On another venture into the suburbs of metro Denver, I checked out Sideways Sports Lounge in Arvada with a friend who lives pretty close to the bar, which is at 9134 West 88th Avenue, in a nondescript strip mall next to a liquor store and "Dog Spa" (so next time my dog needs to go to the spa, I know where to go). The bar itself is on a plain-looking corner of the shopping center, but the outdoor patio that takes over a chunk of the parking lot draws attention to the fact that there is a bar inside.
It was Sunday, and the crowd included a varied mix of people. A herd of bros who were clearly on some sort of recreational sports team were having lunch in their uniforms on the patio with their dogs; a smattering of younger-looking couples ate and chatted at the tables inside and clung to some small sections of the patio not taken up by the bros; some middle-aged guys in golf shirts and cargo shorts talked over beers at the high-top tables next to us; and a large contingent of older dudes, many with ponytails and T-shirts with the sleeves cut off, were seated along the bar watching the NASCAR race on the plentiful TV screens inside.
Service was efficient, and our server quickly introduced us to one of the new owners, Jonathan Malone-McGrew, who was extremely friendly and told us all about the place. He and his mother, Pat McGrew, bought the bar in January from the previous owners, who opened it in 2011. Prior to becoming Sideways, the location was Hoke's BBQ; the building was originally opened in the 1990s as an Italian deli and market. Jonathan pointed out that the garage door, which now opens onto the patio, was used for deliveries during that incarnation of the building. I appreciate the fact that the garage door was actually original to the building and not just something put in to follow the trend of every other bar in the metro area.
When the family bought the bar, they decided to keep things pretty much the same, with a few minor upgrades. The staff and kitchen have remained largely unchanged, except for the addition of a few menu items such as soft pretzels and fried pickles, and a weekend breakfast menu. The place has also stepped up its game around advertising: Malone-McGrew came from the marketing and PR world, and his mom owned a few restaurants in Texas before moving here several years ago.
Pat McGrew, a motherly sort of woman, also came over to talk to us about how she has been making some changes to make the kitchen more efficient and getting some new equipment. She told us that she appreciates the warm welcome she and Jonathan have gotten from bar-goers; many of the recent changes they made to the bar were the result of suggestions from regular customers. I'm not sure whose idea it was, but they also just got the new 2017 edition of the Golden Tee video golf game, which reportedly draws lots of Golden Tee enthusiasts. To round things out in terms of entertainment, the bar also features a Buzztime video trivia system and a Metallica-themed pinball machine, just because.
In terms of events and specials, McGrew and Malone-McGrew go by the philosophy that every hour is happy hour and keep drinks cheap in general, offering beer or liquor specials all the time, not just during certain hours. For the summer, the staff is planning a tiki night, and during football and NASCAR season, fantasy leagues meet at the bar. This is the first time I have ever heard of a fantasy NASCAR league, but I guess there are fantasy leagues for pretty much every sport. And, of course, the crowds are big at Sideways for watching Broncos football games. The one exception to the "every hour is happy hour" rule is that there are extra-cheap deals on drafts — $2.50 for Budweiser and $2 for Busch — during NASCAR races.
After learning about the bar, my friend and I caught up over a couple draft beers from a mixture of craft and cheap domestic taps, and a chicken sandwich for me. The sandwich was well-seasoned, and I got a side of sweet-potato fries that were a highlight for their texture — crispy in all the right ways. The almost-full little joint was clean and sunny and pleasant, everyone seemed to co-exist peacefully in their little groups, and we had a good time talking about life. It seemed like the sort of place where you could stay for a long while. Alas, my friend and I had things to attend to and couldn't hang out forever, so we pried ourselves out of our chairs and headed home. But whether you're looking for brunch on the patio, a few games of Golden Tee, or some beers under $3 to sip while watching a NASCAR race, Sideways Sports Lounge is a surprisingly nice spot to linger for a bit.
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