Dive Bars and Local Joints
Where do the locals go?
Where are the cool, unpretentious, welcoming locally-owned bars, taverns, and restaurants? There are scores of such places in the Pikes Peak Region so a complete list would take ten or fifteen pages. We narrowed it down to a dozen and a half staff favorites, including sedate long-established eateries, noisy dive bars, hipster hangouts, and innovative newbies. Check them out—and if you’re disappointed, we’ll refund the price you paid for our magazine!
They all serve food (albeit with mostly limited menus) and feature live music on weekends, multiple TV’s, high noise levels and friendly patrons. If you can’t have fun here, forget it! You’re having a bad night.
Benny’s is a long-established Colorado Avenue bar. You can’t miss it, thanks to the iconic neon sign above the entrance. It attracts a diverse crowd of neighborhood folks and dive bar aficionados, especially on Friday nights, when Arch Hooks and other local bands encourage patrons to dance the night away.
517 W. Colorado Ave.
Tony’s, a Green Bay Packer bar in the heart of Bronco country, is a downtown Colorado Springs fixture. It’s a big place, with a sidewalk patio, pool tables, two bars and more than a dozen high-tops. Springs native Eel Anderson bought the place a few years ago–he’s the guy with a big smile and lots of ink. Tony’s attracts a younger clientele six days a week, but on Sundays during the NFL season, it’s wall-to-wall cheeseheads of all ages.
326 N. Tejon St.
The Royal Tavern, located in the heart of Manitou Springs next to the city’s historic arcade, was once a tough-as-nails biker bar. But times have changed. The menacing outlaws of the 1970s are now kindly, gray-haired grandfathers and the Royal is safe and welcoming. It has a great, old-fashioned vibe, though–just sit down at the bar, order a beer and a shot, and don’t worry if your back is to the street!
924 Manitou Ave.
Oscar’s can best be understood as a historic New Orleans joint somehow transplanted to Colorado Springs. How else do you explain a divey, rockabilly kind of place that serves great oyster dishes? It’s almost too upscale to be a dive bar–but who says that dive bars can’t serve great Cajun food at reasonable prices? And oh those oysters!
330 S. Tejon Street
Smitty’s Greenlight Tavern bills itself as Pueblo’s original drinking establishment. The historic dive first opened in 1933 after the repeal of prohibition. Today the atmospheric, old-timey bar is situated on the ground floor of the former bank building on Santa Fe. It’s easy to find–just walk across Santa Fe from the Sangre de Cristo Arts Center, turn North and look for the green light. Still owned by Smitty’s descendants, the Green Light is as friendly and welcoming as Pueblo itself.
227 N. Santa Fe Ave.
Neighborhood joints are primarily restaurants, but all of those listed below have great bars as well. You can escape the cold in a warm booth, or take advantage of a sunny
winter afternoon on a patio, balcony or sidewalk dining area. Enjoy!
Thunder and Buttons is the “Cheers” of the historic Westside of Colorado Springs. Rainbow trout is a frequent special, but the restaurant offers vegetarian and gluten-free options as well. Located in the heart of Old Colorado City, a
national historic district, lined with renovated 19th-century brick buildings, T&B’s is notably family-friendly, inclusive and fun. It’s named after a team of tame elk, who were broken to harness in the 1880’s by legendary Colorado City character Prairie Dog O’Byrne. According to O’Byrne’s lively autobiography, he used to ride into snooty Colorado Springs with famed brothel owner Laura Bell by his side, and laugh as his elk spooked every horse in town.
2415 W. Colorado Ave.
The Patty Jewett Bar & Grill is situated on the 18th hole of the amazingly beautiful Colorado Springs municipal golf course. It includes a lively full-service ar and restaurant–and it’s not just for golfers. Once inside the restaurant, the views of the course and Pikes Peak are amazing, the service quick and efficient and the food’s great. It should be, given owner Tony Leahy’s history. He created, and subsequently sold, three of the city’s iconic bar/restaurants–the Famous, Phantom Canyon and Tony’s.
900 E. Espanola St.
Colorado Mountain Brewery isn’t just a brewery. Venison egg rolls, bison chili, bison meatloaf, and bison poppers incorporate Colorado flavors into traditional dishes while beer cheese soup and brewery pretzels accompany multiple craft beers and the all-natural burgers are aptly named after Colorado Peaks. Whether in Old Colorado City or Northside, this brewery isn’t just for beer; it serves up fresh, hearty portions of great food.
600 S. 21st St. and 1110 Interquest Pkwy.
Amica’s Pizza & Microbrewery is one of the coolest places in Salida, which is in turn one of the coolest small towns in Colorado. You order at the counter before you sit down, but don’t worry–you can’t go wrong! Try the Biella, featuring spicy oil, ham, caramelized onions, portobello mushrooms, sliced tomatoes, mozzarella, gorgonzola, goat cheese & rosemary.
127 F Street
Cerberus is the most recent addition to the Colorado Springs roster of restaurant/brewpubs and in many ways one of the most impressive. Located in a renovated veterinary hospital close to downtown, Cerberus features a dozen constantly changing brews, an inventive menu, and a sunny patio/deck with views of Pikes Peak. Created by serial Westside entrepreneurs Tom Halfast and Jerry Morris, Cerberus is already a favorite neighborhood destination!
702 W. Colorado Ave.
This category includes restaurants that are a little more expensive than neighborhood joints, but have the same relaxed atmosphere, lack of pretension, friendly service and fun ambiance as our neighborhood faves.
The Blue Star, founded in the 1990’s by ambitious young server/bartender Joe Coleman, created the city’s first fine casual dining spot. Twenty-odd years afterwards, it’s still a cool place, with an innovative, continually updated menu. No blaring TVs, no icy formality and no unfriendly service. The food’s great, the wine list extensive and the tab is less than formidable.
1645 S Tejon St.
The Place, fronting on Pueblo’s historic Riverwalk, offers comfort, fun and mildly pricey food. It’s open for breakfast, lunch and dinner with varied menus that are meant to appeal to everyone, including professionals, families and random passers-by. The Riverwalk location means that they get a lot of casual visitor traffic and, judging by the reviews, most of the first-timers are delighted. Entrees range in price from around $7 to more than $30.
102 South Union Ave.
503W was once the Dutch Mill Tavern, a Westside working man’s bar that opened its doors in 1947. A couple of years ago, owner Mi Lee handed it over to her daughter and son-in-law and encouraged them to create something new. Nina and Rollie have done just that, turning the old tavern into a millennial destination that offers hand-crafted food and amazing cocktails, craft beer, local art and occasional live music. The clientele is younger now, but older Westsiders are still part of 503W’s eclectic mix.
503 W. Colorado Ave.
The Fritz Their website asks if you would call them a “gastro-pub,” “Americana bistro,” or “global cafe.” We aren’t sure what the answer is, but if you want chef-inspired dishes, a casual atmosphere, and a welcoming ambiance near the river and park, The Fritz could be your place. The Chicken Cordon Bleu is one of the specialties of the house and comes loaded with melted cheese covering the hearty portion. Kid friendly and dog-friendly, casual covered patio seating available. Most entrees under $15.
113 E. Sackett Ave
Bistro on 2nd Veteran Colorado Springs/Monument restaurateur Rick Veliquette opened this cozy place in 2016, and it quickly became a Northside favorite. Veliquette and Chef Charlie Dolan have more than 30 years of combined restaurant experience in the Pikes Peak Region, and it shows. They wanted to make a place that’s fun, that features locally grown, seasonal food and that has a family feel–and they succeeded. Lunch from 11:30–2:30, dinner from 4:30 to close.
65 Second St.
FARM TO TABLE
Many chefs in our region are going back to basics and buying local as well as recognizing the growing need to add gluten free, vegetarian and even vegan items to their offerings. It’s a welcome trend!
TAPAteria a one hundred percent gluten-free place where you’ll find locals every night of the week, serves up chef-inspired tapas combining traditional flavors with authentic Colorado ingredients like the bison carpaccio. The bison carpaccio offered layers of flavors as the manchego, wasabi, and capers bursting with flavor alongside the tender, paper-thin strips of bison. The Pan con Ajo is a house favorite; loaded with roasted garlic, it doesn’t disappoint. The staff is friendly and willing to walk you through the menu. Seating is available indoors or outdoors on the covered patio.
2607 W. Colorado Ave.
Poor Richard’s is a unique downtown icon, a bookstore, toy store, cafe and wine bar, and restaurant all in one. The restaurant offers pizzas with your choice of 28 toppings, soups sandwiches, or salads. Gluten free options include pizza and other freshly made menu items. After eating stroll over to Rico’s for a glass of wine and live music (Thur-Sat). If you’re in the mood for dessert, try the flourless mocha tart!
320 N. Tejon St.
Till is a recent addition to the region’s restaurant roster and, judging from the ecstatic reactions of visitors and locals alike, one that has legs. Here’s a typical online review: “We recently went to the Till for my husband’s birthday. It was amazing. We take pride in knowing where our food comes from instead of just cramming it in our face thoughtlessly. This place was perfect from the locally sourced grass fed cow to the clean kitchen to the ambiance. . .I mean just wow it was great!! Would definitely recommend going here by far the best place I have ever been to eat.” One caveat: such excellence has its price. Till isn’t cheap.
9633 Prominent Pt.
Adam’s Mountain Café opened its doors in Manitou Springs thirty-one years ago, serving a then-radical
vegetarian menu. It has changed locations a couple of times since, but it hasn’t changed its core philosophy–you can still enjoy a unique and wonderful dining experience at Adam’s. From the website: “The dinner menu has become a place to emphasize a commitment to local foods, ethnic cuisines, the Slow Food movement, a select but affordable wine list, Colorado beers on tap and carefully crafted, seasonal cocktails.” Adam’s is affordable, low-key and unpretentious; the food is great–and unlike most of its Manitou counterparts, it has plenty of parking!
26 Manitou Ave.