Review: Looking for a hangout in Park Hill? The Abbey Tavern is a lucky find
The Abbey Tavern
Danielle Lirette Rise and shine: Irish breakfast at The Abbey Tavern.
5151 East Colfax Avenue
There's no shortage of places in this town where you can quench a thirst, but that didn't discourage Glen Eastwood. And after enough plot twists to fill a Frank McCourt novel, last fall he and business partner Andrew Cudden opened The Abbey Tavern.
That was after a lease at Fourth and Broadway was signed, then fell through. After they found a replacement spot on East Colfax Avenue, and the new chef didn't show up on his first day. After another job search found a replacement chef, who dropped out a day before he was supposed to start. But nothing deterred these two Irishmen, who'd met on a soccer pitch in the '90s and stayed friends throughout the years. "It turned out to be a blessing," Eastwood says of the move to Colfax. "This was a better location for what we're trying to do," away from "the white noise of Broadway."
See also: A Closer Look at The Abbey Tavern
On one level, what Eastwood is trying to do is fill seats and pour drinks -- a mission he's familiar with, having worked as the general manager at Casey's and Fadó Irish Pub. But he's also trying to do what Peter Ryan has done so successfully at the Plimoth, and what Amy Vitale and Dustin Barrett did at Tables before that: give this restaurant-starved part of Denver another neighborhood go-to spot. To think of the Abbey Tavern as just another bar, then, is to miss the point. It is an Irish pub that does what Irish pubs in Ireland do so well: It brings locals together.
Here, however, the locals are men, women and children, making the Abbey Tavern feel less like the man cave that Irish pubs tend to be and more like a community center or park. Every time I visited, I saw people of all ages laughing, sharing stories and cheering whatever team happened to be on TV that night. Booths were filled with parents and kids playing peekaboo. Gray-haired couples rested their drinks on Irish whiskey casks while waiting for seats to open up. Thirty-somethings crowded together at the community counter, eating wings and ordering another round. Outside of the grocery store, that's more generations than I've seen rubbing elbows in a long time, lending a homey, friendly air to the place.
Danielle Lirette The patio at the Abbey Tavern.
I could be cynical and say they're here because they don't have anywhere else to go: Park Hill isn't exactly rife with restaurants. But even so, the Abbey is something special. My hunch -- and I say this as a longtime Park Hill resident -- is that despite the painted brick walls and archways reminiscent of a somber, old-world abbey (hence the name), the Abbey Tavern was born with a twinkle in its eye. If it were human, it would be the person everyone clusters around at parties, the one with the hearty laugh and clever tale. And to see where that twinkle comes from, look no further than Eastwood, a man who prides himself on knowing kids' names and remembering what people like to drink. "An Irish pub, to me, is a form of inviting hospitality and warmth, very welcoming," says Eastwood, who stresses these traits in his staff and will even "hire people with no experience as long as they have the right personality."
Even when servers are slammed, as often happens during the weekday happy hour from 4 to 7 p.m., when well drinks and draught beers (except Guinness) are $3, they exude a genuine eagerness to make sure you're having a good time. They'll even go so far as to anticipate problems before they happen, offering to take a few dollars off the tab for something minor like no berries for the crème-brûlée cheesecake, a sign of hospitality that's increasingly hard to find, even at higher-end establishments.
Danielle Lirette Guinness BBQ chicken wings at the Abbey Tavern.
Keep reading for the rest of our review of the Abbey Tavern.