Denver Six Shooter is a bargoing blog for the literate, urban lush. Six Shooter writers hit six Denver-area bars in one night, have a drink at each, and write a story about it.
In this outing, Denver Six Shooter's Security Threat tours the bizarre and icy barscape of South Littleton and Highlands Ranch.
We began at The Shack, a franchise strip mall bar off Broadway and Mineral. In the Safeway parking lot. Sandwiched between Marshalls and the "Oh look, I'm a cool nurse" scrubs store that went out of business. A warm oasis in the middle of a snow-covered parking lot desert.
The Shack is perhaps the strangest bar and grill franchise in history. Their locations include two restaurants in Hawaii, one in Santa Monica, and this one. I'm guessing their location selection strategy is based more on the "Oh look, cousin Ed moved to Littleton and needs a job" model than the "This location has high visibility and a big happy hour crowd potential" model.
From an interior design perspective, The Shack appears to have modeled itself after the continental breakfast lounge of some Holiday Inn. Bland furniture. Vague bleach smell. Unfortunately, there's no Holidome. A dip in the pool might be nice on a cold night like this. We need more pool bars in Denver.
When we were there, the TVs were blaring and there was no music. A few people were eating and drinking. I ordered a shot of Jameson and a beer. The Jameson helped to calm my nerves after our harrowing drive. The beer was cold and cheap. Service and all that up to par.
But there was nothing special here. And we weren't willing to wait around for the karaoke scheduled later in the evening. We still had five bars to hit.
We left the Safeway parking lot, venturing south across Mineral into the King Soopers parking lot. Sandwiched between Big Lots and the LA Boxing mini-gym is Alibi's.
Alibi's has apparently been in this strip mall since I was fourteen. That's a long time for a bar to be around. Especially in a strip mall. Alibi's enjoys a colorful clientele of blue collar alcoholics and a pleasant, if unimaginative, staff. When Marilyn asked the bartender to surprise her with something special, the bartender brought her a Blue Moon.
I certainly wouldn't have the courage to say snarky things to the staff's face: one waitress tackled a regular right behind my barstool and wanted to leg wrestle him.
"Why are you doing that?" we inquired.
"To get a better tip."
In addition to leg wrestling, Alibi's does offer shuffleboard, a pool table, and "horrible Mexican burps," according to one frequent devotee of the Alibi's smothered burrito.
Outside having a smoke, I became privy to a heated argument where one bar patron was convinced that if Madden had an instant replay feature, he would have won an earlier video football game.
"He was out of bounds!"
I'm not sure how much alcohol it takes to become convinced that video game referees make mistakes, but this guy was there. I did my best not to get drawn into the conversation and watched the pick-up truck plow push the snow around the lot.
The bartender, whom I will call Dre, not because she reminded me of Dr. Dre but because her real name is the same as my ex-wife's name, has one of the coolest tattoo ensembles I have seen. She literally has a devil on one shoulder and an angel on the other. We began to discuss the relative merits of various tattoos. One woman in the bar had a tattoo of the Broncos logo on her lower back.
"Nothing turns a man's head like the Broncos." Duly noted.
Another patron (OK, it's Joe) has a tattoo of a shamrock on his ankle. We questioned its coolness and moved on to other subjects. More on that later...
We learned that the entertainment was about to begin here, as well. Yes, that's right. Karaoke. How two strip mall bars right across the street from each other can support karaoke on the same night is beyond me. Although I would like to see some sort of West Side Story-style karaoke battle between bars...
Staying ahead of the wave of karaoke, we ventured south of C-470, crossing that mythical line into the suburban hell of Highlands Ranch. Turning right into the first pseudo-strip mall, we found Dewey's Bar and Grill.
Dewey's is a local franchise that really does an excellent job at staying one or two steps above the local dives without the clinical antisepticness of, say, a Chili's or an Applebees. It's just a nice, comfortable, friendly environment to eat and drink in. I switched to gin and tonic. At the last two bars, I had feared ordering a mixed drink would result in ostracism. Here, you can order whatever you want and no one will bat an eye.
Joe had become a little unstable. Our previous conversations had left him self-conscious. Joe is a manly guy. Works out. Plays sports. Fixes cars. Drinks beer. But for the first time, he realized that the shamrock might not fit into his perfect manly worldview.
He needed support and reassurance to let him know that his tattoo wasn't effeminate. So I reached out to the one place I knew would offer unconditional support and honest opinions: Facebook.
My status update: "Question of the night: what do you think of men with ankle tattoos?"
The responses came from all sides.
From a redneck cousin: "Thems the ones that ran out of room on their arms? Or the ones that paint their toes too?"
From a gay friend: "Silly. And even too girly for any 'mo I know."
It was beautiful. Joe's tattoo was bringing people together in unexpected ways. Straights. Gays. Everyone agreed that Joe's tattoo is the lamest tattoo in history. Next stop: laser removal.
The bar's music began to wear on me, and I hit the jukebox. I had a craving for that secret chord that David played when it pleased the Lord. I spent a buck to hear Jeff Buckley's version of "Hallelujah" and Radiohead's "Karma Police." I had my own little private karaoke in the corner, worrying that in my trip to Highlands Ranch I had lost myself, for a minute there.
Lil' Ricci's Pizza
44 W. Centennial (next to Off Broadway Lounge)
We traveled across the snowy parking lot to our next destination: The Off Broadway Lounge. This was the first bar we encountered that was actually packed, but when we got there, they wanted to charge us a cover. There was a fight on TV and we were supposed to help cover the costs of pay-per-view or whatever. Given that the fight was already in the eighth round, we protested. The bouncer said we could wait until the fight was over. OK. But we needed to pee. So we walked through the bar into the adjoining Lil' Ricci's pizza restaurant.
I've been to Lil' Ricci's on several occasions and enjoyed their pizza and beer. Tonight was not one of those nights. Lil' Ricci's was closed, so we got to enjoy neither pizza nor beer. But the bathrooms were clean.
[Note to Six Shooter management: I am uncertain if this visit actually counts as an official destination as we did not eat or drink. For now, please consider this our fourth bar of the evening.]
When we returned to the Lounge, the fight was about over and the other bouncer let us in with no argument. The Lounge had a much younger, more energetic crowd than we had seen all night.
And they have a heated smoking porch, which excites my nicotine-filled body more than any other bar feature.
For some reason, every man in the bar was wearing a hat. Snow caps. Baseball hats. Cowboy hats. I never saw a sign indicating it was hat night, but that's how this bar rolls.
Everyone was very friendly. We began talking to a couple of guys whose names and occupations escape me. My notes on the evening become increasingly sketchy at this point. They were wearing hats. We met one of the guy's girlfriends. Later, we returned to talk to the same guys and the girl was gone.
"Where'd she go?" we asked.
"Outside," he said.
"It's snowing and freezing."
"She's in the car."
"With some girl."
"Oh." Pause. "Ohhhhhhhh!"
This is the Highlands Ranch you hear about in whispered tones. The Ranch full of secret debauchery.
I ordered a beer. "Heads or tails," the bartender said. I was taken aback. The phenomena of Flip Night had apparently made it south. Heads. Free beer. Yes!
We had planned on ending our evening at the Highlands Ranch Town Center, stopping in for a drink at the Old Blinking Light and then wrapping up at Lansdowne Arms. The OBL, however, had chickened out and closed early due to the weather. Lame.
Lansdowne, however, was hopping. This is where the more sophisticated drinkers of Highlands Ranch congregate. It's a nice, clean place and no man here was wearing a hat. All of which is to say that the crowd here is the late-30s/early-40s divorcee crowd. Good food.
For some dumbass reason, neither Marilyn, nor Joe, nor I took a single photograph in the bar, so I stole the one above from the Lansdowne website. The image is virtually interchangeable with what we experienced. Might even be some of the same people.
For a moment, we thought the wave of karaoke had finally caught up to us, as Saturday night is karaoke night at Lansdowne. Thankfully, the snow had kept the karaoke man away and we were spared another rendition of "Don't Stop Believing."
In the main dining room, we noticed a wedding reception. I approached a groomsman.
"Do you appreciate the irony of having a wedding reception in this divorcee pick-up haven?"
He did not appreciate the irony. Or the comment.
Later, I convinced one drunken fool to hit on the bride. He got shot down. Wait, just wait, though...
As the crowd began to thin, a drunken cougar made me her target for the night. Having recently become involved with a new girl, this garden variety Ranch cougar held no interest for me.
I went outside for a smoke. The cougar was leaving with her friends. She decided to give me a goodbye hug. I acquiesced, falling right into her trap. She proceeded to tackle me, pushing me into the snow and laughing intensely. It was then that I truly missed my girlfriend. Truth be told, I fight like a writer. My girlfriend, though, kicks ass and she would have put this cougar in a chokehold so fast her head would have been spinning for days.
Her friends pulled her off and took her home.
I ran into the groomsman on the way back in.
"Real mature," he said.
At Lansdowne, Joe and Marilyn were in their element. While I was making snow angels, they quickly became friends with everyone in the bar. As Lansdowne closed, they invited everyone back to their house.
They drove me back to their place. Heretofore, their place shall be referred to as Club Fidelio. One car after another arrived.
(Note to self: There may be a market for an after-hours club in Highlands Ranch.)
Nice people. We drank more. Hung out.
[Note to Six Shooter management: I am uncertain if this visit actually counts as an official destination, as it is not officially a licensed bar, grill, and is not in a strip mall. For now, please consider this our sixth or seventh bar depending on your earlier ruling of Lil' Ricci's. In the event neither this, nor Lil' Ricci's counts, then I hereby forfeit all royalties of this Six Shooter.]
I would tell more tales of Club Fidelio, except I was sworn to secrecy by a mysterious figure in a Venetian mask and a long robe. Or maybe it was just some dude with a blanket over his head.
So I won't tell any of the tales of the reformed drug dealers drinking on the patio. Or about the girls kissing each other in the kitchen. Or about the woman who handed her underwear to Joe.
What happens at Club Fidelio, stays at Club Fidelio. And what happens in Highlands Ranch, stays not in Highlands Ranch, but is repeated in whispered tones amidst a secret society of hat-wearing karaoke singers.
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