Best Of » Nightlife

Best of 2008: Let's Party

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  • Sean Cayton


Dave Baumgartner, Rocket Room

230 Pueblo Ave., 447-4990

Unlike co-owner Dave Cantrell, who's been known to take the Rocket Room stage with a ferocity more harrowing than anything Henry Rollins or Iggy Pop could envision, Dave Baumgartner has no musical ambitions. "He's a very personable guy," says fellow barkeep Jeanette Hohman. "He always remembers everyone's name and their drinks, and he's just a really nice person." All of which makes the Rocket Room that much better a place to hang out, whether you're downing a Red Rocket or catching three bands for $3 or, more likely, both. BF

  • Jon Kelley

Upscale Bar

Bar for a Martini

Bar for a Specialty Mixed Cocktail


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

It takes a special kind of someone to walk down a dark back alley in search of the purple light heralding the otherwise indistinguishable door to 15C. This den of hidden delights takes honors once again with three Best Of awards in 2008 including its sixth straight Upscale (or Classy) Bar win. With a martini menu as thick as a worn copy of The Great Gatsby, 15C lives up to its speakeasy sensibilities. Martinis range from the classic James Bond affectation to such trendy concoctions as the Sugar Daddy, French Kiss and Velvet Hammer. The class act continues with classic hors d'oeuvres, a cigar menu and candlelight. CF

Local Cover Band

Steele Daniels Louis & Hall

There's nothing like dancing to classic rock. That's probably why Steele Daniels Louis & Hall is so popular. Even hipsters have to get up and get goofy when SDLH shows up at bars. (Some hipsters, anyway.) They play music from the Beatles, Creedence Clearwater Revival, the Eagles and the Doobie Brothers, at bars around the Pikes Peak region. Pictures on their Web site show fans moving and stomping their feet. Of course, it may not be just the music that keeps these fans shaking it; everyone knows the best moves are made on a beer-soaked floor. FG

Club DJ


Last year's winner, DJ Brandon Lee, said his three-year reign as the Springs' best Club DJ meant "that the other DJs in this city need to step it up." Be careful what you wish for. This year's new champion, Serg, "steps it up" regularly at Southside Johnny's and McCabe's Tavern, and his selection of '80s, dance and Top 40 hits keep club goers (like me and my sisters) on the dance floor hours past our bedtime. As for his first Indy win, the 34-year-old native of the former Yugoslavia says, "I'm just really excited that people appreciate what I do." ALL

Place to Dance Like a Fool

Rum Bay

20 N. Tejon St., 634-3522

Holding a reputation as the place to dance like a fool is Rum Bay's forte this is the club's third year in a row to win the award, with three additional wins in their history. And how could you not win when you've got eight nightclubs under one roof? Your booty will start shakin' the minute you walk in the door, and if it doesn't, perhaps a quick stop at the 109.57-square-foot Sam's World's Smallest Bar will help loosen up the limbs. KA

Bar for a Margarita

The Loop

965 Manitou Ave., Manitou Springs, 685-9344

An enthusiastic welcome had me thinking the Loop staff had spent the entire afternoon sampling from the bar. But it was just a healthy "happy to see you," so to speak. No doubt, that friendliness and the 13 different margarita concoctions make this a damn fine place to be. The menu offers two choices in size: regular, for mere mortals, and grande, which I'd take on only if I had lots of time to walk home. The classic margarita packs a nice punch, and the melon is sweet and savory with a salted rim. Regardless of your taste, a stiff treat awaits you. MMR

Bar-Food Cook

Mike Donner, Keg Lounge

730 Manitou Ave., Manitou Springs, 685-9531

He's a native and a Manitou Springs High graduate, and he was a pretty good basketball player once. These days, though, Mike Donner rules the open-air kitchen area at the Keg Lounge, cooking up a variety of consistently excellent dinners even on the busiest nights. He's been at it long enough to have his own staple on the menu: Donner's Scampi, which is a typical shrimp scampi doctored up with Mike's favorite spices. He'll make it as hot as you want. RR


Double Eagle Hotel and Casino

400-442 E. Bennett Ave., Cripple Creek, 719/689-5000

Three years we've had this category, and three years Double Eagle has prevailed. But it's been around since the '90s, that large five-story brick building on your left as you turn onto Cripple Creek's main drag. Throughout the years since, it has stood as the one place where you can stay in rooms that range from standard to nice suites (worth it on the right occasion), eat at a typical or upscale restaurant, and spend hours at the slots or tables all without going outside (a good thing during those long cold months). Of course, if the ballot issue passes to raise the maximum wagers from $5 to $100, Double Eagle probably would have more business than ever and more competition. But at this point, it's holding up just fine. RR

Gay Bar


110 N. Nevada Ave., 578-7771

Located in the heart of downtown, the Underground's stylish decor, roomy deck and throbbing beats keep the party pumping until 4 a.m. The Underground is geared toward dancers, but you can also come for live music and DJs, pub quizzes, food or a beer. It's a great place to meet friendly singles, hang out after the Pride parade, or just kick back in an open-minded atmosphere after a long day at the office. JAS

Writers' PICK

Bar Salad

Will's Sports Pub

424 S. Nevada Ave., 475-2122

Bars that boast a half-dozen TVs, low lighting and a sign outside welcoming ladies with 50-cent beers and well drinks are not the first places you'd go looking for great salads. But Will's Sports Pub has them, bountiful platters of mixed greens or spinach topped with blackened salmon, shrimp or chicken. As befits this refuge for former Fanz chefs and recipes, the Cajun seasonings are perfect, and the variety of ingredients (including avocado, pecans, fried potato slices and mandarin oranges, to name a few) keep things interesting. Conveniently enough, they all go really good with beer. BF

Adult Live Entertainment

PT's Show Club

5975 Terminal Ave., 597-2336

(Runner-up: Watching DA John Newsome angrily confront a middle-aged guy with bloodshot eyes who keeps staring at him until he realizes it's his reflection in the mirror behind the bar.) PT's is part of a national chain that also owns adult entertainment clubs in six other cities, including Louisville, Ky. (The only real difference is that in Kentucky, when the girls remove their clothes, their kids take them down to the creek and scrub them on a rock.) RT

Wine Bar

Rico's at Poor Richard's

322 N. Tejon St., 630-7723

Pick any Friday or Saturday from late afternoon on, and you'll discover Rico's at capacity. The well-heeled and intentionally natty sip Chilean Malbec, nibble little squares of the world's finest chocolate (which, incidentally, contrast gorgeously with the vino) and chill to live jazz. Rico's deserves this win for its comfy yet sophisticated atmosphere; its outstanding service; its good, local music; and for frequently updating its stellar wine list. Says manager Ronda Snyder, "We work really hard at making Rico's a place everyone wants to be." Clearly effective. DS

Bar with a Smokin' Patio

Oscar's Tejon Street

333 S. Tejon St., 471-8070

We've all pulled something like this before. Remember as a child, when your mother would say you could have cookies "later," so you waited five minutes and gobbled down the entire box. Hey, that's "later," right? Oscar's is kind of a similar situation. State law said no more smoking in bars. So, Oscar's directed smokers to its huge covered patios with wood and plastic sheeting for walls and big heaters and a stage and a bar and everything, and said, "Go ahead, smoke out here, this isn't a bar not really." Only difference is that when Oscar's owner Phil Duhon pulls this type of crap, no one spanks him or sends him to his room. They thank him, smirk mischievously and ask him for a light. JAS

Writers' PICK

Alcoholic Ginger Ale

Left Hand Brewing Company's Juju Ginger

OK, so the Left Hand Brewing Company's brews may be from Longmont, but you can still drink them here. I first ran across Juju Ginger at Poor Richard's where it pairs exceptionally well with pizza or a vegetarian Reuben and have been a fan ever since. Flavored ales rarely find their way onto my list of favorite libations: blueberry is just about tolerable, chocolate is horrid. But Juju Ginger is the perfect blend of flavors, like a tiny Asian restaurant trapped inside a bottle. Go pay a visit to and whet your appetite. BF

  • Jon Kelley

Place to Two-Step


25 N. Tejon St., 596-1212

What do I know about two-stepping? Umm, that it's harder than one-stepping? OK, I also know that if I really wanted to learn more, I'd go to Cowboys: The country and western bar is unbeaten in this category since we introduced it three years ago. That spans two years at the old, sprawling Palmer Park Boulevard location, and now this year at the more streamlined, dare-I-say-urbane spot on Tejon Street. Cowboys still is bringing in big-time country talent Mark Chesnutt is coming Saturday, Oct. 25 but with its weekly dance lessons, Cowboys also welcomes those (like me) who have no talent whatsoever. KW

Writers' PICK

Place to Ride a Mechanical Bull


25 N. Tejon St., 596-1212

Did you know it costs approximately $1,500 to rent a mechanical bull for a few hours? Of course, that does include the price of a trained operator as well as a million-dollar insurance policy, not to mention the transportation of said bull from Denver to the Springs. How much simpler it is to sidle on over to Cowboys, where the two-month-old attraction has barely been broken in. Ask the operator to turn the speed setting way down and you can pretend to be riding in slow motion just like Debra Winger in Urban Cowboy. BF

  • Sean Cayton

Sports Bar

Indigo Joe's Sports Pub and Restaurant

6120 Barnes Road, 302-0969

Putting in a sports bar somewhere along the busy Powers Boulevard corridor is a logical move, and finding a spot just upstream from Security Service Field (home of the Sky Sox) is even smarter. But the shrewdness doesn't stop there. Open for about 18 months, Indigo Joe's has plenty of high-def, big-screen TVs to pull in any game or sportscast you want. And it's not just a bar: The menu has plenty of variety, including surprises such as the Santa Fe chicken rolls or the swordfish sandwich. Manager Joe Padilla likes to boast about the Kick-off Platter, "a plate of meat ... ribs, wings, kabobs ... I don't think there's anything else like it in Colorado Springs." RR

  • Jeremy Eyman

Bang-for-your-Buck Bar


Neighborhood Bar


311 N. Tejon St., 228-6566

Last year, when Tony's won these same three awards, we warned patrons about bartenders who vetoed jukebox selections. Not only has owner Eel Anderson gotten rid of those guys, he's added "Recession Nights." That means every Tuesday and Thursday evening, Tony's offers five items for under $5, including a shot-and-24 oz.-PBR-draft combo. Those deals are enough to attract some big names recently, Colorado Avalanche hockey player Peter Forsberg made an appearance at the local hangout. Anderson takes it all in stride: "We've been serving thirsty patrons since the turn of the century," he says, grinning. ALL

  • Jeremy Eyman

In-Store Beer Selection

In-Store Wine Selection

In-Store Spirits/Liquor Selection

Cheers Liquor Mart

1105 N. Circle Drive, 574-2244

Cheers calls itself "Colorado Springs' greatest liquid asset." (No. 2 on that list, of course, is District Attorney John Newsome.) And with more than 12,000 beers, wines, spirits and liquors in its warehouse-size store, who can argue? "It's been right here since the early '70s and it's pretty much a city landmark," said Jack Bachman, the owner for the last 13 years. "People walk through the aisles talking on their cell phone, and they don't say they're at a liquor store, they say, 'I'm at Cheers.'" Footnote: Cheers carries about 150 different tequilas. A shot of each should just about get you through a Sarah Palin speech. RT


Local Original Band

Sanguine Addiction

No lead singer in the history of music has jumped in the air as much as Sanguine Addiction's Josh Lanier. Not even David Lee Roth (no matter what that Van Halen hit might have you believe). The band's MySpace contains 253 live shots, 13 of which feature Lanier airborne. Statistically, that's more than 5 percent, which is a lot of stage time to spend in mid-leap. With influences ranging from Faith No More to Mudvayne, the band has been a ubiquitous presence on the local club scene for four years. All of which goes a long way toward explaining this, their second Best Of win in as many years. BF

  • Brienne Boortz

Beer Selection on Tap

Old Chicago

Multiple locations

Studies on choice have shown there are two kinds of people: those who think the more choices, the better; and those who fear that the more choices they have, the more likely they are to pick the wrong one. Old Chicago, voted to have the most expansive row of beer taps in town, is probably best for people in the first category. In all, the multi-state chain claims to offer 110 varieties of ale, lager and stout. For the indecisive, maybe it's best to embark on an evening at Old Chicago with a geographic preference in mind go German one night, domestic the next, and pretty soon the choice won't make you dizzy. (Unless, of course, your explorations go too far.) AL

  • Brienne Boortz

New Bar (since July 1, 2007)

Hondo's Sports Bar & Grill

4695 Centennial Blvd., 685-8099

OK, so it's not a totally new place. Anybody who frequented Dewey's in Centennial Commons would walk in and feel comfortable at Hondo's, which began operating under that name last Super Bowl weekend. It's still spacious, with two huge projection screens and plenty more high-def monitors. You can sit at the bar and watch football, baseball, boxing and whatever, all at once. There's live music on the weekends, pool tables available all the time, free wireless Internet and very decent food that goes beyond just the usual bar grub for instance, breaded and fried jalapeo slices, clam chowder or chili every day, and steak specials. The staff is nice, too, and that often counts for more than atmosphere or TV screens. RR

  • L'Aura Montgomery

Irish Pub

Jack Quinn Irish Alehouse & Pub

21 S. Tejon St., 385-0766

It's no mystery why Jack Quinn's wins this award year after year. Not only is it the best place in town to enjoy a Beamish, or one of the many other imports on tap, it also hosts an annual Oyster Fest, a weekly pub quiz and Brian Clancy belting out Irish tunes most Thursdays. The food's pretty tasty, too. Along with traditional Irish fare, Quinn's revamped menu includes mouth-watering choices like vanilla champagne-marinated pork tenderloin and Irish-coffee-crusted ribeye. Need I say more? ALL

Domestic Beer

Coors Banquet

Every time I reach for a Rocky Mountain brewed, ice-cold, Coors Banquet, I remember my days of building pallets as tall as 6 feet, of this Golden, Colorado-born beer. Those were the good days. The days when I would drop cases just so I could lap up this earthly ambrosia off the floor. Coors is a perfectly balanced premium brew of spring water and the best hops and barley available. And if you're reading this, Coors, can I have my job back? KAK

Domestic Light Beer

Coors Light

RMC Distributing

4710 Northpark Drive, 598-0772

In the Pikes Peak region, where Bud Light and Miller Lite have been dietary staples for years, Coors Light never has dominated. But this year, the Silver Bullet surely got a boost from local news. After our district attorney, John Newsome, pounded more than 130 ounces of draft beer in five hours at downtown-area bars, word came down that Newsome's beverage was Coors Light. Our voting takes place a few months later, and voila, Coors Light wins! Coincidence? OK, perhaps there's something to do with all the national ads about the bottle labels turning blue when they're cold. "They're having a very, very good year, and the package innovations have been a big part of it," says Mike Pfalmer, general manager of RMC Distributing, which handles the brew locally. "But there also are the NFL and NASCAR tie-ins. You can't underestimate the power of the NFL." RR

Imported Beer


It's the mysterious mix of nitrogen and CO2. No, it's the bubbles. No, it's the smooth, dark, thick wonderfulness. (Is that a word?) Guinness drinkers don't always agree on why they love this beer, but they are united in that love. Dark and thick, it has developed a cult following with its witty ads and a history that dates back two centuries. Its makers call it a "whole costume drama in a bottle." It's a mainstay at Jack Quinn Irish Alehouse & Pub and McCabe's Tavern, both downtown establishments where patrons revel in all things Irish. DA

Imported Light Beer

Corona Light

A recent child-free Caribbean vacation had all the elements: blue-green water, white sandy beaches and sunny days. But there was nothing better to add to the mix of sandy toes, sun-kissed shoulders and salty lips than a bucket of ice-cold Corona Light. And don't forget the lime. This year, townies turned away from Europe and headed south of the border, and I can see why: After my third bottle on a sunny Colorado day, I'm transported back to my vacation (even if my feet in the kid's sandbox leaves a lot to be desired). I'll just call this Caribbean Light. MMR

Selection of Hidden Synthesizers

Pianos New and Used

413 N. Tejon St., 389-1430

I passed this Tejon Street storefront plenty of times before finally venturing in, largely because of the seemingly endless array of pianos grand and otherwise visible from outside. Fortunately for those of us who have apartments and/or stairways that are too, ahem, "cozy" to accommodate furniture-sized pianos, the back of the store actually contains a considerable array of keyboards and synths, including a couple of Moogs that are well worth drooling over. Even more surprisingly, the staff knows a helluva lot about the stuff one of them even owns a rare polyphonic Moog. Who knew? BF

  • L'Aura Montgomery

Irish Pub

Jack Quinn Irish Alehouse & Pub

21 S. Tejon St., 385-0766

It's no mystery why Jack Quinn's wins this award year after year. Not only is it the best place in town to enjoy a Beamish, or one of the many other imports on tap, it also hosts an annual Oyster Fest, a weekly pub quiz and Brian Clancy belting out Irish tunes most Thursdays. The food's pretty tasty, too. Along with traditional Irish fare, Quinn's revamped menu includes mouth-watering choices like vanilla champagne-marinated pork tenderloin and Irish-coffee-crusted ribeye. Need I say more? ALL

Local Microbrewed Beer

Bristol Brewing Company

1647 S. Tejon St., 633-2555

Funny, but last year the winner was one of Bristol's popular products, Laughing Lab. This time, perhaps because it's so hard to decide which Bristol beer you like most this week, Mike Bristol's whole operation is the winner. Whether ordering a standby like Mass Transit or Beehive, or perhaps one of the seasonal specials like the Venetucci Pumpkin Ale, a true beer-drinker will never be bored. You'll find Bristol being served at bars throughout the area, but if you haven't visited the home base on Tejon, you're missing the real fun especially on occasions when a new batch is being released. That might get you hooked; nothing beats filling your own growler and taking it home. RR

  • L'Aura Montgomery


Good Company Restaurant and Bar

7625 N. Union Blvd., 528-8877

While the reality may not be as bizarre as John Gries and Garrett Morris' adventures in the Polish Brothers film Jackpot, the karaoke circuit can be pretty competitive. Happily, that's not the case at Good Company, where talents ranging from the award-winning to the barely shower-worthy are all welcomed. Owner Bob Jardon says the most popular songs include "Sweet Caroline" ("someone does it most every night") and "Pour Some Sugar on Me." "And what's that one everyone likes to dance on the bar to? 'Crazy Bitch.'" Occasionally, adds Jardon, male patrons get so into their performances that they'll strip to the waist, which, due to Gold's Gym being next door, may not be as bad as it sounds. "Eye of the Tiger" moves people in mysterious ways. BF

  • Jon Kelley

Local Venue for Live Music

Black Sheep

2106 E. Platte Ave., 227-7625

A winner for three years running pretty impressive, considering this month marks its third anniversary Colorado Springs' premier all-ages venue brings in a steady stream of national-caliber indie, emo, metal, hip-hop and uncategorizable artists. (And, in a way, aren't they all?) "Even though this is a fairly small music market, population-wise, we have a really good core audience," says manager Geoff Brent, who cites Say Anything, New Found Glory, Reverend Horton Heat and Apocalyptica among the club's bigger successes. Owned by the Denver-based Soda Jerk Presents, which books shows at the Marquis Theater and numerous other Mile High venues, the Black Sheep has access to plenty of touring bands that wouldn't otherwise make it to these parts. Plus, the full bar lessens the sting of a substandard opening act. BF

Thank you

Lion's Pride, for professional, fast work on Best Of certificate framing;

Pikes Perk, for 2008's Best Of Blend;

and Jack Ward, for help with all things Best Of 2008.




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