It seems as though I'm not the only fella out there sick of the dearth of good Irish bars in this town. Though my piece about the Celtic Tavern and the following column about how to open a proper Irish bar have only been out in the world for a day, the responses have started to roll in. And apparently, I touched a nerve because the general consensus has been that, yeah -- Denver is miserably short on decent boozers catering to the geographically misplaced Mick.
I did get one letter in defense of another spot in town, the Irish Rover at 54 South Broadway, from Diamond Dave. He wrote:
"Great list of rules for an Irish Bar. Being from Wales (a Welshman is an Irishman who can swim, as we say), I love Irish bars, but there is only one good one in Denver, The Irish Rover. Yes, its in a 'hot' area, and it serves 'food' (I go to bars to drink for fuck's sake) [but] otherwise it has all the other attributes, and Alan, the owner, is often forcing folks he knows to 'have a drink with him or leave'.
Worst Irish bars (please go there and lambast them): Lansdowne Arms in Highlands Ranch (over 6 bucks for a Guinness, badly poured at that) or Maloney's on Market (shoot me if you ever see me in that oversized Bennigans). Love your columns, dont always agree but Christ you were SO right about Osteria Marco."
Now me? I've never been to the Rover. But you can be damn sure I'll be checking it out soon. Also, I owe Diamond Dave a pint for hipping me to it, so there you go.
Oddly, Dave's shout-out to Osteria Marco wasn't the only kudo for a Frank Bonanno restaurant that slipped into the responses.
I also got a lovely, quick history from Maureen -- an Irish-Italian girl from Upstate -- who wrote about growing up back east and her time in Denver. It read, in part:
"I am an Irish-Italian from Syracuse, NY -- tons of both in that city. Oh! I'm also 69 yrs...been here 40yrs, and for all of those, I have longed for good pizza and a good Irish bar. Now that Marco's is here, I can stop complaining about the pizza, but the fried fish has always been a disappointment. When I go to Syracuse to visit, I always have fried fish. Yum. I agree with all you said, except for the food part of the Irish bar.
In Syracuse, we have had one named Coleman's for at least 60 years, owned by
the Colemans, in Tipperary Hill, where all the Irish still live.
My 93 yr old mother still loves to go there to eat and enjoy the
atmosphere, exactly as you describe...Denver must have tried hard to hide the immigrants because even when I came here, there was a small lrish contingent around St. Philomenia's church, 13th and Detroit area. But you'd never know it... The Italians did a better job of showing off their heritage, even though I thought the food was lousy. But I come from a Southern Italian cooking-like-crazy family...I love Luca.
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I must have a lot of time on my hands to be writing this dissertation of my life, but I enjoy your column. Keep us posted on the Fish, or open [a bar of your own]. Sheehan's, it has an Irish lilt to it."
I promised Maureen an invite if I ever go mad enough to try and open a bar of my own but, in the meantime, I am still looking for suggestions and commiseration from Denver's Hibernian contingent. If you know of a place that does the pub tradition proud, I'd love to hear about it. And if you just want to use this opportunity to vent a little spleen about how things here just ain't like they used to be back wherever, then that's cool, too.
I've gotten a few comments from folks making suggestions for good Irish grub in the kitchen (lots of calls for chips, more for crisps --Tayto's in particular -- and a bit more of my own begging for a joint to make a decent bowl of champ and some boxty just for me), more complaining about the shit pours on pints in this town, more still reminiscing about bars they knew back when they were younger and elsewhere...
So who knows? Maybe if we raise enough of a bother, someone wiser and richer than me will get it in their heads that Denver truly is in need of a proper Irish-American boozer and make all of our dreams come true. -- Jason Sheehan