Best Of 2016


2016 Best Of Colorado Springs: Nightlife 

click to enlarge BRIENNE BOORTZ
  • Brienne Boortz
Dive Bar, Vegetarian

The Burrowing Owl

  • Fully vegan and serving more than 110 canned beers, with seasonals rotated in regularly
  • Cocktails include unconventional ingredients like apple cider vinegar, best displayed in The Mother, made also with agave syrup and whiskey
  • "We're still drinking," says co-owner Cody Rilo, "but we're doing it in a healthier way"
  • Go for the Monday special: a Cubano on Sourdough Boulangerie baguette with the traditional fixin's joined by Chao soy cheese and jackfruit mimicking pulled pork
  • New menu includes three styles of mac and cheese, including a spicy King's Chef green chile mac

Beer Selection on Tap

Brewer's Republic

  • Schooling you on the best craft brews and whiskey offerings from Colorado and beyond
  • Twenty constantly rotating taps to satiate the Springs' beer snobs
  • Local, state and national craft labels you can't find at other local bars and taphouses
  • Weekly and special events, including Train Wreck Trivia, tap takeovers, beer and food events and more
  • Pub fare you won't regret, with pizzas, sandwiches, potachos ...

Category We (Literally) Forgot

Irish Pub

In past years, we offered a "Category We Forgot" award to glean what the city thought we should be celebrating. We'd get odd, sometimes funny, answers. But in the interest of tightening up our ballot, we nixed that category. Then, this year, mistakes were made (see how we phrased that in passive voice to avoid personal responsibility?), and we truly accidentally forgot to include the Irish Pub category on the Best Of ballot. It's arguable how many spots actually qualify around town — some lean English-style, others just happen to have Guinness on tap and sell fish and chips — but we can at least tell you who finished Top 3 last year: Jack Quinn Irish Alehouse & Pub, McCabe's Tavern and Alchemy, in that order. All fine spots, still worthy of your attention. So, don't forget them.

click to enlarge MATTHEW SCHNIPER
  • Matthew Schniper
Happy Hour

Cowboy Star Restaurant and Butcher Shop

  • Happy hour sees half-off specialty cocktails, wine, well spirits, draft beers and small plates, weekdays from 2-6 p.m.; Saturday from 4-6 p.m.; and Sunday from 4-9 p.m.
  • A happy hour pint and a killer plate of steak and fries will run an unbeatable $13
  • If the superlative steaks and gourmet bites aren't enough, check out dessert, utilizing ice cream from Josh & John's
  • Features a fine retail butcher shop next door for shopping post-meal

click to enlarge BRIENNE BOORTZ
  • Brienne Boortz

Distillery 291

  • The Springs' first distillery (born in late 2011/early 2012), was founded by Michael Myers, a former New York fashion photographer who was inspired to move here post-9/11
  • Their Colorado Bourbon earned Double Gold at the 2016 San Francisco World Spirits Competition
  • "Best American Rye Whiskey — No Age Statement": the category won by 291 at this year's World Whiskies Awards in London
  • Tasting room open Wednesday through Saturday; a tasting flight is $10, which goes as a credit toward a bottle purchase
  • Aspen staves are the ingredient behind the smoky "Colorado flavor" of 291's Colorado Whiskey

click to enlarge BRIENNE BOORTZ
  • Brienne Boortz

The Loop

  • A Manitou standby since 1903, when it cooked game meat
  • Serves fishbowl-sized margaritas that mandate a designated driver
  • Margaritas range from the traditional to the whimsical — and, yes, they come frozen, too
  • Food note: The menu isn't kidding when it says the chile verde is very spicy

Brewery, Local Craft IPA, Local Craft Not IPA

Bristol Brewing Company

A single brewery snagging three awards is no easy feat in this city. But if anyone is up to the task, it would be Bristol Brewing Company. Located in the avant garde Ivywild School, Bristol offers thirsty visitors a rotating selection of one-of-a-kind, award-winning brews. "We're purists about a few things," says General Manager Derik Jason Gentz. "We brew beers that don't depend on trend or whimsy for their appeal, but on flavor, character and consistency alone." If IPA is your style, try the Automaton White, a citrusy and floral beer that practically dances on the taste buds. For a more filling beer with a rich, smooth flavor, the seasonal Winter Warlock offers a dark and satisfying pint (or growler). If neither of those are your speed, there are about 14 others on tap at any given time. Can't get down to the brewery itself? You can find Bristol's most popular beers in restaurants and bars throughout the state, or check out your local liquor store and score a six-pack.

click to enlarge MATTHEW SCHNIPER
  • Matthew Schniper
New Bar/Brewery (tie), Bartender/Mixologist

Brooklyn's on Boulder St./ Nate Windham

Nate Windham's mixology journey started in the once-legendary TGI Fridays bartending program. In 1996, the chain spent eight weeks training him to make 439 drinks, all to perfection. Since then, he's mixed at Red Martini, Blondie's, the Blue Star, the unforgettable Palapa's Surfside and more. Now, the prominent bartender has helped design the pre-Prohibition-style Lee Spirits gin for the '20s-style speakeasy where he plies his trade: Brooklyn's on Boulder St. Recently, the cousins Lee have added lavender, cocoa and limited-edition barrel-aged versions of their keystone spirit, with more to come. Windham's menu makes superlative use of the gin in cocktails both classic and contemporary, while also speaking to the gin-averse. But it's not just the great spirits, wicked awesome drinks and fancy bites from neighboring Wild Goose Meeting House that make Brooklyn's a downtown standout. The cozy, richly colored space is intimate, allowing Windham and crew to bring their customer service to the same level as their drinks.

click to enlarge BRIENNE BOORTZ
  • Brienne Boortz
Wine Menu

2South Food + Wine Bar

  • Chef Supansa Banker reduces Zinfandel into her chocolate sauce for the profiteroles, which get served with locally made chocolate Sangiovese and blueberry Riesling ice creams
  • Jerry Paulison, co-manager and co-owner, changes out 20 percent of the wine menu every two weeks, constantly refreshing a 60-label list
  • 2South's eco-friendly Pod Bar nitrogen wine-preservation system allows for five wines on tap. "People are still amazed — they say, 'What, tap wine?!'"
  • A tip from Banker: "Use the wine you drink to cook with" (in other words, not the cheapest bottle)
  • Catch happy hours from 3 to 5 p.m., Tuesday through Sunday, with select food discounts and buy-one-get-one-half-off on tap wines and beers

click to enlarge BRIAN TRYON
  • Brian Tryon
Music Venue

The Black Sheep

  • All-ages venue that's won this category every year since its 2005 opening
  • Fitz & The Tantrums and Father John Misty both played there months before they got famous
  • Other past acts include Tech N9ne, Conor Oberst, Cannibal Corpse and just about every ska-pop act in existence
  • The venue boasts top-quality sound and staging, an expansive bar, and lots of teenagers walking around with Xs on the backs of their hands
  • Owned by Denver-based Soda Jerk Presents, which enables the booking of acts that would never otherwise come to the Springs

Place to Meet Singles (tie)

Zodiac Venue and Bar

  • Amicable bartenders and affordable drinks make for an easygoing atmosphere
  • Eclectic themed nights and live performances draw diverse crowds
  • Local deejays host regular, intimate dance parties
  • Killer bar food from adjacent Green Line Grill
  • Stage makes you feel more rock-star while doing karaoke

Naughty Business

Peaks and Pasties

  • As the first burlesque troupe in the area, it had a tough time explaining the premise to people
  • Started in 2008 with about 10 members; now 88 and growing
  • Encourages body positivity: all races, genders and body types
  • Members have performed on stages as big as the Paramount Theatre, and at international events
  • Hosts burlesque workshops so you can learn how to shake your tail feathers

click to enlarge BRIENNE BOORTZ
  • Brienne Boortz
New Bar/Brewery (tie)


  • Opened in February
  • Focuses on Colorado craft cocktails, featuring local spirits and flavors
  • Hosts social-play and tournament ping pong in the basement
  • 10 percent discount for industry members

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