The first time I went to the Little Bear, I was in high school and using my new State of Kansas fake ID. Like any teenager attempting to commit fraud, I was exceedingly nervous. Back then, the Little Bear was so tough that rumor had it if you came without a gun, they'd give you one. As I walked up to the door, I saw something that I thought only existed in movies and have never seen since: Holding a guy by the back of his shirt and his belt, a pair of bouncers tossed him right out the front door, Old West style. Oddly, this made me less nervous; apparently, me and my fake ID were the least of the Little Bear's bad-behavior concerns. And in fact, I had no problem getting in. Even though I'd grown up in suburban Denver, I'd never seen a place as truly Western as the Little Bear – from the bras hanging from the ceiling around the stage to classic signs, posters and license plates on the walls. So when my friend Brent and his band, Burning Abigail, were booked there recently, I decided it was high time that I return to this Colorado landmark. While today the Little Bear doesn't seem to attract as debauched an element as it did in my youth, I could have that impression only because I've become accustomed to, even comfortable with, a bad element. But there was no mistaking the fun crowd, awesome music or excellent service. When I asked one bartender to make me a shot, she said, "Honey, I'm going to make you my personal favorite." It turned out to be Pineapple Upside Down Cake ($6), made with Malibu Rum, Stoli Vanil, pineapple juice and grenadine in either a small highball glass or an enormous shotglass, and layered yellow on top and pink on the bottom. More delicious than actual pineapple upside-down cake, this drink made my night at the Little Bear even sweeter. If only they'd carded me.
Use this map to see where Nancy Levine's been drinking.
If you like this story, consider signing up for our email newsletters.
SHOW ME HOW
View Larger Map