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.
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. Two-buck 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 up your score over some Tecates, and keep the change, ya filthy animal. You'll be surprised at how little you spent.
In 2016, bar pros Corey Costello, Sudhir Kudva and Michael Reilly resurrected this long-vacant Five Points joint that was originally owned by Charles Cousins. The 715 was in its prime in the 1940s, and closed in the ’80s after becoming a run-down shell of its former glorious self. Now it’s an appropriately divey neighborhood bar that often draws a more lively crowd when there are shows at Cervantes’ across the street. The patio also doubles as a pickup window for one of the city’s best slices, at Famous Original J’s.
The Culinary Creative Group is a powerhouse in the local dining scene, and in 2021, it got into the bar game with Forget Me Not, creating a buzzy vibe in a neighborhood that’s not really known for nightlife. Ay Papi, which opened in June 2023, upped the game even more for Cherry Creek with its Latin-inspired atmosphere, rum-heavy drink list and bites like ceviche and Cuban sandwiches.
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.
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, and it’s become a late-night haven. 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. In 2024, the duo hopes to replicate the magic with a second art-fueled venture in RiNo that will be geared more toward daytime crowds.
Ashleigh Carter and Bill Eye opened this brewery in 2016. It specializes in lager beers, including three core brews: its helles, its dunkel and — perhaps the most lauded beer in Colorado — its Slow Pour Pils. But beyond Bierstadt’s propensity for making some of the best craft beers in the state, it’s also housed in an expansive space that regularly hosts large events, pop-ups, games and trivia, while also offering plenty of corners to tuck into for an intimate experience.
Everything just feels right when you visit the tasting room at this RiNo distillery. That’s because it’s focused on doing things the right way, from how it sources ingredients and crafts its spirits to its sustainability practices and commitment to giving back through a partnership with Nathaniel Rateliff’s nonprofit, the Marigold Project. Plus, the bartenders here know how to have fun with a cocktail, whether you’re sipping a gin-based concoction spiked with bouillon or a whiskey libation flavored with sweet corn.
For a decade, Northsider Luke Sandoval was a truck driver, delivering booze for a local liquor and wine distribution company and dreaming about being on the other side of the business. In 2022, he brought that vision to life with this neighborhood bar outfitted with a pour-your-own beer wall, solid pub fare, brightly colored street-art murals and a high-energy playlist stacked with ’80s and ’90s hip-hop and R&B. Boombox also hosts weekly events including karaoke and music trivia nights.
Brewability, which employs adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities to brew and serve beer, got its start in 2016 and moved into its current home three years later, adding a food menu that includes pizza and mac and cheese. The brewery's commitment to supporting its employees is impressive, and easy to admire while hanging out in a welcoming space that includes both indoor and outdoor seating as well as fun events like Tarot Thursdays.
The original Brewery Bar opened in the old Tivoli brewery and moved to its Kalamath location while Nixon was still in office (hence the II in the name). The bar is decked out with sports memorabilia and is host to a crew of regulars who gather not only for the strong pours and camaraderie, but also for the classic Den-Mex cuisine, including a spicy and tomato-heavy green chile that’s one of the best in town, especially when smothering an order of crispy chiles rellenos.
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 comes a variety of simple pub dishes, livened up here and there with hints of Indian and Pakistani cuisine.
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.
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-plus 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 second-generation owners, “the pub you’ve been practicing for” (as the motto goes) serves a long menu of England-meets-Colorado comfort food, like French onion soup, bangers and mash, and green chile-smothered mashed potatoes, as well as both innovative and traditional house-brewed beers. There’s also a Scotch list to warm the cockles of your heart.
Originally constructed in the 1940s, BurnDown's building previously held a furniture store and a year-round Christmas shop. In May 2023, the space was resurrected as a multi-purpose venue, with an expansive first-floor dining room, a second-floor lounge where a small acoustic stage is located, and a third indoor/outdoor level with a rooftop deck and a hell of a view of downtown Denver and the entire Front Range. All levels look into a showstopping three-story atrium in the center of the building, where a fire once left a gaping hole.
Bonnie Brae is a neighborhood that’s seen a lot of changes in recent years, with the loss of the Bonnie Brae Tavern and the Saucy Noodle, but 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 Pioneers 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 a Friday night steak special.
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, including one of the best no-frills burgers in town. The warm glow of the Candlelight’s vintage sign still illuminates the way to one of Denver’s oldest and best bars.
It’s dirty and grimy and sometimes feels a little dangerous, but that’s all part of the grungy charm of this cash-only dive. Known as Bar Bar thanks to the triangular neon sign outside, the downtown holdout nearly went under when it had to put a pause on live music because of licensing issues in 2022, but now the bands are back — along with the late-night crowds that include an assortment of regulars, artists, hipsters, transients and rockers. The drinks are stiff, the bathrooms awful and the atmosphere beyond compare.