Before Dana Crawford got the idea of turning the 1400 block of Larimer Street into Larimer Square, the place was full of bars -- bad bars, since this was Denver's skid row. Today, Larimer Square is still full of bars, but the old denizens of the neighborhood wouldn't recognize the place -- or the rest of the street, for that matter. Larimer Square is now just the start of a twenty-block stretch of some of this town's best restaurants and best bars -- some plain, some fancy, some upscale, some definitely down and dirty. And there are more coming every day. Last week we served up Larimer's twelve best restaurants; now it's time to celebrate the fifteen best bars on Larimer.
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15) Green Russell 1422 Larimer Street The swinging pie-shop doors that act as the front for the intimate, speakeasy-inspired Green Russell open into an underground spot that mixes expertly crafted drinks. The space is sultry, filled with red-leather bar chairs and nooks with armchairs; the buzz of conversation is everywhere. This Larimer Square bar pioneered Denver's cocktail movement, and it remains on the forefront. 14) Phil's Place 3463 Larimer Street A true neighborhood dive in a city where dives are increasingly scarce, Phil's Place serves up your typical selection of domestic beers along with killer Mexican food, made in the kitchen all day long by Phil's mother, Junie, who once ran the kitchen at the Bamboo Hut. Regulars know to head in for a Broncos game, a few beers and a plate of enchiladas. 13) Infinite Monkey Theorem 3200 Larimer Street RiNo's urban winery pours the fruit of its back-alley production in the form of petite sirah and cabernet franc, as well as sparkling white and red varieties in tall-boy-esque cans. The gritty feel of the laid-back expansive tasting room is an interesting contrast with the Wine Lab's truly profound knowledge of wine and wine-making. Tours can be scheduled on the website for $25 a person. 12) Meadowlark 2701 Larimer Street The Meadowlark's secluded, treehouse-like back patio makes this one of the town's best outdoor destinations -- and its red-lit interior is one of the most intimate live-music venues in Denver. Drinks are mixed by a host of tattooed bartenders, and the work of local artists graces the wood-paneled walls. 11) The Armoury 2048 Larimer Street The Armoury, which opened its doors earlier this year in a space that has been many, many other bars before, is dubbed a "Euro pub" because of its penchant for soccer, dark beers and homey fare (like meat and cheese plates and rustic flatbread pizzas) from chef/consultant Brian Laird. When the big screens roll up after World Cup and MLS matches, a stage is revealed, boasting live DJs on the weekends and local indie, funk, soul and reggae groups. 10) Ocean Prime 1465 Larimer Street For a more elegant night of imbibing, get in the swim at Ocean Prime, which has an expansive, 100-seater bar that handcrafts upscale cocktails with an inventive twist. (There's a second bar upstairs, with a great view of Larimer Square.) The happy-hour menu offers such late-afternoon delights as Chilean sea bass and chips and kobe beef sliders, along with discounted wines by the glass and cocktails. 9) Whiskey Bar 2203 Larimer Street Whiskey Bar, as the name suggests, boasts over 200 whiskeys, including a handful of rare and special releases. The Ballpark neighborhood bar occupies what was once the Burlington Hotel, designed by Frank Edbrooke, the same man who brought the Oxford Hotel and Brown Palace to life. Now the aged-brick bar is home to hordes of after-work and pre-game crowds. 8) Ginn Mill 2041 Larimer Street This watering hole is low-key and friendly on relaxed weekdays. But on the weekends, the landscape changes: a steady stream of drinkers crowd the bar from open to close. Located on one of Denver's oldest commercial blocks, the Ginn Mill takes advantage of history, imbuing the place with a sense of nostalgia for times past, from the frontier-inspired windmill on top to the Model T truck parts inside. 7) Herb's Hideout 2057 Larimer Street Herb's is an unpretentious spot tucked away from some of the hipper up-and-comers that permeate Larimer -- and that's how the staff and patrons seem to like it. A diverse crowd, divey atmosphere, strong drinks and a host of live-music options keep throngs coming through the door any night of the week. 6) El Charrito 2100 Larimer Street El Charrito has been running off and on since 1962, but it's really gotten in gear recently, dubbing itself downtown's "five star dive bar." And a classic dive it is, with Mexican bar fare, $1 PBRs on weekdays, karaoke on the weekends, and an old-school vibe. On Sundays, the bar hosts game day and a special viewing of The Walking Dead. 5) Tamayo 1400 Larimer Street For an unbridled selection of agave-based cocktails on Larimer Street, Tamayo is boss. Thinking outside the box with its creative collection of margaritas, Tamayo blends unexpected ingredients with rooted tradition. The best place to imbibe: the rooftop patio, with its expansive views of both downtown and the mountains. And margaritas are only $5 each during the daily happy hour, from 2-7 p.m. 4) Corridor 44 1433 Larimer Street This pint-sized champagne joint is a respite for romance and relaxation. In an atmosphere lit by the glow of chandeliers and an air of elegance, Corridor 44 specializes in bubbles, offering a curated list of rotating champagne and sparkling wines. But there's also a full bar, plus a menu that ranges from shared plates (like charcuterie and oyster shooters) to caviar service. 3) Star Bar 2137 Larimer Street Star Bar was once a down-and-dirty dive. New ownership cleaned up the place, but kept its neighborhood feel. The lighting is dark, the booths inviting, and there are karaoke and skee-ball machines to keep you entertained. Even more entertaining is the ever-rotating selection of craft beers and well-mixed cocktails. 2) Matchbox 2625 Larimer Street Located on a once-sparsely populated stretch of Larimer that's gained incredible momentum in the last year, the Matchbox has gone along for the ride, as a sometimes laid-back, often raucous watering hole. Locally made beers plus a host of the regular domestic suspects keep the fun coming -- and there's an outdoor area in the back for vintage lawn games. 1) Mile High Spirits 2920 Larimer Street The clean, industrial space at Mile High Spirits keeps things eclectic with a wall of metalwork animal heads, cowhide armchairs and shag carpets. A hip crowd of locals, friends from neighboring offices, and even escapees from LoDo come here for a host of house-distilled spirits, served any way patrons like them. Our favorite is the knock-you-to-the-floor Mule. Extra points for the side yard with a host of games and picnic tables, and for the food trucks that park out front.