03 December 2010

Drinkin’ in LoDo

There are a lot of bars in the LoDo neighborhood of Denver, Colorado.  So many that it seemed a crime to not take advantage with my very own, private bar crawl.  Is that OK, or is it sad when it’s just a 36 year old woman and her husband who has the day off from work?  

Before we started, we took our Groupon coupon (is that how you’re supposed to say it?) to Mangiamo Pronto! at 1601 17th Street.  Meh.  My Panini was mostly bread, though my husband’s hand-tossed pizza was pretty pleasant (after adding plenty of salt).  The coffee, however, is very good here.  If I lived in the neighborhood, I can imagine developing a cappuccino problem. 

First stop after buffering our stomachs with some food was Wynkoop Brewing, just around the corner at 1634 18th Street.  I will admit that I am a fan, from afar, of Denver mayor and most likely Colorado governor-to-be John Hickenlooper.  He seems far less stupid than your average politician and even likes public transportation, so even if the beer at his brew pub was lackluster, I would be inclined to like it.  But actually, it kind of sucked.  My husband (alright, his name is Jason) asked for the most bitter IPA they had, and the bartender proudly presented him with the Mile High IPA.  It was somewhat bitter, but also had a strange, unbalanced middle note to it, almost as if the warmth of your saliva could transform it into a Hefeweizen.   That is a cool magic trick, but not what he ordered.  His second pint, the chili beer, was also disappointing.  We’re accustomed to—and very fond—of Coopersmith’s Sigda’s Chili Beer in Fort Collins, with its crisp lager-ness and spicy chili flavor.  This chili beer would be great for someone who doesn’t like spicy things, as it mostly just smells like green chili, but you know, the quality of the beer was kind of off, too.  My Cowtown Milk Stout, one of my favorites on a fall day, was not ready to be tapped—it was absolutely sweet.  So much for the Hick’s quality control…

On we went to a couple of the bars located in some of the swank hotels in the area.  I know, you’re picturing a sad crowd gathered around in a Holiday Inn bar somewhere listening to “Hotel California” on tinny speakers, but Denver’s hotels have worked the kinks out of the system.  You’d hardly know that you were in a hotel, except that you are greeted by a door man and get a glimpse of the luxurious lobby before heading in to grab your martini. 
Ship Tavern

Several blocks away is the Brown Palace (321 17th Street) with two options: Ship Tavern, set up to look like…the Titanic?  That Molly Brown almost sank on?  A little morbid, but clever, and it’s a quiet enough old-school pub/sports bar hybrid.  Then there’s the Churchill, a cigar bar with fancy booze.  Ship Tavern is cute—you can see what it looks like to the right—but I can easily find a pub at home.  What I cannot find is a martini bar that’s all dark and sexy and filled with leather furniture, and so it was to the Churchill we went.   Besides the usual wines and cocktails, be sure to browse their extensive list of vodkas, single-malt scotches, and small-batch bourbons.  The hushed voices and muted personalities of the very scientific, very exacting wait staff make you feel like a wheeler-dealer in 1930s Manhattan.
The Churchill

Cruise Room
On a recommendation from a friend, we also wanted to head back up the street to The Cruise Room, housed within the luxury boutique hotel, The Oxford (1600 17th Street) .  This bar doesn’t open until 4:30pm, so there will be no luxurious lunchtime sipping for you.  The bar is designed to look like an Art Deco bar on a cruise ship (I am not boat-obssessed, I swear), and it’s pretty charming.   I only wish they had something more comfortable to sit in than a booth—the dark lighting and narrow frame of the room seemed to call for something more intimate, like some couches where you can drunkenly make out while you wait for your drinks (just kidding).  The Cruise Room calls itself a martini bar, and sure enough, there is a two-page menu of very sweet, dessert-like martinis for those of you who don’t like the taste your booze.  They can also make a classic martini to your specifications, and again, they have an impressive collection of scotch and bourbon. 

The Corner Bar
I have read and heard so much about The Corner Office (1401 Curtis Street) that I had to take a look. Yet another martini bar, this one serves actual food, with a penchant for semi-Asian fusion in the appetizer section.  Their signature martinis and cocktails are just as sweet and childish-sounding as The Cruise Room’s (I suppose you have to do it if you have a bar), and the beer and wine selection is limited.  The look is Mad Men era, and it’s mainly a sleek place for 20-somethings to meet up after work and grab an overpriced bite and a drink.  If you’re my age, you might feel a little conspicuous, but I can still remember that my single, carefree self probably would have liked this place.  My mid-30s, more experienced drinking self wanted a better bar menu. 

All the bars were stunningly decorated, if I haven’t mentioned.  And if you’re coming from out of the city, be forewarned that you pay for the high rent and expensive interior designers.  I never would have noticed this until I spent some time living in a tiny town, but the martinis average $9 per.  I’m just sayin’.

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