Rain or shine

Boulder’s Hungry Toad is an everyday, and everybody, type of bar

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Susan France

The Hungry Toad was built for rainy days. It makes for a cozy pint when you can sit in the corner and watch the wind beat rain into the windows with wooden jambs. The fixtures are natural, from the exposed brick wall to the leather bar chairs to the wooden tabletops. The Hungry Toad is a warm blanket, a leather couch and a Saturday with Netflix.

Of course, they are open on the “300 days of sunshine,” too, but because I’m a simple, stupid man, it always feels like foggy Londontown at The Hungry Toad. I’m always hearing Paul McCartney’s album Ram even if what’s coming through the speakers sounds much more like Billy Joel or Boston.

But, though it feels effortless and cozy, the chotchkies, the menu and the whole atmosphere were carefully designed to give Boulder as close to an English pub as possible. And they pull it off — it doesn’t feel like a cheap imitation, but rather a casual and comfortable watering hole. That is, they brought over all the superficial stuff like signs and chairs, but they also captured the spirit of a neighborhood pub. The psychedelic-feeling mural of toads getting ripped, which is painted across the back wall and is now beginning to fade, also somehow gives it an old Boulder vibe while still retaining the overall theme of the place.

There’s also a unique mix of people at The Hungry Toad. All walks of Boulder make it here, from the health nuts to the boozers to the college kids to the families. Everyone has a seat at the bar.

Unsurprisingly, the beer is pretty good. The Hungry Toad has a steady tap of several solid brews that make for a good English pint: Old Speckled Hen, Boddington’s and Fuller’s ESB, with tangentially sourced taps like Firestone Walker Union Jack and Guinness. The pints are served, as you would expect, in Imperial pint glasses (20 ounces) and the English beers are served in typical English style, somewhere between cold and room temperature.

If you’re a fan of brown ales, as I am, you know that draughts of Boddington’s and Old Speckled Hen is about as good as it gets.

The Hungry Toad also draws in a lot of people for an excellent happy hour. Dishes range from $2 to $5 and include stacked nachos (sloppy but delicious), quesadillas, wings (the taste is always right, but can be a little inconsistent in girth), cheese dips and more.

But the full menu shines with a variety of burgers, sandwiches, salads and entrees. The fish and chips are solid — small filets of whitefish breaded in beer batter and served piping hot. The London broil puts up hearty strips of steak covered in savory mushrooms, all served alongside a salty and beefy broth. It’s a warmer, and so you’ll have to wait for winter or some rain to get the full experience. The Shepherd’s Pie is another robust plate of food — sirloin tips are covered in rich gravy and the potatoes are extra-whipped, plopped on top and lightly browned.

The burgers and sandwiches at The Hungry Toad make for more casual pub fare. The club sandwich and tuna melt are solid renditions of the classic diner dishes, and their “English Channel” dip is without a doubt the best French dip I’ve ever had. It consists of medium rare steak, jalapenos, provolone and tomatoes, and the accompanying jus is pure umami.

When it comes to pubs, there’s really nothing not to like about The Hungry Toad. With the exception of the dip and maybe the Shepherd’s Pie, nothing is going to stun you on the menu. But its long list of well-executed burgers, sandwiches and happy hour items will more than suffice. That’s because the atmosphere is the critical thing at the Hungry Toad. It’s there for you after a long day at work or when your team loses at the last second. It’s also there if you just want a quick pint and some nachos. It’s welcoming is the point, rain or shine.