Root Beer Float at Lucky Joe’s

I don’t go into Lucky Joe’s very often. I’m not sure why – it’s a perfectly good bar, with lots of cheap, creative cocktails, Guinness on tap, free peanuts, live ...

Gamma Radiation at The Laboratory

I’m a sucker for cucumber-flavored beverages. Seriously, no matter where I am or what I was originally planning to order, if I see a cocktail with ingredients that include “cucumber,” ...

Mo Jeaux’s

If there’s anything Fort Collins is lacking, it’s certainly not casual sports bars. We have more of these no fuss, flannel-friendly, beer-and-burgers-and-BBQ joints than I care to admit (or visit). ...

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Cane & Flower at The 415

When you’re craving brussels sprouts, mac and cheese, patio weather, and delicious cocktails, there’s really only one place to go – The 415. Their back patio – a fully enclosed courtyard with a zen-like water feature and pretty string lights – is one of my favorite places to linger over a light dinner and a few drinks on a warm summer evening.

The cocktail menu here is simple and stylish, featuring only a few signature drinks along with a carefully curated selection of beers and wine. This isn’t a place that offers 2-for-1 wells or an all-you-can-drink buffet of alcoholic beverages. Hell, they don’t even have a full bar. What they do have is five top-shelf spirits – Ketel One vodka, Herradura silver tequila, Bulleit bourbon, Flor de Caña Nicaraguan rum, and Bombay Sapphire gin – plus soda, seltzer, and tonic. If you want to create your own cocktail out of these options, feel free (call drinks are always $4), but I’m always more than happy to select my drink from their menu.

My favorite is their bright, wonderfully sour Paloma made with Herradura and fresh-squeezed grapefruit juice, although the Gin Mojito – fresh mint and Bombay Sapphire – is always a good choice too.

Last week, I opted to try the Cane & Flower for the first time. A mix of hand-juiced ginger, lime, and Flor de Caña, the Cane & Flower is both spicy and sweet, with just enough of a citrus kick to balance out the rum. It was a fun departure from my usual order, but next time I think I’ll go back to the Paloma – you just can’t beat grapefruit and tequila.

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It’s amazing what The 415 can do with just a handful of high-quality spirits and some fresh herbs and citrus. If you’re in the process of building your own home bar, take a hint from The 415 and always choose quality over quantity.

The Happiest Hour: Canyon Chop House vs. Sonny Lubick Steakhouse

It’s happy hour time, y’all!

For the budget-conscious cocktail seeker, happy hours are basically the best invention since the martini shaker. Can’t afford a ritzy date night or extravagant celebration at a high-priced restaurant? Go a little earlier, stick to the bar or lounge, and indulge in the same fancy cocktails and snacks for half the price. Plus, you get the benefit of primo people-watching, instead of getting shoved into a dark corner table somewhere with no one to talk to but the waitstaff.

A friend of mine just landed a sweet new job, and I couldn’t wait to take her out to celebrate with happy hour specials at not one, but two of Fort Collins’ finest steakhouses – the Canyon Chop House and Sonny Lubick Steakhouse.

We started at the Canyon Chop House. Located in a old bank building on Canyon Avenue between Olive and Oak, this is one of the hands-down fanciest restaurants in Fort Collins (and yet still wonderfully comfortable and un-stuffy – you can seriously wear jeans anywhere in this city). We were some of the first people in the lounge, walking in shortly after they opened at 4 pm, but were quickly followed by a string of professional types looking for a post-work cocktail.

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Happy hour at the Canyon Chop House runs from 4-6 pm, Tuesday through Friday, in the lounge and on the patio. Since it was dismally rainy and wet outside, we opted for the lounge. Dinner service doesn’t start until 5, so the restaurant space is very quiet and empty, giving you a great opportunity to notice all the cool historical details and gorgeous artwork lining the walls.

Their happy hour food specials are limited but tasty, with snacks like Wagyu sliders, cheese plates, and onion rings with a chili-lime aioli, all in the $4-$8 range. The drink specials are phenomenal, with half off well cocktails, $3 off wines by the glass, $1 off draft beers, and $12 buckets of New Belgium and Odell beers.

We ordered a plate of their Truffle Cheese Fries ($5), which came out toasty hot, dripping with melted cheese, and definitely not skimping on the truffle oil. They were flavorful and filling, perfect comfort food for a rainy afternoon.

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I was in a wine mood, indulging in a nice glass of Bianchi “Heritage” Syrah, only $6 during happy hour. They have an extensive wine selection, although only 20 or so of their wines are available by the glass – still not too shabby in my book. And their beer selection is outstanding, both bottled and on tap.

My friend immediately decided on the Chop House Lemonade, made with vodka, limoncello, and a fresh slice of lemon. She liked it so much, she couldn’t resist a second one later on. Tart, simple, and refreshing, I would have preferred this on the patio on a hot summer afternoon.

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The happy hour menu at the Canyon Chop House seem like a great bang for your buck. The quality is top-notch, the drink options are deeply discounted, and the food selections are downright delicious, not to mention a million times cheaper than a full dinner service. Two cocktails, a glass of wine, truffle fries, and a tip ran us about $25. The only negative factor here is the short hours – at only two hours a day, four days a week, this is one of the most limited happy hours in town.

Fortunately, our next happy hour stop had more extended hours to accommodate people who don’t get off work till 6 pm or later.  Sonny Lubick Steakhouse is nestled in an underground space on College Avenue, just past Khumbu Adventure Gear. As you go down the stairs, past a mural of CSU football coach Sonny Lubick in his heyday, you’ll notice the repetition of a rustic/upscale/football theme – which isn’t as weird as it sounds. Sports paraphernalia shares wall space with towering wine racks and exposed brick, evoking the feel of a really high-end sports bar.

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Happy hour at Sonny Lubick’s runs from 4-7 pm and 9 pm-close on Monday through Saturday, and 4 pm-close on Sundays. So unless you’re there during the prime dinner rush, odds are you can order off the happy hour menu in the bar for much less than you’d spend in the restaurant. Plus, Sonny’s is on the Fort Collins Passport right now, with two-for-one Dark and Stormys or Moscow Mules if you’re a passport holder.

Our bartender was wonderfully friendly and helpful, and though there were a few TVs playing sports games (what else?), they weren’t obnoxious or out of place. We had two other people join at Sonny Lubick’s, and between the four of us we were able to sample a good portion of their happy hour menu.

I ordered the Ultimate 100% Agave Margarita, made with El Ultimo tequila, organic agave nectar and fresh lime juice. At $6.50, it’s $2 cheaper during happy hour. Unfortunately, it’s also super sweet – like, “I’m not sure I can keep drinking this” sweet. If that’s what you’re after in your margaritas, great. If not, stay far, far away.

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I also got to try a nice Stoli cosmopolitan ($6.50 under the “You Call It” martini section of the happy hour menu) and a Moscow Mule, which, while not on their happy hour menu, was still pretty excellent. Sonny’s also offers $1 off drafts and bottled beers, $1 off wines by the glass, and $5.50 well drinks during happy hour. Like the Canyon Chop House, they have about 20 different wines available by the glass, although their beer selection is little more run-of-the-mill (for Fort Collins, at least).

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We were still peckish, so we ordered a plate of Chicken Nachos ($12 for a full order) and Pretzel Bread with two different mustards and an herb butter ($5). The nachos were substantial and tasty, but nothing particularly interesting. I felt they were a little overpriced, especially for a happy hour menu. The bread was warm, fresh from the oven, and a good portion for the price. I thought about trying their Prime Rib Sliders ($2.50 each, minimum order of 2) or oysters ($1.50 each, minimum of 3), but if I really wanted happy hour oysters, I’d just go to Fish or Jax. I ended up spending a little over $30 for two cocktails, nachos, and tip.

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As far as price-to-quality goes, Canyon Chop House blows Sonny’s out of the water. However, the limited hours at Canyon Chop House can be difficult to get around, while at Sonny’s it’s basically happy hour all the time. Still, I’d say if you’re looking to celebrate a special occasion on a diminutive budget, you can’t beat the happy hour at Canyon Chop House.

Paradox & Pie

Hello, Monday.

I had a great weekend at my family’s annual picnic/reunion/ritual grilling of dead animal parts up in the mountains. Despite approximately 14 hours of rain that put the kibosh on our Soshball plans, I enjoyed hanging out and camping with some of my closest friends and family – even if it did involve three soggy dogs and five soaking-wet humans crammed into a camper built for two.

I had the unexpected pleasure of getting to sample a few craft beers from local brewery Paradox Beer Company (since apparently my family knows every single person who’s ever lived in or around Woodland Park). Their Cerveza Provisional, a farmhouse ale aged in anejo tequila barrels, was one of my stand-out favorites. I’ll leave the beer critiques to Andrea at Cheers Fort Collins, but suffice it to say, when you’re eating chocolate-cherry pie (made with the Strangely Epic collaboration from Strange Brewing and Epic Brewing in Denver), watching the rain pour down on the ponderosa pines and sipping a delicious beer isn’t a bad way to spend the day.

Last year, I moaned about how you couldn’t find Paradox up in Fort Collins, and I’m pleased to report that’s no longer the case. Their delightfully unique, barrel-aged, bottle-conditioned ales are available at several local liquor stores, including Supermarket Liquors on Mulberry St. and 287 Discount Liquors on College Ave.