2030 W 30th Ave.
Denver, CO 80211
“Hey Karl and Kelly!! What are you up too?” came a voice from a high balcony in one of the newer apartment buildings as we walked up 16th Street in recently renovated LoHi neighborhood. While still certainly odd to get yelled at while walking up a street, it took us both a moment to recognize our friends waving at us high above.
“Heading to Linger for a drink. Wanna come?”, I yelled back up. They again waved, saying they had plenty of beer at their place. So we continued on, moving further up the hill, past the massive Coney Island-inspired cream can of Little Man Ice Cream, and up to the former funeral home – now restaurant, Linger.
“It certainly is bright.” I said as we came up the staircase and high on the roof deck of Linger in the early evening. This was the part that Kelly wanted to see and the real reason we came here. Though Linger has been open for several years, neither of us have ever been here before, but have heard about the deck and view from many others. Growing up in Denver, Kelly was quite familiar with the large iconic ‘Olinger’ sign always looming over Interstate 25. Once the historic mortuary closed and turned into a restaurant in 2011… which still seems like an odd idea to me… thankfully the iconic sign was kept, though only ‘O’ is no longer lit up at night, leaving it as ‘linger’ (the smaller ‘mortuaries’ is also now lit up as ‘eatuaries.’)
Even before we looked around for the rooftop bar, we quickly realized that the crowd up on the deck was not really our normal crowd. There was a vibe around us of Saturday nights in LoDo, Coors Lights and Margaritas, and club kids having their first drink. We also noticed, after some frantic searching, there there was no bar on the roof deck either. A gutted RV, kitted out with bottles and taps, was sitting in the center and served as a self-service bar. Neat idea, but getting beers from the window of the RV was way to similar to ordering from a food truck.
I walked over and got Kelly a Dry Dock Apricot Blonde Beer and a Hall Farmhouse Red Amber Ale for myself. Once we had our drinks, we moved to the ‘self service’ area underneath the massive Olinger sign. Both of us would have preferred to sit at a bar, but here there was no other option.
“I think we got in here right on time”, I said as I motioning with my beer towards the growing crowd coming up the staircase and looking around confused, searching for either friends or a seat. Kelly didn’t notice as her eyes were closed, enjoying the breeze and cool evening air. I looked over towards the city. As I mentioned, many have told us that the view from Linger’s roof was one of the best in the city. I’m sure that was once the case. Now however, with the growing real estate in the rapidly gentrifying LoHi (stands for Lower Highlands) neighborhood, several new apartment buildings (including one being built right then next to the restaurant) blocked much of what should have been an otherwise brilliant view of Denver. So instead of looking at a partially completed sky rise, I looked down towards at Tejon & 16th Street and the growing queue around the massive milk can building of Little Man Ice Cream.
We were not impressed. The RV was a neat idea, but I missed sitting at a bar. The piped in music was kind of middle-of-the-road salsa dance mix that I found safe and inoffensive. There was also a greasy smell coming off the small kitchen, behind the RV and towards the back of the roof, that reminded me way too much of the Boardwalk and my youth on the Jersey shore. Kelly and I finished our beers and briefly thought about getting another, but decided against it. We saw the historic Olinger sign, checked out the view, and were done. We were a bit dissapointed. No need to come back. Besides, Williams and Graham is right up the street.
However, sitting up on the roof, I really missed the feel of a bar. That is where you really get a good judge of a place.
However, sitting up on the roof, I really missed the feel of a bar. That is where you really get a good judge of a place. As we defended the stairs, I suggested we give Linger another chance and have one more drink at Linger’s actual bar. So, we moved downstairs, through the main dining area, and up a small staircase to the cocktail lounge. I would have called it ‘the bar’, but no, it was a cocktail lounge and I was delighted. Aside from the series of thrown open windows that gave a much better view of the city (in my opinion), the lounge was a dark 70’s inspired bar. There were mirrors, a sort of tacky wallpaper, velvet art, Christmas lights under the bar top that gave a sort of classy, yet seedy kind of vibe. I loved it.
We sat down and Kelly ordered another Apricot Beer, but I wanted a cocktail. It’s easy to pull on a tap, but how about mixing a drink? After a quick scan of the menu, I decided on the ‘French Quarter’ (cognac, rye, green chartreuse, lillet rose, bitters.) However, it was hard to pin down on who was our actual bartender as it seemed there was a rotating collective behind the bar. The several times we had a question about the menu, a different bartender would answer it. So, who was our bartender? Apparently, all of them.
Aside from that, we enjoyed the bar a hell of a lot better than the roof deck. Better drinks, better music, better setting, and a much better view… though there was still that strong wafting smell of marajuana (or ‘Colorado Cigarettes’ as we’ve taken to calling them) that seems to be ever present in Denver nowadays. Also, the mortuary restaurant theme was more present here. I enjoyed that they went a bit classier rather then out of some sad goth’s wet dream. Sure, there were some odd pictures and paintings around the place.. a skull here, a casket shaped tray there… a collection of billiard balls over there (yeah, I didn’t get that one either), but the bar tables were far more subtler as sections of rollers for moving coffins around under glass. I wondered if people even knew what they were.
“What do you think?” Kelly asked. “Should we come back?”
“I don’t know.” I replied. “But it is growing on me.”
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT!
“Harsh and beautiful. Tell Karl thank you. After 5 hospice referrals this week, I need this series to keep my humanity” – Theresa A. (Geriatirician & Palliative Care Doctor)
A few people have asked me about this and I always aim to please. So, here’s the full funeral storyline from 30 MILES OF CRAZY! (#55.5-60, and all the CIRCUS entries in between) reposted again, without having the tedious wait for the slow petty pace of 160 or so hours of time between each installments. Yes, here is your instant gratification. You can thank me later.
Let me again point out that this story is utterly true. This is my family. I didn’t get to chose them. You can read the forward for each installment (and also hear their ‘Musical Accompaniment’) at the link above each comic.
So… here it is. Philadelphia and the Funeral of my Father. You supply the laughs.
Musical Accompaniment… and…
SHARE AND ENJOY!
30 MILES OF CRAZY! CIRCUS! (#55.5): Philadelphia
30 MILES OF CRAZY! (#56): The Funeral of CGK, Part 1
READ THE REST OF THE SERIES UNDER THE CUT!!! GO ON! COME TO THE PARTY!
Colt & Gray
1553 Platte Street
Denver, CO 80202
“I’ve only had a few sips and I’m already feeling it”, Kelly said as took another sip of her Belgium Saison. “This is delightful.”
I set my Old Fashioned back upon the dark wood bar of Colt & Gray. It was still early. The bar had only opened 20 or so minutes before and was slowly filling up with people finally getting off work. The glass was slightly sticky in my hand from the sugar of the cocktail. Normally, I may make a mental ‘tut tut’ over this small fact, but it didn’t matter at all since the cocktail was so very good. This was my first time at Colt & Gray, which has been one of those bars that have always been high on the best cocktails in Denver lists since they opened a several years ago. Kelly, knowing where to go, has already been here several times before; but I have been shamefully lax on making it over to this neighborhood for a drink.
Looking around, the bar’s dark wood gives the entire area a classic feel. Several bow ties decorate some of the bottles along the right side of the bar. There was a growing blend of businessmen and locals are on the other side of the room enjoying their cocktails or beers while a mix of Jazz, Soul, and Blues (Fred Astaire, Aretha Franklin, Junior Kimbrough, Otis Redding, etc…) plays over the stereo. Kelly has always been delighted by the space. It’s on the same lines of recent cocktail lounges like Williams & Graham or Green Russell, without the kitsch factor of the latter (which always kind of reminded me of some sort of a booze theme park… wait a moment… new idea: ‘Whiskey Land!” ) This can be a problem in the new era of spreading speakeasy cocktail lounges culture (which I do enjoy.) Because of the kitsch factor of some of these new places, you often get overwhelmed by the sights and lose a lot of the elegance and crafted cocktails. Happily, this is not a problem here. Colt & Gray is elegant and understated.
Happily, this is not a problem here. Colt & Gray is elegant and understated.
I started with an Old Fashioned (which I always a reliable drink test for the quality of the place), while Kelly sips at her Lost Abbey Saison.
“As I was walking over here through Commons Park West, some kid yelled at me ‘Hey Swing Kid! Wanna buy a pair of sunglasses as sharp as that suit?’ ”, I mentioned as I was taking another sip. “Sure I was in my suit and hat, but…”
“Swing Kid?”, Kelly asked confused. “How do they even know what that is?”
“No clue.”, I replied as I finished my Old Fashioned and contemplated my next cocktail. I wanted something new. The chalkboard high up next to me listed several drink specials, including the ’50/50’ (which is an old pre-prohibition martini, where the gin and vermouth are mixed in an equal ratio, unlike the scant whisper of vermouth in the modern version.) I was stuck between ordering that and the ‘Bennet’ (which I’ve seen several recipes for and always sounded just like a Gimlet with bitters… which I’d thought was called a ‘Marlowe’ after they cocktail he and Terry Lennox drink in the ‘The Long Goodbye.’) I asked Dwight, our bartender, about the differences between the two drinks.
“Well…”, Dwight replied. “It depends on what’s going on.”
Kelly laughed, ordered an Upslope Belguim Pale Ale, and continued to look over the menu. I fell back to the 50/50, since I’m not afraid and do enjoy some good vermouth in my martini (and still thought a ‘Marlowe’ was a better name for the Bennet.)
I fell back to the 50/50, since I’m not afraid and do enjoy some good vermouth in my martini (and still thought a ‘Marlowe’ was a better name for the Bennet.)
Once our new drinks were placed in front of us, Kelly still looking at the menu, insisted that we get snacks. Colt & Gray has a limited, but precise and selective menu; and quite a few things caught her eye. “I want oysters! No, fritters! No meat and cheese plate! No, marrow bones! No, sweetbreads! They are quite tasty here. When I was last here having drinks with Meaux, she got me to try them once…”
“Aren’t those like gizzards and whatnot?”
“Thymus glands, I think. Of baby cows.”
In the end, we settled on a Charcuterie & Cheese plate (we picked Proscuitto Cotto, Pea-Meal Bacon, with a Vermont Farmstead Windsordale) along with an order of the Sweet Corn & Crab Fritters. They were all quickly demolished.
I finished my gin cocktail as Kelly got that gleam in her eyes again.
“Along with a good beer, I can just eat meat and cheese all the time. This is perfect!”
The World Famous Lion’s Lair Lounge
2022 East Colfax Avenue
Denver, CO 80206
“God… I’m starving”, Kelly said as she rushed into the bar.
The World Famous Lion’s Lair is not something that you immediately think of when contemplating food. Easily enough though since they don’t serve any (aside from an M&M and other odd candies in an over sized gum ball machine in the corner.) Luckily however, I brought a tortas sandwich along with me for Kelly from a small hole in the wall a bit further along East Colfax (Tortas Grill… very good.) She sat down and tore into the bag while I ordered another whiskey from Sara Belle. As Kelly had just walked in, Sara also mixed up a ‘Buckshot Beauty’: an original cocktail that she made up and named after Kelly (that’s a longer story for another day.)
The World Famous Lion’s Lair… a no frills space for a beer and a shot. Part venue, part East Colfax institution. I’ve heard various stories about the origin of the place, depending on whom you ask, which can be traced back to the 50’s or 20s (as a dancehall that also included the spaces where the tattoo shop, dispensary, and liquor store all reside now.) To me, the Lair best represents what Colfax Avenue actually is: a bare-bones, low-down place full of stories and characters. This is the bar where everyone eventually finds themselves in at 2am. This is the bar where bad and sometimes great decisions are made. This is the bar where you collect stories.
… This is the bar where everyone eventually finds themselves in at 2am. This is the bar where bad and sometimes great decisions are made. This is the bar where you collect stories.
One of the reasons we love the Lair is that you never know what to expect from this place. Walk in on a Saturday afternoon and you may find half the bar singing and dancing along to Abba, Nancy Sinatra, or some weird unknown cover of ‘Total Eclipse of the Heart’ (Thank you, DJ Bell of ‘Kooky K!t$h!’). At another time you may be accosted by one the East Colfax Regulars, slurring his way through a story that involves an alley, a wheelchair, the cover of darkness, and a copious amount of bourbon. Walk in on a weeknight and the place may be full of music from some band passing through town. If you’re lucky, you may stumble upon a The Melvins secret show (happened to us), or a set by John Doe (who only plays the Lair when he’s in town).
The Lair was also one of the first bars I found myself in when I finally moved to Denver years ago (living only a couple blocks away also helps). Not only had I been hearing about that place for years back then (even before I started visiting the city), but at that first night there was able to see Slim Cessna’s Auto Club – one of the best, most welcoming (at least to me) events after I’d only been living in the Mile High City for less than a month. If Denver was some sort of communicable disease, I got it that night from the sheer press of the crowd at the show in such an intimate setting.
Yes, I used the word ‘intimate’ which in all ways seems wrong. It kind of brings to mind singer/songwriters strumming on acoustic guitars, singing about their lost cat by candlelight… which is totally not the case if you’ve ever set foot in the place. The size of the Lair is so small that you can be punched on one side of the bar and still hit the wall of the other, likely hitting a half a dozen band stickers that have been placed there over the years (I can still find the sticker of a local Philly band that I saw many times in the 90’s among the collection of band debris scattered over the Lair’s walls). That first night, and most other nights I’ve been there for shows are cramped, beer soaked, rowdy, near riots. People yelling for drinks or at each other; booze being tossed onto the floor, over the patrons, and down their gullets; shoving matches that could be called dancing or drunken stumbles; and music blaring over everything, demanding some attention. Events that have to be experienced to be believed.
Kelly finished her torta and the last of her ‘Buckshot’ cocktail. She then looked straight at me, saying, “Another round?”