This is the first of an ongoing series in where we will highlight the city’s best happy hour specials by neighborhood. If you have any tips or suggestions on where we should head next, comment below.

The River North Arts District or RiNo has certainly changed dramatically over the course of the past several years. The transformation has been so drastic as to be a cause for alarm for residents, and the fast pace of growth has produced more than a few questionable moments. Bad taste aside, an inarguable result of the considerable metamorphosis has been an enormous development for some of the city’s finest dining. Fast becoming a hub for nightlife of a slightly different character than nearby downtown, RiNo’s many watering holes are full of creative bartenders, an endless supply of fresh craft beers and an almost universal focus on interesting and unconventional aesthetics. As the neighborhood continues to alter its distinct character, many of the closely-packed locales offer excellent specials that encourage easy bar-crawling and convenient access to flavors from across the globe.

Los Chingones

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When: Monday – Friday 3 – 6 p.m.

Where: 2463 Larimer St., Denver.

The Lowdown: In Troy Guard’s ever-expanding empire Los Chingones stands tall. We enjoy the whole creative menu but many of the best items are available during happy hour. The tacos are incredible and feature chicken, steak, cotija, and rattlesnake ($2) as well as fish, shrimp and pork belly ($3). The diabolical pig nachos ($5) are a meal unto themselves and both delight and disturb in their profound hedonism. Drink-wise the options are vast. Starting a night here favors the bold — house margaritas and the cocktail-of-the-day are both available for $5, with a shot and a beer combination at $6 and a dangerously affordable carafe of the house marg rounding things out for $25.

Work & Class

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When: Tuesday – Friday 4 – 6 p.m., Saturday and Sunday 4 – 5 p.m.

Where: 2500 Larimer St., Denver.

The Lowdown: Both the food and drink menus at Work & Class encourage patrons to mix and match things to their liking. The house cocktails come in an open format where guests have a selection of spirits to be added to a choice of a house-mix. Featuring pear chamomile-cinnamon, blackberry-tarragon-limeade, blood orange-ginger and spicy-basil sour, the interesting flavor combinations are amazingly diverse in their applicability. While usually $8-10 depending on the choice of liquor the cocktails are served up for $6 during happy hour.

Cart-Driver

Cart-Driver. Photo by Adam Ripplinger.

When: Every day 3 – 6 p.m., then another late night happy hour from 10 p.m. – 12 a.m.

Where: 2500 Larimer St. #100, Denver.

The Lowdown: Three words — prosecco on tap. My goodness, what a time to be alive. Also featuring a “messed up” negroni — featuring gin, campari, vermouth and prosecco — Divona Cidre, and two market oysters, each with a price tag of a mere $5 the early happy hour is a clear indication that Denver is making quick strides towards the big leagues. Come back after 10 p.m. for sardines and bread, a fernet and pilsner, a perfect Manhattan or a personal pizza with basil, mozzarella and sauce also for $5 and bask in the low-price-tag luxury neatly hidden away behind Work & Class.

Pon Pon

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The backdrop to the bar is created from a vintage hand painted billboard found in Nebraska. Photo by Brittany Werges.

When: Every day from 4 – 6 p.m.

Where: 2528 Walnut St., Denver.

The Lowdown: Pon Pon, the new art bar easily lives up to the name. Many copies of the same Simon and Garfunkle record cover an entire wall near the bar and the bohemian vibes are true in substance as well as decor. The happy hour features $8 Cocktails — including the Mondegreen, a crisp blend of Kaffir leaf-infused Big Gin, lime, jalapeño and sugar— $2 domestics, $5 wine and “$1 off everything else.” With many new spots spending big money on sheik interior design, Pon Pon defies the trend with legitimate cool and evolving character.

READ: Pon Pon’s Maritime Bar Brings Cocktails and Art to RiNo

Lustre Pearl

Matthew Pecanaughey. Photo by Alden Bonecutter.

When: Monday – Friday 2 – 7 p.m.

Where: 1315 26th St., Denver.

The Lowdown: Lustre Pearl, a newly opened outpost hailing from Austin, Texas comes through with a cocktail-heavy happy hour highlighting the ingenuity of the involved bartenders. With both well-composed classics and daring originals — including the Matthew Pecanaughey ($9) with Buffalo Trace bourbon, pecan syrup and bitters — the list is chock-full of boozy concoctions ready to put a pep in your step. The five-hour duration will be especially riveting as we get into spring and summer.

Sushi-Rama

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Sushi-Rama’s conveyor belt. Photo by Romeo Fernandez.

When: Tuesday – Friday 3 – 6 p.m.

Where: 2615 Larimer St., Denver.

The Lowdown: The joy of watching sushi arrive on a conveyor belt can only be improved by the $3 ticket cost during happy hour. From same people who brought you Osaka Ramen and 12 @ Madison, Sushi-Rama is not just great for the novelty, but it actually provides Rino with some serious sashimi and nigiri. Stop in early and stuff your face in style.

The Matchbox

Matchbox’s back patio. Photo by Cori Anderson.

When: Monday – Friday 4 – 8 p.m., Saturday and Sunday 12 – 8 p.m.

Where: 2625 Larimer St., Denver.

The Lowdown: The low light and cramped atmosphere provide a dive-bar feel that continues to attract large crowds who obviously mean business. With $2 domestic drafts and bottles, $3 wells, microbrews and wines and $5 specialty drinks the deals are especially dangerous during the eight-hour duration on Saturday and Sunday. A $6/7 mix-and-match beer and shot combination featuring Coors, High Life, Tecate, Jameson, Espolon and Jim Beam further spells trouble at this cozy neighborhood joint.

Meadowlark

Photo by Kyle Cooper.

When: Every day 4 – 8 p.m.

Where: 2701 Larimer St., Denver.

The Lowdown: This downstairs institution appeared in the neighborhood well before most of the rest of the venues on this list. Having served the community with weekly parties including Monday night jazz and Friday’s The Solution with DJ Low Key the spot continues to draw sizable crowds to its cramped quarters and brilliant and cozy patio. Its daily happy hour includes $3 wells,$2.50 domestics, $3 imports and $2 tall cans of PBR.

Meadowlark Kitchen

The Smoked Margarita. Photo by Alden Bonecutter.

When: Every day 4 – 6 p.m.

Where: 2705 Larimer St., Denver.

The Lowdown: The recently opened, slightly more upscale sister restaurant of the underground original is a perfect place to grab a bite before venturing about the neighborhood, and it’s an even better place to end the evening. The late-night menu, featuring the legendary Meadowlark Burger ($14), is one of the best kept secrets our city has to offer. The happy hour includes $4 drafts, seven different house wines ($5) and a variety of cocktails ($6) including a smoked margarita that spices up the classic drink with jalapeño, grapefruit juice and smoked salt.

Curio

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When: Monday – Friday 2 – 6 p.m.

Where: Inside Central Market at 2669 Larimer St., Denver.

The Lowdown: To accompany the food from the many excellent spots housed in Denver’s Central Market Curio supplies the beverage. During happy hour their Curio Beer — a refreshing American standard ale — is available for $3, house wine for $5 and any of their many cocktail “standards” for $7. The Eastside ($7 during happy hour, $9 regular) is a crisp and refreshing mix of gin, lemon, cucumber and mint. All spirits are represented and the well-versed bartenders mix up sophisticated drinks in elegant glassware.

READ: Curio – Drink While You Shop at Denver Central Market

Larimer Lounge

Photo courtesy of Larimer Lounge’s Facebook.

When: Every day 4 – 8 p.m.

Where: 2721 Larimer St., Denver.

The Lowdown: The classic venue opened its doors in 2002 and continues to showcase some of the best local and underground acts to swing through the city. They also have one of the best happy hours in the neighborhood, featuring a draft PBR and a shot of either Jim Beam or Jagermeister for a mere $6. A rotating keg beer is also peddled for $4 a pop. Whether stopping by to see a show or simply getting a solid head start on the night the Larimer Lounge has got you covered.

Our Mutual Friend

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Photo by Cori Anderson.

When: Every Tuesday.

Where: 2810 Larimer St., Denver.

The Lowdown: Despite not offering a daily happy hour, the consistently creative GABF favorites offer a spectacular deal all day Tuesday. For a mere $12 you can get three 10 oz. pours of their extraordinary draft beer, and a commemorative glass to mark the occasion. The imaginative approach to brew sets OMF apart in a world where decent local beer is commonplace.

Finn’s Manor

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When: All day Tuesday – Sunday.

Where: 2927 Larimer St., Denver.

The Lowdown: While also not having a happy hour per se, the food truck courtyard and spirit-heavy bar offer a daily punch ranging from $8-11. Never a trifling affair, the punch packs a wallop and may supply some of the most bang for your buck included on this list. Melvin Brewing’s Mexican lager Heyzeus is also always available for $4. Best enjoyed with a plate of Puerto Rican food from Dos Abuelas.

Dio Mio

Aperol spritz. Photo courtesy of Dio Mio Facebook.

When: Monday – Friday 4 – 6 p.m.

Where: 3264 Larimer St., Denver.

The Lowdown: If a night of heavy drinking is your MO it’s often good to prepare with a decent, or preferably extravagant amount of pasta. Offering cacio e pepe and fettucine with red sauce for $10 a plate, and a plethora of apps including chicken liver mousse toast ($5), Dio Mio is a thoughtful choice for the prepared party-goer. Wash it all down with 2-for-$5 Genessee, 2-for-$6 house wine and any of their fine batched cocktails for $6 a pop.

CHUBurger

CHUburger. Photo by Dallas Erwin.

When: Monday – Friday 3 – 6 p.m.

Where: 3490 Larimer St., Denver.

The Lowdown: The Oskar Blues burger outpost is always a reasonably priced place for excellent food and drink. With an additional $1 off all drafts and $5 22 oz. core beers during happy hour the fun location is not to be missed. Come through on the first Friday of every month for live music from 6 – 8 p.m.

Fish N Beer

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When: Wednesday-Sunday 5 – 6:45 p.m., all day Monday.

Where: 3510 Larimer St., Denver.

The Lowdown: From the same people behind Tacos, Tequila, Whiskey comes Fish N Beer, serving fresh-shipped seafood from both coasts. The happy hour includes food and drink specials that highlight its grilled house oysters with garlic or “devil” butter ($2.50 each), and the fresh shucked variety ($2 each). “Dad beer” and a shot ($6) features Exotico Blanco and Paddy’s Irish Whiskey, house wine ($6) and the daily cocktail ($6) are joined by house drafts for $1 off. The quality is as consistent as you’d expect from the KTM restaurant group — the commitment to freshness is extraordinary and the prices more than reasonable for our land-locked dining scene.

As the face of the neighborhood changes one of the most important things to remember is that RiNo is not new. Joe’s Liquor, a 33-year old business, fought valiantly to preserve its position in the district and continues to represent a pillar of old Denver that should not be forgotten in the race to make this place a “real city.” So if you’re happy hour is something you’d rather do at home, maybe swing by Joe’s and grab a bottle or two.

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