Cafe Society

Ten Denver bars every man should drink in before he croaks

In case you missed it, Esquire magazine just released its globe-groping list of the "15 Bars Every Many Should Drink In Before He Dies." Much to our disappointment, there's not a single Colorado watering hole on the roster, which does, however, ballyhoo bars in San Francisco, Los Angeles, New York, Paris, Tokyo and, uh, Missoula, Montana, home to Charlie B's, which the magazine calls "the best bar in one of America's best bar towns."

But Denver's got its own swell of awesome manly bars -- bars with beautiful women, stiff pours, killer beer lists, sports shrines and pretty much anything else a man could want, at least from this woman's perspective. So herewith, my ten favorite bars a man should get swacked in before he's just another column inch in the obituaries.

Candlelight Tavern, 383 South Pearl Street

Once a seedy, smoky biker bar where rides (and ride-throughs) were welcome inside, the fifty-year-old Candlelight Tavern now rocks higher-watt light bulbs, stocks higher-shelf booze and attracts a higher-profile clientele -- if you can call the swarms of University of Denver kids and alum who flood the two-room neighborhood bar on weekends "higher profile" than bikers. Tournaments (foosball, darts, rock-paper-scissors) and special events (don't miss the Bar Olympics in October) abound. But if you like it quiet, visit before happy hour ends at 6:30 p.m. on weekdays (well before the door guy shows up to reject fake IDs and enforce fire code), when you can enjoy a $2 PBR and $3 burger in peace.

Lancer Lounge, 233 East Seventh Avenue

Where else but the Lancer Lounge could get away with having the Dirty Dancing soundtrack blaring -- unironically -- over the din of grizzled drinkers circling round the bar and pool balls knocking heads in the next room? This classic dive sticks out like the best kind of sore thumb, with a vibe not unlike an amusement park funhouse. You can actually score fake tattoos and stickers from machines near the front door. As for when to go, you'd be hard-pressed (or a chump) to show up when it's not happy hour: The Lancer's got three a day, including a classic drown hour. All together now: "I've...had...the time of my life..."

Elway's Cherry Creek,, 2500 East First Avenue

The Cherry Creek Elway's is a bastion of big spenders, big deals and big steaks. While the hormone-charged bar is a meat market for pin-up cougars with head-turning cleavage and the young, moneyed cads who want to take them home, and the dining room is a swell of starched shirts, pressed pants, high heels and more cleavage, the real showpieces here are the wet-aged, primal cuts of Prime beef. They're judiciously seasoned, grilled to your exact specifications and percolating with juices, the very essence of medieval decadence. And if that weren't enough, the bar also brandishes football memorabilia from the namesake quarterback, who's still Denver's biggest celebrity.

Skylark Lounge, 140 South Broadway

Regulars at the Skylark Lounge know what a difference a couple of blocks can make: not much. The stalwart watering hole moved in 2003 from its sixty-year home at 58 South Broadway to roomier digs at 140 South, but the revered smoky atmosphere was carefully transferred, along with the pinups and classic Western and sci-fi movie posters that still hang over maroon booths. In fact, there's just more of everything we loved from the old place: more live bands, more parking, and more swaying room -- whether in time with the music or as a result of those generous 'Lark libations. Just don't ask to see the martini specials: The Skylark is for drinkers and dancers, not trendy scenesters. We'll drink to that.

Tilted Kilt, 1201 16th Street

When you're surrounded by girls dressed in belted tartan mini-kilts that barely cover their buttocks, matching bras swathing bouncing breasts and schoolgirl knee socks, there's only one thing to do: Pray that you won't have a heart attack before skulking home to the bed you share with the beautiful girl you married. Incidentally, there's more to the Kilt than just bodacious babes with boobs: a million TVs, for example, most of them tuned to sports events ... with cheerleaders.

The British Bulldog, 2052 Stout Street

The Bulldog's space actually looks and feels like a bar -- not an art gallery, not a nightclub, not a place that could vanish tomorrow and reappear the next day as a toy store or a hair salon without anyone noticing. It's a double-barreled shotgun of a room with the long oak on one side and rickety, high-backed wooden booths (painted back when it was the Punch Bowl by a regular for liquor money, according to legend) on the other that are devilishly uncomfortable until you get a couple of drinks in you, and then they become miraculously snug and comfy. Out front, there's a covered patio just big enough for six smokers to stand without bumping elbows. And from the kitchen come a variety of simple pub dishes, livened up here and there with hints of Indian and Pakistani cuisine.

Cruise Room, 1600 17th Street

The Cruise Room is the very definition of a classic. This cocktail lounge in the historic Oxford Hotel opened the day after Prohibition ended -- and it's been this town's most liquid asset ever since. Modeled after a bar on the Queen Mary, the narrow, neon-lit room boasts original art-deco decor, bas relief depicting toasts from around the world (Hitler was erased in World War II), uneven marble floors, a great jukebox and rarely an open seat at either the bar or one of the cozy booths. But you won't mind standing, because that just gives you a better view of the bartenders as they mix up classic cocktails, everything from martinis served with their own shakers to greyhounds made from fresh-squeezed grapefruit. All aboard! Herb's, 2057 Larimer Street Once described by Stuff magazine as "a dive bar where hot women actually go," Herb's hosts live jazz, blues and R&B bands some nights, as well as DJs on others, in a wonderfully unpretentious vintage setting. The drinks are strong, the bartenders are friendly, and the music is more for swingin' than settin'. At times overrun with twenty-somethings looking for an alternative to LoDo nightlife, the place is usually stocked with a heterogeneous mix of the hip and unhip.

Falling Rock Tap House, 1919 Blake Street

Falling Rock Tap House could be the best beer joint not just in Denver, but in the entire beer-drinking world. Every fall, folks in town for the Great American Beer Festival make a pilgrimage to this LoDo institution to partake of a few of the more than seventy beers on tap -- all craft brewed, "no contract brews or megaswill." And countless more varieties are available by the bottle, from the most obvious Colorado choices to the most obscure Austrian offerings. With expansive kitchen hours and effusive employees, Falling Rock is a great joint to fall into.

Suite Two Hundred, 1427 Larimer Street

Francois Safieddine has been in the LoDo club business for fifteen years. During that time, he's launched such hot spots as Lotus, Monarck, 5 Degrees, Mynt and, a year ago, his super-posh 24K club. But Suite Two Hundred might just be the feather in Safieddine's cap. Since it opened last year, the ultra-slick upscale club, located in the former Lucky Star space, has brought in nationally known celebrities such as Aubrey O'Day, Lady Gaga, Rock of Love's Daisy de la Hoya and Playboy Playmates to host parties that, in turn, attract many a local sports celebrity. While the club is usually packed on the weekends, its Room Service industry nights have also become the place to be on Tuesdays in LoDo. By the way, we hear it on good authority that the girls are hot -- but not hot to bed.
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Lori Midson
Contact: Lori Midson

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