Argyll might have saddled itself with the horrible label "gastropub," but by any name, Robert Thompson's new place is a pretty sweet bar, with seriously great food.
But while the menu at Argyll, which I review here, is more ambitious than what you find in most pubs, there are many other spots in town where you can grab a drink and a decent dinner.
The top ten non- gastropubs with good grub follow:
British Bulldog 2052 Stout St., 303-295-7974. 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.
Cherry Cricket 2641 E. 2nd Ave., 303-322-7666. Chefs love the Cricket. Softball teams, musicians, Creekers, night creatures and neighbors all love the Cricket. Why? Because the Cherry Cricket is a classic burgers-and-beer kind of joint where the company is good, the coolers stocked and the burgers among the best in town. Great patio, too.
Govnr's Park 672 Logan St., 303-831-8605. If you've ever had fantasies of throwing away everything you've got and moving to some small town in the middle of nowhere, Govnr's Park is just what you'd want the one bar in that town to be. It's the kind of place where, if you're having some problem (be it psychological, marital, political or just a broken-down motorcycle), odds are pretty good there's an expert in the house, the kind of place that will celebrate the presidential inauguration with as much enthusiasm as the football playoffs -- complete with drink specials, extended hours and dirt-cheap grub ranging from burgers to Tater Tots to Mexican fare to slightly more substantial and upscale grub from the grill.
Katie Mullen's 1550 Court Pl., 303-573-0336. For years, Denver has been aching for a real, serious Irish pub. With Katie Mullen's, it didn't just get one, it got four -- thanks to this huge space inside the newly refurbished Sheraton and clever architecture that allowed the endeavor to sprout four differently styled bars covering a good swath of Hibernian drinking history. It also opened with a custom tap system guaranteeing you the best possible pint of Guinness in the city, and a kitchen fitted out for serving three meals a day of honest-to-jaysus Irish cuisine -- everything from fish and chips to bangers and mash to boxty, shepherd's pie and Jameson whiskey.
Mezcal 3230 E. Colfax Ave., 303-322-5219. There's magic in Mezcal's off-hours, when it's just a quiet little neighborhood spot for simple, traditional Tijuana street food in a comfy-funky atmosphere. Friday night? That's different. That's when the kids come -- backflow from the Bluebird Theater and shock troops of the local hipsterati in their weekend best -- and crowd the bar. Mezcal's kitchen keeps going until 1 a.m., and after 10 p.m. it bangs out tacos at a dollar a pop in a kind of reverse happy hour that keeps the area jumping ´til long after most decent folk have gone to bed.
My Brother's Bar 2376 15th St., 303-455-9991. Yes, My Brother's Bar has a fascinating history: oldest still-operating bar in Denver, Neal Cassady hang-out, yadda yadda, etc. Yes, in its current incarnation it's a beloved and anachronistic neighborhood institution that plays classical music, caters to a demographically mixed crowd of crusty old-timers, serious drinkers, families, artists and transplants, and from its stubby galley kitchen offers a strange diner-slash-taproom-cum-lunchwagon menu. But when a burger is this good - and the kitchen cooks 'em up until 1 a.m. - you just don't need anything more.
Sketch 101 Broadway, 303-484-9305. Sketch is an exercise in simplicity. There is no kitchen here, no real menu. But there is a sleek, comfortable dining room; a nice wine, liquor and beer selection (with bartenders who actually know a little something about the booze they're pushing); a good downtown vibe; and a short, tight menu of cured meats, cheese and high-grade bar snacks. Making an entire meal of this stuff can get expensive fast, but for a quick appetizer before the main course or an after-dinner stop for a last glass and a final nibble, Sketch is ideal.
Royal Hilltop 18581 E. Hampden Ave., Aurora, 303-690-7738. Owners James and Tina Pachorek did something brilliant when they opened this small, family-oriented British-style pub in the far reaches of Eastern Aurora: They created a casual, laid-back, non-threatening restaurant that people want to return to. The menu, while lacking all the glitz and style of trendier eateries, is filled with soul-satisfying pub food -- bangers and mash, shepherd's pie with stout gravy, fish fry every night of the week -- and the bar is well-stocked.
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West End Tavern 926 Pearl St., Boulder, 303-444-3535. The comfort food served at the West End Tavern is what would result if a fast-moving drunken picnic crashed headlong into a great neighborhood bar, with beach food and backyard barbecue tangling up with lawn-fete classics and powerful drinks. We're talking sautéed greens and deviled eggs, roast-pork sandwiches, roast chicken and alcoholic root-beer floats -- all served on a patio with one of the greatest views in the area, which gives the place an endless-summer feel.
Wynkoop Brewing Company 1634 18th St., 303-297-2700. In 1988, the Wynkoop Brewing Company became Denver's first brewpub. It's still a favorite hangout, and not just because Mayor John Hickenlooper first started serving the public here. Besides pouring beers brewed on the premises, the Wynkoop cooks up everything from shepherd's pie to elk medallions to black-and-tan brownies. And after your meal, you can head upstairs for pool, downstairs for comedy, or just over to the large, convivial bar for a few more rounds.