Given the choice between a bottomless brunch and a Saturday happy hour, I’ll take the happy hour every time. For one, the mimosa is a garbage cocktail, made by ruining cheap bubbles with bad fruit juice, and you have to guzzle it to get your money’s worth. That’s not actually value. More importantly, though, brunch is still a day-starting meal — as in, you might have to actually get on with some sort of weekend chore after you finish, because the sun is shining and you have nothing but time. Afternoon drinking, on the other hand, is a gift of idleness you can give yourself: If you’re settling into a 2 p.m. round of discounted drinks, you’re just a hop, skip and a jump from dinner, so why quit now?
The Saturday happy hour is elusive, though — unsurprising given discounts are usually a good way to fill seats during slow hours, and most restaurants have no trouble bringing in guests on weekends. That makes us particularly grateful for Cho77 (42 South Broadway), which offers not one, but two Saturday happy hours: one from 2 to 6 p.m., and another from 9 p.m. to close.
There’s plenty of fodder here to fritter your day away over booze: well drinks and select drafts are $5, select wines are $6, and specialty cocktails are priced at $8, $2 cheaper than normal. Aggressively, sake shots will set you back just $1, so if going hard into a big night is your goal, this is a cheap way to do it.
The Drunken Monk cocktail is more our speed — tart-verdant kaffir lime and mint brighten up a pour of Leopold Bros. gin, and a topper of grapefruit rice beer (yes, that's a thing) adds effervescence and pep. This is an easy-drinking porch-pounder, ideal for pre-dinner hours. Whiskey hounds should look to the Cho Fashioned, an otherwise classic Old Fashioned shot with a bit of basil that imparts a slightly herbal note and nose.
There’s another compelling reason to hold off on brunch, and that’s because you can feast here instead. Cho77 is the street food-centric spin-off of downtown’s Cho Lon; as at that restaurant, chef-owner Lon Symensma and his partner in crime, Ryan Gorby, have put together a board of food inspired by Southeast Asian and Chinese culinary traditions, mashed up with a little American rock-and-roll. The regular menu runs the gamut from a fairly traditional (and very tasty) Thai kao soi — here called Thai coconut curry — to roasted red beets with whipped tofu.
During happy hour, you can eat your way through a few dumplings and buns. We’d go back for the cheeseburger shumai, a dumpling stuffed with ground beef that’s fancied up with gruyere and tied together with bracing, fat-cutting pickle relish. We wouldn’t say no to the red chili pork dumplings, pooled as they are with Chinese vinegar and chile oil, but we do wish the kitchen had co-opted the traditional Sichuan inspiration a little more faithfully and included tingling Sichuan peppercorns.
Our must-return-for item, though, wasn’t a bun at all — it was the frog legs, battered and fried until crispy, and sided with a sweet-spicy Singaporean chile sauce. The pleasure of eating frog legs in this context is akin to housing a plate full of chicken wings; they come piled high and should be eaten with your fingers, so you can pick every last morsel of delicate meat off the bone. If chicken wings are more your speed, you can get an excellent caramel-laquered version of those, too — but they’re not a happy hour deal.
And you don’t have to wait for a Saturday to partake in the Cho77 happy hour: The restaurant also offers this same menu Monday through Friday from 5 to 6 p.m., Wednesday through Friday from 9 p.m. to close, and Sundays from 2 to 6 p.m.
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