One segment in the Winter Park/Grand County restaurant market that has seen a recent and significant uptick is the number of establishments that have jumped, with both feet, on the happy hour bandwagon—offering discounts on food and beverages.
And as we know, a “happy hour” is an industry-marketing tool wherein an establishment, for a specified period of time, offers discounts on cocktails, beer and wine. Often happening during the “lull” between the end of lunch and the start of dinner, traditionally, happy hours run mid-week, in the late afternoon.
The concept of “drinking before dinner” stems from what many regard as a one of the darker times in American history—“Prohibition!”
The passage of both the 18th Amendment and the Volstead Act banned the consumption of alcohol. Citizens, unwilling to give up their libations, would host “cocktail hours,” also known as “happy hours” in their homes or at the neighborhood “speakeasy” prior to going to eat at a restaurant where alcohol couldn’t be served. When the dastardly 18th Amendment was finally repealed, the “cocktail lounge” continued the trend of drinking before dinner.
Recently, my travels took me to Tabernash, Colorado, to Alberto Sapien’s Tabernash Tavern.
The stars simply weren’t in our favor—our timing was unfortunately “off,” all around.
Due to a large private event in the main dining room, there wasn’t an available four-top in the ordinarily cozy bar and lounge area. So, the traveling band of four die-hard, experienced “foodies” had to make due at the bar which, in turn, made sharing, tasting and discussing a little more difficult.
Because of the seemingly-harried circumstances of the evening, the staff—from the hostess to the nice, albeit overworked bartender—were slammed from the time we walked in the door. On a less frenetic evening, the experience would’ve been vastly different.
The Tab’s happy hour—which runs daily from 5 p.m. to 6 p.m.—offers a diverse selection of libations and food at more than reasonable prices. But one wouldn’t expect anything less from chef/owner Alberto Sapien.
Chef Sapien has been in the food industry for most of his life. He was the Executive Chef at both the Denver Country Club and the Petroleum Club.
He moved to the Fraser Valley in the mid-90s. And prior to opening the Tabernash Tavern in 2008, he worked at a plethora of places—among them, the Ranch House Restaurant at Devils’ Thumb, the Untamed Steak House and the Shed. Sapien also ran the restaurant at the Iron Horse Resort as well as “Alberto’s” in Cooper Creek Square.
Happy hour drink specials feature “two-for-ones” on select draught and bottle beer; select red and white wine; and well drinks. Sapien’s “select” happy hour wine and beer choices were more than acceptable.
But guests don’t flock to Chef Sapien’s to merely imbibe. They’re there to enjoy his culinary expertise and the appetizer selections—happy food—are as deliciously diverse as his main menu, itself.
The reasonably-priced “happy food” menu features:
• Mussels, sauced four distinct ways (Meuniere—lemon, garlic & Chardonnay; Martini—in a vodka, tomato and cream; Diablo—wine, tomato and chili; and Guajillo—guajillo chili, bacon, roasted tomato, lime and tequila) a generous portion for $11.20.
• Salt and Pepper Calamari, sea salt, tellicherry pepper served with a sweet chili lime dipping sauce, $9.60.
• Seafood Risotto Fritters, garlic shrimp, lobster and king crab, served with grilled lemon, scampi aioli and fried chives for $12.00.
• Lamb Chop Fondue, herb rubbed, feta, walnuts, ouzo fondue and tomato olive relish, $14.00
• Fried Green Tomato Caprese, corn crusted with fresh mozzarella and fresh Morales Farms basil, served with a balsamic drizzle and celeriac remoulade, $9.00
• The Shed’s Original Pork Ribs with chipotle maple barbeque sauce, blueberry salsa and lime pepper, $12.00.
• Wine and Cheese Pizza, done in a white sauce with brie, pears, Merlot wine syrup, walnuts and duck confit, $11.20.
• Lobster Rolls, Maine lobster on buttery buns served with Old Bay potato chips, $14.00.
• Morales Farms Spinach Pizza, featuring legendary fresh spinach from Morales Farms (in Granby), fresh garlic, evoo, mozzarella, feta, olives, caramelized onions and San Marzano tomatoes, $9.60.
• Triple Garlic Caesar Asada, spicy chipotle Caesar, tomatoes escabeche, shaved manchego, avocado, black bean corn salsa, white anchovies and spicy croutons, $9.60.
• Lisa’s Greek Salad, baby spinach, pork souvlaki, dolmades, feta, pepperoncini, tomatoes, red onion, bell peppers and olives, served with a tzaziki dressing, $9.60.
The group sampled, shared and enjoyed four plates—mussels (meuniere and garlic), lobster rolls and the spinach pizza.
The mussels, although a tad overcooked, were sauced to perfection, the bread for dipping was terrific; the lobster rolls were good and the spinach pizza was outstanding.
Certainly worth going back for a return visit!
Kudos to our bartender who, despite dealing with a frenetic full house, more than exceeded our service expectations.
And the next time, we’ll only share an appetizer-or-two, saving room for dinner—and we’ll make reservations! Their main menu is spectacular.
They are open for lunch, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.; dinner, Sundays through Thursdays, 5 p.m. to 9 p.m.; dinner, Fridays and Saturdays, 5 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.
And their happy hour—serving happy food—everyday from 5 p.m. to 6 p.m.
Chef Sapien’s magnificent Tabernash Tavern is located in beautiful downtown Tabernash, Colorado, just a couple of miles west of Fraser. Their address is 72287 US Highway 40, their phone number is 970-726-4430 and for dinner, reservations are strongly recommended.
And, as always, we urge everyone to drink responsibly!