The bars are back.
One of the many amenities that dried up during the pandemic was the ability to lay face down in a bar, sit on a stool, and soak up the atmosphere (and a few drinks) while at the same time. meeting friends – or making new ones.
When all Colorado restaurants and bars were closed for on-site dining in March 2020, the only ones allowed to remain in business were those that offered take-out food and liquor. This immediately ruled out most dive bars, which often limit their snack options to old bags of crisps and maybe Tombstone pizza. On May 27 last year, when restaurants were allowed to reopen their dining rooms at 25% capacity, bars were allowed to follow suit – but only if they had food available (a food truck out front or a deal with a sandwich shop next door counted, but not the bags of fries … although many places quickly stocked up on frozen pizzas). And they had to follow social distancing rules – which basically excluded most bar seats.
In other words: the real dive bars have been sunk.
But even most of these places have managed to resurface and tread water until the bars are allowed to reopen without any food supply and at full capacity. So now is the perfect time to toast many old favorites on the Denver subway – real dives that stay off the radar and aren’t now part of local chains, no matter how much the bar’s origins are respected (think at Don’s Club Tavern), or classics that rise above the diving designation (My Brother’s Bar).
Here are the ten best dives in Denver right now:
12 volt tavern
7514 Grandview Avenue, Arvada
Arvada took action early in the pandemic, closing streets to allow people to walk from store to store and restaurant to bar, including the dark and low 12 Volt Tavern, an old dive into the new and improved Olde Town. While many of these bars already had food service, the 12 Volt Tavern didn’t, but they did offer a dollar sandwich that matched the bill – and a deal with the sandwich shop next door if you want to. wanted something more chic. Now the 12 Volt has left those gastronomic days behind and is once again a reliable joint with a good jukebox, cold beer, drink specials, fun pool games, live music, theme nights. .. and better bathrooms than you might remember.
1216 Washington Avenue, Golden
Since alcohol has put Golden on the map, it’s no surprise that one of the area’s best dive bars can be found in this town. Bar fans have lived at Ace-Hi ever since Leo Stillman bought the former Opera House restaurant on historic Washington Avenue and opened the bar in 1961. Today it is run by Leo’s grandson, Sid Stillman, and it’s always a place coming off their shift at Coors Brewing, they found themselves next to the Colorado School of Mines students preparing for a hard day of class. The place is western-themed and proud of Colorado, with state maps and “native” signs adorning the walls, and old-fashioned ox horns embellished with Mardi Gras pearls throughout. top of the cash register.
Carioca Café / Bar Bar
2060 Champa Street
As the city center continues to expand, the survival of Carioca Cafe – better known as Bar Bar – is something to celebrate. Maybe with a drink or ten. It’s fascinating how the clientele of this place changes over the course of a day … when it’s open all day (the hours have become more sporadic during the pandemic.) In the past you could get there before noon. and grab a cup of coffee and eclectic reading material – or just study some of Denver’s best barflies, a few of which may have been there since the doors opened at 7am. with these barflies the conversation goes, and the next thing you know is the last call. (No phone, BTW.)
15630 South Golden Road, Golden
The Columbine cafe opened the year the ban ended, in a former barber shop near a patch of horse pasture. The nearest landmark was the Coors Brewery, and the workers at that factory kept the place in business for many years. Today Golden stretches just down the road, but the Columbine still looks like a standout find. There is a beer garden in the back, the site of summer barbecues, horseshoe tournaments and musical performances; there is also sometimes live music in the small bar, although the only nod to the “cafe” in the name are the breakfast burritos provided on Sundays. But who needs food when the mood is so good? It’s the kind of place where everyone knows your name … long after you’ve forgotten it.
Dr. Proctor’s Salon
4201 Mississippi Avenue East
The Glendale Mall, home to family-friendly shops such as the Bookies, is also home to a real dive shop: the Dr. Proctor’s Lounge (aka Bar and Grill). Behind its indescribable facade, it has been offering comfort food – burgers and burritos for lunch and dinner – as well as good strong drinks for almost forty years. Happy hour runs from noon until early evening on weekdays, and there is karaoke later in the week. Most of the time, however, you can find locals spilling beers and pool balls, keeping the good doctor in business.
Living room with lake view
2375, boulevard Sheridan, Edgewater
As the last day of DST dawns, regulars gather at the Lakeview Lounge – which opens at 7 a.m. – and celebrate the new day as the sun rises over the skyline of Denver, The Lake Sloan and Sheridan Boulevard. Sunrise service is a centuries-old tradition on this weathered dive that time has otherwise forgotten – even though the bar had new owners, Eugene “Geno” and Jill Martinez, shortly before the pandemic. The pair managed to keep the spot, however, and it remains a great place to come for stiff Bloody Marys in the morning and mysterious snaps in brown paper bags late at night. They’re best enjoyed from a bar stool that has its own hole sunk deep into the linoleum, or perhaps one of the picnic tables out front.
Nob Hill Inn
420 Colfax Avenue East
If there was a love song at the Nob Hill Inn, it would be played on a steel guitar. The song would have a little side, and it would be sad, satisfying, and honest. But last year he was almost silenced. The Nob Hill Inn has been a drinker’s paradise for seventy years – serving everyone from Bob Dylan to politicians doing business over the phone in corner booths – but this filthy Colfax watering hole has it all. almost completely dried up during the pandemic. With no kitchen or passable alternative, the place closed for months as it sold take out pizza and drinks out the back door and regulars held fundraisers. “We’ve had tough times before,” said John Plessinger, whose father bought the Nob in 1969 and put it in his name. “But nothing like that.” Yet Denver’s best dive bar has survived, and today the Nob Hill Inn serves drinks again in its horseshoe-shaped bar.
3416 Colfax Avenue East
Like most of this city’s great dive bars, the PS Lounge is a place we’d never want to see in the light of day – but at night the Lounge holds a special place in our bar-loving hearts. The place has its quirks: Establishing cash only won’t let you keep a running tab, for example. But where else would the bar owner – Pete Siahamis, in this case – send you a tour (or two) of Alabama Slammers, a sweet Day-Glo orange concoction made with sloe gin, from SoCo? and orange juice that tastes more like Tang, just to show appreciation for your patronage?
Sam’s bar and lounge
6801 Leetsdale Drive
While hipsters have discovered many of Denver’s iconic bars, we bet you won’t find a single hipster at Sam’s Bar & Lounge, a bar that opened on Leetsdale Drive in 1954. The place has been going through rough times lately, but you can always sit at the large four-sided bar – there are also a few comfy booths – and chat with the bartender, who serves stiff, cheap drinks. As much of old Denver disappears, Sam’s neon sign shines like a beacon.
5201 Ralston Road, Arvada
Double problem! The Twins Inn is as simple as it gets – with a Facebook page that hasn’t been updated in years and no website – but the space is clean, the jukebox is good, the beer is cold, and the regulars are very, very friendly. The Twins Inn has been pouring beer in this area since 1961, and although the pet bird that frequented the place stole the henhouse, things were back to normal. Except, as one bartender points out, “Things are never normal here.”
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