Denver's ten best new bars of 2012

gary lees grub 2.jpg
Danielle Lirette
Gary Lee's Motor Club and Grub.
With the additions of everything from neighborhood taverns to high-end lounges, Denver's bar scene got even better in 2012. Residents and tourists alike have many more options when they're looking for fun after the sun goes down -- or even before that. Here, in no particular order, are Cafe Society's picks for the ten best new bars that opened in metro Denver in 2012.

See also:
- Here it is! Punch Bowl - Social Food & Drink opens to the public on Saturday
- Slide show: Behind the Scenes at Ace
- Foodography (cobras and scorpions count as food, right?) from Adrift

Lori Midson
10) Punch Bowl - Social Food & Drink
65 Broadway
Bowling, ping-pong, shuffleboard, darts and foosball - clearly, Punch Bowl - Social Food & Drink is much more than a bar. In November, Robert Thompson opened the long-awaited Punch Bowl in the 24,000-square-foot space that formerly held Big Lots, and now has a coffee shop, gastro-diner, lounge, second bar and, of course, lots of games. Thompson and his staff serve breakfast, lunch and dinner daily, as well as a bar menu until almost last call; the bar features find signature punches, draft beer and keg wine. Let's play!

ace bar.jpg
Mark Manger
Bartender Regan Horacek mixes drinks behind the bar at Ace.
9) Ace
501 East 17th Avenue
In August, Josh and Jen Wolken opened Ace in a 9,000-square-foot space right next to its sibling, Steuben's, and instantly created one of the best new hangouts in Denver. Order an alcoholic shaved ice or a scorpion bowl from Randy Layman, the genius behind the bar, or something off the Asian-American food menu while you wait for your turn at the ping-pong table. A little liquid courage never hurts when you're challenging your friends to a round of ping-pong. Score!

adrift seating.jpg
Lori Midson
8) Adrift
218 South Broadway
Step back in time at Adrift, Denver's only tiki bar, opened in April. With a small plates menu with an Asian twist and a bar that features forty varieties of rum as well as a cocktail list that offers a modern take on classic tropical drinks, dropping into Adrift is like taking a short, South Seas vacation. And an intimate one, if you grab a table on the tiny back patio.

Continue reading for more of the city's best new bars.

Location Info


501 E. 17th Ave., Denver, CO

Category: Music


218 S. Broadway, Denver, CO

Category: Music

Gary Lee's Motor Club and Grub

176 S. Broadway, Denver, CO

Category: Music

Local 46

4586 Tennyson St., Denver, CO

Category: Music

Mile High Spirits - CLOSED

2920 Larimer St., Denver, CO

Category: Music

Park House

1515 Madison St., Denver, CO

Category: Restaurant

Vesper Lounge

233 E. 7th Ave., Denver, CO

Category: Restaurant

The 1up Colfax

717 E. Colfax Ave., Denver, CO

Category: Music

The Dive Inn

1380 S. Broadway, Denver, CO

Category: Music

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Josh Court
Josh Court

Oh yeah punch bowl is great if you're looking for that desperate highlands ranch feel downtown.


Punch Bowl and Vesper are fucking awful bars.  Vesper especially.  Completley devoid of any kind of soul.  Punch Bowl might be the worst thing to happen to Broadway since construction.


I love Denver, I'm actually 5th generation to live here. But, when I read through this article, the bar scene here is lame.  Many of them offer the same stuff to do, drinks are similar only touted to be made with different brands.  These new bars are only replacing the lame old bars that have died...there's really nothing new.  The bar craze has struck Denver just as the restaurant craze did...same ol' sh*t as down the street but with "our" twist, nothing original...when will it phase out and some quality bars and restaurants open in Denver? 


Great list.  I want to check out Mile High Spirits.  I really dig those old barrel-roof/clear span buildings.  And they distill on premises? Sounds like a winner


Good list.  

Punch Bowl Social and Ace Eat Serve are the hands down best winners, for my money.  


Perhaps as a bar for playing games, Punch Bowl Social is good, but I had arguably the worst dining experience of my 9 years in Denver at that place last month.  The service was non-existent--it took 45 minutes to get coffees and water (this was brunch), and we had been sitting for over an hour before a food order was taken.  Both the coffee and food were cold, and the food, while promising, was mediocre at best.  And I can't forget the dirty table we were seated at.  Although it had been wiped, the table had deep grooves running down it where old food had settled and never been cleaned.  Appetizing!  Needless to say I will never be back.


@epll wow sad experience.  I've had exactly the opposite.  I've been down there about 6-8 times (I work nearby) for coffee or lunch and have always had a good experience.  I've been in twice at night and while it can get packed they seem to have a huge staff.  Love that place despite all the haters that seem to be out there.

ScubaSteve topcommenter

@Megan Kratzman

Please go back and read the article.  Dive Inn isn't necessarily #1 because the bars were listed in no particular order:

"Here, in no particular order, are Cafe Society's picks for the ten best new bars that opened in metro Denver in 2012."


@foodcrazy Dive Inn is #1 in my eyes.  (Alright, good call, I didn't read the intro...)

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