orange mojito wa refreshing and provided a subtle twist on the classic cocktail. For more serious business, try the gin Rickey -- because any drink topped with prosecco and a splash of lime can't really suck.The duck liver mousse ($4) was served too cold and elicited the same frustration one experiences when trying to manipulate butter that hasn't softened. But once it settled to room temperature, it was delicious and spread nicely over the Parmesan-dusted doughnuts. The funghi pizza, topped with herbs, olive oil, and provolone, was a fitting accompaniment ($3). Bonus: The bartenders are wonderful and have a way of making you feel completely at ease.
Overall Grade: A