Best of 2009: Frolicking

New Bar (since July 1, 2008)

Gasoline Alley (28 N. Tejon St., 636-2244, gasolinealleycs.com)

'Saddle up, boys!" the bartender shouts as I stroll through the door with some friends. I think it an odd greeting until I try to sit on a bar stool and realize that they are, indeed, saddles. So I say, "Well, thank ya, Ma'am," belly up and order a brewski. As if on cue (and I'm not making this up), the cover band onstage blasts into a rendition of Aerosmith's "Back in the Saddle Again." Heck yeah. This is Gasoline Alley, where live rock elbows its way out onto Tejon Street on the weekends, the smokin' hot bartenders are quick with the drinks, and the rooftop bar boasts a fire pit and a perfect perch for watching passersby below. — CB

Place to Meet Men
Gay Bar

Underground (110 N. Nevada Ave., 578-7771, undergroundbars.com)

For four years in a row, the Underground has won Best Gay Bar. When we added a new category this year, Best Place to Meet Men, we had no idea how the votes would turn out, but perhaps we should have expected this result. There aren't many places that offer Monday Night Football specials, karaoke, poker, and retro, goth and fetish nights. The Underground keeps the downtown scene hopping, and is a great place to celebrate after local LGBT events like Pride Fest and the Lavender Film Festival. Oh, and from what we hear, Out Loud, the Springs' men's chorus, often parties here after concerts. Sing hallelujah! — KA

Place to Meet Women

Ritz Grill (15 S. Tejon St., 635-8484, ritzgrill.com)

Martinis and women go together like, well, martinis and women. Sex and the City taught us that females have more fun when they're out in groups sampling colorful, pricey concoctions, and this is one factor that brings women to the Ritz Grill. Except that the martinis aren't even pricey: Most are discounted to $5.50 every day from 4:30 to 7:30 p.m. And "women like to come for Happy Hour," attests Ben Jackson, bar manager. Jackson and Co. make women feel comfortable and safe, while the casual yet, dare we say, ritzy, atmosphere makes them feel like they're in a place to see and be seen. — AA

Jukebox

Rocket Room (230 Pueblo Ave., 447-4990, myspace.com/therocketroom)

'Once a weekend, a girl usually straddles it," chimes a faceless voice at the end of the bar. That doesn't happen to every jukebox, but then again, the Rocket Room's music machine isn't every jukebox. Yeah, it gets loud, offers a cheap listen and sounds good. But it plays everything from John Coltrane to Suicidal Tendencies, with local bands thrown in there as well. And it eschews the flashing lights and touch-screen antics that most bars have consigned themselves to in the digital age. It may not play LPs, but really, how many record players can take a good straddling? — JK

Bartender

Dave Baumgartner (Rocket Room, 230 Pueblo Ave., 447-4990, myspace.com/therocketroom)

Dave Baumgartner's been pouring drinks at the Rocket Room since it opened almost three years ago, and has established quite the reputation. This is the second time in as many years that Baumgartner has won the Indy's Best Bartender award. What's with this guy? Rocket Room regular Gina sums it up this way: "He's the nicest guy in the world, and he's never made me a bad drink." Not only that, but when you belly up to his bar he'll shake your hand, look you in the eye, and remember your name and your drink. When you walk out the door, he'll ask you to come back. And it seems like he means it. — CB

Irish Pub

Jack Quinn Irish Alehouse & Pub 21 S. Tejon St., 385-0766, jackquinnspub.com)

Jack Quinn's is a Best Of veteran, having won this category yearly ever since the Indy introduced it in 2006. The suitably dim interior is decorated with authentic Irish paraphernalia, and the owners pride themselves on serving fresh imports. Tara Hart, business manager for Quinn's, says there's low turnover among the friendly staff. With live Irish music four times a week, a pub quiz and a wildly popular Tuesday running club — we're talking hundreds of people coming out for a 5K downtown loop, then discounted beer and free pasta — there's always something going on. — AA

Wine Bar

Rico's at Poor Richard's (322 N. Tejon St., 630-7723, poorrichards.biz)

We dare you to just drop in for a quick afternoon latte at Rico's. We dare you to pass up its cheese plate with Barbari bread; its prosciutto di Parma; its hot-roasted cashews, almonds and walnuts; and its Trio of Crème Brulée. And we dare you to ignore the wine list that accompanies these savory treats. Rico's is one-fourth of the quartet of businesses that comprise Poor Richard's on Tejon Street, and if you can stop in here without lingering, well, then, you don't deserve this casual gourmet experience. Harsh, yes, but we have strong feelings about the pairing of tapas, coffees, desserts and wines. — DA

Bang-for-Your-Buck Bar
Neighborhood Bar

Tony's Bar (311 N. Tejon St., 228-6566, tonysdowntownbar.com)

Tony's has become a Best Of favorite, and it's easy to see why. The staff is always chatting away with the customers, and even if it's your first time there, you'll be made to feel welcome. Plus, like the staff, the regulars welcome one and all. James Howard, a manager, attributes its five consecutive wins for Bang-for-your-Buck Bar and eight years for Neighborhood Bar not only to the people and the atmosphere, but also to great deals like $4.25 mini pitchers from 4 to 8 p.m. — AA

Upscale Bar
Bar for a Martini

15C (15 E. Bijou St., Suite C, 635-8303)

Any time we head downtown (sporadic now that I'm moving gracefully toward my 30s), my husband inevitably disappears for an hour or so. Usually he's just hunting for what he can't get at home: a full-bodied cigar and a decent martini. The back-alley lure of 15C, coupled with the acrid smell of cigar smoke is, apparently, an intoxicating combination. Once considered to be one of Colorado Springs' best-kept secrets, 15C these days is usually chock-full, thanks in part, no doubt, to its repeat Best Of wins (including this eighth straight win for Bar for a Martini). Creative cocktail choices like the Screaming Monkey Spanker and Catfight probably don't hurt, either. — ALL

Bar for a Margarita

The Loop (965 Manitou Ave., Manitou Springs, 685-9344, theloopatmanitou.com)

Year after year, Independent readers keep the Loop and its addictive margaritas dear to their hearts. This Manitou fixture is not just a bar, either — the Mexican food is excellent (can't resist that green chili). The place is always packed during the summer months, when tourists join the faithful regulars, but there's a second bar in the east-end addition now for the busiest nights. And there's a full-page menu of specialty margaritas, regular or grande, with such standouts as the Grand Tivo, the Black Orchid and the Blue Margarita (with DeKuyper Blue Curacao). Then again, there's never anything wrong with the regular house margarita, fixed however you want it. And no matter what your choice, it's smart to go ahead and have a grande size, since you'd otherwise order a second regular margarita anyway. — RR

Bar with a Smokin' Patio

Oscar's Tejon Street (333 S. Tejon St., 471-8070, oscarstejonstreet.com)

If this were Palm Springs, the top smokin' patio might be of the open-air variety. And we do have some nice ones. But too many afternoons and evenings here can be unpredictable, whether with sudden thunderstorms and wind in the summer or cold blasts the rest of the year. Given our circumstances, Oscar's has this category cornered. There's a bar, plenty of tables and even a stage for live music, along with wire windows that are fine in the nice weather, but with pull-down plastic covers for anything less than primo conditions. Combine all that with a chilled Bristol's Mass Transit and the catfish filet smothered in crawfish etouffée, and you're on your way to putting all worldly problems behind. — RR

Sports Bar
Beer Selection on Tap

Old Chicago (Multiple locations, oldchicago.com)

If you love sports, and beer just as much, Old Chicago is your ticket to happiness. The mostly Midwestern chain wins in the Sports Bar category for the second time, and in Beer Selection on Tap for the fifth year in a row. It's no wonder. Bartenders pour from 30 taps, six of which rotate with the calendar, giving you specials for Oktoberfest, St. Patrick's Day or Cinco de Mayo. It has a total of 110 beers available. Navigating the "world tour" wins you prizes along the way and a sweatshirt at the end, along with your name on the "Wall of Foam" plaque. So grab a beer and watch football, baseball, tennis or any number of matchups on the more than two dozen TVs in each of the restaurants. The Commerce Center Drive location alone has 34, with five brand-new flatscreens. "We are packed every Sunday," says manager Tad Madsen. "We can have 30 different sporting events going at one time." — PZ

Bar for a Specialty Mixed Cocktail
Café
Place to Chill

Shuga's (702 S. Cascade Ave., 328-1412, shugas.com)

Shuga's is one of Colorado Springs' gems. Tucked into an old Victorian just south of the downtown strip, its retro vibe and funky décor make guests feel simultaneously far away and right at home. Delicious menu items like the spicy Brazilian coconut shrimp soup offer comfort, while handcrafted cocktails bearing names like Blushing Geisha and Almond Kisses lend sophistication. Live music, a laid-back staff and Vintage Movie Saturdays help round out the top-tier attractions. — ALL

Resilient Local Business

Writer's Pick

Red Rock Liquors (3139 W. Colorado Ave., 632-1139)

In the early morning of Friday, Sept. 4, heading into one of the year's busiest weekends, Red Rock Liquors owner David Kim learned his business was on fire. Not only that, but Fire Department people at the scene were telling local TV stations the building looked to be a total loss. Luckily, the early assessment was wrong, but there was still smoke and water damage inside the store. Kim and his employees went into overdrive with the cleanup, and thanks to suppliers and much effort, reopened late that day and through the holiday weekend. It wasn't the first such traumatic experience for the business, either: In March 2008, a car drove through the front door into the store. Kim had the place open the next day then, as well. Now he just hopes bad things won't happen in threes. — RR

Brew Pub
Happy Hour
Restaurant for Tourists

Phantom Canyon Brewing Co. (2 E. Pikes Peak Ave., 635-2800, phantomcanyon.com)

This high-ceilinged and festive place has captured the Brew Pub category every year since 1997. And for the first time since '97, Phantom Canyon also makes off with the Best Of title in the Happy Hour arena. It was 12-year dry spell easily quenched by a lineup of beers brewed on-site, including Blueberry Ale, Cascade Amber Ale, Hefeweizen, Railyard or Zebulon's Peated Porter. The favorite of many Phantom patrons, though, is the Queen's Blonde Ale; pair that with a smoked gouda soup, and your family, friends and other visitors will melt. Before you go, some trivia: The Cheyenne Building that Phantom calls home is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and has a second-floor billiard hall as well as a third-floor banquet hall for private parties. — PZ

Domestic Beer

Coors (coors.com)

Well, Coors has done it again. For the second year in a row, the Banquet Beer has taken the gold in this category. And I'm proud to note that perhaps I had a small hand in making it happen. At my last "banquet," shall we say, we had a wonderful silver serving dish full of the ol' classic. And, honestly, the Golden-produced nectar was flowing left and right. I mean, this is Colorado — we have to show our allegiance somehow. — KV

Domestic Light Beer

Bud Light (budlight.com)

It's no surprise to see Bud Light win Best Domestic Light Beer because, well, it is the go-to brew for all the Indy's NASCAR-loving readers. Kidding ... but seriously, Bud Light is arguably the most heavily marketed beer on the planet, in addition to being available just about anywhere. It's the beer that most people reach for to accompany them on a pleasant hunting outing in the woods, or to carry in their packs to the top of a mountain. Both crisp and refreshing, it has a taste you can count on. — KV

Imported Beer

Guinness (guinness.com)

Guinness wins best imported beer for the third time, BRILLIANT! It must be the nitrogen the company uses to can its beer, BRILLIANT! For a dark, creamy, alcoholic beverage, it's absolutely, well, BRILLIANT! Those last few sentences probably won't make a lot of sense unless you've seen those witty Guinness commercials. But wit and commercialism aside, it's the beer to drink if you're ever feeling particularly Irish. The smooth and heavy texture will make you reach for it again and again. — KV

Local Venue for Live Music

Black Sheep (2106 E. Platte Ave., 227-7625, myspace.com/sodajerkcospgs)

The Black Sheep has won this category each of the four years it's been open. Beyond cornering the all-ages vote with its regular visits from national emo, screamo and metal bands, the venue has continued to diversify with the surprise booking of country acts and string quartets. (OK, no string quartets.) Thanks to the booking clout of the Boulder-based Soda Jerk Presents, this year's headliners have included Conor Oberst & the Mystic Valley Band, Immortal Technique, Gaslight Anthem, Del Tha Funky Homosapien (twice), MDC, Static-X, Black Sheep (the alternative hip-hop duo, not the club, since a venue can't really play itself) and Cobra Starship. A recently inaugurated local band showcase on Friday nights should further cement the Black Sheep's reputation as a leader in the local music scene. — BF

Light Imported Beer

Corona Light (coronalight.com)

After flashing through party photos from Ibiza, Tokyo, New York City and a handful of other exotic locales, corona.com announces: "There are some moments when only a Corona will do." But Corona Light? The Web address for that one is suspiciously quiet. No kite-flying in Barcelona, kisses in Madrid or DJing in Amsterdam. We don't know whether Indy readers enjoy theirs after a hot day of beach volleyball or a hotter day of reroofing their houses. Regardless, the numbers suggest you all believe there's nothing like an ice-cold bottle of Corona Light. At just over 100 calories, you can imbibe and still maintain your girlish figure. Whatever you do, though, just don't forget the lime. — CB

Local Original Band

Sanguine Addiction (sanguineaddiction.com)

This self-described hard rock/metal band has been around since 2003, but shuffled members for three years before settling into its current composition. And that quartet, including a guitarist, a bassist, a drummer and a vocalist, has taken Best Original Band honors for three years in a row. Not surprisingly, its career is on the rise. After the success of their first album, Self Enemy, Sanguine Addiction is working on a new CD that, according to guitarist Jeff Baker, could be available early next year. The band performs regularly in town and occasionally in other states. Check it out at the Black Sheep, Union Station or another local hangout next month for some home-grown musical angst. — AM

Local Cover Band

The Martini Shot (martinishotband.net)

It's been a while since the Martini Shot's had to play OutKast's "Hey Ya." Now it's Flo-Rida's "Shawty Got Low," which is still in heavy rotation on the band's set list. Returning champions in our Best Local Cover Band category (last win: 2006), the Martini Shot has maintained a stable lineup since its self-titled debut EP came out seven years ago. During that time, bassist Brook Mead figures the band has probably forgotten more songs than it knows. But not Rick Springfield's "Jessie's Girl," which is the song most likely to haunt Mead in his sleep. When not playing the lucrative bar circuit, four out of six band members teach music at local schools. Of course, their students can only attend the band's occasional all-ages shows, at which, Mead notes, "you can't play Prince's 'Pussy Control.'" — BF

Temperate Rebel Band Name

Writer's Pick

The A-Holes (myspace.com/theaholesband)

Consistently flinging thrash punk to local venues, this five-person band also wins Best Band to Blow Your Allowance on While Still Compromising with Mom. The A-Holes share their near-expletive name with kindred bands, including the original Assholes, a mythic bunch of 15-year-olds who opened for Black Flag (once), and the F'n A-Holes, whose MySpace page includes blog posts "Gettin Kicked in the Dick: A Retrospective," and "Hey bands, want some cheap t-shirts made?" Our A-Holes actually peddle their misanthropic music online: see "Unholy Monkey Army" and "Nobody Likes Us." Am I totally mistaking hardcore for loveable? Who cares? A fan's still a fan, f-ers. — EA

Downsized Arena Rock Gig

Writer's Pick

The Dead Weather at the Ogden Theatre, Aug. 17

While this has been a great year for Colorado Springs concerts, the Denver debut of the Dead Weather — the freshly minted supergroup featuring the Kills' Alison Mosshart and the White Stripes' Jack White — was truly beyond comparison. Coming across like the alt-rock Led Zeppelin that Jane's Addiction wanted to be but could never pull off, the Dead Weather's perspiration-room-only performance at the Ogden Theatre dragged the blues kicking, screaming and shining into the 21st century. It was the kind of gig that folks keep raving about for months and — assuming the band doesn't self-destruct before its time — may still be bragging about years from now. — BF

Karaoke

Good Company Bar and Restaurant (7625 N. Union Blvd., 528-8877, goodcompanybar.com)

Drinking is always more fun when paired with an activity. The next time you find yourself buzzed but bored, head to Good Company Bar and Restaurant (in a taxi, please). This category's incumbent keeps its patrons busy with Texas Hold 'Em Poker nights, beer pong tournaments, beer bingo, and most importantly, karaoke. Available five nights a week, karaoke is Good Company's biggest draw. Whether you are a notorious showoff or chronic wallflower, belting out classic rock songs to a crowd of drunk strangers is a thrill. — VL

Place to Two-Step

Cowboys Downtown (25 N. Tejon St., 596-1212, csnightclubs.com)

Cowboys East (5869 Palmer Park Blvd., 638-2625, csnightclubs.com)

Winning five years in a row is no easy "feet," but Cowboys continues to walk the line by offering customers regular lessons at two locations. Cowboys Downtown offers classes in line dancing and traditional partner dance on Sunday evenings, while the east location has the same lineup on Saturday evenings. Either one can take the most inexperienced dancer and have them tripping the boot fantastic by the end of the weekend. Aside from the dance classes, Cowboys offers drink specials, satisfying food and top-notch entertainment; Collin Raye will be at the downtown location Oct. 22. — SC

Casino

Double Eagle Hotel and Casino (442 E. Bennett Ave., Cripple Creek, 719/689-5000, decasino.com)

When the Double Eagle Hotel and Casino first went up in the 1990s, more than a few skeptics figured it would never survive at the front end of Bennett Avenue, away from the other action, and especially not with its 158 rooms to fill. More than a decade later, the Double Eagle is still hopping, and this is its fourth straight Best Of victory. The new games, higher stakes and longer hours are bringing in more players from other states, so it's becoming increasingly difficult to find a weekend room here. But if you plan ahead, book one of the special deals, and make the rounds of the large casino with its restaurants and bars — it's still a great escape. — RR

Hookah Lounge

Hooked on Hookah (6406 N. Academy Blvd., 886-7107, hohstore.com)

It feels fitting that Colorado Springs' very first hookah lounge would win the very first Hookah Lounge award. Ramy and Shady Eshak opened Hooked on Hookah just over four years ago, and even as competitors have popped up around the city, the brothers have continued to stand out with excellent customer service, smooth shisha and a chill atmosphere. Something first-timers need to know: The Eshaks actually sold their south side location at the end of September (The new owners changed the name to "Wallahee," which means "For real" in Arabic) and have put their newer north side location on Academy Boulevard up for sale as well. — CB

Club DJ

DJ JoJo (myspace.com/thedjjojo)

For three years in a row earlier this decade, readers voted JoJo the second-best club DJ, behind Brandon Lee. Now JoJo has finally caught up with the guy who "taught me everything about this business you need to know." When asked what he throws down at clubs, the 33-year-old Washington, D.C., native laughs and replies, "Anything from funk to bump to punk." Whether bringing back the '80s and '90s on Wednesdays at Denver's Robusto Room or spinning high-energy beats and original flows (if you didn't get the memo, "mash-up" is no longer the correct term) Fridays and Saturdays at Rhino's, JoJo says it's all about "what would be a hot night for people." — BA

Naughty Business

Christal's (2582 S. Academy Blvd., 393-9903 • 3737 Austin Bluffs Pkwy., 598-3839 • christals.com)

We've all met people who wear their fetishes like a badge of honor. The guy with the leather chaps he's only too happy to talk about. The woman with five tongue rings who won't stop licking her lips. Unfortunately, sex shops often mirror their best patrons. They're lewd and crude. They're dirty — and not just in the good way. Thankfully, Christal's is different. This chain is known for being clean, discreet and woman-friendly. Translation: kinky, but not in a weird way. — JAS

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