You’ve just finished climbing the First Flatiron, biking Walker Ranch, hiking Bear and South Boulder peaks, or running the Mesa Trail, and you’re starving. The last Kind or Bobo bar you ate is long gone, and you’ve been dreaming of your next meal. What is it about tough outdoor workouts that makes visions of melted cheese dance in your head (not to mention an icy cold drink)?
Fortunately, Boulder is a town that’s big on food and not fussy about fashion. So even if you failed to throw a fresh set of clothes in the car, you can still head out on the town for post-adventure pints and eats. Here are some of our favorite Boulder happy hour spots, including where to go whether you’re coming from north, south, east, or west.
From West or Central-Downtown Options
T/aco (pronounced tee-ah-ko) is a little spot that dishes out a whole lotta love. Everything is as fresh as if your mama made it, with three salsas (grilled pineapple, tomatillo, and chipotle) made every day, guacamole made twice a day, and chips cooked to order, creating the perfect light crunch. And don’t say we didn’t warn you—they’re addictive. The restaurant even sources its own non-GMO corn, which it mills into fresh masa for tortillas. Street tacos are the tour de force, with options that range from grilled cotilla cheese or braised pork belly to grilled fresh snapper and vegan spaghetti squash with roasted peppers. Happy hour hours are generous—2-6 pm daily and all day Sunday—with select $2 tacos and drink specials. For a sweet kick, try the pineapple habanero margarita. Also worth noting is T/aco Tuesday, when most tacos are two bucks all day.
Centro's wavy bar spills out onto one of the best patios in Boulder, with giant windows that roll open to blend the outside with the in. This is a great spot to hit on the weekends, with happy hour starting at 2:30 and continuing until 6 pm Thursday–Sunday. It also runs all night Monday, and Tuesday–Wednesday from 4-6 pm. The menu changes periodically, but stays true to a Mexican/Latin theme, with mainstays like avocado salsa, street-style tacos, and a yummy chicken enchilada. Plates are small enough that you can get a few to sample with some friends. The bartenders are friendly and mix up wonderful drinks, including what some consider the best margaritas in town (go for the coin style to cut down on sugar). Icy cold canned or draft beer is also an option.
The Med has dominated the downtown happy hour scene for more than 20 years, earning a stellar reputation with consistently delicious eats that are fun to share among friends. From 3-6:30 pm daily, the bar is a buzzing hive of lively chat while waitstaff hustle tasty tapas to silver-topped tables set against a backdrop of tile. Small plates, organized by hot and cold options, run the gamut from empanadas, falafel, spanakopita, and pork and ricotta meatballs to roasted beets, hummus, baba ghanoush, and tuna tartare. Wash it all down with house sangria, a margarita, or any of the other discounted drinks.
Attic Bar & Bistro
No one will give your sweaty clothes a second look at the Attic, where every day is the Best Day Ever. The folks who run this place are some of the friendliest in town and have boosted the former dive bar into a gourmet pub with a down-to-earth vibe. Happy hour runs from 3-6 pm daily, with $3 drafts, wells, and Fat Alberts—the bar’s famous frozen concoction of grape Kool-Aid, lemonade, and vodka. Food specials range from $2.50 to $5.50 and include sliders, hand-battered chicken tenders, and ever-popular BBQ riblets. Relax in the bar up front, or shoot pool or play foosball in the back.
From the East
Fate Brewing Company
Fate's a great place if you’re coming from the east and want to swill handcrafted beer. The brewery, which has 30 beers on tap, is close to the bike path—handy if you’re rolling in on two wheels. Happy hour runs from 3-5:30 pm weekdays, with $1 off four house beers (and a range of options to suit any taste), $4 wine or well drinks, and small plates that range from $4 to $7. Try the fried pickles or “pile of bones,” which includes the restaurant’s own smoked wings and ribs. If you’re seeking something lighter, the hummus and bruschetta are good picks. Slide into a seat at the long wooden bar, or kick back on the large outdoor patio and share stories about your day.
From the North
North End at 4580
The North End at 4580, a NOBO (aka North Boulder) spot, is a tad high on the swank scale. Happy hour is a good chance to sample the joint without breaking the bank. It’s a far cry from the hustle and bustle of downtown, and is in a great spot for those coming from the north. Happy hour runs from 4-6 pm weekdays, 5-6 pm on Fridays and Saturday, and all night Sunday. Sidle up to the bar and choose a discounted specialty cocktail, well drink, mug of beer, or glass of wine. For those who’ve hopped on the rosé bandwagon, there’s good news: During happy hour you can save two bucks on a flight of three. Round out the afternoon with a selection of small bites like mussels, calamari, bacon-wrapped dates, and quinoa fritters. The 4580 salad—butter lettuce, shaved carrots, cucumbers, fried capers, and champagne-shallot vinaigrette—is also a popular option.
From the South
Southern Sun anchors the south side of town, with a large outdoor patio where you can gaze up to the hills that just trashed your legs. The brewery has 18 of its own beers on tap, and happy hour is 2-6 pm on weekdays, with select pints for $3.50. The pub doesn’t always have food specials during happy hour, but if you’re hungry you can amble down the stairs to its sister restaurant, Under the Sun. Specials on tasty meatballs, Maine mussels, beet salad, and fresh flatbread from 4-6 pm could be enough to tempt you, though. Neither restaurant accepts credit or debit cards, so come armed with cash or a check.