Say yes to the Y Knot Lounge
Roscoe likes me. I can tell by the way he stands dutifully next to my bar stool and follows me into the men's room, where he attempts to lap up my piss before it splashes against the back of the urinal (despite my best attempts to balance on one leg and box his face away with the other knee). I don't mind dogs in bars; in fact, I think they're kind of great, especially friendly German shepherds. Beats sitting alone.
I find most folks at the Y Knot Lounge (6331 Washington Street) as friendly as Roscoe — even at 10 a.m., when those folks amount to just bartendress Marisol and a seventy-something gentleman in a zip-up sweater and fedora, whose stories about Denver stretch back to the '50s. Talking taverns, he tells me about an era when he and his pals would get off work and seek out bars where "lovely ladies" delivered trays of beer to parked cars. "You could just drink in the parking lot?" I ask, befuddled. "Oh, sure," he responds, "but you had to go inside for the hard stuff." One of his favorite tales, clearly (he tells it twice), involves this very watering hole circa 1980. "This used to be a 3.2 joint, you know," he explains, by which he means it only had a license to serve near-beer and wine. "So kids would buy their booze at the liquor store next door and smoke their dope beneath a great big tree out there." Then they'd come in to use the bathrooms and shoot pool, which vexed the owner plenty. "Wasn't long 'fore he got himself a full license."
A longstanding biker bar, the Y Knot (or Why Not, as it is occasionally listed) hosts roughnecks here and there, but Marisol says it prefers the more respectful, non-territorial Leathernecks — older ex-Marine riders and their families. The current owner bought the place a few years ago and put in a large back patio with a grill (for Friday cookouts or regulars to self-serve), a tent (for smokers in inclement weather) and horseshoe pits. He also poured sweat and new paint (orange and black, with interspersed Harley-Davidson decals) onto the walls. A circus-looking popcorn machine is usually full, and a few modest flat-screen TVs flip between games, sitcoms and music videos.
My storytelling friend drinks $1 mugs of Natural Light; another old-timer who shuffles in after 11 a.m. has water and a couple of aspirin, available in a mammoth-sized Mason jar next to the liquor bottles; I swill $3 Budweiser longnecks before Marisol turns me onto bottles of PBR and shots of Mad Dog 20/20 for $2. I choose Orange Jubilee to accompany my beer; for good measure, she slides me a heavy pour of Blue Raspberry on the house. As Marisol is stocking the full-sized freezer with clean glasses and mugs, a regular named Juan hustles in for a cold Coke poured from the gun. Before I know it, he's got four quarters in the nearest pool table and a look on his face that says "Well? Are we playing, or what?" I oblige, losing by one ball in the swiftest game of billiards ever played between two strangers. We shake hands, Juan slams the rest of his Coke, and then he's gone.
At 12:30 p.m., I finally stumble to the bus stop just outside the bar and board the #7. A Dalmatian in a pink collar occupies the seat directly in front of me. Drunk, hungry, maybe a bit out of my wits, I think:
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.