Best Dive Bar 2021 | Nob Hill Inn | Best of Denver® | Best Restaurants, Bars, Clubs, Music and Stores in Denver | Westword
Eric Gruneisen

If there were a love song to the Nob Hill Inn, it would be played on a steel guitar. The song would have some twang to it, and it would be sad and satisfying and honest. But last year, it was almost silenced. The Nob Hill Inn has been a drinker's paradise for more than seventy years — serving everyone from Bob Dylan to politicos who used to make deals over the phone in corner booths — but this classic, down-and-dirty watering hole on Colfax almost dried up entirely during the pandemic. Without a kitchen or passable alternative, the place closed for months while it sold pizza and to-go drinks out of the back door and regulars hosted fundraisers. "We've had hard times before," said John Plessinger, whose father bought the Nob in 1969 and put it in his name. "But nothing like this." Still, Denver's best dive bar survived, and today the Nob Hill Inn is again pouring drinks at its horseshoe-shaped bar.

Mark Antonation

You know you're getting something good when Frasca Food & Wine co-owner Bobby Stuckey opens a wine bar. Not only has Stuckey earned the highest ranking from the Court of Master Sommeliers, but he's also part owner of a winery in Italy. The restaurateur is also an audiophile, and at Sunday Vinyl, his wine bar by Union Station, you can find his love of both wine and vintage records on display. The sound system is as high-end as many of the bottles in the cellar, and there's good food to accompany both, making this a destination on its own and not merely a parking spot for customers awaiting a table at Stuckey's other project, Tavernetta, right next door.

Courtesy of Attimo

Colorado has its own vineyard and wineries, mostly on the Western Slope, but when Snooze co-founder Jon Schlegel decided to plunge into the world of wine, he looked abroad, and ended up living in Italy to learn the business. As a result, all the wines at his year-old winery in the Ballpark neighborhood start with grapes from the rolling hillsides of Italy. They're crushed there, too, before the liquid is shipped to Denver for resting, blending and aging. So when you enjoy a glass or a bottle at the winery, you're drinking Barolos, Nebbiolos, Barbarescos and other wines made according to Italian tradition and with 100 percent Italian ingredients.

Mark Antonation

Chad and Marla Yetka named their urban winery after their first precious pooch, Bigsby the golden retriever. His image can be found — with pipe, top hat and tie — on the winery's bottles, above the bar and on the sign gracing the venerable brick building facing the light rail line in RiNo. Bigsby is long gone, but you can hang out with other pups on the patios at Bigsby's Folly or just bring your own, provided your pet follows in the footsteps of that perfect gentle-dog namesake. The wines, made from California-sourced grapes, are worthy of praise, too. And with a full food menu, Bigsby's is a great destination whether you're just in for a few sips or looking for dinner, drinks and celebrations. RiNo is going to the dogs, and that's a good thing.

The Unfound Door

Ashmead's Kernel, Dabinett, Porter's Perfection and Ruby Jon. Are these racehorses getting ready for the Kentucky Derby, or canine Best of Show winners? No, they're just a few of the many apple varieties — some of which are grown and harvested in Colorado — that Talia and Daniel Haykin use to make sparkling ciders that rival wine in complexity, aroma and food-friendly balance. You can find Haykin ciders at some of Denver's finest restaurants (a testament to their quality), on liquor store shelves and at the Aurora cidery, making it easy to pair them with your own culinary creations at home.

Danielle Lirette

Whiskey doesn't get much more Colorado than Laws. The distillery works with specific farmers in the San Luis Valley and on the eastern plains to source corn, rye, wheat and barley for its lineup of spirits. Those heirloom grains give the whiskeys (all Laws makes) a distinct terroir, bolstered by years in oak barrels. Laws was the first distillery in Colorado to produce a "bottled in bond" bourbon, meeting strict criteria for ingredients, age and provenance, and the attention to detail shows in each rich and complex sip.

Most tasting rooms are little more than extensions of the distilleries themselves, but this space is a standout. The Family Jones Spirit House was the first distillery-restaurant in metro Denver, and its tasting room is actually a posh and inviting eatery. The distilling equipment towers over the bar on a mezzanine level, its shiny copper reminiscent of a church's pipe organ. Below, neat pours of the distillery's many products — some of which have never been bottled for sale outside the establishment — can be sampled alongside creative cocktails. If you fancy a bite to eat, so much the better, since the food menu is on par with the booze.

Wild Provisions Beer Project

They don't give Michelin stars for taprooms, but maybe they should. Because Wild Provisions Beer Project is certainly "worthy" of a detour, as the famous French restaurant guide suggests for its rated restaurants. An offshoot of 4 Noses Brewing, Wild Provisions, which opened in May 2020, specializes in two different styles of beer with centuries-old traditions: Belgian wild ales and Czech lagers. Both are brewed here using extremely specialized equipment, including a decoction mashing system, horizontal lagering tanks, open-topped fermenters and two coolships. The gorgeous taproom is just as well thought-out, with a wood-paneled half-circle bar and traditional side-pull, Czech-style faucet taps. Make the detour.

Courtesy of Spice Trade Brewery

Spice Trade Brewery has unusual roots: It was born inside Arvada's Yak & Yeti Restaurant, brewing beers made with herbs and spices to complement the Indian and Nepalese food. So it made sense that when the brewery opened its own distinct location in May 2020, it would push these flavors even further. The new Spice Trade, set in an airy corner spot and bursting with color and electricity, offers rotating street food and dishes from around the world, including everything from Thai wings and char siu barbecue to Moroccan tagine and butter chicken arancini. Pair them with beers like Tamarind Belgian Dubbel, Sichuan Saison and Chai Milk Stout, and you have a party in your mouth.

Factotum Brewhouse

After a one-year hiatus, Factotum Brewhouse has resurrected its Grill and Swill program, wherein you bring your own steaks, burgers, dogs or veggies and fire 'em up on one of the brewery's propane grills (which come complete with utensils). Don't want to tote your own plates or condiments? Factotum will rent you some — and serve you all the beer you need for a proper backyard patio hang. "It's just like going to the park," the brewery says, "except the beer is fresher, the picnic tables are sturdier and the bathrooms are fancier."

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