American Culture

The Scrogue's Guide to Denver and the DNC: bars I love and you should, too

by Kelly Bearden

I willingly admit to not being fancy-bar kinda girl.

My priorities for a watering hole involve the ability to get the sort of beer I want (I am partial to ambers, stouts, and browns and I love a good microbrew, but one of the big guys will do if I am in the right setting, like a bowling alley. Or a dive bar.) and drink it in a place where the bartender knows when to talk and when to shut up, the crowd knows the same, the drinks are cheap and the jukebox is stellar, and no one gets their panties in a bunch if I read at the bar (trust me, this has happened, more times than I can count). With that in mind, I think it would be patently obvious that I don’t spend much time in LoDo.

That said, here are my recommendations for the DNC-er who wants to drink far from the maddening crow?

First off is my neighborhood bar and home away from home, Streets of London. God, I love this bar. The jukebox has everything from local faves Slim Cessna, Drag the River and Munly, all the way through every era of Punk and Metal, and ending with a fine dose of The Hag and Johnny. The bartenders are as friendly as you are, and the drink specials are daily. Located on a busy corner of East Colfax (NE corner of Colfax and Humboldt, to be exact, in the North Cheeseman Park neighborhood), their smoker-friendly patio offers some of the best people watching in town, and is full of regulars who run the gamut from skaters, writers, and pool sharks to school teachers and accountants. People who not only will give you the lay of the land if you ask, but will warn you if you park in a no-parking zone. A great place that is just a short cab-ride away from the hustle and bustle of the convention (or a trip on the ever-crazy #15 bus). Just remember to tip your bartenders and next time you step up to the bar, they will be in the process of pouring your usual.

If the street-clatter of East Colfax is a little too much for you, and you need a quieter space in which to contemplate the joys of the convention, not too far away, over in Uptown on 17th and Race, is The Thin Man. A small shotgun place of a bar, The Thin Man has an eclectic atmosphere catering to artists, writers and all those creative types who like to drink infused vodkas and coffee and talk politics and its place in sculpture. I kid to a certain extent, but this place really is one of the havens of the local art scene, with art pieces by Denver artists, decorated with some of the owners’ collection of Catholic Kitsch. TV-less, it fosters conversation and contemplation from all who sit at its bar. Located next to St Mark’s Coffeehouse and owned by long time coffeehouse proprietors Tina and Eric, they have a small and revolving selection of beers on tap, the previously-mentioned infused vodkas (in giant glass jars behind the bar, looking like science experiments gone wrong), and an ever-changing soundtrack dependent upon the bartender’s whim, ranging from Nick Cave, to gypsy, to classical, and the occasional Johnny Cash. I love sitting out in front, on the patio, with a pint of whatever amber they currently have on tap, a book, and no further plans. Great place.

If that sounds too calm and serene for you, or you just want something with a louder character, head on down to the Continental Club. This place is one of the best bars to open up in Denver in the past year (no, really. They got voted Best New Bar in the 2008 Westword Best of. Google it. You’ll see.), and I have to admit I am biased since I call Ryan, the owner of this fine establishment, “friend.” But seriously, this is a great bar. As long as I have known him, he’s wanted to open up a place of his own, and when he finally did, it was well worth the wait. A rust-red building located on the SW corner of 5th and Santa Fe, it’s right at the edge of Denver’s burgeoning gallery district, and at the edge of the charming Baker neighborhood; a bastion of hipster coolness in a transitional neighborhood that can’t decide if it will allow itself to be gentrified by the young and hip or not. The jukebox is full of bands you’ve never heard of which fast become your favorites by the end of the evening. The TVs over the bar play a continual film fest of Z-grade flicks about monsters and women’s prisons, and when Ninja Warrior is on G4, shots of saki pour each time a contestant masters a level (at least when a certain bartender is working). $2 gets you a PBR tallboy, but the bartenders will get you anything from the taps as long as it is somewhere along the lines of a Guinness, a Newcastle, or a Stella. The fridge is full of a revolving selection of local brews (recently they have had a nice batch of beers from Ska Brewery, down in Durango), and proper domestics, and when pressed, the bartenders make some wicked mixed drinks. This place hosts local artists, (the next show, up through the Convention, is presented by Bad Art for Bad People, and is all about Tiki!), local musicians, and a chicken or two on Sunday afternoons. All in all, it’s a great spot to soak up some true Denver flavor.

Speaking of Denver flavor, if you’re interested in local history, check out My Brother’s Bar, not far from the trendiness of LoDo, located on the corner of 15th and Platte. There’s no sign outside, so don’t waste your time looking. They’ve never had one since the beer started flowing in the 1930s; if you’re meant to know about this place, you will. The building is so subdued next to the remodeled REI store that you might not even notice it. But once inside, you enter into a world far removed from the LoDo-thang, with creaky floors, dark tin ceilings and a long wooden bar that’s been there probably since the place was built. This is a place to talk to the bartenders, talk to the locals, ask questions about the Beats who used to hang out there – Kerouac and Cassady and their love of Denver and their abandoned bar tabs. True Denverites are proud of our connection to one of the 20th century’s great writers and characters and we’re always interested in talking about him (and our local government even developed a driving/walking tour of Denver’s Beat history, which you can find here. My Brother’s Bar is stop #5). My Brother’s Bar is a place I love, just to sit at the bar, Guinness in hand, listening to the crowd. A good place if you can find it.

I haven’t even mentioned any of my favorite dive bars yet…places like the Lions Lair, the Lancer Lounge, the Squire, Bar Bar, Curtis Street, all of which hold a spot dear to my heart. But those will have to wait for another day. All this talk about beers and bars and such is making me thirsty. Time to go find me a patio, an ashtray and a pint and watch the world go by.

For more stories on things to do whilst in Denver (either at the DNC or just in general), visit our Scrogue’s Guide page. There you’ll find stories on steak houses, beer and brewpubs, tips for enjoying the unConventional life, and in the next couple of weeks a whole lot more.

1 reply »

  1. Great compendium of bars!!
    I’ve been going to Brother’s since before I could drink – some 26 odd years now – because my Mom used to love to go there just for the food (the burgers are to die for). It’s still one of the best places in Colorado just to go hang.

    Still – this will be a great list to refer people to when they come in from out of town! 🙂