In an age where the franchise rules supreme, sometimes you just want to go somewhere everyone knows your name. The imperfections, the grit, the grease- these are all things that make the American dive bar stand out defiantly against the sterility and blandness of the big chains. For those living in the Mile High City area, we’ve compiled a list of some of the best dives in Denver.
1. Nob Hill Inn
The Nob Hill Inn is a local dive with tons of personality. This fine establishment has been owned and operated by the Plessinger family for over forty years. Because of its history as a family business, there’s a unique touch found here which can’t be found at a larger, chain establishment. The traditions and rituals at Nob Hill have been passed on from father to son, keeping the spirit of the pub alive and intact.
While many other dives in the area have come and gone, Nob Hill Inn remains- a testament to its timeless and lasting appeal.
2. Candlelight Tavern
Sports, alcohol, bar games, and greasy food- the Candlelight Tavern has all of the hallmarks of a good dive joint.
There’s no gimmick here which makes the Candlelight Tavern stand out from other choices on this list, however it doesn’t need one. The presentation might be standard, but the execution is second to none.
3. Lakeview Lounge
When it comes to any eating establishment, dive or not, it’s all about location, location, location. As one can expect given it’s name, Lakeview Lounge occupies some pretty prime real estate overlooking nearby Sloan’s Lake.
While the interior is what you’d expect out of a dive joint, the outside patio is what sets Lakeview apart from the rest. Those who prefer outdoor seating arrangements will find Lakeview Lounge more than accommodating.
4. Don’s Club Tavern
The owners claim that famed poet Jack Kerouac probably stopped by for a drink at some point during his time in Denver. Given how long this place has been around and how well known it is to locals, even without evidence the chances of this claim being true are likely enough to warrant mention.
Those looking to visit a historic and prototypical American dive will no doubt find Don’s Club a great source of inspiration.
5. Carioca Cafe (Bar Bar)
While the sign outside says Bar Bar, technically the true name place is the Carioca Cafe. Not that it matters much, as regulars and locals will know where you’re talking about regardless the name you use.
These days the Carioca Cafe is a normal bar just like any other, but it was supposedly home to more illicit pleasures during era of Dwight Eisenhower’s presidency. It was a haven for miscreants, revolutionaries, and beatniks to gather and socialize away from the watchful eye of “the man.” This hip and edgy spirit lingers on and earns Carioca a spot on our list, even if it’s conformed to the times.
6. PS Lounge
The PS Lounge is one of the last of a dying breed. Make sure to hit up an ATM before you show up as the PS Lounge is a strictly cash only affair. In an increasingly cashless society this might turn off many trendier visitors, however they would be missing out on a very special experience. The PS Lounge isn’t just a place to get a drink, it’s a community.
The hospitality and friendliness of the staff at the PS Lounge is unmatched and will leave you feeling like a part of a family you never knew you had.
7. Skylark Lounge
The Skylark Lounge looks much the same as when it first opened it’s doors in 1943. This old-timey vintage charm continues to draw in fans of the old school rockabilly aesthetic.
Whether it’s live music or a stiff drink among friendly people, you can count on having a good time at the Skylark.
8. Sancho’s Broken Arrow
Dives are usually the haunt of choice for rockers, punks, and all other manner of thick skinned mischief makers. Sancho’s Broken Arrow however has catered to a very different, more unusual crowd- the hippie.
Having thought to have died alongside disco and bell bottom jeans, the hippie subculture merely changed with the times. Modern peace freaks will be taken with the laidback atmosphere found at Sancho’s.
9. Lion’s Lair
You’ll know you’ve found the Lion’s Lair when you see it. Its beautiful and unorthodox facade stands out even during the day, leaving a very loud mark on the local geography. The inside retains just as much personality as the outside, with a cramped but cozy layout perfect for socializing and listening to live music.
Home to many original rock and punk performances over the years, the Lion’s Lair has been an important concert spot in the local music scene.
10. Hangar Bar
Perhaps one of the oldest locations on this list, the Hangar Bar sports a unique aeronautical theme, including a metal airplane sculpture comprised entirely of beer cans hanging over the bar.
The bar’s solid and consistent theme lends it a unique and memorable atmosphere that is sure to leave a lasting impression.