What: Old Major
Where: 3316 Tejon Street, Denver, CO 80211
When: Everyday, 3:00-6:00 pm
Don’t Miss: The Always and Often and the Mr. Jones are both great cocktails, at $5 each. Also try the Roasted Eggplant Spread ($5) and the Crab Sweet Corn Fritters ($7).
Since it opened in February 2013, Old Major has been a hot ticket in town. Critics and diners alike raved over the drinks and food at the swine-centered restaurant by chef Justin Brunson. But a full dinner at Old Major comes at a cost. Entrees range from $20-30 and the bone-in ribeye with foie gras butter is a whopping $60. The high quality of the food necessitates high prices, but Brunson and company understand that a dinner at Old Major might be out of reach for some. Fortunately, a new happy hour menu lets diners try Brunson’s delicious food at a much more affordable price point. 303 was the first to get an exclusive look at their newest HH menu and we can tell you it is already one of our favorites.
The new menu contains five new cocktails, five new food items, and runs from 3:00-6:00 pm everyday. Seating is available on the front patio and in the bar area with room for about 40-50 people total. If the weather cooperates, the front patio is a great spot to watch the Lohi world walk by, but is also enjoy sitting at the beautiful wooden bar. From here you can choose from the extensive happy hour drink options. These include $6 wines by the glass from Infinite Monkey Theorem and $4 drafts of three different beers: a Farmhouse, a Pilsner, and an IPA.
While at the bar, if you’re lucky you will strike up a conversation with bar co-manager Ryan Conklin. A certified Cicerone and spirit expert, Conklin can help you choose one of his well-balanced happy hour cocktails. If vodka’s your drink of choice, you will enjoy the light and refreshing Country Club Cooler ($5). This cocktail will shine in our late summer months, with hints of lemongrass, lemon, and orange flower water. The Always and Often ($5) was my favorite drink on the menu. Conklin mixes Bacardi rum, lime juice, sugar, and Angostura bitters for a straight-up drink that’s simple but with a depth of flavor that surprises. Another stand out was the Mr. Jones ($5), named for the main human character in George Orwell’s Animal Farm. With tequila, grapefruit juice, lime, and grapefruit soda, the drink makes me wonder why I’ve never paired tequila and grapefruit. Gin drinkers will enjoy the Mind Your Manners cocktail, made with fresh watermelon, and whiskey drinkers won’t be disappointed with the Old Old Fashioned, a mix of rye whiskey and Angostura bitters. Conklin’s drinks are thoughtful, drinkable, and a beautiful blend of colors, flavors, and fruits. Best of all, each drink paired well with Brunson’s happy hour food.
The old happy hour menu at Old Major was good, but the new one will keep you coming back for more. The kitchen is now putting out delicious items like the crab sweet corn fritters ($7). Made with sweet Olathe corn, each morsel balances just the right amount of crab and fried goodness for the ultimate in comfort food. I expect this type of food from Brunson, an Iowa native who is a self-proclaimed fried food lover. But I’m always pleasantly surprised by other items on Brunson’s menu, like the roasted eggplant spread ($5). This gorgeous layering of roasted eggplant, red pepper, basil pesto and housemade ricotta cheese makes this happy hour item almost too pretty to eat. Almost. Because once you spread the mixture onto the crispy bread served alongside, you won’t stop eating. Each ingredient pops with flavor and proves that Brunson can work wonders with vegetables, even when bacon is nowhere in sight.
Without a doubt one of the best values I have seen for happy hour is the pork cheeseburger ($6) and pork fat french fries ($4). In a city chock-full of delicious burgers, Brunson’s new take on the American classic is now on my permanent rotation. Inspired by pork cheeseburgers from his home state, this simple burger includes 5 oz of pork ground in-house, topped with special sauce, tomatoes, onions, lettuce, and served with cornichons on the side. Pair the burger with french fries cooked in pork fat and you have one of my new favorite $10 meals in Denver.
Fans of Brunson know that Old Major is the go-to spot for everything swine related. He and Galen Kennemer even butcher a whole pig on Wednesday evenings. My advice? Come for the pork, but stay for everything else. The new happy hour at Old Major shows the restaurant at its best. You’ll find creative food and drink at value prices in a comfortable and inviting atmosphere. It’s sure to become Highland’s go-to spot for after work gatherings.