Paul Aiken / Staff Photographer
Paul Aiken / Staff Photographer
Oh, Boulder nightlife. A collection of bars in which we all throw respectability to the wind and bump ‘n’ grind like we don’t have to work tomorrow. Where we bust out the Q-Tip dance moves we learned in “Hitch,” aggressively heckle friends during billiards and where we get all philosophical or introspective when the tequila turns. It’s a blast. It’s also crucial to find the right spot to go through all the feels at, bust a move, etc.
Allow me to guide you through Boulder’s bar scene. Choose (and then drink) wisely.
The perfect first date
World Famous Dark Horse Bar And Grill, 2922 W. Baseline Rd.
You and your date pull walk in to see the bar well stocked with delicious Colorado craft beers, cheaper domestics on discount and plenty of well-priced liquor for shots and mixed drinks. There are booths, tables and high-tops that offer spots for good conversation. Then you take a stroll around the bar. Posters from decades before plaster the wall, as do chotchkies of all shapes and sizes and levels of creepiness. The more quiet second floor has its own set of pool tables, TVs and tables, and a great view of the tricycles, clown figurines and toy planes hanging from the ceiling. You’ll have plenty to chit-chat about, spurring on other conversations in the process. Each night has a theme, too, like tricycle races around the bar, or karaoke and BINGO nights – both of which are well worth the stop if only to watch folks get way too into it. You’ll be laughing and talking with your date, never once wondering if you can duck out early.
Show off your DDRMax skills
Absinthe House, 1109 Walnut St.
For that night when you gotta shake dat ass and your body needs to sway to the rhythm, look no further than the Absinthe House. Even walking by, the deep bass bumps out to the street with attempts to lure you in. DJs like DJPetey, DJ Kiss and DJ Knives will make sure you sweat out any mixed drink you picked up at the bar. Have a friend who loudly protested stopping in? That’s where their ever-growing line-up of craft beer kicks in, providing pint after pint for those who would rather sit and watch the piss-poor dancing from the couches and seats near the door. In those fleeting warmer months, the rooftop is a great spot to dance, drink and soak up Colorado summer nights.
Become a regular
The Outback Saloon, 3141 28th St.
I can’t explain it. Some bars feel like they rely mostly on the business of “the regulars.” The folks who, every week, plop down at the bar and order the “usual.” The Outback Saloon is such a bar. Tucked back on a rather sad-looking strip mall on the north side of town, The Outback seems a drab spot — but I assure you, the cocktails are tasty, the shuffleboarders are loud and the pool tables are a-waiting. Wednesday, Friday and Saturday nights, you’ll find karaoke in full-swing. Dozens flood in to show off their N*Sync or Madonna renditions while their friends heckle them. Thursdays host an open mic night and Fridays have pool tournaments. The Outback is far from the beaten path, but definitely worth stopping by.
A fan of the classics
Pearl Street Pub and Cellar, 1108 Pearl St.
There’s something about the wood-covered, dark ‘n’ moody bar that beckons you once you walk in. And it keeps going, off to a room in the back with places to chat and play games. Turn back around and a set of stairs leads down to the basement where low ceilings threaten the 6-foot set (and make the 5’11 crowd all sorts of anxious). Arcade games ring out, billiard balls snap and ice rattles at the second bar nearby. It’s cramped and crowded and still wildly appealing. There’s usually a string of great live music scheduled — and the best part is, you’ll never leave the bar without a kiss. To lay one on that stuffed buffalo head on the wall is considered good luck and a Boulder tradition all students must check off their lists.
Home of ‘That Purple Drink’
Attic Bar and Bistro, 949 Walnut St.
For some reason, the Attic became our end-of-the-night stop before teetering home. We’d wander up the stairs and make our way through the cramped room to the bar in the corner. And then, no matter what we’d been drinking all night, the order was the same: “We’ll take four of the … uh … you know that purple drink, with the vodka?” That, friends, is the Fat Albert, the Attic Bar drink of choice. Once you have one of those in hand, you can find a table near the live band that’s performing, or over on the couches near the pool tables and arcade games. Even a trip to the bathroom’s interesting, with so many messages carved into the wood of the stalls. A very low-key spot with excellent drink specials all week.
Bourbon lovers, unite
The West End Tavern, 926 Pearl St.
The goal: To bring all that Kentucky bourbon love to Boulder. And boy, do the folks at The West End Tavern succeed. Not only do they have a sweeping list of bourbons, but they know just how to mix them into cocktails even bourbon skeptics could sip with glee. The craft beer on tap, and the not-bourbon cocktails offer an alternative for your other friends, as will a menu with things like Blackened Shrimp Po’ Boy and Green Chile Goat Cheese Dip. When the Wing King Challenge rolls around, expect sauce-covered faces to come staggering out as folks try to eat their way through 50 wings in 30 minutes. Snow specials make the cold weather bearable, as do things like Throwback Thursdays and Smoker Sundays. Once the weather thaws, head to the second floor and check out the patio overlooking Pearl.
The local dive
The Sundown Saloon, 1136 Pearl St.
I love the bar where you see a crowd wearing sweats and cute dresses at once, and both look at home. The bar where older folks hustle “The Young and the Intoxicated” at pool, and where the bathrooms always have a line. At the Downer there’s shuffleboard and foosball, and a whole slew of chipped and crooked tables ideal for playing cards or quarters. PBR is usually cheap and the second bar in the back offers relief from the crowded and tangled mess that is the main bar in the middle of the action. The ceilings are low and the employees are exceedingly patient. Rarely do I leave here without having a great time.
Home of the stereotypes
The Walrus Saloon, 1911 11th St.
The Walrus is the one bar we never knew why we went there. It was nobody’s favorite, yet we rarely skipped it. There’s nothing particularly unique about it, yet we had a blast each time we went. In the end, it’s that bar that’s not special, yet unforgettable — and holds every stereotype we have of college bars. There’s the dance floor with every range of ability busting a move on it. There’s a bar well-known for the basics — Screwdrivers, Red Bull-vodkas, whiskey-cokes — that takes a hot minute to get to. There’s the usual bar games, like pool and air hockey, and a ladies night that’ll spoil the girls with lower-tier liquor. Add in the peanuts in a barrel, fishbowls full of booze and weekly events, like table tennis tournaments, and you’ve got what every college student wants: a good, cheap, time.
Press Play, 1005 Pearl St.
Ah, the bar where you only need to leave your video games long enough to get to Pearl Street. I figure this spot in town is ideal for the couple divided: one obsessed with virtual reality, and one who just really wants to dance. The walls are lined with games of all skill levels, pinging and crashing and catering to those with good joystick operation ability. A few tables sit in the middle, where the real drinkers relax and slurp shots out of test tubes. As you move past the well-stocked bar, you’ll hit a cramped, dark dance floor perfect for anyone looking to step in time to some pop-music remix or techno-dance groove. Plus, there’s trivia night on Tuesdays and a panic hour on Monday, where for an hour, they hand out $.25 drinks. (Check the Facebook page for when that hour lands each week.)
A Slice of local history
The Sink, 1165 13th St.
Well-known for its more famous diners — Guy Fieri, Barack Obama, Robert Redford — The Sink is one of those bars you just have to go to if you’re in Boulder. The pizza menu alone is enough to hook a food lover time and again. The chefs don’t skimp on toppings or flavor and the drinks from a sizable bar near the entrance hit the spot. Along the walls and ceiling is graffiti decor — where people have written their names around incredible murals that run the length of the restaurant. You’ll see Redford’s image there, nestled among various illustrations. There’s a room in the back lined with black lights for wee hours of the evening and the happy hours serve up sweet deals on well drinks and draft beers from local breweries like Renegade Brewing and West Flanders. Well worth a visit to one of Boulder’s oldest restaurants.
Sieh pens her ‘China Monologues’ column every other Tuesday for the Colorado Daily. Read more here: coloradodaily.com/columnists.