On another suburban adventure, I made my way to Lakewood for a drink at Teller's Taproom & Kitchen (1990 Youngfield Street) with a friend who just moved to town from my home state of Maryland. I had never been to Teller's before, because it's been a while since I had any compelling reason to go to Lakewood for anything but shopping. That's probably something a lot of people say, because Lakewood has more of a reputation for chain restaurants than interesting dining options. But Teller's seems to be classier and more creative than most of the bars and restaurants in the area. We headed over on a Wednesday night, when the joint was nearly full, and snagged a spot on what is normally the patio — covered on this particular evening because rain was threatening. After checking out the lengthy beer menu, we opted for a couple of Denver Beer Company Princess Yum Yums, because I like to say "Princess Yum Yum" and because my friend needed to learn about things like Colorado beers.
Besides, it was still happy hour, which runs from 2 to 6:30 p.m. and 10 p.m. to midnight every day at Teller's for your drinking pleasure. Discounts at those times include 75 cents off craft beers, 50 cents off domestic bottles, $1 off wines, two-for-one wells, $2 PBRs, and $2.25 Coors and Coors Light drafts. It would be hard not to find something interesting to drink in the beer department at Teller's; General Manager Chris Cunningham speaks enthusiastically about the selection of thirty drafts and ten to fifteen bottled beers that changes twice a week. Cunningham works with local brewers to get special deals and exclusive offerings of unique beers, even hosting events during the week of the Great American Beer Festival and aging barleywines in the basement.
Happy-hour food is also a steal at Teller's, with various appetizer options priced from $3 to $5. We selected three appetizers and were good for the night, particularly enjoying the fried pickles (breaded and fried spears). While chowing down on the various apps, we surveyed the scene, which I would describe as "Colorado tasteful," with maps of Colorado-y things, tan walls accented by dark wood and stainless steel, and exposed lightbulbs over the bar. It's hard to believe this location used to be a 7-Eleven, but it was before owners Joe, Steve and Matt Vostrejs and Rod Wagner bought the place and completely overhauled it. Teller's opened in 2012.
There were lots of families in the house, with toddlers wandering around the dining room and playing with a customer's rather large dog tethered outside the patio. Inside, multi-generational groups dined together. We later discovered that kids eat free on Wednesdays, thus explaining the underage turnout. Teller's is prepared for the onslaught with a good selection of board games on a shelf in the corner, some of which were being enjoyed by children and adults all around the dining room. Cunningham says that the goal at Teller's is to truly welcome the whole neighborhood, just as it is at the other bars owned by the Vostrejs brothers and Wagner: the Glenn in Northglenn and Sloan's in Edgewater. The hope is that patrons will consider the bar their comfortable "third place," with home and work being the first and second places.
Cunningham said that notion became reality during the hailstorm in early May, when golfball- and even baseball-sized hail hit Lakewood particularly hard. Despite the damage to the fabric patio cover and an injury to a staff member who got hit by a hailstone, Teller's was one of the few places in the neighborhood that had power in the immediate aftermath of the storm. Cunningham says that neighbors from the vicinity came in to eat, drink, watch TV, use the Internet, do homework with their kids, and generally relax outside of their homes while the power was out.
But the local crowd fills the bar even when electricity is available at home. This part of Lakewood, known as Applewood, is undergoing change (just like everywhere else in the metro area); since the bar opened, Cunningham has noticed that some of the older folks are moving away and young families and couples are moving in. But there are still quite a few octogenarians from a nearby retirement community that frequent Teller's and aren't afraid to mix things up (meaning conversations, not fistfights) with the younger clientele.
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Teller's makes mingling easy with activities for every taste, from Monday night Geeks Who Drink trivia to live music on Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights. Brave patrons can even take the stage themselves the last Sunday of the month, during open-mic night. Brunch is also big on Sundays, and the staff at Teller's serves a special hangover brunch on New Year's Day after an annual New Year's Eve party. The bar also stays open on holidays such as Labor Day and Memorial Day for eating, drinking and celebrating. Other special events that go on throughout the year are "dine to donate" events, with a portion of proceeds going to local schools Maple Grove, Stover and Prospect Valley. Another favored cause for the team at Teller's is animal welfare, and the bar hosts events benefiting the Foothills Animal Shelter and Pinups for Pitbulls, a charity that raises money through fun calendars of models posing with pit bulls.
As my friend and I finished the last bites of our appetizer dinner and drank the last of our beers, I reflected that Lakewood might have more to offer than just mini-malls. And now that I have a friend in the area, I might just have to go on the hunt for other hidden gems among the shopping centers there. Or maybe my friend and I will just keep going to Teller's when we want to dodge the daily storm of city life.