Best Of 2015: Bar Crowd
To call the Zodiac "eclectic" would be an absurd understatement. The bar, tucked just to the southeast of the main downtown scene, won't be forced into any sort of label — and neither will its diverse clientele. From art shows to punk rock, fetish balls to world dance showcases, the Zodiac provides a clever mix of whimsy, culture, badass and sass. Diametric opposites mingle amiably on the dance floor, and you'll never have to wonder if you'll fit in. In this crowd, everyone does. — Bridgett Harris
Best Of 2015: Bartender
Ask Zodiac owner Gentle Fritz why Dave Baumgartner (who works Tuesday through Saturday evenings at her bar) is awesome, and she'll mention that he's a professional who's been in the industry for many, many years, and that he always remembers names and drinks. She'll add that he's a loyal friend and confidant — and that he's also a handsome man who's "just dreamy." In fact the only thing not awesome about Baumgartner, she says, is that "he can't work every shift." — Kirsten Akens
Best of 2011: Bar Crowd
Walk into SouthSide Johnny's just once, and you probably wouldn't understand why the place would win this new category. That's because just one visit doesn't begin to tell the story. You have to go back, at different times, to get the full idea. SouthSide Johnny's has its regulars, but it also has its lunch crowd, its happy-hour crowd, its music-loving late-night crowd, its Saturday-Sunday brunch crowd and its "weekend warrior" motorcycle crowd, and they aren't the same people — though they do get along with each other quite well. You might see downtown attorneys, young and not-so-young professionals, or fans of Colorado College hockey (even CC head coach Scott Owens, along with former Tigers still living here). Put it all together, and that's how your bar crowd beats the rest. — Ralph Routon
Happy hour: Daily, 3-7 p.m., 10 to midnight
The goods: Two-for-one wines, wells and drafts; $1 off bottles and pitchers
Favorite pour: "I pour beer. Definitely not martinis."
Mona Lisa boasts a downstairs wine cellar where you can enjoy more than 80 wines by the glass or as a flight, along with a cheese or chocolate fondue.
It racked up a handful of second-place finishes in the 2011 Indy Best Of, and 30-plus-year-old José's is always a strong contender as the Tex-Mex heart of the local Concept Restaurants dynasty. Great happy hours and margaritas and hearty fare from mahi mahi to buffalo plates.
Best Of 2010: Patio Dining
So this is supposed to be a paean to the much-loved patio at José's downtown, the fire-pit-and-bar-accented enclave that some of you can't resist even when the snow flies. But we'd be remiss not to take this opportunity to tell you that, yes, there will be a distinctive patio at José's new location, 5710 S. Carefree Circle. When it opens (hopefully in November), says general manager Cindy Biondo, a few dozen people can sit in "sort of an indoor-outdoor" area — a space adjacent to huge garage doors that will open on nice days. Down the road, you can look for a truly outdoor patio over there as well. Winter forecast: "I have to say that I'm the worst at predicting that stuff. I'm going to say it's going to be a mild winter, so it'll probably be the opposite."— Kirk Woundy
Best Of 2015: Irish Pub
With weekly pub sing-alongs, half-priced Whiskey Wednesdays, and the most epically Irish Sunday brunch imaginable, it's easy to see why Jack Quinn's is Colorado Springs' favorite Irish pub. The place is Irish through and through. You'll find traditional music on Sunday evenings, your favorite brews on tap, and an authentic menu filled with rich and filling home-style cuisine. Sláinte! — Bridgett Harris
Because you can't have enough Irish bars — let alone Irish bars with plentiful 2-for-1 deals — in Colorado Springs, or anywhere else for that matter. And yes, since you ask, they do have karaoke.
Happy hour: Monday, Wednesday, Friday, 3-7 p.m.; Tuesday and Thursday, 3-9; Saturday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.
The goods: Two-for-one wines, wells and drafts
Favorite pour: "Let's go with the Red-Headed Slut."
Best Of 2012: Place to Two-Step
Of all the Tejon Street establishments owned by Sam and Kathy Guadagnoli — including the Mansion, Blondie's and Gasoline Alley — Cowboys is the best-known and most distinctive. Sure, there's a bowling alley upstairs, but the world-famous magic can be found in the throngs of Western-attired revelers line-dancing to pop country hits and, in a bizarre genre aberration I'll never fully understand, Clarence Carter's suggestive soul hit, "Strokin'." Go for the novelty, stay for the fun. — Bill Forman
Best Of 2010: New Bar (since July 1, 2009)
Where can you find walls of Jack Daniels bottles protected by chicken wire, a Confederate flag proudly bearing the word "Redneck," and a patio lined with whiskey barrel tables? Why, the same place you can find neon palm trees and a purely decorative John Deere tractor: Colorado Springs' favorite new bar, Copperhead Road. In the remodeled old Black Angus Steakhouse restaurant building off North Academy Boulevard, you get not only evenings of live country music, but a staff of beautiful and busty beer-slinging servers who put on Coyote Ugly-style bartop performances. Whether or not you live the country life by day, all you've got to do is head to Copperhead Road for a taste of the country nightlife. — Jill Thomas
Happy hour: Wednesday-Friday, 5-9 p.m.
The goods: Wednesdays: $1 drafts; $2 wells; $3 bombs; Thursday: ladies drink free
Favorite pour: "Our bomb shots are always popular. I would have to say those and Cowboy Cocktails for $3."