Every summer when I was younger, my friends and I basically moved out of our parents' houses and into the surrounding wilderness, resorting to a primitive caste system whereby whoever had the coolest stuff dictated what we did. We spent days re-creating World War II with cap guns, fortifications in the local construction site and an elaborate set of rules dictating what "killed" people and for how long. (A full roll of caps detonated under a baseball bat had a kill radius of ten feet.)
We also spent countless hours playing at the closest baseball diamond, working on our fielding and swearing skills. We often didn't have enough guys for two full teams, so the "ghost runner" was the Ricky Henderson of the neighborhood. I realize now that most guys' obsession with beer-league softball was born back in those sweltering days; I just wish they'd bring back the ghost runner so I could drink my beer uninterrupted.
We'd also commune with nature on numerous fishing trips, occasionally bringing home Chicken McNugget-sized fish that our parents felt compelled to fry -- as long as we cleaned them. So for a total yield of two ounces over a three-month period, we spent that entire three months smelling like dead fish. It was totally worth it.
As we got older, we continued to commune with nature, but our appreciation of God's wonders was typically enhanced with beer. We spent as many weekends as possible camping -- not only because we could fish and swim, but also because no parents were present. I hope I'm not that naive when my daughter grows up, because I know for a fact that these outings resulted in more than 500 stitches, ten bazillion necrotic brain cells and at least one pregnancy.
I still like to enjoy my favorite adult beverage outside on a nice summer day or night. Unfortunately, I have a finite supply of alcohol in my abode, and I have yet to find a delivery service here in Denver. So instead, I find a nice patio, kick my feet up, flag down a waitress and sit for seven or eight hours, not counting bathroom breaks.
My all-time favorite is LoDo's Bar and Grill (1946 Market Street, 303-293-8555), because the commanding position overlooking Market Street and Coors Field offers something other LoDo patios don't: the ability to heckle passersby. If you can keep from falling over the railing, it's a perfect vantage point for hurling insults at guys or inappropriate suggestions at women. My personal favorite is to wait for whatever band is playing across the street at the Soiled Dove and then yell, "Play 'Freebird'!" On the Fourth of July, I particularly like this bar for camping out and watching the fireworks; they're always more impressive in double vision.
Also across the street, at Above the Dove (1949 Market Street, 303-830-9210), it's apparently a few degrees hotter than in the rest of the city, because the women seem to wear a hell of a lot less clothing. In fact, the summer-long Budweiser bikini contest will return this summer. Maybe Pete Coors can get his Twins to model, in an effort to grab the key younger demographic that isn't already enamored with the idea of a future senator who makes terrible, cheap beer.
In the Capitol Hill area are two of my other favorites. First is Govnr's Park Restaurant and Tavern (672 Logan Street, 303-831-8605), which has a large patio right on the street so you can see early on which women you're going to hit on relentlessly for the rest of the night. Unfortunately, the patio is not expansive, but the happy hour featuring two-for-one monster beers (including Guinness for the real guys out there) allows you to invade others' personal space with a clear conscience -- or at least no recollection.
Gov's peters out as it gets later, so I recommend you hire a cab to help you navigate the relatively short distance to the Funky Buddha Lounge (776 Lincoln Avenue, 303-832-5075). People here also seem to look with disdain upon too much clothing; however, patrons are so packed in that you can hardly breathe, let alone enjoy all the writhing flesh and bellybutton rings. Still, on a night when you're looking for something more than beer, this is the place for flavored, fluorescent martinis with names I can't pronounce at the end of the night.
There are several great patios in Cherry Creek, and the two best serve a mean Black and Tan. The Squealing Pig Tavern (2700 East Third Avenue, 303-388-4440) has a very nice sunken patio that sequesters those of us who, after a dozen or so beers, start acting like the bar's namesake. Just be careful descending the stairs -- especially if you started your day/night at the Irish Hound (575 St. Paul Street, 303-996-0709). This is one of my all-time favorite bars, and the patio atmosphere matches the indoor vibe. In my travels around England, I always liked the fact that going to the pub was a family event. It wasn't uncommon to see baby carriages and several kids bellied up to the bar with their parents. (Yes, even the moms.) I take my daughter to the Hound occasionally, and we are able to escape the smoky interior and enjoy a warm or even brisk day sheltered by the beautiful trees in this old neighborhood. You've just got to overlook the dirty glares of the uptight Cherry Creek denizens who disapprove of children being treated as older than they are.
Not too far north of here is the The Bank (2239 East Colfax Avenue, 303-320-9494), a great lunch spot with superb bar fare -- not to mention excellent Colfax people-watching. I particularly like placing bets on which of the afternoon strollers are headed down to Kitty's or some other matinee theater during their lunch break.
For those who enjoy other spectator sports, there are any number of bars in which to relish a mind-numbingly long baseball game without mortgaging your house to buy beer and food for nine innings. I like the Blue Line Bar & Grill (5151 Leetsdale Drive, 303-316-3920), with its outdoor TVs and cheap beer. For those of you out east, Caldonia's Roadside Barbecue and Hiway Tavern (2252 South Parker Road, 303-752-3829) has one of the bigger patios around. It's a good place to watch a game, but it also features a sand volleyball court that entices young women to wear bikinis to the bar. Unfortunately, there are too many guys out there who insist on re-creating Top Gun. The College Inn (4400 East Eighth Avenue, 303-329-9532) also has a nice covered patio, good beer and trivia, and, above all, is close to my house. Much like knowing where the nearest fire station and post office are, it is crucial to know the best bar within stumbling distance of your home.
For those of you down south, there is Earl's Restaurant the Meadows (8335 South Park Meadows Center Drive, Lone Tree, 303-792-3275), which features "casual Canadian cuisine." As a Minnesotan, I always thought this meant thoroughly cooked back bacon, but here it seems to mean a menu that is eerily similar to the one at Chili's. Nonetheless, it's a good bar with a wide selection of refreshing drinks and a lot of beautiful people on the patio.
Soaking up the sun at the Morrison Inn (301 Bear Creek Avenue, Morrison, 303-697-6650) in the scenic foothills stimulates a mighty thirst, and the inn's killer margaritas are Gatorade for the aspiring alcoholic. After a few of them, you won't care if you're stranded in the middle of the Arabian Desert -- as long as there are waitresses.
Speaking of margaritas, Rio Grande Mexican Restaurant (1525 Blake Street, 303-623-5432) has the most flammable ones outside of Ma Crosby's in Ciudad Acua, Mexico. Happy hour is always interesting at Rio, because the place closes so early, you're turned loose on the street with a near-lethal blood-alcohol level and four hours or more of bar time ahead of you. I'm pretty sure there's a nice patio here, but I don't really remember, thanks to those margaritas. Patio or not, always bring your passport when you go to this bar.
So as the hot weather sets in, take some time off from stuffing yourself into your swimming suit and get out to a patio near you and enjoy some carbohydrates. (To hell with Atkins -- it's summer!) To make sure you can savor a full day, remember to alternate drinks with eight ounces of water, and take your sunscreen. And when the inevitable happens and you have to hit the little boys' or girls' room right when you meet an especially attractive person, just send the ghost runner.
So you melt away like the Wicked Witch of the West when exposed to sunlight. Or maybe you're one of those pasty poets who favor dark, smoky bars and cafes over the jubilant patio crowds. Or, hell, maybe you just like air conditioning. We hear ya.
Here's a cheat sheet to the city's best combinations of AC and booze so you can properly while away those summer afternoons. How better to introduce Denver to the great New York tradition of summer Fridays (off by noon!)?
1. Carioca Cafe
2060 Champa Street
2. Don's Club Tavern
723 East Sixth Avenue
3. Streets of London Pub
1502 East Colfax Avenue
4. Lion's Lair
2022 East Colfax Avenue
5. The Lancer Lounge
233 East Seventh Avenue
6. McCormick's Fish House
& Bar 1659 Wazee Street
7. Dazzle 930 Lincoln Street
8. Club 404 404 Broadway
7 South Broadway
10. Charlie Brown's Bar
and Grill 980 Grant Street
11. Thin Man
2015 East 17th Avenue
140 South Broadway
13. Cherry Cricket
2641 East Second Avenue
Okay, okay. You can't drink
all summer. Here are a few non-alcoholic, AC-friendly suggestions for those days after the dog bit a little too hard.
1. Lyons Classic Pinball (339-A Main Street, Lyons, 303-823-6100). First, it's worth the drive: The air is just cooler in the hamlets outside of Boulder. Second, you can spend hours in the lap of swamp-cooled luxury re-creating your childhood.
2. Lake Steam Baths (3540 West Colfax Avenue, 303-825-2995). It's hella hot in the eucalyptus sauna, but it's great for the skin -- and a hangover. Plus, when you leave, the outside world will feel downright balmy by comparison.
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3. REI (1416 Platte Street, 303-756-3100). When the thermometer hits 95, head over to REI. The store itself (like any mall or retail chain) is a haven for heat beaters, but true connoisseurs head for the cold room. Normally used to test sleeping bags, this zero-degree facility is the perfect escape from August scorchers.
4. Kimball's Twin Peak
Theater (115 East Pikes Peak Avenue, Colorado Springs, 1-719-447-1945). It's a bit far to drive just for a movie. After all, the local multiplex is playing Troy, too. But since Denver lacks a civilized theater -- one that allows beer and wine into the show -- it's off to Colorado Springs you'll have to go. You can always have a Coke -- but it's nice to to be able to sneak a little hair of the dog.
5. Tiffany Plaza 6 (7400 East Hampden Avenue, 303-777-FILM, ext. 306). Honestly, who wants to pay nine bucks for the latest teen/chick/slasher flick? Hold out for Tuesdays, and head over to Tiffany Plaza, where a mere fifty cents will score you a solid two hours of mind-numbing entertainment in blissful cool.