'The most important thing to know about Upstairs at La Baguette is how to find it — through an unmarked wooden door to the left of La Baguette French Bakery's entrance." That's how we opened up a recent, glowing review of this new gathering place at 2417 W. Colorado Ave. (labaguette-co.com). But the second thing you should know is that with its exposed brick, low lights, complimentary warm bread and pleasant staff, Upstairs is an ideal destination if you want a quiet night of intimate conversation and top-quality spirits.
The third thing you should know: It's open only Thursday through Saturday.
Along similar lines, and with a similar schedule, comes the more-than-hip Motif (2432 W. Cucharras St., motifwest.com). Tucked off the main strip, with a welcoming patio and chic décor, it's the ideal spot to hang out with a well-heeled crowd and enjoy an evening of some of the region's best jazz acts. More jazz and blues may be enjoyed at the well-appointed Cucuru Gallery Cafe (2332 W. Colorado Ave., cucuru.santuario.com).
If a more raucous evening is on tap, however, you just need walk a block to Meadow Muffins (2432 W. Colorado Ave., 633-0583), a staple of downtown Old Colorado City since it opened its doors in 1979. Nowadays, you'll find lively crowds on football Sundays, open mics and the occasional pole dancing contest. "Crazy" karaoke, as well as serious Denver Bronco-watching, happens across the street at Thunder & Buttons II (2415 W. Colorado Ave., thunderandbuttons.com).
The west-side dive-bar title probably belongs to Benny's Restaurant & Lounge (517 W. Colorado Ave., 634-9309). Satisfying bar food, cheap pours and a great range of musical acts bring to life this straight-from-a-movie locale. As Yelp commenter Damien B puts it: "Sit back and enjoy the show."
You can do the same, over ribs or a buffalo burger, at Front Range Barbeque (2330 W. Colorado Ave., frbbq.com) on Wednesday or Saturday evenings. That's when live bands, including touring acts, play the homey venue. It's tough to beat a summer show on FRBBQ's patio, though the restaurant's "Meet the Brewer" events are formidable as well.
Moving west, Swirl Wine Bar (717 Manitou Ave., Manitou Springs, 685-2294) serves tapas and lovely wines in a chic, comfy setting, with a charming courtyard in the back for evenings of long conversation. Mona's Wine Cellar (733 Manitou Ave., Manitou Springs, monalisafondue.com) has an impressive wine selection, and locally loved fondue from the upstairs restaurant.
Good old-fashioned bars in Manitou include the Townhouse Lounge (907 Manitou Ave., thetownhouselounge.com), where the colorful exterior is rivaled only by the colorful clientele, and the Keg Lounge (730 Manitou Ave., 685-9531), voted the town's Best Neighborhood Bar by Indy readers for three years running. Speaking of running, Kinfolks Mountain Shop (950 Manitou Ave., kinfolksmanitou.com) is just your average outdoor-store-with-a-craft-beer-stocked bar, at least until it also hosts live music. The Ancient Mariner (962 Manitou Ave., 685-5503) is perhaps Manitou's most active music venue.
Touring acts do venture up the pass, thanks largely to the Crystola Roadhouse (20918 U.S. Hwy. 24, Woodland Park, 687-7879), which regularly hosts the likes of Candye Kane and Bob Margolin. Buck's Mountain Saloon & Grill (116 W. Midland Ave., Woodland Park, 686-1212) is geared almost exclusively to a local clientele who want a no-pretense watering hole and a good, boozy time.
Finally, there are two good patios to know for when the weather gets warmer. One is at BierWerks Brewery (121 E. Midland Ave., Woodland Park, bierwerks.com), where brewmaster James McGraw crafts top-notch Bavarian and German creations from apple cider aplfelbier to the black lager schwarzbier, and the Blue Moose Tavern (10530 Ute Pass Ave., Green Mountain Falls, 418-3384) — successor to the now-departed Silver Tongue Devil Saloon — offers a full bar menu and loud music in a lakeside, family-friendly setting.