I have been wanting to check out the Brutal Poodle
since I heard the name because, let's face it, that's an amazing name for a bar. One of the newer establishments on this stretch of South Broadway at only a year old, the Brutal Poodle is already getting to know and love its neighbors in the Overland, Platt Park and Rosedale ’hoods.
The Poodle took over a building briefly occupied by the short-lived but much-hyped bar called the Overland (I never made it in there because it was open less than a year), which was was partly owned by Denver's favorite local-musician-made-good, Nathaniel Rateliff. Coincidentally, the Brutal Poodle is also owned by some folks in a band, namely Ryan Oakes, Wes Moralez and David Yoshikawa of local metal act Son Survivor. We met Oakes on our venture into the bar, and you can tell he knows a thing or two about food and running a bar.
The theme of the bar, which can best be described as heavy metal meets friendly animals, might be intimidating for some who aren't fans of the harder types of rock and roll, but no one here seemed scared. Despite the black-and-blood-red paint job inside, large windows facing Broadway and whimsical art involving the bar's namesake dog breed keep the mood from getting too oppressive. There's also an inviting, graffiti-covered patio out back with a small stage for live music. It's fitting that the patio allows dogs (and not just poodles, I hear). Oakes tells me that once a month, the Poodle team hosts a party while artists redo the exterior graffiti. He says that he just lets them do whatever they want, because he can't afford to pay for custom murals. (Sounds about right in a town that loves graffiti art like Kanye loves Kanye.)
The mural on the patio at the Poodle changes monthly.
I stopped in on a Saturday afternoon that was fading into night. My friend and I sat inside for a bit, but upon hearing about the back patio, we stepped outside, and a couple of other friends joined us shortly thereafter. Among the customers on this particular evening were a few slightly goth-looking women who work at the salon a few doors down; a couple of older women, one of whom had a shock of dyed pink hair; and a large group of bros watching football. The sunken bar was manned by a bartender wearing a shirt that read, "No, we will not change the music"; he was pouring drinks for some younger patrons seated at the low stools. To the left of the bar, Big Buck Hunter HD and Golden Tee games sat vacant.
My friend snagged a signature cocktail, a spicy margarita called the Mastodon, named after one of many bands mentioned on the menu. But "craft cocktails" aren't really the Poodle's selling point; brews and simple mixed drinks feel like the right choice, so I selected a beer from the tap list.
We were excited about many of the creative food options, which could be described as comfort food with a little kick. One of our group was a vegan who appreciated the fact that there were some plant-based options, a rare thing in neighborhood bars, even if their ensuing order was a very bar-food meal of fries with veggie green chile. We all shared a few other dishes, including an Impossible Burger, a meatless brand that looks and tastes like meat, according to the Poodle's menu (and we all agreed that this would be great for vegetarians missing meat-like things). We also tried out the Poodle Bites appetizer, little sausage slices fried with a cornbread coating and served with sides of tasty mustard sauce and syrup. Oakes notes that the kitchen will be adding grilled cheese sandwiches, mac and cheese, queso, tater tots and fried pickles the final week of October.
Comfort food with a twist takes center stage at the Brutal Poodle. The meatless Impossible Burger lives up to the hype.
"Headbanger Karaoke," a Brutal Poodle tradition on Tuesday nights, will take a Halloween turn with a theme the staff voted on: Disney Princesses. So if you want to watch some rockers dressed as Disney princesses singing Black Sabbath, consider this your pre-Halloween spot on October 30, especially since $6 beer-and-shot combos accompany the karaoke. For an even earlier Halloween celebration, come on Saturday, October 27, for Hell Night, when there will be cash prizes for the best costumes and happy-hour prices all night.
Right now, the only other weekly event is SINners Night" every Monday, when service-industry employees get two-for-one wells and draft beers, and also occasional concert ticket giveaways.
Happy hour at the Poodle stretches from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily, with specials for every taste; $2.50 Genesee drafts, $3 domestic bottled beers, $4 house wines, $3 wells, and $1 off Guinness and Colorado craft beers.
Oakes says he'd like to extend the Brutal Poodle brand to a food-truck catering option at some point, but for now he still does occasional outside catered events, and also has deals with several local businesses where patrons of nearby salons or the Denver Glass Academy up the road can get food delivered from the Brutal Poodle kitchen.
Heavy metal and poodles may not make for the most all-inclusive of neighborhood bars, but somehow it all works, drawing an eclectic customer base with food that rises above standard bar fare, good drink deals and a service-oriented team.
The Brutal Poodle is located at 1967 South Broadway and is open daily from 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. Call 720-379-6281 or visit the Brutal Poodle website for more information.