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  • Take a date to the Dark Horse and you'll have...

    Cliff Grassmick / Staff Photographer

    Take a date to the Dark Horse and you'll have conversation-starters hanging from the ceiling everywhere.

  • The West End Tavern's Wing King Challenge pits folks against...

    Karl Gehring / The Denver Post

    The West End Tavern's Wing King Challenge pits folks against food, as they try to eat their way through 50 wings in 30 minutes.

  • Once you walk down those stairs, you'll enter a magical...

    Paul Aiken / Staff Photographer

    Once you walk down those stairs, you'll enter a magical dive where the ceilings are low and the employees are exceedingly patient.



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 Shopping Cart,” aggressively heckle friends during billiards, and 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.

Here’s a guide to the Boulder bar scene, to help you choose (and then drink) wisely.

A great first date

World Famous Dark Horse Bar And Grill

2922 W. Baseline Road

The struggle can be mighty real on that first date. Nerves, expectations — it all leads to a “What the hell do I say to this hottie that won’t blow my chances?” So why not take the pressure off? When you and your date walk in, you’ll find your way to the bar, of course. Pick up a tasty Colorado craft beer or a cheaper domestic on discount, or a well-priced well drink if liquor’s more your speed. From there, the bar does the work for you.

You’ll wander around, taking in the utter chaos of the tchotchkes, posters and decorations. Take a break at one of the booths, tables or high-tops that are scattered about. Challenge your foxy someone to a round of pool, air hockey or arcade games on the first and second floor. Go on the right night, and you can mutually mock the brave souls belting one out on karaoke night, or pray for B12 during bingo. You’ll be laughing and talking with your date, never once wondering if you can duck out early.

Become a regular

The Outback Saloon

3141 28th St.

Tucked back along 28th Street, The Outback Saloon is far from the main drag of Boulder bars. That’s probably why, when you walk in, you get that, “I bet that guy comes here a lot” vibe — the feeling that most of those sipping on a discounted cocktail probably stop by after work once or twice a week. But I’d argue that’s what makes it worth a visit or two yourself.

You won’t find yourself jostling for position at the bar to place a drink order. No overwhelming crowds keeping you from playing a round of shuffleboard. Just plenty of tables to chat over or drink at, pool tables in the back, and a stage for all those ready to sing some sweet karaoke tunes. (You’ll catch the N*Sync and Madonna wannabes being heckled by their friends Wednesday, Friday and Saturday nights.) Every Thursday, catch local talent on open mic night, or challenge your fellow “regulars” to pool in their Friday night tournaments. No shame, my dears. Make it that place where everybody knows your name.

Be a part of the tradition

Pearl Street Pub and Cellar

1108 Pearl St.

There’s no way you’ll miss it. The Pearl Street Pub and Cellar sits along the mall, a nice patio outside beckoning you in with the promise of a cool drink and place to relax. Inside, a gorgeous bar boasts all sorts of beers on tap, and a wide selection of liquor for your favorite mixed drink. But this bar, well, it’s a gift that keeps on giving. It’s more than a classic bar. Keep walking back and you’ll find bar activities and a couple more tables. Go downstairs, and you’ll hit the source of all sorts of pool tables, arcade games and a second bar to keep you hydrated. Anyone around 6 feet may want to watch their noodles — the ceilings are low, but it’s well worth the possible head injury. If the night’s right, you’ll catch some live music.

On your way out, pucker up. That big ol’ buffalo head is waiting for a kiss — a tradition for any and all Boulder residents and students looking for good luck. Not too shabby — always guaranteed a kiss good night.

Sip up ‘that purple drink’

Attic Bar and Bistro

949 Walnut St.

For no reason in particular, the Attic was often my group’s 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 settle in on the couches near the pool tables and arcade games. Even a trip to the bathroom is 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 sorts of Kentucky bourbon love to Boulder. And boy, do the folks at The West End Tavern succeed. Not only do they have a long list of bourbons, 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 creative dishes to soak up all that liquor. 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 other weekday specials. Once the weather thaws, head to the second floor and check out the patio overlooking Pearl.

Lover of the local dive bar

The Sundown Saloon

1136 Pearl St.

What can I say? I’m a dive bar lover. A place where your high heels and socks-‘n’-sandals combos are both welcome, and any shuffleboard skill level will suffice. 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 darts 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. And to think — all this greatness just a stairway away along Pearl Street.

Sort out the stereotypes

The Walrus Saloon

1911 11th St.

We never really understood what brought us there, when we’d skip down a couple stairs and enter the oddity that is The Walrus Saloon. The dance floor would be full of those doing every move from the common mosh-pit to the Lawn Mower. (Oh wait … that was me.) The bar was always packed — everyone looking for the basic well drinks, surprise shots and domestic beers. The barrels supplied the daring with booze-soaked peanuts they’d munch as their friends played pool or air hockey. It’s how we got our typical college-town bar fix. But it would also surprise you, with events like table tennis tournaments or online releases of DJ mixes to download. It may not be anyone’s favorite, but it’s definitely a spot we all stop by.

Gamers’ delight

Press Play

1005 Pearl St.

Don’t worry. I know how real the struggle is. When you want to go out, but you’re almost through Level 26 and maybe after that …

For me, it’s, “Oh hell, I just lost my whole day to a Criminal Minds marathon.”

But for those true-blue gamers out there, never fear. You can still be social — you just have to forego the game for as long as it takes to get your bum over to Press Play. From there, it’s games galore, lining the walls with all skill levels sending pings and crashes echoing across the bar. For those less inclined to joystick operation, there are plenty of tables to sip your cocktails at. And toward the back, that’s where the dance party begins. The dance floor fills up quick with those bumping and grinding to pop-music remixes and techno grooves. A perfect combo for that couple torn between game love and dance delight. You’ll also find themed nights like trivia nights and discount booze deals. Check in on Facebook or their website for the details.

Get your slice of local history

The Sink

1165 13th St.

Over off 13th Street, The Sink is well known for its more famous diners — Guy Fieri, Barack Obama, Robert Redford. But it’s you, its foxy fresh customers, the folks at The Sink adore most. Their pizza menu alone is enough to hook any food lover, with plenty of toppings and odd pairings to pique your interest. The same goes with burgers, sandwiches, etc. If the food doesn’t captivate you enough, the walls sure will. For years, folks have been inking their names all along the walls, mingling with fantastic artwork that paints The Sink’s history. You’ll see Redford’s image there, nestled among various illustrations. In the back, black lights will turn you all technicolor in the wee hours of the evening. Weekly happy hours keep you smiling with local brews and great liquor alike. Their views about Sunday — especially brunch-time booze deals — are just what the doctor ordered: hair of the dog to enjoy on the corner patio.

Sieh pens her China Monologues column every other Tuesday for the Colorado Daily. Read more here: Stalk her:

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