Johnny's Navajo Hogan(2817 N. Nevada Ave., 344-9593)
Head north from downtown on Nevada Avenue, and it's not hard to stumble upon Johnny's Navajo Hogan. There's the giant neon Indian head out front, the wooden dome design that dates back to the Great Depression, and the lingering history of a building (on the National Register of Historic Places) that's been everything from a strip club to a miners' hangout. Today it's been resurrected as a biker-friendly bar and eatery with especially good sweet-potato fries — opt for the marshmallow dipping sauce, instead of ketchup — and a menu similar to that of SouthSide Johnny's, its sister establishment downtown. In addition to the covered patio, there's a nice new indoor stage where bands like Wrestle With Jimmy and 6035 crank out covers that span nearly as many decades as the venue itself. — BF
The Black Sheep(2106 E. Platte Ave., 227-7625, blacksheeprocks.com)
Whether it's the yearly two-night run by Tech N9ne or shows by big-name artists like Foxy Shazam and Cannibal Corpse, the Black Sheep has earned its keep as Colorado Springs' perennial live music mecca. A non-stop winner in this category since 2006, the vaguely dungeon-like Platte Avenue mainstay is owned by Soda Jerk Presents, the Boulder-based company that also books Denver's Marquis Theater and Summit Music Hall. All of which makes this all-ages venue an attractive draw for national touring acts. "We regularly bring in bands that no one would ever expect to play here," says general manager Chris Huffine. "At least once a week, someone at a show will say to me, 'Wow, how did you get this band to come to Colorado Springs?'" — BF
Karaoke with Hazel Humdinger(Thursdays at Zodiac, 230 Pueblo Ave., 632-5059, zodiacvenue.com)
Never mind why I never karaoked before. The important thing is that I have now, and it's all thanks to this weekly event, set under the warm, sparkly lights of Zodiac. I began with a duet with my boyfriend — "Country Roads" by John Denver — then graduated to my first solo, "White Rabbit" by Jefferson Airplane. Yes, I'd say I feel pretty cool these days. Because Hazel herself is cool (the burlesque star absolutely nails the Cranberries' "Dreams") and so is bartender extraordinaire Dave Baumgartner, you feel like you're hanging out with friends, lame though it sounds. So it's easy to take the plunge on stage, for the first time and many times thereafter; it's always a big, boozy funfest. — EA
Club Q(3430 N. Academy Blvd., 570-1429, clubqonline.com)
"Come out and let us prove that nobody parties like Club Q." This is the challenge the club puts forth, so the least you could do is get off your ass and give it a shot. Game nights, live DJs, amazing happy-hour specials, drag shows, karaoke and plenty more events await you at Club Q, which offers a unique theme or activity every night, Tuesday through Sunday. But this 18-and-up bar/club really gets bumping on Saturday nights, when you can find an amazing happy hour — $6 total for five drinks of your choice. Whether you're "gay, straight, white, black, young or old," co-owner Tim Fernandez says, at Club Q you'll find the safest club in the city. — KL
Tim Fernandez at Club Q(3430 N. Academy Blvd., 570-1429, clubqonline.com)
Tim Fernandez sounds surprised upon learning that he's a finalist for Best Bartender. "I can't really wrap my head around that," he says. "There are so many good bartenders in town."
So we ask him: In his opinion, how would a good bartender become the best bartender?
"Any good bartender has to have speed, consistency and accuracy when pouring drinks," Fernandez says. "But it's about a lot more than that. Fun and friendly matters as much as fast and accurate. And really, it's about the people; knowing their names is as important as knowing how they like their drinks. I introduce people, if they're all sitting along the bar, and get the conversation going. I like to keep people happy.
"It's also about trust," he continues. "I like to build a rapport so the customers trust me. And if they've had too much to drink, they know I'm not going to serve them. I'll take their keys and call a cab."
Fernandez, a 32-year-old who's been bartending for six years, takes that responsibility seriously. He says he doesn't drink when he's working (unlike many bartenders) because he wants to "stay attentive and focused," and wants to make sure people feel safe at Club Q.
The Academy Boulevard stalwart is known primarily as a gay bar, and has been since before Fernandez and his wife Sue bought it in 2006. And the couple are content to market it that way; at the top of clubqonline.com, you'll see a banner proclaiming Club Q the city's premier gay and lesbian nightlife destination.
But Fernandez notes that on a Friday or Saturday night it's more of a mixed crowd.
"From 18 to 80, gay, straight, everything in between, all different types and styles of people come here," he says.
Sometimes, Fernandez continues, they ask him and Sue if they own the place. "We always answer, 'No, you own the place. We work for you.'" — KK
Cheers Liquor Mart(1105 N. Circle Drive, 574-2244, cheersliquormart.com)
The rows of bottles feel a mile long when you walk into Cheers Liquor Mart — it regularly sweeps these three categories for a reason. You really can find just about anything you want here, from New Belgium brews to Leopold Bros. absinthe to 70 proof Bakon Vodka. (Yes, it's what it sounds like.) What you might not know about Cheers, though, is that its employees have a soft spot when it comes to canines. Last November, marketing director Kim Hoag started a Cheers Dog of the Week program with the local National Mill Dog Rescue, publicizing adoptable pups' photos in store, in Cheers' newsletter and on Facebook. So while Cheers might be helping you have a good time on Friday night, the store's also helping dogs in need have better lives. — KA
Ritz Grill(15 S. Tejon St., 635-8484, ritzgrill.com)
The name implies the atmosphere it exudes: classy, the type of place where people "power lunch," if that exists in Colorado Springs. However, at night (per our loyal readers), this is the top place to pick up women. "It has a professional atmosphere that appeals to women," says bartender Jenni Tillotson. Want to buy the lady a drink? Check out the extensive martini menu, particularly "The Matchmaker," a blend of X-Rated Fusion Liqueur, ruby red vodka and pineapple juice. "It's sexy and sophisticated," says Tillotson, and maybe it'll even achieve what the name implies. — CW
Cowboys(25 N. Tejon St., 596-1212, cowboyscs.com)
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. — BF
Bloom's Mill Hill Saloon(1668 S. 21st St., 632-6932)
If you feel like eyes are on you, well, you're right. It's hard to not sit by a buffalo, deer or other stuffed head bedecking the corrugated aluminum siding at Mill Hill Saloon. For those of us who didn't grow up in the city, it feels like a bar back home, a sensation heightened by the strong pour and cheap drinks. Other pluses are the weekend bands and the view out over the city when the garage doors are opened. One suggestion: Watch the $10 minimum on credit-card orders, as that may take three rounds. — SB
Tony's(311 N. Tejon St., 228-6566, tonysdowntownbar.com)
Here's something that you might not have known about this popular downtown bar: The staff is a little bit clairvoyant. "Usually we can predict what people are going to order," says Mary Muckinhaupt, the nighttime manager. "A table will walk in, and we'll be like, 'Oh, that'll be two fish-and-chips.' We're really good at reading people." And, she says, it's true even if those people include suits, working-class locals and college kids: "We tailor to a broad clientele base, and we make everyone feel welcome." And this skill shows; Tony's has won the Best Bang-for-Your-Buck category every year since 2005, and the other categories every year we've offered them. "We have the best drink specials downtown," says Muckinhaupt. "We've been keeping downtown weird since '99, and it's been a good time." — CH
Jack Quinn Irish Alehouse & Pub(21 S. Tejon St., 385-0766, jackquinnspub.com)
Quinn's is on our list for the seventh consecutive time because it does Irish right. Traditional staples such as Boxty and Shepherd's Pie share the menu with orange balsamic chicken and grilled salmon. In October, they added new items to the menu, including Guinness Brats and Pretzel Kabobs, Lime and Dill Salmon, Shepherd's Pie in a bread bowl, and a Salmon Trio appetizer. In addition to traditional Irish beers and ales, Quinn's has added a tap IPA lineup from Colorado's Ska, Odell and Avery breweries. — BW
V Bar(19 E. Kiowa St., 635-9599)
Though it seems like the bar's phone number is always busy, owner Brian Moore assures me it works during evening business hours. Of course, it could be just that the phone, like the spot, is always blowing up. "I really think the V Bar is just the V Bar, and I think that that's what keeps it going," says Moore. "It's more like a specialty cocktail lounge, and I think that's really why people go there. It's like a place that you bring your girlfriend, you know; it's not a place you go, like, to try to pick up on chicks." Perhaps, but if you go to hear house DJ Gravity, a finalist for Best DJ in our Indy Music Awards, then we understand that, too. — BC
Oscar's Tejon Street(333 S. Tejon St., 471-8070, oscarsoysterbar.com)
Seventeenth-century French playwright Molière was quoted as saying, "There's nothing quite like tobacco: it's the passion of decent folk, and whoever lives without tobacco doesn't deserve to live." Brutal, I know, but it helps explain a little of smokers' deep passion for their habit. Post-smoking ban, Oscar's owner Phil Duhon created a refuge for the black-lunged: Warmed by patio heaters and protected by plastic walls, his recently reorganized, "shabby chic, beach bar" patio now features a large flat-screen TV with the NFL package, and a killer sound system that enables plenty of live music plus the playing of "old-school MTV videos." The patio, Duhon estimates, now accounts for 40 percent of his overall business. — MS
Thunder & Buttons11 (2415 W. Colorado Ave., 447-9888, thunderandbuttons.com)
So good, they made a sequel. Actually, the "II" in Thunder & Buttons' name is in honor of the original tavern, which was shuttered by a fire in the late '80s. Heather Joffe and her husband, Eric Ivey, bought the second incarnation of the restaurant and bar two years ago, and since have worked hard to give customers what they want — including four nights of karaoke. The crowd will fill the upstairs room, Joffe says, and emcee Crazy Tony is great at getting everybody going. Well, almost everybody. "I am not a karaoker," says Joffe, "and that's for the best for the general public."(Followup question: No matter how much you've drunk? "Correct.") Along with karaoke, T&B II serves homemade food, hosts a trivia night, and offers drink specials, football viewings, all-day Sunday happy hours, and parties. — CH
Hatch Cover(252 E. Cheyenne Mountain Blvd., 576-5223, hatchcover.biz)
The Hatch Cover is the kind of place where everyone feels comfortable — a mixed crowd of all ages and occupations. Rob Hirt and his wife Susan have owned The Hatch for 11 years. "We go out of our way to make everyone feel welcome and safe," says Rob. "We also have a really low turnover because we try to keep the staff happy. We have good managers, too, and there's always a manager here." Besides a menu featuring seafood, steaks, salads and pasta, "we specialize in killer bar grub," he says, "and we're open until 2 a.m. every night of the week." — KK
Swirl Wine Bar(717 Manitou Ave., #102, Manitou Springs, 685-2294, swirlismybar.com)
The wine crowd is sure to love the recent changes at Swirl. Owner Andrew Palmer spent a significant amount of time building out, by hand, a whole new area that includes nooks and crannies in which to socialize, as well as a new bar, and a patio. This part serves up wine, plus desserts like chocolate ganache tarts and seasonal sweets, which are made in-house. Panini and soups lead the new food offerings, and Colorado microbrews are now on tap as well. If you want bottles of specially selected wines to take home, visit the front of Swirl, which is a separate store owned by Palmer's wife, Sharon. Now more than ever: good wine, good food, great atmosphere. — BW
Keg Lounge(730 Manitou Ave., Manitou Springs, 685-9531)
General manager Matt Milar, the son of the Keg's owners, says he wants the restaurant and bar to evolve every year. Last year, Milar focused on bringing sparkle to the building and expanding the menu. This summer, he brought in bands — local acts like Lipstick Voodoo, Arch Hooks and High Wheeler — for some weekend nights, and he hopes to keep the gigs going through the winter. Meanwhile, Milar says, during football season the bar opens at 10 a.m. each Sunday with a special breakfast menu of biscuits and gravy and chicken and waffles, and TVs offering "any game you want." Other changes include a new buffalo bratwurst and a happy hour that runs from 3 to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday. But don't worry, the Keg hasn't tossed its old favorites like the ½-pound buffalo burger or the berry salad. — JAS
Holy Cow Pub & Grill(5885 Stetson Hills Blvd., 465-1704, holycowpubandgrill.com)
A cute and friendly wait staff, a dozen big TV screens, $3 margaritas and $4 martinis might be enough to attract a pretty good crowd. But there's more at Holy Cow. The industrial-style watering hole and second-time Best Of winner offers a full line of sandwiches and "cowsadillas" for business meet-ups and casual after-work cocktails. Also, happy hour is a generous four hours, from 3:30 to 7:30 p.m., there's a smoking area outside, and the food is fresh. Brothers and co-owners Heath and Chuck Schafer are natives and appreciate Colorado-produced food, including bread that arrives three times a week from Blue Point Bakery in Denver. Still in doubt? Ask Eric Allen, one of Holy Cow's regulars. "I like the service. The attitude is fun," he says. "I very highly recommend it." — PZ
Back East Bar & Grill(9475 Briar Village Point, 264-6161, backeastbarandgrill.com)
Back in July, we called Back East one of the best bars in the city, writing, "For a spot sporting a clean sheen commensurate with its Briargate-shopping-center location, there's an organic 'home away from home' vibe." Readers obviously agree, anointing Buffalo native Mike Davis' bar the best in the north, just like last year. And why not? The wings are like meat candy, all spice and sweetness; there are 12 beers on tap, and another 20 or so in bottles; and every weekend, during the season, the family-friendly spot carries every NFL game. — BC
The Loop(965 Manitou Ave., Manitou Springs, 685-9344, theloopatmanitou.com)
Most of us probably drink our margaritas at night, Mexican vacations excepted. But at the Loop, a lot of people drink margaritas in the middle of the day. They are men waiting for their wives to finish shopping, or exhausted hikers returning from the Incline. "That's my favorite thing on Saturday morning, Sunday morning, is people coming down [from the Incline] and saying it's like the light at the end of the tunnel," Loop manager Amanda Galloway says. The Loop offers 14 margaritas in a regular or grande (32- to 34-ounce) size, but will also make the drink with a tequila of your choice — it's got more than 40 to choose from. Favorites have long included the house and the Horni Grandma with Grand Marnier, but Galloway says people lately have been going for the Skinny, made with lime juice, agave nectar and Partida tequila. — JAS
Bristol Brewing Company(1647 S. Tejon St., 633-2555, bristolbrewing.com)
A series of award-winning beers, and the much-anticipated Spring 2013 opening of a new 16,000-square-foot brewing location: These things hint at how Mike Bristol stays on top, both as a local brewery operator and community leader. His company is legendary for producing tasty beers that truly give back to Colorado Springs, from a Smokebrush Porter whose proceeds help keep the Uncle Wilber fountain entertaining kids all summer, to a Pinon Nut Brown that supports Cheyenne Cañon. And don't forget the sold-out-before-it-hits-the-shelves Venetucci Farm Pumpkin Ale. When the Ivywild School renovation is complete, the brewery will finally have a building that almost matches the size of its heart. — SH
DJ GÜ(At SoDo Night Club, 527 S. Tejon St., 314-0420, sodonightlife.com)
"I let my hands do the speaking," says DJ GÜ, real name Steve Carney, winner of this award for the second year in a row. But GÜ, a turntable DJ, will explain that as far as the business goes, "I always had a passion for it, so I told myself to learn, and looked up to a lot of people; it just took off from there." You can most often find him playing at SoDo, where, new this year, GÜ has started to spin video (with music playing alongside the accompanying music video, on one of SoDo's many flat-screens). He offers a mix of everything during his sets, the goal being to give you a good time: "I play for the crowd." — CW
Winter Warlock Oatmeal Stout(Bristol Brewing Company, 1647 S. Tejon St., 633-2555, bristolbrewing.com)
Who would have thought that a character from a childhood movie would become part of such a great beer? Company owner Mike Bristol admits he got the idea for the Winter Warlock label image from the 1970 movie Santa Claus Is Comin' to Town. And much like the warlock of the big screen, Bristol's oatmeal stout delivers cheer to all who experience it. The rich creaminess of this malt-and-oat-heavy winter warmer is just what the doctor ordered to fight the long, cold Colorado nights; at the brewery, it often flows out of the tap using nitrogen to add a bit of extra buttery smoothness. By the way, no reason to wait for Santa: This season's first batch releases in late October. — SH
Pikes Peak Brewing Co.(1756 Lake Woodmoor Drive, Monument, 208-4098, pikespeakbrewing.com)
Pikes Peak Brewing opened in May 2011, but is already beginning an expansion to double its size and fermentation capacity. "I'm overwhelmed with humility that people have responded as well as they have," says owner Chris Wright, who's paying back the love via community outreach like the Local 5 Pale Ale (benefiting local firefighters) and cranberry-apple saison Beer for Boobies (benefiting breast cancer research). The latter releases during Monument Beer Week, Oct. 20 through 27, which Wright co-organizes; it features beer dinners at Monument eateries, a regional mini beer fest and much more. PPB also enables the base wort production for Woodland Park's exciting new experimental brewery, Paradox; Wright will put 30 oak barrels in his greater space for his own upcoming special releases. 'Nuff said. — MS
Beehive Honey Wheat(Bristol Brewing Company, 1647 S. Tejon St., 633-2555, bristolbrewing.com)
Again we see a Bristol beer ranking top-slot with Indy readers. We'd think the crowd was biased, but in all fairness, Beehive is a great representation of the wheat style, cloudy and with a honey sweetness. It's easy to see why you'd want to kick back with a few on a hot summer day. Funny thing about this beer is that it was meant to be Bristol's first summer seasonal, says owner Mike Bristol, but after such an amazing response from fans, Beehive was deemed worthy of year-round production. — SH
The Mobile Music Project(ppcf.org/impact/mmp)
Hey, Specialized Rockhopper, I'm sorry to have to tell you this, but there's another bike in my life. Don't get me wrong — we've had some great times, and I still think your 29-inch wheels are totally bitchin' — but ever since I found the Mobile Music Project, there's just no way you could compare. Not only do their bikes provide electrical power for live concerts in gorgeous settings like Monument Valley Park and Aspen Valley Ranch, but one of them even has a blender attachment. (I know, right?!) You're great, Rockhopper, but the MMP is really doing something special for the local music scene, and in the end you're just an ordinary bike. Can we still be friends? — CAS
Zodiac(230 Pueblo Ave., 632-5059, zodiacvenue.com)
Let's face it: There are open mics, and then there are open mics.
Andrea Stone's Monday night showcase at Zodiac falls into the more elite category, regularly attracting musicians who are already active performers in the Springs club scene — or soon will be — along with local poets and stand-up comics. Better-known musicians who've taken part include Charlie Milo, the Hopeful Heroines, Grant Sabin and Chauncy Crandall, all of whom won or placed in this year's Indy Music Awards competition.
"I met both of the bands I'm in at our open mic," says Stone, who performs with Kopesetik Soul and the Mostly Don'ts, also both IMA honorees. "Two groups," she adds, "that couldn't be more different from each other."
It was five or six years ago that Stone went to her first open mic, which was being hosted by Jerry Roskin at McCabe's. "I'd just begun writing songs and I was extremely nervous to play," she recalls. "But Jerry was so nice and encouraging that he made it easy for me to get up there and share my music. I became addicted."
So when Andrea's sister-in-law Christina Stone got together with her best friend Gentle Fritz to open Zodiac on the site of the former Rocket Room, Andrea jumped at the chance to host an open mic of her own. Nearly two years later, musicians continue to arrive early for the chance to play a big stage with high-end sound and lighting systems. Along with it comes a sense of camaraderie, real-time feedback and a free drink for each performer.
And for Stone, it's also an opportunity to bring things full circle. "Ultimately why I host," she says, "is to give back to my community what Jerry gave me years ago, and in spades." — BF
Peaks and Pasties Burlesque Troupe(peaksandpasties.com)
The term "burlesque" originates from the Italian word burlesco, which itself derives from burla: a joke, ridicule or mockery. But those origins mean little to Lola Spitfire, co-founder and executive director of Southern Colorado's first and only burlesque, male-burlesque and vaudevillian variety troupe. "You can define burlesque however the @#%$ you want," she says. And her Peaks and Pasties troupe definitely lives by this motto. Among the 10 "principal," 15 to 20 "core," and 12 "apprentice" performers, the main goal is to promote healthy body image for people of all shapes, sizes, races, et cetera. Workshops, offered three or four times a year, are intensive programs in which students learn all aspects of creating a burlesque act, to include choreography, costume-making, music selection, and wise use of all the tassels/glitter/sequins/feathers you want. — KL
Old Chicago (Multiple locations, oldchicago.com)
Best Of the IMAs
In Summer 2011, we unveiled the ballot for the first-ever Indy Music Awards. More than 2,500 readers cast votes for their favorite Colorado Springs musicians, and 15 of those acts went on to play the free Indy Music Awards Festival.
In 2012, we did it all again, only bigger and better, with additional categories and more than 22 winners performing on three stages. This year's winners:
The Haunted Windchimes
Chuck Snow & the Lo-Fi Cowboys
Big Jim Adam & John Stilwagen
Grass It Up
The J. Miller Band
40oz. Freedom Fighters
Wrestle With Jimmy
DJ Brandon Lee
Edith Makes a Paper Chain
The Changing Colors
We Are Not a Glum Lot
El Toro de la Muerte
Tony Exum Jr.
Mango Fan Django
Colorado Springs Big Jazz Band
Charlie Milo Trio
Molly Boyles & Lipstick Voodoo
Out With the Crow, The Haunted Windchimes
Dancer These Days, El Toro de la Muerte
"Hey Daisy," Mike Clark
"Okay," Che Bong
"Joan Your Jett," Dave Mansfield & the Roxy Suicide
Tango Red Tapestry
Knight in Colors
Phil "Dez" Dezellem
Jeremy Van Hoy
Adam Lopez & His Mighty LoCasters
Stargazers Theatre and Event Center
A Music Company Inc.
Stargazers Theater and Event Center
Sound Powered Engine/Gary Vanderpool
MeadowGrass Music Festival
Blues Under the Bridge
Indy Music Awards