Keeping Colfax weird: Ten spots that give Denver's main street its culture and character
Pete's Kitchen: one of a handful of Pete's Colfax enterprises and one of many great Colfax diners.
With the closure of Smiley's Laundromat and last month's bust and subsequent shuttering of Kitty's East, Colfax Avenue lost a little of its glittery seediness. Progress is a constant along this main drag, and has been for life of the city -- but still, Colfax isn't known for its betterment projects. Rather, the east-to-west strip runs right through the heart of Denver's history with its stretch of sights that are a little bit sketchy but always entertaining.
From diners to dives to tattoo parlors, we've rounded up ten of the best spots to find the weirdo culture for which Colfax Avenue will continue to be famous (we hope).
10. P.S. Lounge
P.S. Lounge is a classic Denver dive in every sense: A place to retreat from our 300 days of sunshine, this cash-only spot is dimly lit no matter what the time of day. A nicely stocked jukebox complements the Colfax staple's low-key atmosphere, and there are booths or bar stools where you can do your drinking and commiserating. Plus, P.S. Lounge knows how to treat a lady: One foot in the door and you're offered a rose -- on the house.
The sign says it all: Home of the Sugar Steak. Meat is what's for dinner here, and the restaurant's specialty is its sweetly marinated New York strip. But what keeps this spiral-shaped building uniquely Colfax is its interior. Carpeted like fancy dining spots used to be, the place is 1950s swank with a little bit of '70s bar-room leisure thrown in.
Hardly sketchy but definitely an integral part of Colfax's weirdo culture, Bound by Design is one of many tattoo shops along the strip. The ultra-clean, super-friendly shop stands out as a mecca for the pierced and tattooed. For more than twenty years, Bound's expert artists have been putting first-timers at ease and developing longstanding relationships with return customers.
Continue reading for our top choices.
7. Paul's Liquors
Its booze selection is just all right and the parking lot is a hot mess, but Paul's Liquors is still a popular place to pick up a six-pack of semi-acceptable beer while simultaneously being entertained. The guys behind the counter are friendly, and your fellow patrons are the definition of sketchy, but if you like multiple Boone's Farm flavor options, look no further than Paul's. Two questions, though: Who is Paul? And Paul, why did you trade the sassy hot-pink awning in for a regular old red one?
With a strong resurgence over the past few years, 7-Eleven locations have been repopulating Colfax like crazy. But the store on Ogden Street -- directly across from the Ogden Theatre -- holds a special place in our hearts. The king of convenience stores' obnoxious neon lighting is like a visual highlighter of the concert-goer du jour, who can be found entertaining 7-Eleven regulars by talking way too loudly and breaking the Slurpee machine. Fans of the long-shuttered 7-Eleven on 13th and Pearl Street consider this the next-best sketchy Capitol Hill thing.
The Denver gay bar of gay bars, Charlie's doesn't feel sketchy as much as it looks sketchy from the Colfax side. But after you round the corner to the hangout's proper entrance, on Emerson Street, you'll step through a portal and into a magical world of hunky country boys (and daddies). Newbies, beware: Screw up a line dance with a sideways step on the Charlie's dance floor and you're out of there -- kicked to the curb, and back to the reality that you're on Colfax, probably alone.
Continue reading for our top choices.
Part of the Pete's-Walgreens-Satire Lounge trifecta of Colfax culture that's crammed onto one block, this greasy spoon has been around for over half a century. The lines for a table can be long during the late, post-drinking hours of the night, but that's part of the appeal: The wait gives you time to look at (and possibly laugh at or hook up with) your fellow Pete's customers. Plus, the waitresses are all pleasant and may or may not be created in a factory that produces a staff of teenage girls who never age.
Probably one of the only spots on Colfax where someone will ask you for razor blades in the parking lot of a place that actually sells razor blades, Walgreens keeps it real. Sketchiness abounds inside and out, but that's to be expected for any establishment along the strip that chooses to be open 24 hours a day.
If you've been pining for a bar that looks as though it was recently remodeled by a Grecian pimp with an affinity for brushed steel and vinyl, look no further than the Satire Lounge. Beyond its faux-fancy interior, though, the favored spot in the Pete's empire is always full of interesting regulars, televisions playing reality-TV shows, and good, cheap drinks. And the Satire has a jukebox that plays Cameo (even if it doesn't count as a real jukebox because it's TouchTunes).
1. Tom's Diner
What list of weird spots on Colfax would be complete without Tom's Diner? The sketchy diner of Denver diners, Tom's is like a fish bowl of bizarros -- whether you're inside the establishment or standing outside its giant plate-glass windows. The food's okay, but you come here to watch the drunk people, the high people and the possibly-not-wasted-just-strange people wait for a table. Rumor has it that the owner oversees the restaurant's security cameras remotely from his home and calls in to tell the staff what they're doing wrong. We can't verify that this is true, but the urban legend just makes Tom's Diner that much cooler.
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