Where in the World? Denver

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Things to do in Denver? Reviews from Jessica Rubino – a Colorado-based freelance writer who covers lifestyle and wellness.


       Because Denver’s East Colfax has undergone a makeover reminiscent of West Hollywood and the Bowery, it’s not surprising that trendy bars popped up as fast as Brangelina spawns. But owners aren’t sacrificing old for new. In 2006, former concert promoter Jesse Morreale resurrected the Rockbar, where Retro light fixtures are ornate like antique jewelry box adornments—sorry Rockbar, I know you’re much more hardcore than that. Bask in their dim lighting while sitting at an ACDC memorabilia clad booth. Then play a rollicking game of Ms. Pac-Man while noshing on a corn dog (something I can’t fully endorse with a clear conscience). I favor nights featuring purposely outdated music, though fast moving bartenders and cheap drinks ensure that here and now you’ll feel right at home.


       Nestled in the East Highlands, which embraces an easy, breezy, laid-back bar scene, is a product of Metro bar big shot, the Big Red F Restaurant Group. Ignore that you’re indulging in a delightfully sweet libation nearly adjacent to North Denver’s historic Olinger Mortuary and you’ll feel totally at ease at Lola, a spacious Mexican-coast influenced bar and bistro. It has a large upstairs dining area, downstairs tailored for private parties and inside/outside bar providing prime no-strings-attached, no-conversation-necessary scoping opportunity. And the mojitos are excellent. Lola fits right in with Big Red’s All Star Brigade of Jax, the West End, Zolo and Centro, as it seamlessly combines an amicable bar scene with refreshing exotic drinks and a pleasing seasonal menu.


       Aside from fresh, creative food and a fun, modern atmosphere, Hapa offers a savvy alternative to the 3-to-5 happy hours that can be as convenient to catch as a standby red eye to JFK. Hapa, translated in Hawaiian to portion or part, gives you the most hapa for your buck on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights from 10 p.m. to midnight. The happy hour menu features two for $6.50 rolls and $3.50 flasks of sake and sake cocktails like the Mango Gin Ginger. You can still order non-happy hour signatures late night too. Try the #9, a shrimp tempura, crab and salmon roll, or the Taro Poke, Hawaiian tuna chopped into small pieces and piled over a taro cake, served with cucumber and sour cream.

       Peaks Lounge at the Hyatt Regency

       An extensive wine and champagne selection, Brie with dried plums and cheesecake for dessert mean celebration, right? Not necessarily. Don’t feel ashamed if you’re not at the Peaks Lounge for a special occasion. The stunning metropolitan view from atop the Four Diamond Hyatt hotel proves reason enough to indulge in a Mile High City night. And while the environment is unexpectedly unpretentious, the sight is still the top reason to check out Peaks.

       Le Rouge

       Le Rouge has seemingly chopped up a red carpet and used it for every aspect of its restaurant and bar—sewed it to the booths, stuck it in the glasses, draped it over the walls. In this lavish and very rouge downtown atmosphere, order from the dinner menu until 1:30 a.m., attend one of the bar’s lady nights or fashion shows and enjoy bottle service every night. But you don’t need to be rolling VIP to wet your palate. Le Rouge is complete with two full bars, a decently sized dance floor and reasonably priced martinis for all.

       Grizzly Rose

       Ask any Coloradoan about a good old country bar in Denver and they’ll probably provide you with a longwinded, sentimental Grizzly Rose anecdote. Mine recalls those big blue Xs marking my under-21 status and lack of Denver bar-scene knowledge. Maybe it’s the history we have. Maybe it’s the mechanical bull, line dancing, bottled beer, plastic cups, live country music and abundance of people who are truly named Dewey, but even after outgrowing the Xs, that rose still captures my heart.

       The Funky Buddha

       Quirky clubs, music venues and lounges make up SoCo, or South of Colfax, which is another flourishing nightlife community in Denver. The Funky Buddha has a multi-level rooftop on which body-painted go-go dancers just may be the night’s entertainment. Curious about that curious name? Well, there’s a funky, rust-colored interior and, oh yeah, a bunch of colorful Buddhas too. The place is more lounge than club, but the DJ always spins upbeat music, from house to hip hop. The inside is warm and slightly mysterious. The rooftop is fresh and airy during the summer and heated when temperatures cool down, making this SoCo hotspot fit for all seasons.

       The Kitchen (Upstairs)

       Boulder’s 2004 addition, The Kitchen, has its highs and lows. Which is actually a good thing. After eating a delicious meal emphasizing local ingredients, just head up a flight of stairs to the restaurant’s cozy lounge for an ideal bar scene. Choose from 750 wine labels and 50 beers. Windows overlook Boulder’s busy downtown and long wood tables make the place feel as social as it is relaxing. Plus, The Kitchen uses wind-power generated electricity and biodegradable products so your night on the town can be guilt-free.

       Illegal Pete’s

       Let’s face it. A night at the bars can be work. Hard work. And hard work requires fuel. Illegal Pete’s stays open through the witching hour (after last call, until about 2:30 a.m.) and specializes in big beefy burritos that also come in my favorite form: the burrito bowl. The small Colorado chain recently added locations in Park Meadows and the Denver Tech Center so you can easily seek out your own favorite when your night ends.

       The Downtown Tavern

       The best part about the Tavern Downtown is that it’s just what it sounds like: A tavern downtown. The bar inside of a historic downtown warehouse has what sports enthusiasts crave—and a few gratuitous yet thoughtful extras for everyone else. Watch games on plasma TV screens and check out the view of downtown and Coors Field from one of three rooftop decks. Most nights are reserved for some sinful pleasure like karaoke, trivia or ‘80s music. And the Tavern Hospitality Group even threw in a frozen margarita machine.

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