This year, I learned that there aren't a lot of bars open on the Fourth of July. But the ones that are get all the people wearing American flag pants. Some friends and I were casting around for an open place to get a drink on Independence Day and decided on Dulce Vida, at 1201 Cherokee Street in the Golden Triangle. When we pulled up, there was a Vespa scooter parked on the sidewalk outside, which made me feel like we were on a little side street somewhere in Europe. But we were in America on the most American of days.
Dulce Vida's most striking feature is a mural on the side of the building, painted by an artist known as Birdcap, who my drinking companion happens to know. The mural is pretty impressive, and was apparently commissioned by a marketing company representing Memphis tourism. (I've never been to Memphis, but now I want to go and see Elvis's Cadillacs, so I guess the ad campaign worked.)
But I am surely no art critic, and was there for the drinks. Happily, we discovered a good variety of mixed drinks, craft beers and other specialties. The bar, not surprisingly, serves tequila made by Dulce Vida, an unaffiliated company out of Austin.There's also a menu of Mexican-influenced bar food, so I ordered some nachos, which were so loaded with pork green chile and cheese that I had to ask the waitress for more chips to scoop up the copious toppings. She obliged and I devoured the rest of the plate, washing it all down with the house lager.
The place was fairly quiet when we came in; an older guy with a graying mullet sat across from us at the bar, while a few hipsters in cycling gear took up a table, a bro-esque group of young dudes that probably lived in the nearby Parkway apartments (or some other bro-friendly dwelling nearby) played pool in the side room, and a few middle-aged couples stared at their phones over drinks.
But the place continued to fill, with a white-bearded man wearing an outfit that made him look like a caricature of an American tourist, a family in for dinner, a girl who kept having her friend record her twerking moves (probably for Snapchat purposes), and a cadre of revelers decked out in red, white and blue, clearly on some sort of USA-themed pub crawl.
The decor at Dulce Vida is busy and leans toward baseball, with one wall covered in chalk art advertising Rockies games, along with a list of the many types of available mules. Behind the bar, there are so many liquor bottles on display that there's even a ladder for bartenders to get the ones on the top shelf. There's a game room beside the bar with billiards, foosball, Pacman and Bonus Hole.The covered back patio is spacious, with enough room for cornhole, but it was empty on this particular day. Inside, some of the booths are covered in canopies that add an interesting touch.
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Dulce Vida is run by Ronda and Chris Signorelli, who also own Rome's Saloon at 785 West Mississippi Avenue. Business partner Jason Tietjen (who also owns the Dive Inn on South Broadway) opened Dulce Vida in 2014 and worked on redecorating the space and creating the concept. Prior to that, the location was home to the Cherokee Grill, an old Denver institution, for 28 years. The Golden Triangle spot draws locals from the many nearby condos and apartments, as well as tourists hitting up the nearby art venues or coming over from downtown — hence the variety of bar-goers we encountered on a holiday Wednesday.
Specials like sixty-cent wing Wednesdays bring in customers looking for cheap food, and brunch is also popular, with $10 bottomless mimosas available from 9 a.m. until 3 p.m on the weekends. On weekdays Dulce Vida is open from 11 a.m. to midnight, though the bartender says that sometimes closing time varies based on business. As the bar is tucked into an oddly quiet block just beyond the city center, it's understandable that things aren't always rowdy here after dark.
But after a downtown festival, on a quiet afternoon or after a long day at the office, Dulce Vida is a pleasant enough place to pull up a barstool, grab some creative bar grub for lunch or brunch and meet an interesting assortment of Golden Triangle regulars. And maybe plan that trip to Memphis.