Chopper's Sports Grill, at 80 South Madison Street in Cherry Creek, is an "old Denver" sort of place. Cherry Creek itself is sort of an old classic when it comes to neighborhoods, with parts experiencing a new development boom, while other blocks — like those closer to Colorado Boulevard — seem stuck in time. I've been to Choppers for private parties in the back room, mostly celebrating over-forty guests of honor, as well as for lunch and happy hour, but decided to revisit the place on a recent Sunday.
As a friend and I entered the large bar filled with wooden booths, there was a pretty good crowd of dad-looking guys dressed for golf and drinking beers. The side room had a few younger bros taking advantage of the Golden Tee golf game, placed alongside a Silver Strike video bowling game and a pool table. There weren't any particularly notable sporting events going on at the time, so conversation was easy because the sound level was relatively quiet. Flavored vodka and Bud, Miller and Coors pitchers were on special, so we opted for a round of vodka drinks.
Why is the bar called Chopper's? It was opened in 1996 by a group of gentlemen that included Bob "Chopper" Travaglini, the late Denver Nuggets trainer who was famous for being a confidant to many famous basketball players and an innovator in the field of sports medicine. Prior to that, the location was a famous singles bar called Rick's Cafe, which President Jimmy Carter once visited in the ’70s to promote solar power — because the bar had a solar-powered dishwasher, which was fairly innovative in a time in history when people still used the term "singles bar." Chopper's became a successful sports bar under the ownership of Travaglini and company, with an emphasis on broadcasting all kinds of athletic contests and a menu that was a step above the usual pub grub. A little over two years ago, the Tavern Hospitality Group, owners of the Tavern Uptown, Tavern Downtown and Tavern everywhere else, purchased Chopper's and did some renovations and menu upgrades.
But the general experience remains the same, and the Cherry Creek business power-lunch guys in suits, the after-work or after-golf crowd in golf shirts and athletic gear, and sports fans of all kinds rocking their team gear are still the main patrons. I met a fellow Maryland native wearing a copious amount of Orioles-related apparel, somewhat of a rarity out here. He informed me of the fact that Chopper's is the go-to place for Baltimore Ravens fans to watch the game in the back party room without too much harassment from the Broncos crowd in the main bar. Good to know, despite the fact that I am more of a basketball fan. But not to worry: Basketball is big at Chopper's, as well as baseball, and UFC and boxing — pretty much any sport you might be into is available on two full-wall-sized multi-TV monstrosities and tons of other flat-screens throughout the bar. Texas alumni watch college football on Saturdays in the main bar, but it's basically all about the Broncos when Sunday rolls around. The bar contains the unique feature of two huge light-and-siren setups, one coming down from the ceiling, and one behind the large wooden bar. When my friend and I inquired, our server told us that those were to celebrate touchdowns, of course.
We also talked to manager John Kelley, who told us about some new additions at Chopper's, such as the re-configured front patio that is now a place to bring your best Cherry Creek purse dog, or regular dog, as the case may be. Or even without a furry friend, it's a really nice patio — very shady and private. Kelley is also gearing up for the bar's support of this Saturday's 10th Annual Golf Tournament to benefit Eddie's Kids, an organization that provides tickets to sporting events for kids, families, and military personnel. Another summertime tradition at Chopper's that still has one week left is Friday night live music with Dave Roppolo from 7 to 10:30 p.m.
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Food at Chopper's has always had a solid reputation, and the menu has benefited from some recent upgrades. The burgers are big, the Reuben and pastrami sandwiches are popular, and a lot of folks come in for the daily specials like the meatloaf sandwich on Wednesday or chicken parm on Friday. The menu includes cute names for different food items, like the "Nach-O-Mama" nachos and the "Cherry Creek Cougar" salad. I also recommend the various salad options, hough I haven't tried the one named after the archetype of the wealthy, older lady on the prowl for a younger man in Cherry Creek. The concept of the Cherry Creek cougar is also sort of an "old Denver" thing, but it's still a real phenomenon; I've witnessed it.
So if you want the best parts of the Cherry Creek experience, like the dog-friendliness, high-tech TV setups and better-than-average food in a casual and non-pretentious setting, Chopper's Sports Grill is your spot. You might not find a cougar, but you will find some touchdown sirens and a relaxed spot for food and drink.