On a rainy Thursday night, I hit the highway and headed to Aurora to check out my friend's neighborhood bar, Noonan's Sports Bar & Grill (13521 East Iliff Avenue), which takes up a big chunk of a large building at the Heather Ridge Golf Course, in a neighborhood that's also named Heather Ridge. The bar hosts plenty of golfers, but the clientele encompasses more than just the people making this bar their "19th hole."
The crowd was definitely mixed that night: Young and old men and women representing nearly all of Aurora's ethnic and racial diversity had selected Noonan's for no better reason than to don sports gear and glue their eyes to whatever televised events were showing on the bar's many TVs, whether the college-basketball NIT or a spring-training baseball game. A precise row of high-top tables in the main dining room lined up just right with the row of TVs above the sprawling bar; at each table sat someone intently monitoring the evening's sports.
My friend was there when I arrived, seated in a booth toward the edge of the dining room. Next to the booth was a sign proclaiming the name of the "Customer of the Month" — a distinction we later learned is given to a randomly selected regular customer; the awardee gets $50 in bar cash during his or her designated month. At the other end of the expansive bar, the tables full of people and the enclosed patio provided most of the action for the evening. According to our waitress, the half-full bar was having a slow night. Dotting the edges of the large room were various forms of entertainment such as Golden Tee, giant Jenga and billiards.
I pored over the laminated menu crammed with so many food and drink options that it took some concentration to really absorb them all. The long list of signature cocktails with puns and other cute names was more than what I was looking for, so I just selected a Dry Dock Brewing Apricot Blonde. The folks at Noonan's are clearly fans of the local Aurora brewery, as there were three Dry Dock beers on the menu (small numbers for big-city beer bars, but impressive for a suburban joint).
Daily happy hour at Noonan's is one of the longest I've seen yet, from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. every weekday and 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday. Happy hour (or happy day, as it should be called) offers many drinks specials, but on this particular night, we were interested in the deal that gets you 20 percent off nearly all appetizers from 3 to 7 p.m., which makes it more of a true happy-hour offering. The appetizer selection was as intimidating as the drinks menu, but we managed to narrow things down to a sampler that included fries, fried cheese curds, boneless wings, potstickers and bacon-wrapped jalapeño poppers, which were the highlight of the platter, offering something grilled to balance out all the fried fare.
Food has generally been an afterthought at many of my recent neighborhood bar stops (where frozen pizzas and bags of chips have not been uncommon), but Noonan's serves breakfast dishes all day, as well as Mexican entrees, burgers, salads and loaded bowls, which are bowls of tater tots smothered with everything from Buffalo chicken to green chile to eggs and gravy. My friend rates the mac and cheese, green chile and burritos stuffed with chile rellenos as favorites. For braver palates, Rocky Mountain oysters are also available. We topped off our super-healthy meal with some Irish cream cheesecake from the kitchen's selection of monthly rotating desserts.
Our waitress, a newcomer to the joint, told us what she knew about Noonan's, which proclaims itself the spot "where there's always something happening!" The statement seems accurate, given all the chalkboards announcing holiday buffets, comedy shows and events, and specials every night of the week, including karaoke, Texas Hold ’Em poker tournaments, trivia, beer pong and bingo.
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Noonan's takes care of its regulars, but also makes sure to "take care of those who take care of us," giving 20 percent drink discounts to service-industry workers as well as medical and veterinary professionals and off-duty military, police and firefighters. When on duty, these folks get 50 percent off food.
As far as the history of the bar goes, most of it is recent, because the whole complex was part of a private country club from 1973 to 2010. The current bar opened as Noonan's Tavern in 2011 as part of the Pour Kids bar group, but changed hands again in 2013 when current owner Mitchell Marina bought it and renamed it Noonan's Sports Bar & Grill. The golf course, nearby residential neighborhoods, health-care campuses and shopping centers keep a steady stream of customers coming in for food, the all-day happy hours and the many special events and celebrations. More than just a golf-course bar, Noonan's has become the 19th hole for the entire neighborhood.
Noonan's is at 13521 East Iliff Avenue in Aurora and is open from 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. Monday through Friday and 10 a.m. to 2 a.m. Saturday and Sunday. Call 720-246-0309 or visit the Noonan's Sports Bar & Grill website for more information.