To wrap up Patio of the Week, I tried to think of a patio I enjoy all year, with or without heaters or fire pits, and I came up with a surprising answer: the back patio at the Horseshoe Lounge. In fact, the Horseshoe's nondescript patio didn't flash through my mind until a friend mentioned it, and I realized how appropriate it is -- rain or shine, warm or snowy. It's the one outdoor, uncovered patio that I visit all year long.
The patio isn't much to look at: the small space is crowded with bar stools and tables along high, narrow tables and is entirely enclosed by a tall fence that keeps loud, drunk voices bouncing around. Access is through a door that looks like an emergency exit; on the way out you usually hit someone with that door.
But while it's loud and small, the tall fencing and surrounding buildings keeps it warm in the winter (no wind!) and cool in the summer (no sun!). I even found that Horseshoe's patio is a good place to bundle up and enjoy the outdoors, even during a snowstorm, which I did with friends not too long ago.
Once homely and bland, the patio was repainted and decorated a few months ago; the walls are now teal and white with nifty metal sun decorations. A mural on one wall features a sunset over the mountains, though I miss the old, more lounge-y mural of the Rat Pack.
Smoking is allowed on the patio, which as a smoker I enjoy, but the enclosed space holds in the fumes. I'm sure there's a cloud rising out of that space each evening.
And odd conversations with complete strangers are almost guaranteed. Inside the bar and lounge, everyone sits in their own space, chatting with friends, maybe mingling a little at the bar or over a pool game. But on the patio, social barriers dissipate, sometimes to the point where the skill of deflecting unwanted conversation comes in handy. There was the guy who drunkenly repeated the same Broncos "insight" on a five-minute loop, and the guy who casually hit on my friend all night who eventually just turned to our whole group and announced he just wanted someone to come home to his king size bed. And then there are the cigarette and lighter exchanges, where one-sided conversation continues, even if barely registered. The interactions are guaranteed to be great story fodder at brunch the next morning.
The eclectic crowd at the Horseshoe captures the LoDo and Uptown vibe with addition of RiNo- and Baker-type hipsters, plus the characters that live in the park across the street who come in to buy the cheapest thing on the menu.
Speaking of cheap: the Horseshoe is that. Regular prices range from $3 for draft PBR to $7 for top-shelf drinks. The food is a little pricey by dive-bar standards, but for the quality and shareability, the prices are fair: $11 to $14 for pizzas and subs. Happy hour brings better deals, including $3 for most drinks and a few cheap menu items: Chicago dogs, spinach dip and discounted pizzas. Two bucks will also buy you a shot, though you might not like it: the $2 mystery shot is always available. The bar disguises six bottles in numbered paper bags and you get your choice based on the roll of a dice. The options rotate, but are usually flavored -- like pineapple tequila and mango vodka.
Some potential bad news for Horseshoe lovers: the tater tots are gone, but they'd been replaced with fries from Jonesy's next door (which were awarded Best Fries in Westword's 2014 Best of Denver edition).
The interior of the Horseshoe has also received a recent upgrade. The ugly paisley beige and red couch is gone (it was falling apart) and has been replaced by a sturdy leather couch and chairs. The carpet, which wasn't as bad as the Rock Bar's sticky shag, is new and clean. The Horseshoe's patio still isn't much to look at, but the affordable drinks, awesome happy hour, and crazy personalities make it a surprising choice for a divey experience, outdoors or in.
Best Feature: The patio is great year-round.
Best Deal: Happy hour 3 p.m. to 7 p.m., $5 gets you a hot dog and a PBR.
For Cafe Society:
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