With the additions of everything from neighborhood taverns to high-end lounges, Denver's bar scene got even better in 2012. Residents and tourists alike have many more options when they're looking for fun after the sun goes down -- or even before that. Here, in no particular order, are Cafe Society's picks for the ten best new bars that opened in metro Denver in 2012.
10) Punch Bowl - Social Food & Drink 65 Broadway Bowling, ping-pong, shuffleboard, darts and foosball - clearly, Punch Bowl - Social Food & Drink is much more than a bar. In November, Robert Thompson opened the long-awaited Punch Bowl in the 24,000-square-foot space that formerly held Big Lots, and now has a coffee shop, gastro-diner, lounge, second bar and, of course, lots of games. Thompson and his staff serve breakfast, lunch and dinner daily, as well as a bar menu until almost last call; the bar features find signature punches, draft beer and keg wine. Let's play!
9) Ace 501 East 17th Avenue In August, Josh and Jen Wolken opened Ace in a 9,000-square-foot space right next to its sibling, Steuben's, and instantly created one of the best new hangouts in Denver. Order an alcoholic shaved ice or a scorpion bowl from Randy Layman, the genius behind the bar, or something off the Asian-American food menu while you wait for your turn at the ping-pong table. A little liquid courage never hurts when you're challenging your friends to a round of ping-pong. Score!
8) Adrift 218 South Broadway Step back in time at Adrift, Denver's only tiki bar, opened in April. With a small plates menu with an Asian twist and a bar that features forty varieties of rum as well as a cocktail list that offers a modern take on classic tropical drinks, dropping into Adrift is like taking a short, South Seas vacation. And an intimate one, if you grab a table on the tiny back patio.
7) Gary Lee's Motor Club and Grub 176 South Broadway After many unexpected delays, Gary Lee Bomar finally opened Gary Lee's Motor Club and Grub in April, in a formerly run-down garage space that was refurbished and transformed into a vintage, car-themed roadhouse with a great patio. Remember to check out the decorative detail while you chow down on a smoked Portobello sandwich or pulled pork with barbeque sauce. Talk about vroom service!
6) Local 46 4586 Tennyson Street Denizens of northwest Denver lamented the closing of the Music Box, but they quickly started singing a different tune when Niya Diehl and Grant Gingerich opened Local 46, an eco-friendly, community tavern, last April. Local 46 offers a wide range of local beers and spirits, as well as cocktails with a '70s flair. And while Local 46 doesn't have a kitchen (visiting food trucks take care of that), it was a full calendar of fun events, including community potlucks and karaoke night.
5) Mile High Spirits 2920 Larimer Street After Joe Vonfeldt, Chase Campbell and Wyn Ferrell opened Mile High Sprits, a full-service, private-label distillery on Larimer last February, they decided to create a bar where people could enjoy a signature cocktail made with one of their labels -- including Elevate Vodka, Fireside Whiskey and Denver Dry Gin --while they learned about the distillery process. Since then Mile High has become a true gathering place, with occasional live music performances.
4) Park House 1515 Madison Street Park House, a comfortable neighborhood tavern, opened in October on the corner of Colfax and Madison. This House really is a home; not only did its location start off as a Victorian residence, but owners Drew Gottlieb and Evan Bailey worked hard to create a homey atmosphere where regulars can enjoy beers, good bar food and live music by local musicians.
3) Vesper Lounge 233 East Seventh Avenue As if Frank and Jacqueline Bonanno don't have enough going on in Denver, in December they added another hot spot to their list: Vesper Lounge, in a space tucked between Mizuna and Bones that formerly housed the Lancer Lounge. They've cleaned up the space, but kept the atmosphere casual to create a neighborhood bar focused more on drinks than food, more on camaraderie than upscale ambience.
2) The 2UP 717 East Colfax Avenue One good turn deserves another. The 1Up proved such a hit that In June, Jourdan Adler opened the 2UP. This spot is much smaller than the original, but it's big enough to hold a full bar and vintage-style arcade with three lanes of Skee-ball, nine pinball machines and more than 35 arcade games.
1) The Dive Inn 1380 South Broadway Dive in to The Dive Inn, a nautical-themed bar, that Jason Tietjen and partners Chris and Rhonda Signorelli opened last year in the former home of the Carousel. The Dive Inn quickly got into the swim of South Broadway, with plenty of seating and a lot of fun touches.
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