This was my first visit to the relatively new tavern, and I was meeting a friend who had never been there, either, even though she works nearby. I arrived at about 5 p.m. on a Saturday afternoon and made a quick lap around the space, with its cozy bar up front, which was packed with regulars, and a small back room that somehow miraculously contained a stage, foosball, billiards and several tables. I grabbed a table in the back, and my friend soon joined me. According to the sign plastered on the wall right above our table, the stage was going to be filled on this particular night with a band called "Billy Byrd and the Fallen Wagoneers," billed as classic country.
Two stools soon opened at the bar, which we immediately claimed, drawn by the warmth and fun radiating from the customers already there. There were couples eating fried appetizers, older guys and gals wearing Harley-Davidson gear, two ladies wearing matching Englewood Tavern hoodies, and a few more preppy-looking older guys watching March Madness. In fact, quite a few people were wearing Englewood Tavern clothing, and not just the staff. Hoodies, hats and other gear for sale behind the bar were clearly sought-out items.
Co-owner Greg Bennett chatted with us from behind the bar, and we also met Denise "Mama D" Frazier, who's in charge of the kitchen. My first drink, called the Jesse Bomb, was poured by Jesse Frazier, one of the younger family members in the ownership group. He explained that the shot is made with "vodka, peach, Red Bull and love." In addition to coming up with mixed drinks, he's also the artist who painted who painted a wall mural next to the stage in the back room. The many branches of the Bennett, Frazier and Hagan family tree were explained, though I was distracted by other conversations and shots being purchased for us by regulars, so it was all a little complicated.
Englewood stands out to me among Denver suburbs for its civic pride. As evidence, a group of young punk-rock gals who clearly knew many people in the bar started a cheer that quickly caught on and had the whole bar yelling "EngleWOOD!" The emphasis fell on the last syllable, just as Dr. Dre does it in "The Next Episode" in reference to Inglewood, California. My friend was not at all surprised by this seemingly random occurrence; she says many employees at the medical office where she works also exhibit enthusiastic pride in their community. Jesse Frazier says he loves Englewood because it has a small-town feel in the shadow of Denver, but there's still plenty to do.
The tavern's decor also gives love to Englewood history, with several black-and-white photos of local landmarks and jerseys and band uniforms from Englewood High School. There is even an old "Redskins" sign taken from the original location of Cherrelyn Elementary School, a relic from before the school wisely chose a new mascot and became the Cherrelyn Cheetahs. And an old yellow truck parked on Broadway in front of the bar, loaded with beer barrels and emblazoned with the Englewood Tavern name, doubles as the ownership's contribution to the town's annual St. Patrick's Day parade.
The Englewood Tavern is not even two years old (the anniversary is in September), but the building has housed some sort of bar since the 1950s, including Hilda's, a biker bar called the Shadow and, most recently, the Downstairs Bar & Kitchen, subject of an infamous episode of Bar Rescue. Different members of the team had different perspectives on whether or not the joint is haunted, but rumor has it that sometimes objects in the kitchen move around unexpectedly and pop off of shelves. Despite the ups and downs of the building's bar history, these days there's not much room for ghosts, with so many customers crowding into the tiny tavern.
The place is always lively, according to Bennett, with live music every weekend (and often on week nights), karaoke on Tuesdays and "Hard Rocking Jonny's Open Mic Night" (which sounds promising) every Thursday. The drinks are always cheap, but happy hour from 2 to 6 p.m. daily brings $2 domestic drafts and $3 well mixed drinks. But even past happy hour, my friend and I scored White Rascals for $4, one of the better prices I've seen on a craft beer. Our punk rock lady friends who had started the "Englewood" cheer toasted us from across the bar, raising their own glasses of White Rascal in solidarity.
We didn't hang out long enough to see the band, instead enjoying Mama D's creamy chicken salsa and green chile beef burritos, both delicious and necessary because of the multiple rounds of shots that folks kept handing us. As we left, I found myself chanting "EngleWOOD!" under my breath, wishing the suburb I grew up in was this cool.
The Englewood Tavern is located at 4386 South Broadway in Englewood and is open from 10 a.m. to 2 a.m. daily. For more information, call 303-537-7142 or visit the bar's website.