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The best thing about going to a bar is that you never know what might happen there. Sometimes you belly up and banter with the bartender, who eventually becomes a pal. Other times you overhear hilarious or harrowing tales from strangers as you swill cold pints of beer. Often, you unexpectedly run into an old friend (or enemy), or discover that the person sitting next to you is the spouse of your former college professor. Denver is still a small town, after all.

Sure, a finely crafted cocktail in a swanky atmosphere is nice, and there’s nothing better than a perfectly imperfect dive with drinks that are as strong as they are cheap. But going out to imbibe is about creating memories (even if some of them are blurry), and these are the places where we want to keep making memories for years to come. - By Molly Martin

The 100 Best Denver Bars We Can't Live Without

Palenque Cocina y Agaveria

Palenque Cocina y Agaveria
Palenque Cocina y Agaveria
Mezcal mecca Palenque originally opened in 2018 as a second location of Adelitas but took the Palenque name after former co-owners Silvia Andaya (who still runs the original on Broadway) and Brian Rossi cut ties in 2020. Two years into its new iteration, there's no better place south of the city to learn about — and sip plenty of — a well-curated selection of agave spirits and cocktails paired with eats like tacos, ceviche, mole, enchiladas and more. Bonus: the rooftop patio. ($$)
2609 W. Main St., Littleton, 80120

The 100 Best Denver Bars We Can't Live Without

The 1UP Arcade Bar - Colfax

The 1UP Arcade Bar - Colfax
Evan Semón
The 1UP has branched out to three locations in the Denver area, but it's the Colfax Avenue location that's closest to our circuit boards. Sure, the longtimers wax poetic about the days when the 1UP hosted live music — and they're right — but we dare you to find a better place for cheap suds, pinball and classic vidya games in Denver. $2 cans of beer? Check. The Simpsons arcade game and NBA Jam? Check. Pinball games spanning the 1980s to present day? Check. Put a few dollars into the quarter machine, try to reach a high score over some Tecates, and keep the change, ya filthy animal. You'll be surprised at how little you spent.
717 E. Colfax Ave., Denver, 80203

The 100 Best Denver Bars We Can't Live Without

Adrift

Adrift
Adrift/Instagram
Between the ’60s and the ’80s, Denver had a fairly vital tiki scene, thanks to Trader Vic’s and Don the Beachcomber. But this city’s tiki action was largely extinguished decades ago — until Adrift turned a 2,200-square-foot space on South Broadway into an island retreat in 2012. While the ownership has changed in the intervening years and a few other tiki spots have opened, Adrift’s dedication to Polynesian kitsch has never waned. Paying homage to the thatch-roofed hooch huts of yore, it specializes in modern and classic tiki cocktails as well as Prohibition-era tropical drinks and tasty tropical tidbits. ($$)
218 S. Broadway, Denver, 80209

The 100 Best Denver Bars We Can't Live Without

B & GC

B & GC
Courtesy B&GC
This speakeasy flies under the radar, but there’s no hiding the sexy of B&GC. Half the fun is pretending to be not quite sure where you’re going as you initiate newcomers to the dim and swanky cocktail temple in the basement of the Halcyon hotel in Cherry Creek. Go for a Sazerac, choose from a long list of craft spirits, or have your mixologist create something just for you. There’s also a small menu of snacks, but be sure to wash your hands before digging in – if only to check out the restroom’s risqué wallpaper. ($$$)
249 Columbine St., Denver, 80206

The 100 Best Denver Bars We Can't Live Without

Bannock Street Garage

Bannock Street Garage
Molly Martin
In 2004, this former Volkswagen shop was refitted as a bar with a massive garage door at the front, cement floors and a large, open patio. Since then, its divey vibes have made it a neighborhood favorite where crowds gather for First Friday. Whether you shoot a game of pool or play darts, or just settle in at the bar or a heated table out back for a bucket of Montuckys, this is the kind of low-key standby where you’ll quickly become a regular.
1015 Bannock St., Denver, 80204

The 100 Best Denver Bars We Can't Live Without

Bar 404

Bar 404
Molly Martin
The opening of Bar 404 in December 2021 is just the latest chapter in this spot’s long history. Built in 1929, it became a bar the day after Prohibition ended in 1933. In 1951, it was purchased by Jerry Feld, who ran the place for sixty years as Club 404. The building was briefly Denver Wheel Club 404, a bicycle-themed bar, then Brendan's Pub, then Rory’s Tavern until COVID hit. Now it’s back to its neighborhood watering-hole roots, with the restored classic sign beckoning  thirsty patrons on Broadway.
404 Broadway, Denver, 80203

The 100 Best Denver Bars We Can't Live Without

Bar Nun

Bar Nun
Molly Martin
The former Capitol Hill Tavern was resurrected in 2020 when Bar Nun opened in that space, with irreverent decor (think a painting of Jesus with Juggalo face paint and plenty of nun imagery) and a friendly staff that will make you feel like a regular immediately. Whether you’re pounding pickle shots on the enclosed patio or pairing a cold beer with hot wings and pizza at the bar, this spot is a casually cool addition to the neighborhood.
1225 Logan St., Denver, 80203

The 100 Best Denver Bars We Can't Live Without

Barry's on Broadway

Barry's on Broadway
Molly Martin
Housed in the space occupied by the original Skylark Lounge, Barry’s has been a divey escape on Broadway for nearly two decades, often with its namesake owner, Barry Zadikoff, manning the door. Head to the back to play a game of Skee-Ball or pool, pop into the photo booth for some keepsakes, or belly up to the bar for strong, cheap drinks and bartender banter late into the night.
58 Broadway, Denver, 80203

The 100 Best Denver Bars We Can't Live Without

Beacon

Beacon
Cynthia Griggs
In early 2022, Robert Champion and Mario Nocifera debuted a dance bar/immersive venue inspired by Tulum and Burning Man in the heart of RiNo. The space includes several hubs created by a core crew of a dozen local artists, including a beehive-themed geodesic dome, a garden-like outdoor space and a bar enveloped in vines and forestry. Order a negroni based on how you’re feeling. Inspired? Go with vodka. Fresh? Gin. Burnt out? Mezcal to the rescue. Then settle in for a transportive night of music, art and human connection.
2854 Larimer St., Denver, 80205

The 100 Best Denver Bars We Can't Live Without

Blake Street Tavern

Blake Street Tavern
Just two blocks from Coors Field, Blake Street Tavern epitomizes the sports-bar model. Head here for a meetup before a Rockies game, a marathon televised sports session or just a night of drinks over billiards, shuffleboard, Skee-Ball or Golden Tee. With tons of specials every day, this place is a bargain for afternoon or late-night revelry, and the food is far better than your standard tavern fare. However you plan your visit, mark a night at Blake Street in the win column. ($$)
2301 Blake St., Denver, 80205

The 100 Best Denver Bars We Can't Live Without

Brewery Bar II

Brewery Bar II
Molly Martin
Long before there were craft brewpubs in every neighborhood — during the Eisenhower administration, in fact — the original Brewery Bar opened in the old Tivoli brewery. It moved to its Kalamath location while Nixon was still in office (hence the II in the name). Today, if you’ve got a hankering for honest Den-Mex cuisine, you’ll be right at home among the road crews, maudlin-drunk insurance salesmen and local armchair quarterbacks who frequent Brew II, drinking Tinys and ordering some of the finest crispy chiles rellenos in town. ($)
150 Kalamath St., Denver, 80223

The 100 Best Denver Bars We Can't Live Without

The British Bulldog

The British Bulldog
The Bulldog’s dark and shadowy space actually looks and feels like an Old English pub — not a nightclub or a cocktail lounge or a fern bar or even the Punch Bowl, which once occupied this spot. It’s a double-barreled shotgun of a room with the long oak bar on one side and rickety, high-backed wooden booths on the other that are devilishly uncomfortable until you get a couple of drinks in you. Out front, there’s a covered patio just big enough for six smokers to stand without bumping elbows. From the kitchen come a variety of simple pub dishes, livened up here and there with hints of Indian and Pakistani cuisine. ($$)
2052 Stout St., Denver, 80205

The 100 Best Denver Bars We Can't Live Without

The Brutal Poodle

The Brutal Poodle
Molly Martin
How do poodles and heavy metal mesh? The unlikely combo somehow works at the Brutal Poodle, opened in early 2018 by Wes Moralez, Ryan Oakes and David “Yosh” Yoshikawa, members of Denver band Son Survivor. Beyond the goofy, dog-themed art on the walls and the (just loud enough) tracks pumping from the sound system, good food and a classic sunken bar beckon the faithful. Loaded tots, great green chile and outrageous metal-inspired specials keep bellies full, the better to soak up rounds of unpretentious drinks and Colorado beers. This poodle’s bite is as good as its bark. ($)
1967 S. Broadway, Denver, 80210

The 100 Best Denver Bars We Can't Live Without

Bull & Bush Brewery

Bull & Bush Brewery
Evan Semón
Compared to its centuries-old brethren in the United Kingdom, the Bull & Bush Brewery is just a baby, but here in the New World, fifty years is a long time to stay in business. Step inside this dark and cozy English-style pub, though, and you’ll understand its staying power. Now run by its second-generation owners, “the pub you’ve been practicing for” (as its motto goes) serves a long menu of England-meets-Colorado comfort food, like bison burgers, bangers and mash, and green chile, as well as both innovative and traditional house-brewed beers. There’s also a Scotch list to warm the cockles of your heart. ($$)
4700 Cherry Creek Drive South, Denver, 80246

The 100 Best Denver Bars We Can't Live Without

Campus Lounge

Campus Lounge
Molly Martin
Bonnie Brae is a neighborhood that’s seen a lot of changes lately, with the loss of Bonnie Brae Tavern and the Saucy Noodle, but the Campus Lounge remains — even after a number of ownership changes. It was founded by the late Jim Wiste (a retired pro hockey player and DU Pioneer alum) five decades ago, and hockey fans still gather here on game days, drinking beer and enjoying classic bar fare done right, from the smoked wings to the newly reinstated salad bar. ($$)
701 S. University Blvd., Denver, 80209

The 100 Best Denver Bars We Can't Live Without

Candlelight Tavern

Candlelight Tavern
Sarah McGill
The Candlelight Tavern is a friendly neighborhood bar, beloved by residents of all stripes in the Wash Park area. Once a seedy, smoky dive, the place has been spruced up over the years, with a notable overhaul in 2013. Consistency and simplicity are key here: You can count on no-frills, tasty pub grub, as well as solid service. The warm glow of the Candlelight’s vintage sign still illuminates the way to one of Denver’s oldest and best bars. ($)
383 S. Pearl St., Denver, 80209

The 100 Best Denver Bars We Can't Live Without

Carioca Cafe (Bar Bar)

Carioca Cafe (Bar Bar)
Molly Martin
We’ve lost many of this city’s celebrated saloons over the past few years, which makes the survival of Carioca Cafe — better known as Bar Bar, thanks to the triangular neon sign outside — something to celebrate. Perhaps with a drink or ten. For more than a century, this spot has held down the corner of Champa and 20th streets, serving an assortment of regulars, including artists, hipsters, transients and rockers. The drinks are stiff, the bathrooms awful, and the atmosphere beyond compare. Leave your credit cards at home; this place is strictly cash and carry on. ($)
2060 Champa St., Denver, 80202

The 100 Best Denver Bars We Can't Live Without

Casey Jones

Casey Jones
Molly Martin
It's the bar you didn't know you wanted — but now that it's here, you'll love it. Casey Jones, a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles-themed bar serving New York-style pizza, opened along Broadway in May 2022. The bar top is plastered with pages from the comics, TMNT pinball machines are up against the wall, and there's a large mural depicting characters from the series, including a particularly buxom April O'Neil and the bar's namesake, hockey-mask-wearing vigilante Casey Jones. While the bar and its concise drinks menu approach divey, the pizza is no afterthought, with hand-tossed dough and a strict ban on pineapples and ranch dressing. ($)
24 Broadway, Denver, 80203