Happy Place: Duo, 2413 West 32nd Avenue, 303-477-4141
The Hours: Sunday through Thursday from 5 to 7 p.m.
The Deals: $2 beers; $3 well cocktails; $5 select wines by the glass; $5 appetizers.
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The Digs: Duo is dainty, the type of place where Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks would have had salmon and existential conversations in 1995. A small eatery in Highland, Duo is so adorable and enchanting that you'd still consider going on a regular basis, even if the food sucked (which it doesn't). Exposed brick permeates throughout, and an open kitchen warms the room as couples drink wine while catching up over dinner, and singles read novels and sip French press coffee. The bar is separated from the dining area by large antique window panes suspended from the ceiling, an aesthetic that gives an artsy feel to the minimalist space. Mismatched napkins and coffee mugs add a bit of quirk, and the whimsy placemats make us feel right at home.
The bar area is classy without feeling superficial, and Big Band music plays lightly as patrons rush in from the cold to find hearty solace in booze poured by friendly, knowledgeable bartenders. In his Chef and Tell interview, chef John Broening said: "Duo is as much of a success because of the warm, competent and unpretentious service as it is for the food." We wholeheartedly agree.
The Verdict: The happy hour at Duo has it all -- cheap drinks, even cheaper beer, and scrumptious fresh food made with lots of love. The $5 plates change daily, and are pulled from the appetizers featured on the regular dinner menu. On our visit to Duo, we were stoked to find that the stuffed dates had made the happy-hour pick of the evening. Worth a fistfight, the dates, served warm, come stuffed with goat cheese and wrapped in fatty slices of bacon. They are bite-sized morsels of heaven, and no one around us begged to differ. The evening's soup, butternut squash with a spiced pear chutney, was incredible and soothing to our bellies as temperatures plummeted outside. The beer list is awesome and features great local brews like Avery's White Rascal and Odell's Isolation Ale -- and for two bucks, it's an unbeatable deal that makes Duo's happy hour full of happy, happy times.
Overall Grade: A