Come for the beer, stay for the fun!
As cities and towns gentrify, they often become safer, cleaner, and more diverse while offering more dining options, but those dining options tend to be more expensive and oriented toward millennials. What happens to good, old-fashioned neighborhood bars? In some places, they just disappear, driven out of business by high rents, an aging clientele, and changing tastes. Fortunately, the Pikes Peak region has mostly avoided that particular tragedy. Our bars and bar/restaurants have flourished since the 19th century.
Here at Colorado Fun, we love bars. We drink, hang out with friends, make new friends, gossip with our servers, dance to local bands, eat bar food, drink local beer, and end the evening with a shot of locally distilled bourbon. Moreover, we enjoy second generation bars, venues descended from dive bars that have become favorite hangouts. These are a few of our favorite bars, bar descendants, and even a few non-bars.
WESTSIDE AND OLD COLORADO CITY
Thunder & Buttons
2415 West Colorado Avenue, Colorado Springs
T&Bs, named after a team of elk that “Prairie Dog” O’Byrne trained to harness in Old Colorado City during the 1880s, checks all of our boxes (and host Karaoke as their “live music”.) The servers are amazing, and they have an extensive menu. T&Bs is a particular favorite of our publisher and her spouse, who live a few blocks away. T&Bs sits in the heart of OCC, an intact 19th-century commercial district on the National Register of Historic Places.
503 West Colorado Avenue, Colorado Springs
In 2014, Nina Lee and Rollie Ortiz opened 503W Open Kitchen + Craft Bar in the space that had been occupied by the Dutch Mill Tavern since 1947. Lee’s mother had owned the bar for 17 years and was ready to move on. The result: a reborn Westside neighborhood hangout, with craft
cocktails, 55 total beers, craft taps that rotate every few weeks, and a full menu—complimented by art on the walls. Some of the Dutch Mill regulars show up occasionally, but once Nina took Budweiser off tap, they mostly migrated a few doors down to Benny’s.
517 West Colorado Avenue, Colorado Springs
Driving down West Colorado Avenue, you can’t miss Benny’s glowing neon sign, which has illuminated the night for almost seven decades. Benny’s is a dive bar with all the trimmin’s—pool; shots; bar food; hard-rockin’ bands on Friday and Saturday; and tough, friendly bartenders. If you grew up in a Midwest industrial city, you’ll recognize Benny’s and feel right at home.
Mill Hill Saloon
1668 South 21st Street, Colorado Springs
The all-time best C&W bar in the Mountain West. Mill Hill attracts dancers, quaffers, cowboys real and pretend, and ordinary folks of all ages. Bring your best moves, especially when Ashlee Tatum & the Long Shot Revival are playing on Friday and Saturday nights… Ashlee never disappoints, especially if you like Patsy Cline or Loretta Lynn.
Colorado Mountain Brewery
600 South 21st Street, Colorado Springs
1110 Interquest Parkway, Colorado Springs
Located in the splendidly renovated Midland Railroad Roundhouse and on the sought-after Interquest corner, Colorado Mountain Brewery is an easy, agreeable bar/brewery/restaurant. The bar is spacious and comfortable, with great barstools and perfect TV. The moderately priced menu is several notches above bar food, the beer is great, and the ambiance is perfect Colorado.
2207 Bott Avenue, Colorado Springs
Why do we love Pub Dog? It’s a cool bar/restaurant that includes not only a dog-friendly patio but a dog-friendly indoor dining section (the only such restaurant in Colorado!). We at Colorado Fun are as devoted to our unruly mutts as we are to our favorite bars, so mixing the two pleases us. If you’re traveling with a dog or two, this is a great choice.
MANITOU SPRINGS / UTE PASS
924 Manitou Avenue, Manitou Springs
Located next to the Arcade in downtown Manitou Springs, the Royal Tavern was once a tough-as-nails biker bar. Like its customers, the Royal has mellowed with age. The friendly geezer with the white ponytail sitting at the bar may have arrived on his Harley, but he’s looking for friends, not fights. Want atmosphere, a beer and a shot, and easy conversation with regulars? You can’t go wrong at the Royal.
907 Manitou Avenue, Manitou Springs
Like Colorado Springs’ Navajo Hogan, the Townhouse often features local bands on Friday and Saturday nights. In the winter, the dance floor is crowded and the bar is full, especially when Woodshed Red is playing. Along with the Royal and the Keg, the Townhouse is a link to Manitou’s scruffy, colorful, and slightly disreputable past. Spend time in any of them and you’re doing your part to keep Manitou weird.
The Keg Lounge
730 Manitou Avenue, Manitou Springs
Located in the heart of Manitou Springs, the Keg has been under the same ownership since it opened in 1986. The Keg has always been a local favorite, thanks both to its friendly atmosphere and transcendentally delicious bar food. Try the chicken croissant sandwich with a berry salad, enjoy a local brew, and have fun!
COLORADO SPRINGS/DOWNTOWN AND CITYWIDE
Tony’s Downtown Bar
326 North Tejon Street, Colorado Springs
Packer fans, here’s your home away from home. Upscale restaurants, coffee houses, speakeasies, distilleries, wine bars, and craft breweries have replaced many of the unpretentious bars that once dotted downtown, but Tony’s and Oscar’s (see below) are still going strong. Tony’s attracts a young, noisy, and remarkably friendly crowd—enjoy!
Phantom Canyon Brewing Company
2 East Pikes Peak Avenue, Colorado Springs
Located in downtown’s historic Cheyenne Building, Phantom Canyon was created by Denver brewer (and now Colorado governor) John Hickenlooper in 1991. Once threatened with demolition, the historic building features a downstairs bar/restaurant, an upstairs bar with multiple pool tables, a roof patio, and a third-floor events space. Few restaurants stay in business for 10 years, let alone more than a quarter of a century. Check out Phantom and marvel at Hickenlooper’s acumen; the governor sold it years ago, but his concept has endured.
Patty Jewett Bar & Grill
900 East Espanola Street, Colorado Springs
Located in the 1920s-era clubhouse at the Patty Jewett municipal golf course operated by Tony Leahy (who also opened both Tony’s and Phantom Canyon back in the day), Patty Jewett is welcoming to all. The ambiance is an old-fashioned bar; the view of Pikes Peak across the golf course is spectacular, especially on a chilly winter afternoon. Food is Bar+, prices are moderate, and golfers abound. This is a little-known gem, a Quintessential Colorado Springs experience just a few minutes from central downtown.
333 South Tejon Street, Colorado Springs
Oscar’s, a traditional bar with a Cajun menu, has been a downtown favorite since it opened in 2003…and yes, they’ve got oysters! If you know coastal Louisiana, you’ll recognize the vibe—it’s a casual, affordable beach bar/restaurant somehow transplanted to the Pikes Peak region. Hot Cajun food and cold Colorado beer—what a combination!
2817 North Nevada Avenue, Colorado Springs
Johnny’s Navajo Hogan is a genuinely historic, national register-listed bar. Constructed in 1935 as a roadhouse, the Hogan’s two interlocking timber domes were built without a single nail. Over the years, it has been a dance club, nightclub, strip club, biker bar, live music venue, and restaurant. Extensively remodeled several years ago by veteran restaurateur Johnny Nolan, today’s Hogan features live bands, moderately priced food, comfortable booths, and an amazing stripper-free atmosphere.
1201 Elm Street, Pueblo
Situated on Elm Street in Pueblo just steps from Colorado Fuel & Iron’s west gate, Gus’ enjoyed many decades of prosperity before the mills were shut down. It’s arguably the oldest bar in the city, having been issued the town’s first liquor license after Prohibition ended. It’s still a comfortable workingman’s bar, famous for its Dutch lunch and devoted clientele. “We’ve been open continuously since 1934,” said owner Gino Mittino, whose step-grandfather Gus Masciotra opened this eponymous bar. Stop in and enjoy one of those Dutch lunches with a cold beer and freshly baked bread from Zoelsmann’s, the 120-year-old bakery located a few blocks away.
Smitty’s Greenlight Tavern
227 North Santa Fe Avenue, Pueblo
Like Gus’, Smitty’s lays claim to being one of the oldest bars in Pueblo. The historic 1874-era building was once a bank, but the Greenlight has occupied the ground floor since 1933. The Greenlight feels old-timey and fun at the same time with inexpensive offerings, great ambiance, and a substantial performance space. Bands perform most weekends, and Broncos and Rockies games are sure to be on.
Shamrock Brewing Company
108 West 3rd Street, Pueblo
Shamrock’s first incarnation was the Shamrock Café, which opened its doors in 1940. The café became an Irish bar before finally morphing into a resplendent brewpub. The bar is original, the booths comfortable, the food great, and the brews amazing. For 77 years, Shamrock has been solidly anchored in downtown Pueblo, a link with the past and now a harbinger of the future. Don’t miss it!
120 East Riverwalk, Pueblo
No, that’s not “brews” misspelled—it’s a nod to the past of the historic downtown building that this brewery/bar/restaurant/bakery/coffee shop/boutique hotel/event venue/performance space occupies. Originally the downtown police station, this art deco fortress from the 1930s has been imaginatively transformed. The dog-friendly patio beside Pueblo’s Riverwalk is great on a sunny day, and the bar is always welcoming. All the food is made from scratch on the premises, and the brewery adjoins the bar with a hotel on the upper floors—check-in and you might never leave!
The Fritz Restaurant and Bar
113 East Sackett Avenue, Salida
Salida might once have been a beer and a shot kind of town, but no longer. Now it’s a cool, prosperous, and comfortable destination. Located in a renovated turn of the 19th-century building in the heart of downtown, The Fritz offers marvelous food, great ambiance, small plates, and an array of drink options.
143 North F Street, Salida
Salida may have changed in the last few decades, but the Victoria endures. Open until 2:00 a.m. on weekends, the Vic has been in business since 1981. It’s friendly, inexpensive, and unchanged. It can also be noisy and a little rowdy, but that’s the charm of dive bars! We love places like the Vic and we’ll mourn them when they’re all gone.
Moonlight Pizza & Brewpub
42 F Street, Salida
Technically speaking, Moonlight Pizza isn’t a bar, but a brewpub/pizzeria. In fact, it doesn’t even have a bar, but that’s ok. The pizza is somewhere between sublime and impossibly good; the beer is outstanding; and the interior is bright, cheerful, and comfortable. Unless you’re among the tiny
minority of folks who like neither beer nor pizza, try a little Moonlight.
248 West Rainbow Boulevard (between G & H), Salida
Soulcraft is a brewery in the bare bones Colorado model. You’ll find amazing beer, a food truck parked in front, a dog-friendly patio, and a comfortable tasting room. If you stop by on a chilly winter afternoon, you might try the Work Release pale bock—medium bodied and silky smooth with eight-percent alcohol by volume. If that’s not your style, the brewery has 15 other taps!