What: Root Down
Where: 1600 W 33rd Ave, Denver, CO 80211
When: Happy Hour runs Monday through Friday from 4:30 to 7:00 pm.
After dozens of happy hours in 2013, it’s finally time to reveal which Denver spot tops the list. The Happiest Hour has never been about the cheapest place to get PBR or cheesiest of chili fries. Instead, I’ve hunted for good value and the sweet trifecta of great drinks, delicious food, and happening ambience. My top pick of the year has these qualities and then some. Root Down opened under the direction of Chef Justin Cucci in 2008 and has never looked back. Consistently rated one of the top restaurants in Denver, the restaurant proves that even after 6 years in business, they deserve the award for Denver’s best happy hour.
The perfect happy hour has to have damn good drinks and Root Down delivers. Beverage Director Mike Henderson changes the drink menu seasonally but I’m never worried that my favorite cocktail might disappear; something even more delicious usually takes its place. On their current menu, the Cucumber Daisy ($5), carefully balances Monopolowa vodka, cucumber, pomegranate, and lemon. And the Coconut Ginger Caipirinha ($5) proves that Root Down stays at the forefront of cocktail innovation. With Cachaca, lime, and the perfect amount of ginger, this Caipirinha is sweet without being sugary. There’s also a new Mulled Wine ($6) on the menu for the holidays and solid house wine and draft options. With something for everyone without catering to pedestrian tastes, Root Down understands that the success of happy hour begins with the drinks.
If there’s anything that could overshadow the killer cocktails at Root Down, it’s the happy hour food. There’s always plenty of options and if you have any Vegan or gluten-free friends in your bunch, look no further as the kitchen can accommodate these requests. The menu changed this week but several delicious classics remain. The Seared Colombian Arepas ($4.5) is an ooey-gooey plate of mozzarella, polblano-pistachio pesto, and an achiote crema. I’m also a sucker for the Veggie Burger Slider ($4), which has a sweet jalapeno jam that contrasts perfectly with the spicy Dijon served on the side. The Steamed PEI Mussels ($7) are always a good choice but on my most recent visit I fell hard for the new BBQ Beef Brisket Taco ($4). The tender beef is cooked in a homemade BBQ sauce and then served on an Abbondanza Farm heirloom blue corn tortilla and topped with Cotija cheese and a Kohlrabi-green apple slaw. The slaw adds some crunch and balances the smoky-hot brisket while the Cotija cheese adds just the right amount of salt. The mouth-watering concoction hits the spot and highlights how each menu change at Root Down brings dishes that are sure to become crowd-pleasing favorites.
Root Down earns my pick for best Denver happy hour this year because each and every time it delivers. The hip bar is an approachable yet bustling mix of locals and young professionals detoxing after work. Service is prompt, the food and drinks never disappoint and overall you’ll likely leave with a mouth-watering yearning to return. Root Down doesn’t just excel at happy hour, it sets the standard for what happy hour should be.
All photography by Caitlin Savage