Ludicrous rent and breathtaking home prices have driven young creatives and professionals into the arms of Denver's suburbs. A highway away from expensive coffee and fancy-pants bistros, these folks are making their own urban communities in the style to which they've been accustomed back in the city. Little Edgewater feels like a modest extension of Denver rather than a prefab bedroom community, and that's partially due to Providence Tavern — a neighborhood hangout that attracts more than neighbors.
A sports bar with a minimum of TVs, a cheap watering hole with a Monet mural on the side — the truth of Providence is in the eye of the beholder. A handful of friends on the other side of town make a weekly pilgrimage to Providence for Tuesday-night trivia at 7 p.m., preceded by a daily happy hour running from 3 to 7 p.m. On the surface, this tavern didn't seem to offer much that couldn't be found in any other neck of the woods. So what makes it worth the trip? Besides the charm of livin' on the Edge (Providence is right across the street from the long-running Edgewater Inn), the happy hour here is exciting: $3.25 drafts of good beers like Full Sail IPA and Obsidian Stout, and $3.75 for wells and house wines, plus a menu of small bites that never cost more than $3.
It's not a happy-hour special, but Providence also offers $5 gin lemonade, a mix of tart lemonade, gin and a dash of bitters. Liquor before beer, as they always say, and later on I enjoyed cheap drafts of Obsidian and regularly priced pints of Full Sail's hyper-seasonal Fresh-Squeezed IPA ($9). Along with a short but inventive list of cocktails, Providence Tavern's food menu shows a little more innovation than the average sports bar. Wings, dips, burgers? Sure, but you might try the fig-and-prosciutto flatbread ($6) or an adovada-braised pork torta. ($9.75) Happy hour is a similar blend of high- and lowbrow, so I ordered one of everything. On the high end, there's a single crab cake ($3), topped with tomato aioli. I'm no Marylander, but this mini-cake did the trick with a nice char and flavor. And I found a good chicken taco here ($2) where I least expected it. Even though the guacamole tastes like it's right out of a plastic bag, the pulled-chicken filling has plenty of spice and a satisfying texture.
By this point, I was lost in the madness of conversation and trivia (Anybody know when The Horse Whisperer came out?), and I had drunk just enough to get pretty good at both. The following represents my best recollections of the night's events. A small loaf of pretzel bread is just $2, and although it's not as immediately impressive as some of the best happy-hour pretzels in town, it's warm, buttery and cheap. Likewise, potato skins ($1) are just good potato skins. Whaddaya want, Béarnaise on the side? The jalapeño "snake bite" ($2) is a bacon-wrapped jalapeño, but stuffed with a thick blend of hominy, cream cheese and parmesan and dabbed with sauce. This plate disappeared the fastest, a tiny torpedo of spicy delight. A friend sampled some Italian sausage from Belfiore down the street ($2), served with marinara and peppers and onions, and said that it took him back to the East Coast. High praise: You try getting a New Yorker to admit that Colorado Italian food is edible.
I'll admit that my rosy view of Providence Tavern may be due to the fact that my team won the trivia contest — yes, it was America who wrote "A Horse With No Name." But other than a truly wretched bowl of hummus ($7.95, not part of happy hour), I left Providence with a wholeness of the body and spirit. Urbanites will do well to remember our state motto: "Nothing Without Providence."
Perfect for: Tuesday trivia is always lively, thanks to the team at Infinite Mile High, and leads to some pretty fierce rivalries. The night's theme was "Horses"; no doubt other nights are just as wacky.
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Don't miss: Brunch, served on Sundays from 10:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., is where the kitchen really shows off its creativity, which is why we named it Denver's Best Brunch this year, beating out countless others hoping to be the hippest place on the block. Providence has its fundamentals down with only a few twists, and that's why it's on top.