I am not one of the forty or fifty proud sporting "TEACHERS Make the Difference" or "Ask a Teacher!" stickers on their blouses and button-ups, trading in blue tickets for draft beers and tall cocktails, grazing around a spread of meat and cheese and veggies while carrying conference materials under their arms, leaving napkins and coasters on top of half-empty glasses so that they can cluster in droves on the sidewalk and rip butts. I am not the graying, goateed guy in a lime-green Lacoste shirt and beige Titleist hat grumbling "No fucking idea" without so much as a cursory glance from his menu when the bartender asks if he knows what he wants to eat, then flirting — "I knew that" — when he orders a Bass and the bartendress tells him that's her favorite beer. I am not the pockmarked bindle stiff wearing headphones and a backpack with a missing strap, felling a Jack on the rocks in a single swoop before paying in cash and continuing his peregrine trek down Colfax. No, I am invisible, down here at the northernmost corner of the bar, hidden behind sixteen beer taps that form a veritable wall between bar stool and bar back — anathema to consistent attention or service. But I don't mind, because the reopened Red Room (320 East Colfax Avenue) is packed, and with my happy-hour two-for-ones (two Guinness, perfect head) in each of my hands, I'm happy to sit back and relax.
I'm once again out and about, searching for a reception spot for my June 2009 wedding. Mags and I have decided that a Denver bar will be much cheaper (and significantly more our style) than some banquet-room affair where college kids in clip-on bow ties serve appetizers with names we can't pronounce and drinks with markups we can't afford. I'm mostly here to get a feel for the space, the staff and the menu. A whiteboard in the foyer advertises tonight's food special — fried chicken, mashed potatoes and steamed vegetables for $6.95 — while a folded-down chalkboard cries "All U Can Eat Spaghetti" for the same price. I covet neither. Instead, I scroll through the upgraded, deli-inspired menu and laugh to myself when the appetizer section instructs me to "choice" my favorite dipping sauce to accompany any of the twelve items. I really want to choice the Colfax (mayo, Dijon mustard, lemon juice and hot sauce) to go with an order of wings, but there's a jalapeño cream cheese Angus burger with steak fries on page two, and I promised myself a long time ago that I'd never pass one up. When I remember that I'm invisible, I cease my arm-leaning and attempt to make eye contact.
Monday Night Football plays silently on the two flat-screen TVs glowing on the red-backlit shelves of liquor behind the bar, but no one is watching. Paulo Freire's progeny are playfully complaining to the bartender because the ATM is out of cash, so I jump on my chance to be noticed, ordering the burger and asking if he'll change the closest screen to the Olympics. He says okay, but then doesn't do it. Maybe he tries and it doesn't work; maybe he forgets. Either way, I'm imperceptible today.
The Red Room
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I finally get my chance for some face time when, at one minute before 7 p.m., the bartendress tells me she's leaving and asks if I'll run my card for her. "Sure," I say, but not before wangling my way into another happy-hour two-for-one. This time I order one Guinness and one Bass.
"You can just wait until you're finished with the first one before ordering the second," she says, but I'd rather have both at the same time. "Oh, right," she replies, lightbulbs raining glass all around her. "Black and Tan. Nice."
It is nice — cold beer poured well, a juicy burger with crisp fries, a mixed crowd full of surprises. And while the space is sufficient (two floors, tons of tables) and a patio is in the works (out back in the alley, makeshift at best), I'm not sure this is the place. Who, after all, wants to feel invisible on her wedding day?
Not my fiancee.