Its origins may be in the Deep South, but Denver's rich and diverse blues scene runs deep as well — and just keeps getting better. For more than fifty years, clubs in the metro area have offered the full spectrum of styles, everything from Delta to Chicago, jump to electric, Piedmont to punk. Not to mention that about a decade ago, many jazz clubs in the area added blues nights to help drum up business, which resulted in a wider variety of venue options. No jive: Here's our list of the top ten in town, in alphabetical order — with last year's Best Blues Club in the top spot.
Will one of these blues bars make it to the top in this year's Best of Denver? Cast your vote to nominate your favorite in our 2016 Best of Denver Readers' Poll.
4923 West 38th Avenue
A frequent Best of Denver winner, Ziggies turned fifty in 2014 and hasn't missed a boogie-woogie step since. Seven nights a week — including a blues jam on Sundays for which the house provides a full backline — this unassuming spot is everything a blues bar should be: small, dark, friendly and lively, with a good selection of craft brews and cheap drinks all around. Periodic poetry jams help keep the Beat vibe alive.
9. Appaloosa Grill
535 16th Street
"The Horse" is a remarkably cushy spot for nightly live blues that skews toward funk and electric, a comfortable and updated restaurant that gets things going at 9:30 or 10 p.m. That gives you plenty of time to take down some four-cheese macaroni, truffle fries with housemade ketchup or fried pickles with sriracha ranch, all fuel for the inevitable dance party. If you get hungry again later, don't worry: The kitchen stays open until 1:30 a.m. every night.
8. El Chapultepec
1962 Market Street
One of the jazz clubs that permanently added blues to its regular roster, the 83-year-old 'Pec is an experience: a dimly lit, cash-only hole-in-the-wall famous for its live-music offerings — jazz and R&B acts, mostly, and almost always good ones, at that — as well as cheese-smothered Mexican fare (the gray, spicy nachos are top-notch) and cheap Coors and Bud Light on tap. A pool table offers something to do while you wait for things to get hopping.
7. Front Range Barbeque
2330 West Colorado Avenue, Colorado Springs
Is there anything more evocative of the blues than the scent of smoky meats slicked with sweet-and-spicy sauce? The authentic feel of Front Range goes further than that: The cozy Colorado Springs eatery and club based in an old house serves up a heapin' helpin' of the blues, too, along with its popular 'cue. Wednesday nights are for bluegrass, but most other nights find blues bands, both local and from around the country. More than forty craft beers by the bottle and a rotation of ten on draft add to the appeal.
2057 Larimer Street
Tucked away a bit off the well-beaten LoDo path in the Ballpark 'hood, the usually jam-packed and jumping Herb's — founded in 1933 as Herb's Hideaway and famous as a favorite of Jack Kerouac's — is beloved by blues fans of all ages and offers a steady mix of blues, jazz, funk and reggae. The '70s setting, though, is ideal for getting your blues groove on, and the small stage looks out into a spacious seating area with plenty of room to move.
Five more of Denver's best blues clubs on the next page.
5. Lincoln's Roadhouse
1201 South Pearl Street
A past Best of Denver winner, Lincoln's Roadhouse has a teeny-tiny stage and not a lot of space, but it's worth cramming in for the well-respected local and nationally known bands — which play mostly weekends and the occasional weekday worth celebrating, such as Fat Tuesday — and the killer Cajun-comfort fare. Happy hour is early and late, and features $5 Bloody Marys and some sweet chicken and waffles, but it's well worth diving into the menu for such goes-with-the-blues foods as "gumbolaya" and fried-catfish tacos.
4. Tasty Weasel Tap Room
1800 Pike Road, Longmont
Oskar Blues' brews seem ready-made for tasty tunes, and it's an added bonus that this noisy, bustling tap room in Longmont — attached to the actual brewery — releases two small batches each week that you won't find anywhere else. This is the place to start a night of club-crawling, because the bands play 4:30-6:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 3-5 p.m. on Sundays. Skee-ball is a welcome diversion while you wait for the music to start, and blues-loving dogs are also welcome.
3. The Toad Tavern
5302 South Federal Circle, Littleton
The Toad's musical offerings run the gamut, but the large stage here hosts its fair share of blues acts, many local. Get there early to snag a stool at the highboy tables so you can see over the crowd. The standard bar food is not a big draw, but beer pong and pool tables add to the fun.
2. Walnut Room
3131 Walnut Street
A longtime RiNo go-to for thin-crust pizza and live music in an expansive space, the Walnut Room sports one of the best sound systems in the city. Look for local and national acts playing most nights, and a late-night happy hour worthy of the name, with half-price drafts that go well with the Walnut's spicy, crispy-skinned boneless Buffalo wings.
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1. Zephyr Lounge
11940 East Colfax Avenue, Aurora
A morning happy hour (9-11 a.m. daily) makes the Zephyr in Aurora a hotspot for that alone, but the cheap drinks all the time and two more happy hours each day (2-7 p.m. and 11 p.m.-1 a.m.) make it even better. No cover ever to see the blues bands that play Friday and Saturday nights at this eclectic joint, which opened in this space in 1970 after the original 1947 building was torn down. Don't miss the excellent snacks, including chipotle wings and jalapeño poppers, or the $1.50 Jell-O shots.