The West Highland neighborhood has changed immensely over the years, but Mead Street Station has been a fixture for locals since 1994. I have always appreciated the bar for remaining casual and friendly in the sometimes hoity-toity strip of West 32nd Avenue near Lowell Boulevard that seems to sprout new pet boutiques and fancy wine stores every time I stop by the area.
Because I live on the other side of town, I decided to make a journey over to Mead Street on a recent Sunday afternoon to connect with a friend who lives in nearby Sunnyside. Football games were on TV, people with kids were having drinks or lunch, and the bar itself was lined with regulars chatting and drinking. The general age of the patrons was over thirty; many of the folks in the bar were what another friend of mine likes to call "Denver Dads." Denver Dads are attractive, outdoorsy-looking guys who wear hats with fish or local beer logos on them and are generally found pushing a stroller or holding the hand of their cute toddler or ten-year-old. Many of them live in Highland; another prime place to spot them is at Little Man Ice Cream on a nice day. The divorced ones are on Tinder, where some of my friends tend to wind up dating them.
After surveying the crowd, my friend and I slid into one of the wooden booths made from old church pews. Or, rather, I folded and squished my 6'2" frame clumsily into one side of the booth while my friend slid in across from me. We chose beers from various local options and ordered a couple of snacks. The wings, which are smoked in-house, were definitely the standout. The rest of the food was pretty simple, but it got the job done.
The repurposed church pew booths are nice, but if you're tall, like me, it might take a little effort to get in and out of them.
I learned later on during a chat with co-owner Simone Burke that Mead Street is actually the oldest restaurant in West Highland (though not always under the current name). The building opened in 1901 as a theater, and the wood floors and a cubby designed for a movie projector still remain from that era. During this time, trolleys ran along 32nd Street, stopping at a station on nearby Meade Street, from which the bar took its name. After the theater closed, the building housed two different restaurants before it became Mead Street in the ’90s.
When Paul and Simone Burke took over the bar in 2011, they inherited the regulars, staff and overall neighborhood vibe of the place, which they have intentionally maintained. Simone explained that both she and Paul have worked in the bar and restaurant industry around town, at places like the College Inn, Campo di Fiori and the Ice House. They jumped at the chance to own their own bar, and Mead Street already had a formula that worked, allowing them to add their own ideas for fun events and a few new menu items.
Nothing says Colorado like a wooden state flag on the wall.
For example, Tuesday night music-video bingo is a successful weekly activity, where patrons compete to win concert tickets for Live Nation-affiliated shows like Lupe Fiasco or Sound Tribe Sector 9, gift cards and even cash prizes — which sounds better than the usual $20 bar tab for a four-person trivia team that many bars offer. Another favorite of Burke's is Whiskey and Wings Wednesday, where the special is a half-pound of wings and a shot of Beam for $5, or a whole pound of wings and a shot for $10.
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Big annual shindigs at Mead Street are St. Patrick's Day, with Irish dancers and corned-beef specials, and the Santa Speedo Dash. This holiday event is just what it sounds like: a one-mile fun run where runners don their best Speedo-style swimsuits and holiday costume accents and run around the neighborhood. Each year, the Dash benefits a local charity, and Mead Street hosts the pre-run warm-ups and the post-run beers.
The Mead Street crew takes care of its own as well as giving back to the community at large. In an odd incident last fall in which a regular was stabbed at the bar by a man who lived in a nearby assisted-living facility, the Mead Street family rallied around their friend. The owners and staff threw a big fundraiser with Wynkoop Brewery and raised more than $1,000 to assist with their customer's recovery. The patron in question made a full recovery and is still a committed regular, Burke said.
Despite the changes happening in northwest Denver, there are still a few spots left that have remained untouched over the decades. A relaxed atmosphere, a few Colorado brews, unpretentious bar food and maybe some dudes in Speedos or Denver Dads: That's all that Mead Street Station needs to remain a neighborhood gem in my book.