Happy Place: Reiver's Bar and Grill, 1085 South Gaylord Street, 303-733-8856
The Hours: Monday through Friday from 3 to 6 p.m. and 10 p.m. to close.
The Deals: $2.50-$6 beer specials; $10 buckets of beer; $2.50 cocktails, half-price appetizers.
Were we happy? Flip the page to find out.
The Digs: The strip of restaurants and shops on Old South Gaylord Street, located conveniently between University Boulevard and the south end of Washington Park, packs a pretty big punch for only being a block long. Men and women alike can find something to play with here: There's a bike shop, clothing boutiques, salons, a bakery, and a slew of barstools worthy of grand recognition -- including those at Reiver's, an Old South Gaylord fixture for almost thirty-five years.
The horseshoe bar is long and roomy, but make no mistake: Reiver's packs in a tight crowd during sports games and on the weekends. There are dining tables throughout, including several on the enclosed front patio along the sidewalk -- and another one out back. And the menu offers a wide range of edibles, available at lunch and dinner. It also serves brunch on the weekends, after which you can pass out on in the sun at Washington Park.
The Verdict: Here's the truth: We didn't expect to enjoy Reiver's as much as we did, in part, because it was was dark and somewhat seedy -- a mundane cave of loners drinking on a bright, sunny day. Widespread Panic wailed from the speakers and the men sitting next to us were guzzling glass steins of beer and complaining about their multiple ex-wives. The whole place felt tired. But in the same way a conductor runs a symphony, the bartender was completely dialed in to his crowd. He was friendly and quick, even though we were the only people in the bar that he didn't recognize by first name and drink. The tension seemed to melt off his patron's shoulders the minute he set their beer down and asked how their day was. It was impressive -- and we soon found ourselves blending right in with the family.
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On the advice of the bartender, we ordered the potato skins to snack on. Small russet potatoes, sliced in half and topped with melted Jack cheese and bacon bits, arrived quickly. We smothered them with a little sour cream and fresh chives, and gobbled them up with lightning speed. We also plowed through a plate of nachos, but as our neighboring born-again bachelors reflected on the good ol' days, we came to the realization that we should have ordered more potato skins.
If you allow yourself to kick back a little, Reiver's is a great bar to spend an hour or five sipping beers and making friends. When the joint fills up, the people watching is far more exciting than the frat party across the street at Wash Park Grille -- and if you belly up to the bar enough times at Reiver's, you won't need to utter a word: The bartender will know exactly what you want before you even sit down.
Overall Grade: B+