I've been meaning to stop back into the Abbey Tavern for a while — and not just because it's super-near my house and a good place to hit up when it snows a lot and I don't feel like driving anywhere. If we're being honest, though, laziness and the desire to walk, bike or otherwise convey yourself quickly and easily to your nearest drinking spot is really what puts the "neighborhood" in a neighborhood bar. That, and perhaps not having to try too hard to impress your neighbors with your outfit or how cool you are. When I grabbed a drink with my roommate at the Abbey on a recent Tuesday night, owner Glen Eastwood and I discussed our personal preferences for comfortable bars that don't require mustache wax or a lot of Internet research to figure out the ingredients listed on the cocktail menu. Given his fondness for casual and friendly neighborhood bars, it's no surprise that Eastwood's own establishment is just that way.
A veteran of the Denver Irish bar scene, having run local spots such as Casey's in Stapleton and the now-closed Fadó downtown, Eastwood jumped at a chance to finally open his own place at 5151 East Colfax, just on the Park Hill side of the Park Hill/Mayfair neighborhood border. The building used to be a flower shop, and a Mountain Bell telephone company building before that, but everyone thinks it used to be a Taco Bell, perhaps because of the arched windows on the front of the bar. But the building does sit next door to a former Taco Bell — now Nuggs Ice Cream — and just a couple blocks from an existing Taco Bell. Anyway, that's enough about Taco Bell history.
Eastwood modeled his bar after the Abbey Tavern in his native Dublin; the bar's logo pays homage to the historic Saint Mary's Abbey, for which the Dublin pub is named. From the wood bar with a harp on top to the soccer jerseys and pictures of Ireland on the walls, the theme is well executed, but not so full of themed kitsch as to be overwhelming.
When I dropped in on this particular night with my roommate, the place was dotted with couples eating dinner or having drinks at the bar, and the friendly bartender, also from Ireland, was quick to chat with us and introduce us to Eastwood. We were also befriended by a regular at the bar who told us he was trying to retire for the second time; at the moment, he was waiting for his wife to get out of bell choir at their church a few blocks away. He also showed us what I would guess to be one of his favorite jokes, a novelty book called "Why Trump Deserves Trust, Respect and Admiration" that's full of blank pages. His straight-faced delivery was amazing: He told us that he was a Republican and that we should just give the book a chance and look at the "Title of Chapter 4." We totally fell for it. After cracking up about that, we talked for a while about other things until our new friend's watch alarm told him that bell choir practice was getting out and he had to go meet his wife.
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We hung around for a while, taking advantage of happy-hour drink deals, which included $4 wells, wines and draft beers from 4 to 7 p.m. After 7 p.m., the deal switched to $1 Taco Tuesday until 10, so my roommate got in on some cheap tacos. Many of the rest of the specials cater to my ’hood, which I call an "old people and families neighborhood," despite not really falling into that category myself. Things like kids-eat-free on Mondays, Geeks Who Drink Trivia on Wednesdays, and Build Your Own Burger on Thursdays are popular with a bar that's most often filled with older couples and children. Eastwood says he's adjusted his kitchen offerings to fit the neighborhood; he realized that there was pretty much no late-night crowd, just a dinnertime and lunchtime crowd, so he went with that and developed a menu that includes Irish fare, American bar classics and a kids' menu. He also created the most family-friendly version of St. Patrick's Day I have ever heard of in a bar, with a parking-lot party where some of the main attractions are a moon bounce and face painting for the little ones.
Other big draws at the bar are NFL football and European football — or soccer, to my fellow Americans. People come from far and wide to join other Liverpool soccer fans watching the games, and Eastwood and company open up to let the crowd in, even when the matches are on at 4 in the morning, like the one coming up this Sunday. So the bar is definitely gearing up for football of all kinds and will be cooking breakfast in the middle of the night to go along with international matches. Also coming up will be festivities related to the bar's four-year anniversary, which falls on a Saturday this year, November 18.
Despite my busy schedule of journeying to all corners of our lovely city to scope out the neighborhood bars that bring it to life, I can't forget to give props to my very own neighborhood bars in my very own old-people-and-families neighborhood. So here's to bars like the Abbey Tavern, where you can enjoy a beer and some food on the cheap with your neighbors and not worry about people judging your choice of hairstyle or feeling compelled to pretend you know what fernet is and whether or not you want it in your cocktail.