Drink more whiskey, fix my swamp cooler
Tequila makes my clothes come off." "Drink more whiskey, fix my swamp cooler." "Los Angeles, we can smell you." These and a hundred other six-word memoirs, all scribbled on neon-colored note cards by patrons of the White Owl, fill a small box resting on the southern edge of the bar. Next to the box sits a well-thumbed copy of SMITH Magazine's It All Changed in an Instant: More Six-Word Memoirs and a Sharpie pen that invites other drunks to wax philosophical. I'd join in, but three $7 pitchers of Budweiser into an eight-pitcher Sunday evening, I mostly feel like "Laura," who signed her name beneath "I'm not creative enough for this." Or maybe I feel more like the defiant scribe who scrawled, "Screw 6 words: She's so emo, her tattoo is a picture of herself crying."
Portulaca Cafe Gone, White Owl Now. This six-worder at the bottom of the box nicely explains the Globeville neighborhood's newest watering hole, purchased by classic-drink and two-wheel enthusiasts Brooke Kline and Aaron Scott in 2008. Though the transition from sixty-year-old Slavic speakeasy to hip, nu-dive bar was one of near-total transformation — and though some Globeville lifers still sit across the street at the Sidewinder and lament the Portulaca's passing — Kline and Scott left well enough alone to maintain an old-school ethos and earn the respect of former regulars.
They also breathed some much-needed fun-filled life into a slice of Denver known more for its McDonald's and on-ramps to I-70 than its nightlife. On the wall next to the hundred-year-old wooden back bar hangs a framed copy of the infamous Johnny Cash middle-finger photo with the words "Cash Only Please" typed on top. Another photo of Harrison Ford as Han Solo rests on an adjacent shelf; a black-markered message on a piece of masking tape warns: "Aaron's Picture Don't Touch!!" Over the past eighteen months, the Owl has hosted movie nights, karaoke nights, open-mike nights and guest-bartender nights (known as Rumble Seat), as well as Valentine's Day alternatives, bingo nights and meat raffles. Yes, meat raffles.
The White Owl
321 East 45th Avenue
Natalie, our bartendress, sharpens a tin case full of artist's pencils with a kitchen knife and sketches on a large pad of paper between mixing rounds of the drink of the month: Kitty Voom Voom Sidecars, made with brandy, triple sec and sour. Natalie is Kitty Voom Voom; she tells me it's less of an alter ego than a silly nickname her sister bestowed. Either way, the cocktails are delicious. Later, she makes us a nice little number with Absolut Brooklyn (a limited-edition red-apple and ginger flavor), ginger ale and cranberry. She also opens the game room (billiards and darts) and pint-sized back patio (seating and charcoal grills) for us even though she'd already closed it down for the night. "Didn't expect to see you guys in here on a Sunday," she admits. "Glad you came."
While delicately balancing my weight on a half-broken folding chair out back, I notice an unintentional six-word memoir at the corner of 45th Avenue and Grant Street, a sign explaining, "Traffic Signal Under Study For Removal." Later, staggering around out front, waiting for a cab, I finally come up with a few of my own, all love letters to the Owl:
Natalie, your sketches are really good.
Thanks for getting me drunk tonight.
And for keeping the bar open.
And for making Globeville your home.
Get the Food & Drink Newsletter
Our weekly guide to Denver dining includes food news and reviews, as well as dining events and interviews with chefs and restaurant owners.