Top Five Patios:
With spring peaking its head out in Colorado, and then getting smothered by another winter-that-just-won’t-quit, it’s time to think about warm weather drinking. And that means beer on patios.
One of my absolute favorite things to do is spend a warm summer evening enjoying beers on a patio with good company and, preferably, my dog. I obsess over it. When the weather starts to improve I neurotically check the forecast trying to determine when I can partake in this activity.
The criteria are as follows:
atmosphere of patio
is Sasha welcome?
Keep in mind, the descriptions and criteria highlight where this place stands out. If the patio doesn’t receive the “service” shout out, it doesn’t mean the service is bad, just not noteworthy.
So here are, in no particular order, my favorite patios around Denver:
Good food (with good vegetarian options), great beer on a crowded, but not too crowded street. What more could you want? Oh that’s right, Sasha’s welcome there too, as long as she stays on the other side of the fence.
This is the first place my mind visits when the sun starts to shine. It might be a bit strong on the Grateful Dead/Phish theme, but I’ve never heard anyone criticize it for such, and that includes the friends of mine who shudder at the word “Boulder”.
The one drawback of Vine Street is I’m not the only person who thinks it’s the bees’ knees. I don’t remember the last time I went there and didn’t have to wait at least half an hour for a table. And when the weather improves, the wait only grows. Still, when I eventually get my patio seating, I’ve never regretted losing the time it’s taken to get there.
2) My Brother’s Bar
I’ve only sat on their patio once, but every time that I visit the bar in the winter, I inevitably mumble something about how I wish I could be sitting on the patio.
There are a series of wooden benches that blend naturally into the fence and environment of the stone paved patio. Vines wind over the walls, creating a more intimate atmosphere. The surroundings are like the perfect backyard for a neighborhood party.
The beer selection’s not amazing. I can always find something worth drinking, but it’s a destination I would choose for the atmosphere rather than to educate someone about beer. As for the food, well, all I can say is, this place makes me miss eating meat.
Another backyard type patio. Only this one feels like it should be in Louisiana or Florida. The décor is what you would expect if a Coloradan moved down south and opened up a bar on the waterfront: fairy lights, a few knickknacks without becoming kitschy, beat-up wooden fence and some special element that makes you feel like you’re on the bayou.
The food here is fantastic; it’s by far my favorite non-sushi place to go for seafood. In fact, I know that if I mention their lobster stew, I’ll get an angry “why’d you have to bring that up? Do you have any idea how much I miss it?!” message from a particular friend of mine currently residing in Iowa.
The drawback of Max as a summer beer-drinking patio is that it’s a restaurant. You can’t just sit and drink -- meals need to be ordered, tables need to be overturned. I’ve never been rushed out of the place, but it’s not like Great Divide where you can sit back, relax and drink for a few hours.
Which brings me to…
4) Great Divide
It goes without saying that great beer is drunk on this patio.
Now the environment isn’t the best – Great Divide isn’t in the best part of Denver, which means homeless people wandering past isn’t unheard of, but it’s not enough of an issue that it should deter anyone from going. And I’m fairly certain, though not positive, that Sasha would be allowed to visit Great Divide’s patio with me.
Its location is central enough that it’s a great place to grab a drink after work, but not in the heart of the city so you won’t find every other 9-5er there. Plus, the service is great – Jenny and Collin will get a little overwhelmed when there’s a rush and they don’t have additional help, but spend an hour or so there when the place is empty and they’ll make a point of saying hello the next time you come back.
I’m kind of cheating here. Their patio isn’t just a patio, it’s a venue. In fact, it was the 2009 Westword's Best Outdoor Stage. But considering the amount of time that I have spent at the Meadowlark this winter, I know this will be my most frequently visited patio this summer.
The patio is essentially the back yard (spend enough time there and you’ll run into at least one of the people who lives there), with a large wooden stage, sandstone tiles covering the ground (a common fixture in Colorado home patios).
In addition to that, the Meadowlark crowd is fantastic. The people are friendly and willing to chat – within a few visits, you start to feel a part of the scene.
The beer is better than I expect at venues, and there are rumors of beer being brewed on site in the future. But, obviously, the selection is nothing special. And considering the crowd of starving musicians that frequent the joint, I’d guess that more PBR is ordered in a night than any other beer is ordered in a week.
-good beer selection, great people watching, good food
The Thin Man
-good beer selection, similar atmosphere to Vine Street, but without the food, Sasha’s allowed
-only drawback is the proximity to East and running into everyone I knew growing up when I go there.
The Freeman porch
-great environment, good company, usually good beer selection (menu changes), service could use improvement