My family is Polish; my grandmother was actually born in Poland. But most of what I know about my ancestors from Poland involves eating pierogies. That's one of my favorite things about Kinga's Lounge at East Colfax Avenue and Marion Street: the delicious dumplings filled with cheese, cabbage, meat and various other tasty things. That and the random, patchwork quality of the bar space. I was in the weird basement room for a dance party once years ago, have sung karaoke in the middle of a crowded dance floor with a wireless microphone, and have also relaxed on the beautiful, semi-secret back patio that makes you forget you're on Colfax Avenue.
When I visited the bar recently with some friends, our initial purpose was just dinner. Like I said: the pierogies! But we also enjoyed some Polish and American beers. The bar was pretty calm, and the service was quick and friendly.
A little later in the evening is when the party really starts at Kinga's. A DJ wearing one of those novelty Dr. Seuss hats from the '90s in Broncos colors started playing hip-hop jams to an empty dance floor. Not to worry, though: The dance floor was soon occupied by some of my friends after they'd downed a few drinks. The patio was full on an unseasonably warm night, and the crowd of couples, small groups of twenty-something dudes and a few heavily made-up girls who looked like this was their first stop before heading to a full-on dance club all seemed to be having a good time.
Unlike some of the neighborhood bars that have changed owners over the years, Kinga's is actually owned by someone named Kinga — namely, Kinga Klek, a native of Poland who came to the U.S. eleven years ago. She opened her bar in Denver in 2007, after many years of experience in the restaurant industry in Poland and here. The mouthwatering pierogies are made by her head chef, who also hails from Poland, using Klek's grandmother's recipes.
As not only a neighborhood bar aficionado, but also an amateur ghost historian, I was pleased to find out that the building that houses Kinga's was originally the allegedly haunted Kram-Coe Mansion. Rumor has it that the mansion's first owner was a miner by the name of Kram who struck it rich in Denver's early days. He married a much younger woman, and when he started running out of money, she left him for a younger man whom she'd been seeing secretly throughout their marriage. According to the legend, Kram liquidated his assets, buried the cash, treasure-style, in the basement of the mansion — and then hanged himself. Maybe that's why the basement seems a little weird at Kinga's.
Aside from the strange vibe downstairs, there have been reports of an unexplained floating head over the balcony that faces Colfax and a friendly female ghost in the restrooms. A previous owner of the building was startled one day when his dog began barking like crazy at a door that had been bolted shut for years. The man opened the door and saw wet paw prints that looked like they came from a large dog on the carpet behind the door, but the mysterious dog was never found.
Klek backs up these Denver legends, noting that she and her customers and staff have also witnessed some strange things in the building. Glasses breaking, lights turning on and off by themselves and even the mirror in the bathroom breaking when the room was empty on New Year's Eve a few years ago. She says that in her time at Kinga's, her customers have reported seeing two different male ghosts, one female ghost and the ghost of a child. And it seems the ghost dog hasn't given up its haunting, either: Patrons have also seen the specter of a German Shepherd in the bar.
Kinga's does things big every year for Halloween, with a costume contest and pumpkin-infused vodka to go with the existing spirits in the building. There's also live music on New Year's Eve, and holiday parties at the end of the year hosted in the private rooms of the old mansion.
Other weekly features worth noting at Kinga's include a generously lengthy weekday happy hour from 4 to 7 p.m. and Saturday night karaoke. It's a unique karaoke/dance party hybrid where singers mingle with the party people on the dance floor. Which, depending on the night, can be a lot of people.
Kinga's Lounge is the go-to spot in Capitol Hill for infused vodka, ghosts, Polish food, random dance parties and murals of Warsaw. And, really, what more can you ask for this Halloween?