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This article is part of our Best Bars 2015 feature. Find the official 5280 list of the city’s best watering holes, trending cocktail ingredients, essays on the makings of a good bar, drinking alone, and more at 5280.com/bestbars2015. Read part 1 of our roundup of new bars here.
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Another (welcome) entry in the beer bars category, Asbury debuted in September with 25 taps pouring largely local brews, but not just the usual—and delicious—suspects like Odell, Avery, and Breckenridge. Asbury showcases ales from smaller Colorado breweries such as River North, Grist, Platt Park, Renegade, and sours from the likes of Strange and Crooked Stave. Dressed in dark woods and mint hues with gold accents, Asbury feels like a place your grandpa might hangout—especially if your grandpa is from Philly. Eagles paraphernalia screams from the walls and the food and drink menus boast Philly traditions: The Citywide Special (Fireside whiskey and a can of Genesee Cream Ale) on one and scrapple—a fried mash of meaty leftovers with cornmeal and spices—on the other. Given the elevated beer list, Asbury almost feels a little out of place at the heart of college-student central. But those students and their still-developing palates will likely appreciate the bottomless mimosas during Saturday and Sunday brunch and selection of cheap (but hipsterific) domestics beers “from Grandpa’s fridge,” a 1950s General Electric fridge anchoring one corner behind the bar, as much as their professors will appreciate the more highbrow beer list.
2043 S. University Blvd., 303-282-5485, asburyprovisions.com
A wood door handle and tiny sign reading “sake + ramen” are the only indication you’ll find of this two-month-old ramen spot at Industry. Once you get inside, the bar is even more hidden. Well, one of them. Behind the dining area a small bar serving by-the-glass sake cocktails and sake flights is easy enough to spot, but you’ll have to head down a set of unmarked stairs to find Tengu’s “tavern.” Large booths and a menu of shared plates and cocktail pitchers create a convivial and communal feel, even if the aesthetic remains a bit austere, what with all the concrete, low lights, and spare decoration. Fortunately the warm and welcoming bar staff upstairs more than make up for the somewhat cool space. While the bar boast a full selection of boozes, the barkeeps will encourage you to try the highlighted sake cocktails in lieu of your more traditional drink. Listen to them. Manhattan lovers will enjoy the Nikkei, a crisp and dry combination of sake, sweet vermouth, and bitters, while those in search of something a bit more sweet can’t go wrong with Shochu cocktails, like the Red Owl. If you must stick with something more traditional, like an old fashioned, at least try it with one of the seven Japanese whiskeys on the menu.
3053 Brighton Blvd., 303-749–0109, tengudenver.com
Dunbar Kitchen & Taphouse
The newest addition to what is becoming Five Points foodie avenue, Dunbar opened near Welton and 29th streets in December, just blocks from Rosenberg’s Bagels. Housed in a former barber shop (the new owners kept an original barber poll painting on an inside wall), Dunbar aims to be the kind of neighborhood spot residents new and old can turn to for solid cocktails, a well curated tap list, and Southern-inspired eats. It certainly succeeds on the beverage side of things: A thoughtful and Colorado-centric beer menu includes Denver favorites like Denver Beer Company and Epic Brewing Company and farther flung options such as Berthoud’s City Star and Grand Junction’s Kannah Creek, and the cocktail menu is ambitious (and generally well executed) if a bit pricey. Of note: The Bourbon Renewal Project (pictured) is a spin on the old fashioned, one that includes house barrel-aged Breckenridge Bourbon and Breckenridge Sipping Bitters—and a $14 price tag. Delicious as it is, that seems a bit steep for a neighborhood joint. Dunbar hits the sweet spot instead with classics like its spicy but not too tomato-y Bloody Mary ($9) and Ain’t Yo Mama’s Mule ($9), which pair more neatly with the burgers, sandwiches, and po-boy on the menu. Dishes can be a bit hit or miss, but we’d gladly drive across town for the D Line Salad ($7), and Pimento cheese ($6). If you’re after a well made drink, good company, a sunny back patio, and a bartender who shakes your hand every time you come in (seriously), this is your spot. And ours too.
2844 Welton St., 720-630-7641, dunbarkitchenandtaphouse.com
—Edited by Kasey Cordell