At Ondo’s Spanish Tapas in Cherry Creek, finding out is part of the fun during the restaurant’s unique and laid-back happy hour. Modeled after the Basque tradition of pintxos—small snacks served at the bar for drinkers—Ondo’s keeps their little bites under glass cake covers on the bar, with plates nearby for patrons to help themselves. Each pintxo is an even two bucks, and the toothpicks skewering each one are more than just decoration—they are the means by which your server calculates how many you’ve eaten.
While I call Ondo’s pintxos “little bites,” these bites aren’t really so little. The first plate shared between me and my companion consisted of three-inch bread rounds spread with a variety of generously portioned toppings: thin slices of chorizo; a warm, soft wedge of Spanish omelette; layers of manchego cheese, jamón, and tomato; and a mayo-heavy mound of conserved tuna garnished with a bit of orange—which was pretty much the best tuna salad I’d ever had.
I was hesitant to try the white anchovy pintxo, worrying that the fillets might prove themselves too fishy for my tastes. To my surprise, the marinated red peppers, tomatoes, and toasty bread went a long way toward balancing things out. Even if you’re not normally a fan of anchovies, I’d give this one a try.
We needed something to wash it all down with, of course. Happy hour at Ondo’s promises $2 Heineken drafts, $5 house wines, and $3 premium well drinks, but that night sangria, usually $4 a glass during happy hour, was being served as a Tuesday special at $3 a glass. Why not order both types? Strong, fruity, and yet not too sweet, these glasses of red and white sangria were the perfect accompaniments for the food.
We took our time sampling the pintxos and enjoying the mellow, private atmosphere of the restaurant. Salads and spreads make up many of the pintxo options, with notable ones being a mayo-based shrimp and egg salad, a chopped smoked salmon salad, and a lump crabmeat salad with ham, avocado, and a garnish of salmon roe. My favorite among the non-salad/spread pintxos consisted of a slab of firm goat cheese paired with quince paste and honeyed pecans—the perfect mix of funky, salty, nutty, and sweet.
Wanting to conclude our feast with dessert, we snagged a pintxo from the bar consisting of bread layered with creamy, soft goat cheese, strawberry jam, and thin slices of strawberry. But the caramelized bread pudding, while not part of the happy hour menu, was too good to pass up. The outside of the pudding was torched until a thin, crackly shell of caramelized sugar formed around the custardy innards, and a scoop of rich vanilla ice cream on the side provided a nice contrast in temperature.
By the end, we were left with full bellies, slight tipsiness from the alcohol, and a pretty pile of toothpicks as testament to just how many pintxos we’d eaten. I had no idea where the time had went, and that was best of all.
Would I go back to Ondo’s? The answer is a solid yes.
Ondo’s Spanish Tapas
250 Steele Street, #100
Happy hour: Monday–Friday, 4–6:30 pm