At the end of this year's Underground Music Showcase, I found myself watching a woman roll around on the ground while singing operatically over synthesizer music in front of a small crowd at the Irish Rover, 54 South Broadway. The pub has been a regular venue for the UMS since it opened in 2005, one that never fails to host a really odd selection of bands and DJs. As I watched this woman, performing under the name Poppet, I realized that I should come back to the Rover sometime after the dust settled from the many music fans tramping in and out of the bar.
So I did. A friend and I stopped by on a recent Tuesday night, which we soon discovered was Taco Tuesday. We had missed happy hour, which runs from 3 to 7 p.m. and offers two-for-one wells, house wines and draft beers (except for the always-cheap PBR). Nearly a decade ago, some friends of mine were friends with the Geeks Who Drink quiz master, so we used to hit up Wednesday night trivia on the regular. A Magner's Irish cider or two and a seat in one of the cozy booths on the side of the bar were a weekly thing, and we actually had a pretty good trivia team that occasionally won some bar cash or other prizes.
It's nice to know that there is still trivia here on Wednesdays, and Magner's is still on draft. So I grabbed a cider, which tasted sweet and nostalgic but is no longer my drink of choice (because I am an old person now and enjoy sugary drinks far less than I used to).
We sat at the dark wooden bar in the long, narrow pub and stared at the TVs that are always showing some sort of soccer or rugby (or other sport mostly enjoyed in Europe) as we watched the crowds gather. It was a rainy night, but that didn't deter bar-goers; the place had a healthy scattering of neighborhood old-timers, many a college-aged bro, and various young professionals filling most of the bar stools and all of the booths. The large front windows were closed because of the weather, but it felt cozy inside rather than stuffy. I took in the decorations that hadn't changed much over the years: signed soccer jerseys and concert posters, paintings of Bono and the guy from the Pogues, Guinness posters, and other Irish-y things hanging on the walls. Since the only music this particular night came from the jukebox, the small corner often reserved for bands and DJs was filled in with booths and extra tables.
There was a stool next to me that was briefly occupied by a young woman from the neighborhood who told us she comes here every Taco Tuesday and gets four $1 tacos for a cheap and quick meal. As we finished our order of delicious Irish egg rolls, full of corned beef and sauerkraut and dipped in spicy mustard, we thought perhaps a dollar taco or two would be in order. Ever the taco expert, our new bar friend recommended the fish tacos over the shrimp and the pork over the chicken as she chowed down her own order. We took her word for it and were not disappointed in the least. After a span of fifteen or twenty minutes in the bar, she departed, telling us she had left her groceries in the car since she knew the food would come out quick. That is some impressive time management.
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My friend and I were in no such hurry, so we lingered a while at the bar, chatting with bartender Orin Be about what's good at the Rover these days. He particularly loves hosting "Showcase of the Mondays," an open-mic comedy showcase that is getting so popular that each comic only gets three minutes to tell jokes, despite the fact that the show starts at 8:30 p.m. and goes all night. That's a lot of comedy, and contestants compete for fame, glory and a $20 bar tab while onlookers enjoy $5.95 appetizers and $4 Jameson, Car Bombs and Breckenridge beers. It's pretty busy any night of the week, with the aforementioned trivia Wednesday and Thursday night half-price burgers rounding out the weeknight specials. Weekends are an entirely different story, with a packed house and dance party with DJ Shane on Friday and Saturday, the Rover catering to the young Baker drinking crowd that descends on the area when the work week is through.
Be says he enjoys weekdays and the faithful regulars more than the sometimes-crazy weekend crowd, which is pretty much what every bartender in this or any other up-and-coming, or already-arrived, neighborhood says. Other than your average weeks, the bar gets packed from top to bottom for St. Patrick's Day, of course, and the UMS. Despite appearing small at first glance, the Irish Rover has a patio at the back of the long and skinny main room, and also an upstairs bar and rooftop patio, added in 2012 to satisfy Denver's love of outdoor drinking. There's also another downstairs bar area and a room called the Limerick Room, which is often rented out for private parties but also opened up for overflow during big events.
The Irish Rover has been giving the people of Baker what they want since before people even really referred to the neighborhood as Baker. Named after an Irish folk song about an ill-fated ship packed full of cargo and colorful characters, the Rover is definitely filled with a host of Denver characters — but unlike its namesake, the bar doesn't seem to have any rocks or other dangers in its path, just smooth sailing ahead.