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Party Favors: First-Place Winners 

click to enlarge DJ Brandon Lee - PHOTO BY JOHNNIE ENGER

Club DJ

DJ Brandon Lee

myspace.com/thedjbrandonlee

Our Best Of voters might not have realized something when voting for Brandon Lee as the Springs' best Club DJ: All the adulation he's earning this is his third straight first-place finish in our annual survey is, more than likely, pushing him away. Lee's already performing at Denver clubs on top of his regular duties at SoDo and semi-regular turns at Eden. Now he's wondering if he should further branch out. When asked what a third straight win means to him, Lee explains it quite simply: "It would throw the dynasty on it and show that the other DJs in this city need to step it up," he says. "And it'd just kind of be a validation that it's time for me to go to bigger markets." PF

Bang-for-Your-Buck Bar

Neighborhood Bar

Hangout

Tony's 311 N. Tejon St., 228-6566

Where can you go to get away from all the downtown meat-market craziness? Tony's, of course! Boasting cheap drinks, live music and delicious greasy snacks, this Green Bay Packers fan-friendly bar is also one of the only places in town where you'll find Pabst Blue Ribbon on tap. Fine, that may not impress you if you're not a native of Wisconsin, but when you're watching Brett Favre set new NFL records, it's important to be drinking the right beer. An unrelated tip: Be careful with your quarters. The bartenders have the power to veto any jukebox selection, and they use it, often. ALL

Writers' Pick: Salon Happy Hour

Salon 21

2121 Templeton Gap Road, 633-8480

Nothing takes the edge off of getting clipped, waxed, sprayed, filed, rubbed and tweezed like a cocktail or a glass of wine. This beautification station will get you tuned up in a jiffy either that, or you'll be too hammered to notice the time go by. MMR

Irish Pub

click to enlarge Jack Quinn's Irish Alehouse and Pub - PHOTO BY L'AURA MONTGOMERY

Jack Quinn's Irish Alehouse and Pub

21 South Tejon St., 385-0766

jackquinnspub.com

According to dictionary.com, a bodhran is "a handheld, shallow Irish drum with a single goatskin head, played with a stick." If you've never heard of a bodhran, I suggest heading to Jack Quinn's on a Saturday night to see Jon Sherman of Irish duo Big Paddy keep the beat with this traditional instrument. And speaking from experience, patrons (OK, my friends and I) like to "help" the regular acts by using the tables as bodhrans, especially after a few rounds. Wonder how Big Paddy feels about the backup ... AG

Bar for a Martini

Upscale Bar

click to enlarge 15C Club - PHOTO BY BRIENNE BOORTZ

15C Club

15 E. Bijou St., Suite C, 635-8303

15cclub.com

Not many places in Colorado Springs transport you to the locale of your dreams, but 15C Club does. Take a seat and imagine yourself in New York, Miami, San Francisco, wherever. Pick the martini of your choice (your options are unlimited) and order some hors d'oeuvres. Push your limits as far as you want in any direction: Silver Oak Cab, Kelt VSOP or XO (if you haven't been introduced to Kelt, it's your loss), a variety of classy scotches, even a full selection of cigars, if that's your thing. The place in the alley has been around six years, and this year's two first-places add up to seven Best Of victories in all. If you're looking for a new habit, 15C could be addictive. RR

Place to Chill

Bar with a Smokin' Patio

click to enlarge Oscar's Tejon Street - PHOTO BY L'AURA MONTGOMERY

Oscar's Tejon Street

333 S. Tejon St., 471-8070

oscarstejonstreet.com

Oscar's is our Cheers. A place where everybody knows your name, and even if they don't, they'll still give you two draft beers for the price of one all day, every day. And while other bar owners tore at their hair when that pesky smoking ban went into effect, Oscar's owner Phil Duhon stood strong, having already invested in plastic patio sheeting. Duhon was in the process of building a gimongous, heated, enclosed patio to expand his bar. And the ban only helped make that new patio a hit. "At least if [smokers are] going out and spending money, they at least get a bang for their buck and they don't have to stand out and freeze," he says. The patio, which features a stage, is now the heart of the action. JAS

Sports Bar

Beer Selection on Tap

click to enlarge Old Chicago - PHOTO BY JON KELLEY

Old Chicago

Multiple locations

oldchicago.com

Every time I walk in to Old Chicago, the song "99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall" starts running through my head. I know, I know, it's actually got 110 different brews (and you appreciate that), but I just can't shake it. Add in football, baseball, basketball, cornhole oh wait, probably not and four locations around town to cheer or jeer, and you've found a watering hole with a sports focus and more beer options than any one person could consume in several sittings. Three cheers for, well, beer! CSB

In-Store Beer Selection

click to enlarge Cheers Liquor Mart - PHOTO BY JON KELLEY

Cheers Liquor Mart

1105 N. Circle Drive, 574-2244

cheersliquormart.com

With so many microbrews to choose from, you can bet the next time I bring beer to a friend's house, Cheers Liquor Mart is where it will come from. The liquor store not only carries the local greats, like New Belgium's Fat Tire and all the microbrews from the Springs' Bristol Brewing Company, but also beers like San Francisco's Anchor Steam and Wyoming's Snake River. Among the selections you can find Dale's Pale Ale, a microbrew from Lyons, Colo., voted No. 1 in the United States by the New York Times. "It comes in a can," notes Rick Wagner, the beer department manager at Cheers. "So, it's good for backpacking, rafting or other outdoor activities." CR

Vodka

Grey Goose

greygoosevodka.com

OK, since we were old enough to understand the language, parents and other such people of authority have harped, "Don't play with your food." Other similar rules have come up about blowing bubbles in your chocolate milk, shooting soda through your nose, etc. But I've never heard a rule applied to vodka (except don't drink and drive). So, next time you're at your favorite watering hole or liquor store, hearken back to childhood and play "Duck, Duck, Goose." You won't be disappointed. CSB

click to enlarge Bristol Brewing's Laughing Lab - PHOTO BY JON KELLEY

Local Microbrewed Beer

click to enlarge Bristol Brewing's Laughing Lab - PHOTO BY JON KELLEY

Bristol Brewing Company's Laughing Lab

1647 S. Tejon St., 633-2555

bristolbrewing.com

It's no surprise to find Bristol on top again with its Laughing Lab Scottish Ale. Since the year after launch, the brewery has placed in every Best Of issue. And Laughing Lab, one of the brewery's two original beers, enjoyed an unbroken first-place run from 1998 to 2002. Owner Mike Bristol calls the eight-time Great American Beer Fest-honored beer his flagship, constituting roughly half his overall sales. "Back in '94, a lot of people still didn't understand the microbrew concept," says Bristol. "I went back and forth before deciding on a Scottish ale. I thought that the [deep red] color would scare them away." Fortunately for Bristol, his patrons have been lapping it up fearlessly ever since. MS

Tequila

Patr'n

patronspirits.com

The people have spoken, and the people don't like drinking their tequila out of a plastic bottle. They prefer Patr'n, the award-winning, best-selling, "ultra premium tequila." By the way, snobs, if you're still drinking Patr'n Silver, it's time to step up. Patr'n now makes Gran Patr'n, which is, apparently, "the world's finest platinum tequila." It's triple-distilled. Its price, incidentally, is also in the triple digits, usually about $200. But, hey, it comes in a handcrafted, curly maple box. Wonder what you'd do with such fine tequila? Check the Web site. After answering questions about your interpretation of the term "evening wear" (sample answer: 600-thread-count sheets) and the like, the site will suggest a few tequila-filled cocktails to fit your personality. JAS

Domestic Beer

Domestic Light Beer

Budweiser, Bud Light budweiser.com, budlight.com

Go to bars around Colorado Springs and ask what beer they sell the most. Chances are, the answer will be Budweiser or Bud Light. Some will insist that the Springs always has had a deep affection for the Coors brands, as well as both Miller High Life and, of course, Miller Lite. But in this unscientific poll, Budweiser and Bud Light pulled off an impressive sweep for the second straight year. RR

Light Imported Beer

Amstel

click to enlarge Southside Johnny's - PHOTO BY JON KELLEY

amstel.com

My dad's entire side of the family is Dutch, so about seven years ago I decided to get back to my roots and visit the motherland. OK, fine, it was for the pot. I was around 19 or 20, well over the drinking age in Europe, so I spent quite a bit of time at Amsterdam pubs, where one of the only beers they serve on tap is Amstel. Few things compare to a cold pale lager after a long day of ... um, sightseeing? Good thing you don't have to travel all the way to Amsterdam to find beer this good. So cheers, this Bud er, I mean Amstel Light is for you. ALL

Imported Beer

Stella Artois

stellaartois.com

When it comes to ordering an import, Colorado Springs residents reach for a Stella Artois. The blond lager supposedly has a history that goes all the way back to 1366, linked to the existence of a Belgian brewpub called Den Hoorn. In 1717, master brewer Sebastian Artois changed the name of the brewery to his own. Those who followed would later tweak brewery recipes to make one of the world's most popular beers, named after the Latin word for "star." OK, history lesson's over it's time to go out and grab a tall, cool one. TT

In-Store Wine Selection

Coaltrain Wine & Spirits

330 W. Uintah St., 475-9700

coaltrainwine.com

Back in 1981, Coaltrain owners Jim Little and Peggy McKinlay had already seen the popularity of wine grow on the East and West coasts, as well as in Denver. They decided to take a chance on it becoming something integral in people's lives, as it is in Europe. Twenty-six years later, it looks like they were right on. Says McKinlay: "I think [wine] is becoming more of a healthy way of life, in terms of people buying it as part of dinner and thinking of what kinds of foods they're serving ... Wine has definitely made a lot of strides, and people do look at it as part of the meal, not just as an alcoholic beverage." Whether you're a high-end connoisseur and collector or just a newbie, visit Coaltrain, ask some questions and drink up. CSB

Writers' Pick: Place to See Hilariously Drunk People

The Bench Outside Rum Bay's Entrance

Just outside 25 N. Tejon St.

Stroll past Rum Bay after midnight on a Friday or Saturday, and you'll likely see some memorable behavior on the bench just outside the dance club's entrance: probably one or two club-goers, passed out or close to it, with the nearby pavement covered in spit or (if you're lucky!) vomit. Sad? A little bit. Repulsive? Maybe. But it's also kind of hilarious. It's time we officially started calling it "The Drunkest Bench in America," already. PF

Karaoke

click to enlarge Good Company - PHOTO BY JOHNNIE EDGER

Good Company Restaurant and Bar

7625 N. Union Blvd., 528-8877

goodcompanybar.com

If good singers make for a good night of karaoke, consider heading to Good Company the place just sent four of its finest to compete nationally in Laughlin, Nev. That said, the atmosphere at Good Company is far from intimidating, says Bob Jardon, who introduces himself as the owner's husband. The crowd is lively and participatory, the show engaging and, yes, Def Leppard's "Pour Some Sugar on Me" is sung most nights. If the competitive credentials of some Good Company singers have you sweating, don't worry some nights become "three-beer karaoke nights," encouraging a greater level of appreciation between performers and audience members. AL

Indoor Place to Pop the Question

The Broadmoor 1 Lake Ave., 634-7711

broadmoor.com

The time has finally come, after all these years (or months, if you're like anybody I know): You're ready to pop the question. Don't screw it up. To compensate for nerves, dazzle with a choice setting. Enchantment is the M.O. of The Broadmoor. With lavish architecture, manicured lawns and a signature luxurious atmosphere, not to mention more than a dozen dining options including the high-end Penrose Room and Summit this setting will surely win the heart of your main squeeze. Along with all that love stuff, of course. EA

New Bar (since July 1, 2006)

click to enlarge Blondie's - PHOTO BY L'AURA MONTGOMERY

Blondie's 20 N. Tejon St., 227-1001

csnightclubs.com

Anyone who's been to Blondie's knows the secret of its success. It's not all that complicated, really: It's all in the fire pits. Hell, even the bar's general manager, Chuck Schafer, thinks that might be true. "I do!" he says, with a chuckle. "People like to sit around it." Sure, Schafer, who co-owns the 7-month-old club with Rum Bay co-owner Kathy Guadagnoli, is quick to list his bar's other merits: the 52 wines and 85 martinis, the chic design, the dress code, the adult crowd, the lack of a cover charge. But he wouldn't have installed those nice couch sets that surround the club's two pits if he thought people didn't want to be near them. PF

Poker Night

Gay-Friendly Bar

The Underground Bars

110 N. Nevada Ave., 578-7771

undergroundbars.com

Confession: When it became popular to watch Texas Hold 'Em on TV, I jumped on the bandwagon. I knew when to hold 'em and when to fold 'em (thanks to that nifty camera that showed everyone's cards), but never did I actually play any poker. Had I known about free poker four nights a week at The Underground, I would've been more willing to put my knowledge into action. Manager Bryan Williams, who brought the game to The Underground, says poker is supposed to be fun first and his dealers work hard to make it so. Also a popular gay hangout, the bar hosts pride parties, charity poker events and recently launched a college night for gay 20-somethings. "Although it's a really large venue, the pub is a place for people to hang out and just socialize," Williams says. "Even first-time customers catch that energy right away." ALL

Bar for a Specialty Mixed Cocktail

Shuga's Restaurant Bar

702 S. Cascade Ave., 328-1412

shugas.com

When Alexius Weston moved to Colorado Springs from Seattle, she scoured the area for a Spanish coffee that could compete with the ones she'd found in the Northwest. Her efforts proved fruitless, so Weston decided to take matters into her own hands, and opened a bar worthy of showcasing the elusive cocktail. Six years later, Shuga's still features Spanish coffee a blend of Kahlua, brandy, Grand Mariner, coffee and whipped cream among an array of signature drinks including the Lavender Martini, which is made with fresh lavender blossoms. AG

Bartender

click to enlarge Jeff Natividad, SoDo Night Club - PHOTO BY L'AURA MONTGOMERY

Jeff Natividad at SoDo Night Club

527 S. Tejon St., 314-0424

sodonightlife.com

Jeff Natividad's humility might be the thing the patrons at SoDo best like about him. "I really don't know what it is," Natividad says when asked what people most appreciate about his work. It's certainly not his height, he jokes, laughing at his own diminutive stature. Really, the bartender, who is just now coming up on finishing his first year at SoDo (he also tends bar at a local hotel lobby), isn't sure what to say. He ponders the question for a minute before offering up the best he can: "I know I'm a nice guy and I've got good skills as a bartender," he says, before pausing again. "I've got a killer smile, I guess? That's pretty much all I say without being big-headed." PF

Writers' Pick: Use of an Outdoor Patio

The Margarita at PineCreek

7350 Pine Creek Road, 598-8667

coloradoeats.com/margarita/home.html

Friday movie nights at The Margarita at PineCreek are the coolest way to spend a summer evening. Show up early, grab a meal from the restaurant's expanded bar and patio menu, and sit back for a feature flick underneath the Colorado stars. Midway through the movie, when your tummy starts rumbling again, you'll be treated to a complimentary basket of gourmet-flavored popcorn. KA

Place to Dance Like a Fool

Rum Bay 25 N. Tejon St., 634-3522

csnightclubs.com

Dancing Like a Fool is one of those activities best done under the supervision of sisters or other close friends. I mean, who else will fend off the weirdos trying to cop a feel while you're bustin' a move? (Guys: If, somehow, you didn't already know, this is why girls move in packs.) With eight bars under one roof, there's plenty of space to get crazy at Rum Bay. Drink specials and contests will keep you workin', and when you need to cool off, head upstairs to the patio it can double as a lookout spot for creeps. ALL

Bar with a Patio

click to enlarge Southside Johnny's - PHOTO BY JON KELLEY

Southside Johnny's 528 S. Tejon St., 444-8487

southsidejohnnys.biz

There's something special about the patio at Southside Johnny's. Not only is it located on the popular strip of Tejon Street prime for people-watching and bar-hopping but it also used to be a regular hangout for a three-legged dog named Rocky. According to bar manager Nathan Perry, after being diagnosed with "tumors and doggie-cancer," Rocky would hang out on the patio and have "three to four rum and Cokes and around four cheeseburgers every day for months." The owner would leave the back of his car open and the dog would "cut himself off" and go lie down in it. Alas, Rocky eventually died. Now his picture hangs in Johnny's for all to see. CR

Place to Salsa

Latin Quarters 1865 N. Academy Blvd., #1, 591-1502

If sensual rhythms and swaying hips are your scene, then Latin Quarters is for you. On Fridays, wannabe salsa dancers from 21 to 80 years old gather to learn the basics: salsa, meringue, bachata and cha-cha. Lessons start at 8:30 p.m. and run until 10. On Saturdays, Latin Quarters packs in as many as 300 patrons, according to owner Lilia Lombardi, a veteran salsa pro. It brings a unique ambience to Colorado Springs, splashing colorful neon and glittering strobes onto crowds of undulating bodies and onlookers. It's well worth the $5 cover to come in and wiggle, or simply gawk. LLL

Place to Two-Step

click to enlarge Cowboys - PHOTO BY BRIENNE BOORTZ

Cowboys

3910 Palmer Park Blvd., 596-1212

csnightclubs.com

Two-step, three-step, West Coast swing. Add a little line dancing, some worn cowboy boots, tush-tight Wranglers, a handful of pool tables and the best country DJs in town, and the only place you could have is Cowboys. For 21 years, the Springs' biggest country nightclub has been offering nonstop dancing, Wednesday through Sunday, to the tunes of George, Garth, Kenny and Martina (just to name a few). With bars in every corner of the joint, the best darn cheese fries anywhere, and super-friendly staff, there's no question where to head on Friday or any other evening. Oh, and if you can, catch one of the concerts. When the country stars roll through town, their home away from home is almost always Cowboys. KA

Writers' Pick: Halloween Promotion

"Stools and Ghouls," Oct. 27, 8:30 a.m. to noon

Dog Loop at Bear Creek Regional Park

21st and Rio Grande streets

elpasoco.com/parks

People will do anything if you tie it to a holiday. At least that's what the El Paso County Parks Department is hoping. It needs help cleaning up the "tricks and treats" left by our furry friends at the dog park, so it's throwing a party called "Stools and Ghouls," complete with a canine costume contest. You're invited to BYOS (bring your own shovel). Yikes! JT

Casino

Double Eagle Hotel and Casino

400-442 E. Bennett Ave., Cripple Creek, 800/711-7234

decasino.com

For those of us who hate to let our Telly Savalas-issued Players Club cards go to waste, great gambling is available right up the road in Cripple Creek at the inclusive Double Eagle. "We have everything under one roof, 158 hotel rooms, three restaurants, Starbucks, a gift shop, 730 slots, live poker and blackjack, complimentary valet service, covered parking and a conference center," says Double Eagle marketing director Carrol Beck. "You never have to go anywhere else." Before you go, check out the Web site and be sure to grab the free Premier Club card to save money and earn rewards. Who loves ya, baby? TT

Local Venue for Live Music

click to enlarge The Black Sheep - PHOTO BY JOHNNIE EDGER

The Black Sheep 2106 E. Platte Ave., 227-7625

myspace.com/sodajerkcospgs

This year's win for The Black Sheep marks its second in as many years. That's also as many years as The Black Sheep has been around it threw its two-year anniversary bash Oct. 13. So what keeps the venue so close to our scenesters' hearts? Is it the reasonably priced tickets and booze? Geoff Brent, the Sheep's general manager, credits the talent. "The Black Sheep pretty consistently brings good up-and-coming and established national acts to Colorado Springs," he says. "It isn't really being done on that level anywhere else in town." Oh, and here's a reality check: That two-year mark the Sheep just reached? That means it has eclipsed the old downtown 32 Bleu venue in service time. Rock on, Black Sheep. Rock on. PF

Local Original Band

Sanguine Addiction sanguineaddiction.com

After a third-place finish in this category last year, Sanguine Addiction has taken the top spot as the best original band in the Springs. This hard rock/metal four-piece is on, like, every metal bill in town, and still, local fans just can't seem to get enough maybe because Sanguine Addiction offers the crowds something they can't find anywhere else in the scene. "We know a lot of our fans," says guitarist Jeff Baker. "They're not just people out there." And Sanguine Addiction's not just your average band; have you heard the song "Oppression" off of their June-released CD, Self Enemy? Talk about angst. The good kind, of course. PF

Adult Live Entertainment

PT's Showclub

5975 Terminal Ave., 597-2336

ptsshowclub.com

If you count the good ol' days back before this gentlemen's club was part of the national PT's chain and was known as the Appaloosa this win marks the hot spot's third straight victory in the best adult live entertainment category. And though he's only been around for the year or so since PT's took over, Michael Fischer, the area director for PT's, knows that the club's strongest selling point is one it had before the ownership changed: the fact that there are two rooms in the club (a topless room where alcohol is served, and a fully nude room where it isn't). "A guy's got a choice," Fischer says. "Is he thirsty? Or is he ready to see ... whatever?" PF

Local Cover Band

Head Full of Zombies

hfoz.com

This isn't the first time Head Full of Zombies has taken home a first-place nod in our annual Best Of competition. They first won the Best Local Cover Band title in 2002, and then they tied for the lead again in 2004. Granted, those were different lineups, but, hey, earning three wins is impressive, no matter how you look at it. HFOZ has been rocking the local scene with cover songs of the latest alt-rock favorites for 15-plus years, and Dave Weed's the only member who's been there all along. The bass player and sometime-vocalist says the secret of his band's longevity is its willingness to have fun on stage. "People want to come out and have fun with us," he says. PF

Writers' Pick: Band to See In Person

Eyes Caught Fire

eyescaughtfire.com

If you've ever been to an Eyes Caught Fire show, then this nod will hardly come as a surprise. Yeah, the recently reunited local five-piece Dustin Bingham, Joel Brown, Lydia Brown, Kellie Palmblad and Noah Winningham boasts some talented musicians, but, seriously, have you seen them? Watching their show is like flipping through a fashion magazine. Them's some good-lookin' folks, that's all I'm sayin'. Oh, and their music's pretty sweet, too, with its haunting blend of dreamy ambience and wailing vocals. No matter your pleasure, ECF's got ya covered. PF

Place for a Wedding

click to enlarge Hillside Gardens - PHOTO BY SEAN CAYTON

Hillside Gardens 1006 S. Institute St., 520-9463

hillsidegardens.net

The immortal words of Alanis Morissette "It's like rain on your wedding day" wouldn't be a problem at Hillside Gardens, says owner Larry Ash. "You can have a ceremony and a reception in an outdoor botanical garden, with a gazebo and pavilion available in case of inclement weather." And as anyone who knows Colorado knows, "inclement weather" is always a possibility. "It's a beautiful setting with gorgeous views, without being too formal," Ash says. "It's not stuffy." Being surrounded by blossoming beauty with a beloved sweetheart at your side? I can't think of a better way to begin a lifetime romance. CR

Thanks

To elope, for generously donating more than four dozen hats for our photo shoots.

To Lion's Pride Framing, for the quick and painless work on all the Best Of plaques.

To Cheetah, for the crisp and colorful printing of Best Of materials.

click to enlarge Sanguine Addiction - PHOTO BY JOHNNIE EDGER

click to enlarge Shugas - PHOTO BY BRIENNE BOORTZ

click to enlarge Tony's - PHOTO BY BRIENNE BOORTZ

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