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Esmé Patterson, a former member of folk group Paper Bird, has found her groove as a solo artist. Courtesy of Daniel Topete

Top of the Town 2017: Culture & Nightlife

From patios to artists, its the best of Denver's culture & nightlife.

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Band/Musician

Esmé Patterson 
Editors’ Choice 

Since departing six-member folk group Paper Bird in 2014 for a solo career, this Colorado native has certainly taken flight. To wit: On June 2016’s We Were Wild, her third album, Patterson plays the electric guitar (a skill she didn’t hone until going out on her own) in a supporting role. The instrument bolsters a variety of genres—rock and indie punk among them—to craft a rarity: an upbeat indie record. (Or, as Rolling Stone wrote, “This is the sound of putting the funeral dress in mothballs—maybe just for tonight, maybe forever.”) Her airy, pristine solo pipes were perhaps best on display in February when she performed on National Public Radio’s Tiny Desk concert series for up-and-coming artists, belting out tunes that felt private and powerful.

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The Lumineers 
Readers’ Choice 

Author

Erik Storey
Editors’ Choice

Because Colorado doesn’t have a whole lot of shoreline, a fast-reading whodunit thriller might more aptly be called a “camp read” than a “beach read.” Either way, the Grand Junction resident’s debut novel, Nothing Short of Dying (August 2016), defines the genre. This gripping crime story has as many twists and turns as a drive over Loveland Pass: Clyde Barr, a gruff but kind-hearted prodigal son, returns to the Centennial State after a stint in a Mexican prison to search for his missing sister. What sets the book apart, though, are Storey’s descriptions of Colorado’s landscape and small towns (from Palisade to Steamboat Springs)—they’re why we’re eagerly awaiting the release of A Promise to Kill, the second Clyde Barr tome, which comes out next month.

Peter Heller
Readers’ Choice 

Scott-Young
Scott Young’sWish You Were Here. Courtesy of Wes Magyar/WM Art Services

Artist

Scott Young
Editors’ Choice 

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Young’s Wish You Were Here solo show at Rule Gallery in 2016 displayed a variety of thought-provoking neon images. For example, the namesake piece—with its flickering final “e” serving as a subtle but powerful alteration that changes the phrase to “Wish You Were Her”—created a message viewers couldn’t shake. “What’s most intriguing about Scott’s art is his use of the natural, bright cheeriness of neon, which he contrasts with the often bittersweet, sometimes poignant, deeper meaning within his work,” Valerie Santerli, owner and director of Rule Gallery, says. Museum of Contemporary Art Denver director and chief animator Adam Lerner installed the 10-foot-tall “Wish You Were Her(e)” atop his museum this past spring and will leave it there through summer.

Kaitlin Ziesmer
Readers’ Choice 

Patio

Homegrown Tap & Dough
Editors’ Choice

The east-facing patio of this restaurant’s Wash Park location ensures you and the family are in the best position to soak up some early afternoon sunshine. If your brood doesn’t appreciate the rays, simply dispatch them into the arcade building, stocked with Pac-Man, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and Street Fighter—all for free. Meanwhile, you can enjoy more adult pursuits, like cornhole and drinks from local names such as Elevation Beer Company and C Squared Ciders. Don’t worry: Homegrown’s innovative pizzas (kids can make their own while you chow down on the veggie- and mozzarella-loaded Wash Park) are sure to bring the family together again. 1001 S. Gaylord St., 720-459-8736; 5601 Olde Wadsworth Blvd., Arvada, 303-284-6087

Avanti Food & Beverage 
Readers’ Choice 
3200 N. Pecos St., 720-269-4778

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TJ-Vong
Bartender TJ Vong. Courtesy of Sarah Boyum

Bartender

TJ Vong, TAG
Editors’ Choice 

From making G&Ts at a Cripple Creek casino to pouring drinks at Curio and Terminal Bar, Vong has come a long way during the past four years. But after recently helping curate the inaugural bar program at Mister Tuna and leading the cocktail menu overhaul at TAG (Troy Guard, our readers’ choice for best chef, owns both), Vong might not be able to rise much higher without opening a pub of his own. The 26-year-old specializes in innovative tipples, using unexpected liquor bases such as mezcal and even fat-infused rum. If you find yourself at TAG, try the kumquat jalapeño mojito (a surprising blend of muddled fruit, peppers, and mint with rum). Or after a day filled with high-stress decisions, relax on the patio with a Dealer’s Choice: You pick what sort of booze you want, tell Vong your mood, and he whips up something that’s sure to fit. The cocktail is a bit of a gamble (hence the name), but with Vong behind the bar, it’s bound to be a winning bet. TAG, 1441 Larimer St., 303-996-9985

Topher Hartfield, Nocturne Jazz & Supper Club
Readers’ Choice
1330 27th St., 303-295-3333

Theater Company

Black Box Repertory Ensemble 
Editors’ Choice 

During its inaugural season last year, this offshoot of the Arvada Center for the Arts and Humanities breathed life into classic works (Molière’s 17th-century farce Tartuffe), delivered epic performances (in The Drowning Girls, three women emerged from bathtubs to play about 20 different roles…while soaking wet), and challenged audiences (Samuel Beckett’s epic tragicomedy Waiting for Godot). Black Box was able to achieve such success thanks to a resident ensemble of actors, designers, and directors whose creative chemistry grew as the season progressed. That developing trust and familiarity are why we can’t wait for the group’s second season, which will include an adaptation of Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility as well as an exploration of magical realism with The Electric Baby. 6901 Wadsworth Blvd., Arvada, 720-898-7200

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Denver Center for the Performing Arts
Readers’ Choice 
Champa St. and 14th St., 303-893-4100

Ophelias
Inside Ophelia’s Electric Soapbox. Courtesy of Ophelia’s Electric Soapbox.

Music Venue That Isn’t Red Rocks

Ophelia’s Electric Soapbox
Editors’ Choice 

There comes a time in every aging concertgoer’s life when “Doors at 8, Show at 10” isn’t an option anymore. Fortunately, thanks to free live music brunches at Ophelia’s Electric Soapbox on weekend mornings, getting older doesn’t have to mean getting lamer—at least in the musical sense. Located in a former adult film house, the two-year-old venue’s tiered layout assures there isn’t a bad seat. Even tables set away from the stage are within view of big screens broadcasting bands such as Colorado alt-country outfit the Gasoline Lollipops, hip-hop group Arrested Development, and ’80s tribute band the Goonies. Plus, your tunes come with delicious creations, such as arepas Benedict or sweet potato pie pancakes, from Justin Cucci of Root Down and Linger fame. The best part? Ophelia’s takes brunch reservations, so you won’t have to jostle with some mohawk-ed headbanger for a table. 1215 20th St., 303-993-8023

Bluebird Theater
Readers’ Choice
3317 E. Colfax Ave., 303-377-1666

Game Night

Board Game Republic 
Editors’ Choice 

We love a new strategy game as much as the next nerd, but it’s tough to drop $70-plus on, say, Game of Thrones Risk when you’re not certain you’ll like it. Baker’s year-old Board Game Republic solves that problem. For $5 a person, you and your crew can try out any of its 750 games, which span classics like Battleship and modern hits such as Secret Hitler (from one of the Cards Against Humanity creators; players try to decipher who among them is, well, secretly Hitler). Staffers are on hand to explain directions but also to help you try out other things—like a local sausage sammie or roasted Brussels sprouts as well as beverages from a full bar of Colorado-made brews, wines, and liquors. The Yard, 900 W. First Ave., 303-954-9165

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The Post Brewing Co. 
Readers’ Choice
105 W. Emma St., Lafayette, 303-593-2066

Hearth-Dram
Hearth & Dram’s Drop the Beet cocktail. Courtesy of Take You Wild Photography

New Bar

Hearth & Dram 
Editors’ Choice 

Every time we’ve visited this swanky saloon in the five months since it opened behind Union Station, the bar stools, tables, and plaid-printed booths have been packed. For 380 good reasons: Hearth & Dram holds that many whiskeys on seven soaring shelves. Relax, nonwhiskey drinkers. The iPad menus reveal other available spirits and a strong roster of custom cocktails such as the Drop the Beet with reposado tequila, mezcal, beet juice, orgeat, triple sec, and lime juice. The antique skis and photos of bygone miners on the walls even give a nod to Colorado’s roots, creating a modern and airy space with rustic touches that, once you find a seat, you’ll be loathe to leave. 1801 Wewatta St., 303-623-0979

The Way Back 
Readers’ Choice 
4132 W. 38th Ave., 720-728-8156

New Brewery

Cheluna Brewing Co.
Editors’ Choice 

Although we dig the food-trucks-at-breweries trend, we sometimes weary of checking Twitter to decipher when and what eats will be available. By contrast, seven-month-old Cheluna—which brews creative European- and Latin-style beers in a colorful, open two-story space—presents access to a permanent roster of exciting dining options thanks to its location inside Aurora’s Stanley Marketplace. Wash down tacos from Comida Cantina with a refreshing Lowrider Mexican lager; chase Yellowbelly’s spicy Barn Burner sandwich (Yellowbelly will deliver to Cheluna) with La Morena, a German-style brown hefeweizen; or go straight for dessert with truffles from Miette et Chocolat and Cheluna’s chocolate- and coconut-infused Coco-Xoco porter. Stanley Marketplace, 2501 Dallas St., Aurora

Cerebral Brewing 
Readers’ Choice
1477 Monroe St., 303-927-7365

Happy Hour

Postino 
Editors’ Choice 

When Arizona import Postino opened its doors in the Mile High City in 2015, there was a lot to be excited about: an accessible, Italy-inspired menu; a 15-table patio that overlooks downtown from its LoHi perch; and a unique vibe thanks to modish light fixtures and a wall of donated books that pays homage to the building’s history as a former bindery. Nevertheless, the trendy wine bar’s most important addition to the local dining scene is its insanely reasonable happy hour prices. Postino, which updates its 30-plus wine varietals every three to four months, drops all of its by-the-glass options to $5 from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily (they typically range from $9 to $13). If you can’t skip out of work early, head over after 8 p.m. on Mondays and Tuesdays to enjoy your pick of bruschetta (our faves include Brie and apples with fig spread and smoked salmon with pesto) and any bottle of wine for a mere $20. Now that’s what we call a happy place. 2715 17th St., 303-433-6363

The Spotted Dog
Readers’ Choice 
200 Inverness Drive West, Englewood, 800-832-9053

Return-of-the-Blackfoot-War-Party
“Return of the Blackfoot War Party” by Frederic Remington. Courtesy of American Museum of Western Art/The Anschutz Collection

Place To See Art

American Museum of Western Art 
Editors’ Choice 

Billionaire Coloradan Phil Anschutz’s art collection isn’t as well-known as his wealth and conservative politics, but it should be. The Kansas native has amassed a vast collection of Western art over more than 50 years, all housed within 26,000 square feet at the historic Navarre Building downtown. The 300 or so works on display—from the bold impressionism of Frederic Remington’s “Return of the Blackfoot War Party” (pictured) to Albert Bierstadt’s near-celestial “Mountain Landscape”—comprise one of the most respected Western collections in the country. The museum is open Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. If it’s your first time, skip the $5 self-guided option and splurge on the $10 docent tour; with a selection as varied and beautiful as the West, you’ll want a guide to fully appreciate it. 1727 Tremont Place, 303-293-2000

Denver Art Museum
Readers’ Choice 
100 W. 14th Ave., 720-865-5000

Cherry-Cricket
The Cherry Cricket. Courtesy of Stephanie Grado

Sports Bar

The Cherry Cricket 
Editors’ Choice 

Philosophically, the band Chicago advised that “everybody needs a little time away.” So although no one wanted the Cherry Cricket to close after a fire in November, maybe we needed the absence to truly appreciate this sports-centric staple, which has been in business since 1945. Reopened in April, the Cherry Cricket bears much the same no-frills vibe you remember: an assorted mix of vintage beer and sports memorabilia on wood-paneled walls; juicy burgers topped with everything from smoked cheddar to grape jam; and a multitude of flat-screen TVs. Basically, it’s the most unpretentious spot in town to watch a game. (Sorry, transplants: The viewing hews local.) This ole bar is turning out some new tricks, too. The craft beer roster has added stars, such as Comrade Brewing Company’s Superpower IPA. Those brews should help wash down the new gourmet hot dog (because what goes better with a game?) that buttresses the iconic burgers. 2641 E. Second Ave., 303-322-7666 

Blake Street Tavern
Readers’ Choice 
2301 Blake St., 303-675-0505

Cocktail Menu

Retrograde 
Editors’ Choice

Although its hidden entrance—a freezer door in the back of Frozen Matter, an Uptown ice cream shop—suggests a Prohibition-era theme, this intimate one-year-old bar draws more inspiration from Star Trek than The Great Gatsby. The vaguely ’80s-themed joint pours eclectic cocktails named after sci-fi characters, including Princess Leia (a boozy milk punch with honey) and Ellen Ripley from Alien (a citrusy, tea-infused Manhattan). Retrograde designed the menu to encourage sippers to travel beyond their usual tipples. Choose a flavor profile—say, tart and slightly bitter with a mild cherry taste—and Retrograde’s bartenders will craft a beverage using the hard stuff of their choosing. So make like Captain Kirk and boldly drink what you’ve never drunk before. Just don’t man the captain’s seat afterward: Retrograde’s typical pours are closer to doubles than singles. 530 E. 19th Ave., 720-772-7843

Nocturne Jazz & Supper Club
Readers’ Choice 
1330 27th St., 303-295-3333

Arise-Festival
Arise Festival. Courtesy of Eric Allen Photo/Arise Festival

Festival

Arise Festival
Editors’ Choice 

Embrace your inner flower child at this three-day festival from August 4 to 6 on Loveland’s picturesque, 350-acre Sunrise Ranch. Co-created by Reggae on the River festival producer Paul Bassis and Tierro Lee of Kan’Nal (a tribal psychedelic rock band from Guatemala), the five-year-old event is equal parts music, enlightenment, and activism. In addition to a diverse musical lineup including hip-hop duo Atmosphere, folk-fusion group Rising Appalachia, electronic outfit the Desert Dwellers, and ’90s feminist alt-rocker Ani DiFranco, the weekend includes spiritual activities such as a workshop about herbs and astrology from a founding member of the American Herbalists Guild and yoga classes from internationally renowned instructor Shiva Rea. Bring your Nalgene, because this environmentally conscious event encourages attendees to create as little impact as possible while camping on the ranch. Translation—no plastic water bottles are sold. Bonus points: Fort Collins nonprofit Trees, Water & People plants a sapling for every ticket purchased. (Pricing runs from $199 for three-day adult general admission to $625 for a camp rental package, which includes one queen, two double beds, or four cots.) 100 Sunrise Ranch Road, Loveland

The Old House Vintage Market 
Readers’ Choice 
5280 Arena Circle, Loveland

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