The past few years have been huge for Denver’s bar scene. It has been absolutely booming with trendy cocktail programs, new distilleries, and breweries opening almost every month. Plus with Williams and Graham making the Top 50 Bars in the World, and cocktails around town averaging $13, it’s easy see that a standard has been set for drinking in the Mile High City. But this week, 303 Magazine has decided to sidestep this lavish scene and reclaim our roots by exploring some of Denver’s most historic, down to earth, and beloved dive bars. Organized by neighborhood, this guide will help you to weed out the seedy dives, and discover some of the more unique and potentially less pretentious digs that Denver has to offer.
Where: 1076 Ogden St., Denver
Hours: (Monday -Thursday, 10 -2:00 a.m.) (Friday, 10-4:00 a.m.) (Saturday 8-4:00 a.m.) (Sunday 8-2:00 a.m.)
Low Down: Open since 1993 in the heart of Capitol Hill, Barracuda’s is still going strong as one of Denver’s most adored and frequented neighborhood bars. With a late night restaurant, drinking lounge, and pool tables, Barracuda’s has everything you need to party like the locals. The watering hole is scattered with dozens of regulars and friendly faces any given night, by nature the kind of bar you will leave having made a new friend. Barracuda’s is also the place to go if your wallet game is tight, offering happy hour every night from 10:oo p.m. – 12:00 a.m., where you can get a PBR or Bud Light with a well shot for $4. The staff at Barracuda’s is super laid back and friendly. They are happy to help you suppress your “drunchies” with food being served until 4:00 a.m. on Friday and Saturday. When asked what her most frequently ordered cocktail is at Barracuda’s, lovely and gracious bartender Ali Pate answered, “Beer and a shot, for sure!” Solid evidence that Barracuda’s is a dive as true as they come, slinging PBRs on the nightly and leaving pretension at the door.
Best Place to Meet a: philosophy professor/pirate/ex-con. You can call him Frank.
City Park West
The Squire Lounge
Where: 1800 E. Colfax Ave., Denver
Hours: (Monday-Friday, 4:00 p.m.- 2:00 a.m.), (Saturday – Sunday, 12:00 p.m.- 2:00 a.m.)
Low Down: The Squire was established in 1939, acting as one of Colfax’s oldest bars. Before recent renovation, this spot was truly the definition of a “dive”, with almost a nightly display of wild drunkeness, fights, and loitering homeless. In an effort to clean up its act and discourage this kind of debauchery, co-owners Sudhir Kudva and Steven Alix, also owner of X-Bar, decided it was time to remodel not only the establishment, but the scene it once attracted. With refinished bathrooms, raised ceilings, and a brand new bar, The Squire now caters to a cleaner crowd, never forgetting its trusty, long time regulars, of course. While knocking down walls to open up the bar, a charming mural of dancers that dates back to the 1930s was uncovered, reminding us that The Squire was once, and still is, a local gem. Bar manager Alex Warner, who is not a stranger to the finer side of bartending, says his favorite thing about working at The Squire is that its always fun and he feels more in touch with the community. “I get to drink Jagerbombs and I have the paramedics on speed dial.” A genuine dive bartender, indeed. With late night comedy, local music every week, and a shuffleboard, The Squire is a fool proof good time where the drinks are free-poured and the patronage is happy.
Best Place to Meet a: drunk bartender with a chain smoking habit. Be patient, you’ll get your Tito’s and Redbull in due time.
Tooey’s Off Colfax
Where: 1521 Marion St., Denver
Hours: Monday-Sunday, 2:00 p.m.- 2:00 a.m.
Low Down: Tucked away on Marion street and just entering its seventh year in business is Tooey’s Off Colfax, one of the street’s more alternative neighborhood bars. Tooey’s quickly became one of Denver’s most beloved dives, hosting weekly theme nights such as ’80s night every Tuesday, where you can expect to catch a Tears for Fears music video or two playing on the giant projector screen. Boasting a wildly extensive collection of whiskey, Tooey’s spirit list is anything but divey. With over a hundred whiskeys offered, you can enjoy the laid back, rock n’ roll vibe while also sipping on a $21 glass of Pappy Van Winkle, a whiskey rare to even the finest bars in Denver. Don’t sweat it if you’re pinching pennies, everyday from 2 p.m.- 6:00 p.m. you can catch $2 PBR tall cans, $2 off all spirits, $3 wells, and $4 craft beers. Not to mention multiple Colorado loving weekly specials, like $2 off all Colorado spirits on Thursdays. $1 will buy you a game of pool, or you can slink to the back of the bar where a collection of arcade games line the wall. Tooey’s draws a particularly diverse and eclectic crowd, though you may feel out of place if you don’t have at least one tattoo or piercing. Just kick back and crack a PBR tall can, before you know it, you’ll have a back-patch wearing, American Spirit smoking new best friend who can’t wait to slam a shot with you.
Best Place to Meet a: rockabilly tattoo artist and/or chef drinking away his sorrows with his knife kit.
Where: 414 E. 20th Ave., Denver
Hours: (Monday-Thursday 4:00 p.m.- 2:00 a.m.) (Friday 12:00 p.m.- 2:00 a.m.) (Saturday – Sunday 3:00 p.m.- 2:00 a.m.)
Low Down: Slinging drinks since 2006, the only thing divey about Horseshoe Lounge is its heavy pours and drunken regulars. Complete with glittering black walls and funky, vintage booths, the lounge portion of Horseshoe Lounge is as cozy and inviting as the incredibly bad ass staff. Though the bar is nestled between dozens of Uptown eateries, it is surprisingly off-the-beaten-path and attracts a huge amount of industry workers and locals with little tourist traffic. Easily standing out as one of Denver’s more authentic, hidden treasures, Horseshoe Lounge offers a great amount of comfort to those who frequent it, known to many as Uptown’s home away from home. The bartenders are just as colorful as the clientele, with a variety of interesting backgrounds and professions. When bartender Frank Guerra is not mixing drinks at Horseshoe, he can be found working as a Muay Thai instructor or as a freelance photographer and videographer. Buy the bartender a shot and you will undoubtedly be welcomed back with kind smiles and pleasantries next time you stop in. Daily from 3 – 7:00 p.m. you can grab $3 domestics, select drafts, wells, house wine, and “bartender’s call” spirits. Also offered during happy hour are $3 bites, with your choice of two sliders, Chicago dog, or a mini pizza. Horseshoe’s munchies are adequate and make for a perfect booze-mop, with a whole section of the menu dedicated to just tater tots. The kitchen is open late, and last call happens 15 minutes ’til, just as it should.
Best Place to Meet: sulking servers who just got off work. Fair warning, after a night of picky eaters and poor tippers, these over-worked bar-mates might already be on edge. Approach with caution (or shots).
Where: 7 South Broadway, Denver
Hours: Monday – Sunday 4:00 p.m – 2:00 a.m.
Low Down: Going strong for 12 years and counting, the Hi-Dive sits in all its dirty, punk-kid glory in the heart of South Broadway’s bar district. At the Hi-Dive, music is religion, showcasing both local and traveling live talent on a nightly basis. Founded in 2003 by New York natives, the Hi-Dive was modeled to flaunt Denver’s flourishing arts and music scene, and with great success. It is now widely known as one of our city’s most important music venues, bringing in many underground names that can’t be seen anywhere else in the city. The bar follows suit with the scene it attracts, with heavy pours, cheap drinks, and even cheaper happy hour. On the nightly from 4 – 8:00 p.m., Hi-Dive offers $1.50 PBR, $3.50 microbrews, and $2.50 wells. One of the best parts about the venue is its connection to Sputnik, a (not only) vegetarian eatery and bar located directly next to Hi-Dive. If your ear drums are buzzing and you’re too wasted to drink anymore, stumble on over to Sputnik where the kitchen runs until close (most nights).
Best Place to Meet: that one guy still rocking his Black Black vest, your typical crust punk, and/or a mean but sexy hipster runoff from Sputnik that prides himself on being “Instagram famous.”
Where: 2057 Larimer St., Denver
Hours: Monday – Sunday 7:00 p.m. – 2:00 a.m.
Low Down: Herb’s Hideout has been around for so long, it defies a straight answer on the year it opened. Having always been a music venue, Herb’s absolutely lives and breathes jazz, R&B, and funk. When local saxophonist Laura Newman reopened Herb’s, her goal was to make the venue accessible to not only renown talent, but blossoming musicians as well. Herb’s showcases one of Denver’s most well-known open jam nights, happening every Wednesday from 9:30 p.m. to close. The bar is a cherished and frequented dive, with regulars that date back decades, and rightfully so. The bar staff is seasoned and has truly seen it all, many of them also hopping on stage Wednesdays to show off their stuff. Herb’s has live music going on every night and is also in a killer central location, making it a great place to wander into for an after-dinner drink. And no need to break your bank while you’re jamming out on Wednesdays, Herb’s offers $2 Coors Light by the bottle all night. Incredibly humble, unique, and rich with history, Herb’s is a musical landmark to Denver locals, and continues to help raise some wonderfully talented local artists. Come with your game face on Wednesdays and weekends, the bar is small and gets completely packed from entrance to patio.
Best Place to Meet a: local musician with no shame in playing on stage whilst exceedingly intoxicated.