Enter The 9th Door’s darkened lounge, complete with flickering candles, lush red sofas, and sultry music in the background, and even the most stoic won’t be able to help but feel a tingle. Still, this LoDo restaurant is more than just sexy atmosphere. Its menu covers a range of popular tapas and then some, and the best way to get a sampling is during happy hour.
Each weekday afternoon, choose from a selection of drinks and small plates priced under five dollars. Grilled asparagus wrapped in tender slices of Spanish ham and drizzled with aioli make excellent bites, while roasted and sauteed piquillo peppers are flavorful without being heavy. Carb fiends will be happy with the tostas, small rounds of grilled bread spread with combinations like smoked trout and horseradish, manchego and tapenade, or tomato, artichoke and garlic. While most come fully assembled and ready to eat, my favorite is a do-it-yourself affair: toast ovals plated with dollops of currant jam and goat cheese, plus a full head of roasted garlic. Pop the mellowed cloves out of the bulb, and snack however you please.
If you’re looking for seafood, mussels are a good bet. The tender shellfish arrive in a broth of butter, lemon and sherry, and you’ll be asking for extra bread to sop up the leftovers. But unless you’re into the fishiest of fish I’d avoid the boquerones, as the Spanish white anchovies are bathed in a mouth-puckering wash of lemon juice and olive oil that still fails to temper their aggressive metallic flavor.
The 9th Door doesn’t disappoint with drinks, either. A tinto de verano, normally seven bucks a glass, is yours for three. Here “the wine of summer” translates into orange Fanta topped with red wine, a combination that reads suspect until you take a sip and realize it’s simply a lazy man’s sangria. I’d choose it over both the red and white sangrias sitting in giant glass jugs on the bar, both of which tasted oddly of bubble gum (laziness wins after all). Mojitos run sweet, and one afternoon I ordered the Spanish 75—a perfectly balanced cocktail of cava, gin and lemon juice, served with a lemon twist—and never looked back. Turns out three in a row is too many, but what else is a happy hour for?
The 9th Door
1808 Blake Street
Happy hour: Monday–Friday, 4:30–6:30 pm