The Blue Walleye

If you ask a real fisherman, he'll tell you that walleye is one of the best eating fish. It's not a particularly pretty fish, but it's the reason that God made beer, beer batter and Shore Lunch.

I've never been deep-sea fishing, but fighting a fish while you're strapped into a chair for a few hours has never struck me as a guy's day out. I'd like to try fly-fishing, but you have to learn that from a fanatic, from someone who might leave you in the mountains to punish you for scaring away the fish by breathing too loud or having a cast that hits the water like a nuclear warhead. I prefer the style of fishing I was taught by my dad and my grandpa, the Chief, back in Minnesota. You go out with a group of friends in a boat that's well-stocked with adult and pediatric beverages, then troll along with your line skipping on the bottom of a very deep lake. The fish are so far down that you won't scare them off unless you fall out of the boat (not an impossibility by the end of the day), and your line needs so little maintenance that you have plenty of time to enjoy the company and the beverages.

I've caught only one walleye in my life — we all have to be really bad at something — but that momentous day on Lake Mille Lacs with my dad and the Chief, and the subsequent eating of that glorious fish, made for a very happy memory. So I was eager to arrange an Institute trip to the Blue Walleye (2479 South Broadway), whose exterior resembles a log cabin and whose sign says something about how it's the best Midwestern bar in town. We called the Texan Representative, and he and his wife followed us down Broadway. The drive became something of an homage to the Chief, who'd always announce his arrival and departure by giving a good blast of his Olds Eighty-Eight horn that was only slightly less obnoxious than SpongeBob's alarm clock; to screw with the Texan's wife, I laid on the horn every chance I got.

I was looking forward to giving my daughter a taste of a typical Minnesota bar, but posted on the Walleye's door was a small sign announcing "No Minors Allowed." Fortunately, the bartenderess told us that since it was early and the place wasn't crowded, it was fine to bring in the family. That was very Midwestern behavior, and the similarities didn't end there. The place is a lot bigger than it looks from the outside; the bar is adorned with a large walleye and a couple racks of whitetail, and in the depths of the back are a few TVs, a table made for poker and several typical bar games. Our favorite was video bowling — the ultimate in laziness, since bowling itself requires no more labor than lifting a beer and occasionally a heavy ball. The menu features such classic greasy fare as cheese sticks and jalapeño poppers, as well as frozen pizzas. The taps include Coors Light (because its presence is apparently law for any bar in Colorado), PBR, Bud Light, Leinenkugel's Red (from one of the smaller Wisconsin brewers) and Guinness, for us Irish folk. And the specials are great: Canned beer is a buck after nine, and you can get cheaper drinks if you beat your bartender in a game of Rock, Paper, Scissors. It reminded me of how we'd try to win drinks at Wisconsin bars by playing some dice game for hours on end.

The visit was a fitting end to the Institute of Drinking Studies' hard years of research. This bar lives up to its billing as a real Midwestern spot, and I made some new memories to go along with my old ones of hanging out with my dad and the Chief. Even if you don't care about fishing, stop by the Blue Walleye. We guarantee you'll be hooked.

KEEP WESTWORD FREE... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Patrick Osborn