What: Vesper Lounge
Where: 233 E 7th Ave, Denver, CO 80203
When: 4:00-6:00 pm daily and all day Monday. Vesper Lounge also offers a late night drink happy hour from 11:00 pm to close.
Don’t Miss: For drinks, try the Whiskey Hound ($5), the Burlesque ($7), or the Chupicabra ($6). As for the food don’t miss the Vesper Fries ($2), the Falafel slider ($2.50), and the Gyro slider ($2.50).
Long-time Denver residents fondly remember the Lancer Lounge, a Capital Hill mainstay since the 1960s. This self-proclaimed dive bar was known for its four finger pours and low prices. After the Lancer closed its doors in 2012 for back taxes, local restauranteur Frank Bonanno transformed the legendary spot into Vesper Lounge.
Bonanno has updated the decor and added some delicious food, but the stiff drinks and fair prices that made Lancer famous remain. Happy hour at Vesper Lounge is a different animal than other spots around town. Don’t expect fancy menus or the trendiest cocktails. Instead, if you are looking for a neighborhood spot to hang out with friends while sipping some very strong drinks, Vesper Lounge is your place.
Vesper honors Lancer’s legacy by serving up drink duos that could easily put you under the table if you drank a few too many. The Whiskey Hound ($5), for example, is a pint of Upslope’s Craft Lager and a shot of Wild Turkey Rye. If a shot of whiskey sounds a bit too intense for you, happy hour goers can also sample the Burlesque ($7), a glass of Cava (Spanish sparkling wine) and a shot of pineapple infused raspberry vodka. On my visit I enjoyed the Chupicabra ($6), a bottle of Corona served with a shot of smooth and 100% Blue Agave Espolon tequila, and the Gigli ($6), a margarita served straight up with a sunrise shot. These drinks are not for the faint of heart, but I was pleasantly surprised at how smooth they went down. They are certainly much better than the failed movies that inspired their names. Once you get used to the idea, you might start drinking all your pints with a delicious shot on the side!
The drinks at Vesper are by themselves an excellent reason to stop by after work. But don’t overlook the happy hour food offerings. Frank Bonanno’s status as one of Denver’s best chefs means that the bar food at Vesper Lounge would make many high-end restaurants envious. The best part? Prices are so reasonable during happy hour that you can order one of everything.
Start off with a few of the delicious dips, priced at only $3.00 each. I especially enjoyed the pesto dip and the olive tapenade, both served with fresh pita. Next, order the Vesper Fries which come seasoned with salty Mediterranean spices and served with a harissa aioli dip on the side. I have to warn you though. The fries are a decent size and any reasonable person could share them. But you won’t want to. Fortunately, the Vesper Fries are only $2.00 so you can avoid arguments over who ate the last fry and pony up for individual servings.
If you are still hungry (and really, at 5 o’ clock, who isn’t?) order some of the sliders. Not only do they pair perfectly with the fries, all three sliders are great. If you have to pick, go with the Falafel or Gyro slider ($2.50 each). The Falafel slider is served with a homemade tzatziki that brought me straight back to my last trip to Greece. The Gyro slider has well-seasoned, thin-sliced meat, a mediterranean salsa, and top-of-the-line feta. You really can’t go wrong with either, and if you ordered some fries and a couple of sliders, it would make for a very tasty dinner.
Whether you just come for drinks or stay for some of the happy hour food, Vesper Lounge offers plenty of indoor seating as well as six patio tables and two outdoor fire pits. The locals I encountered don’t mind the revamped concept and a few said they prefer Bonanno’s new version. The iconic 7th Avenue bar remains a neighborhood spot to grab a stiff drink. Perhaps a little less “divey” than Lancer and with much better food, Vesper Lounge is a unique and welcome addition to Denver’s happy hour scene.