I was in need of a new bar suggestion, and my only friend in Denver from my home state of Maryland was in need of a place to watch a Thursday night Ravens game (she roots for the Broncos, too, so she's not so bad). The prime spot for game-watching and booze turned out to be Fiddlesticks Bar and Grill, a Lakewood staple at 10815 West Jewell Avenue, in a neighborhood called Kendrick Lake.
My friend informed me that finding a bar to watch football on Thursday nights is not as easy as on Sundays or Mondays, because the games are broadcast on the NFL Network, not ESPN or one of the major networks. Luckily, Fiddlesticks had the NFL Network coming in clear on its extensive collection of TVs throughout the bar, including the far wall lined with booths, where I found my friend. I was late for the game, but she was already there watching — remaining optimistic despite a slow start by Baltimore, while munching on fried mushrooms.
I joined her for dinner with a "chicken bacon guac wrap," which arrived quickly, along with crispy fries — the kind that have a little extra texture from some type of batter or breading. We were finished eating by the time we were joined by another friend, who ordered a "slopper," a dish involving a burger and fries covered in green chile, which I recently learned about at the Backstreet Tavern & Grill. Our friend's mission to find the best slopper in Denver is now in full swing, and the one at Fiddlesticks definitely held its own. The chile is made in-house, as are all the soups, sauces, margarita mix and seasonal rotating desserts.
We also chose several drinks from the extensive (and recently revamped) cocktail menu, many of which were only $5. I don't know what the menu was like before, but I approve of the current version. The specials for the evening were $2.50 Coors Lights and "Fiddlebomb" shots, the bar's take on a Jäger bomb, with Red Bull, peach schnapps, Crown Royal and cranberry juice. We avoided those, though, sticking with mixed drinks of the non-shot variety. Fiddlebombs and Fiddlesticks, though, are fun names for drinks and bars, along with words like "shenanigans" and "malarkey," which sound like nonsense and mean nonsense.
The Ravens were still losing, so we decided to get down to more research. Our server was new and didn't know the entire history of the bar, so she called over a veteran colleague who gave us the lowdown. Fiddlesticks opened back in 1990 and is still under the ownership of Diane Manning, who is also opening a new place with more of a restaurant vibe next month called Manning's, near the Federal Center in Lakewood.
Aside from NFL football on Thursday nights, Fiddlesticks draws customers with steak night on Fridays, fifty-cent wings and karaoke on Wednesdays, open mic night on Tuesdays, and $5 cheeseburgers all day, every day. Like most neighborhood bars, there are parties for nearly every holiday, but here the team is also planning an October bash to be called "F-yeah, America!"
The large bar lends itself to all different kinds of events, with an open layout for easy sports viewing, a sunken billiards area, and circular bars on either side. There are Big Buck Hunter and Golden Tee video games, as well as a Buzztime trivia setup on some of the smaller TV screens (in case you aren't there for sports). Out front, there's a large smoking patio, which was packed on this particular evening.
Inside was busy, too, with fantasy football teams keeping an eye on stats, families with young kids in the booths near the back, and an assortment of dudes, young and old, around the bars, two of whom were wearing the jerseys of the two opposing teams — the Ravens and the Bengals — that night. They appeared to be having a good time talking trash to each other during the game, so my friend introduced herself to the Ravens fan to help out with the smack-talking and to bond over their matching Ray Lewis jerseys. There's nothing like sports to bring random people in a bar together.
Baltimore ended up losing the game, but my dejected friend at least had a fellow fan and new friend she could share her misery with. On our way out, we noticed that the place was still packed and the parking lot still full, with cars even parked on the grass and gravel next to the lot, despite the signs proclaiming that this area was a fire lane. A ticket or a towed vehicle, it seemed, were a small price to pay for a drink with friends.
Fiddlesticks is open from 9 a.m to 2 a.m. daily. Call 303-969-0855 or visit the bar's website for more details.
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