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DO Chef Panel: What’s Your Favorite Dive Bar?

The DO Chef Panel talks neighborhood dives

Sometimes a cheap, cold beer and no interruptions is all you need. For those moments, nothing beats the Denver dive scene. Indeed, The Mile High City has no shortage of classic dives, which serve as go-tos for cheap drinks, bar games, and greasy bites. The heart of the dive bar is not only its rich history, but its community of people. The mix of characters who grace our favorite neighborhood haunts range from regulars who’ve seen it all to millennials who have just now discovered the scene. Even our favorite top chefs have found refuge in these hidden gems. If you’re in need of a dive, then take a peek into these chef-approved, tippled icons. Maybe you’ll become a regular.

“Being a new member to RiNo, I’m giving a shout out to Phil’s Place. It has cheap drinks, dancing, and is full of folks that have watched the neighborhood grow. They also have a jukebox, pool, food five times a week, handles of liquor bottles, and plastic table cloths. I love Phil’s!”—Aniedra Nichols, Fish N’ Beer

“I love me a dive bar now and again. My favorites in the city have to be Star Bar and Candlelight Tavern. You can usually find me during ‘school nights’ for a negroni or two at Star Bar because they are the epitome of a good wind-down space after a long, energetic night. The staff there is so tuned into the clientele that when you want to say hello they will respond and be chatty, and when it looks like you just need to be left alone for the night, they can read that too. For football Sundays, you can usually find me at the Candle”fight” Tavern for a dive bar burger and some bar games. For me, that’s what defines a dive bar. A place where you won’t get any pressure on the “industry slang” that people in the business have to deal with every day, all day. People there who understand that sometimes you just want to kick back, relax, and wind down.”—Nick Kayser, Vesta

“In my opinion, Carioca Cafe / Bar Bar is the best dive bar in Denver—you can get a stiff drink and sit next to “Bob” and listen to his life story and tell him your own if you want (or not). With downtown developing and growing and bringing more diverse people in, it’s great to have a place where you can see old timers and young couples getting together and really having a great time—and that’s the essence of an unpretentious “dive bar” to me.”—Brent Calley, Lucky Cat

“I love American Legion in Edgewood. It’s my partners, Rachel Chaparro’s favorite spot. Cheap drinks with people that served our country and easy conversations!”—Elise Wiggins, Cattivella

Star Bar. Best craft beers in the city.”—Mark Dym, Racca

“For me, it’s got to be Nob Hill Inn. It’s a real dive, with genuine, unpretentious clientele and neighborhood people. You can get some great, stiff and boozy drinks at a good price, which is what makes a true dive bar. You see all kinds there—homeless people, neighborhood, young, old … everyone. It doesn’t get any better than that.”—Mary Nguyen, Olive & Finch

“My favorite dive bar is The Satellite on Colfax. It’s dark, a little ‘scary’ and they have cheap beer AND local craft brews. Plus shuffleboard. Who could ask for more?”—Carrie Baird, Just BE Kitchen

“I like Society Sports and Spirits. It’s always nice to have a bartender that knows you. It’s nice and low key there and not crowded.”—Darren Pusateri, The Squeaky Bean

“My all time favorite Denver dive has to be The Lion’s Lair. Perfect in all ways—location, lighting, aroma, and ambiance, or lack there of. It has all the components of a great dive: guest anonymity (if desired), camaraderie (if desired), lack of windows, and cheap beer.”—Jesse Moore, Ace Eat Serve

“My favorite dive bar in Denver will always be the White Horse Lounge on West Alameda. It was the first place my parents took me when I was 21. They would frequent that place every now and again and so I got to know some of the regulars and the owners when I was younger. I went back recently and it felt the same. What makes a great dive bar is the history and the stories that the regulars tell you, if you ask. It’s a GREAT neighborhood place and I hope it stays that way.” —Randy Savala, The Fort

“One of the very best dive bars in town is The PS Lounge on East Colfax. It’s connected to Enzo’s End pizzeria, which is my favorite pizza in town. You can order your pie and wait for it while having a drink at the lounge or you can eat it in the lounge with your dive bar drink. Fun fact: the owner Pete is a really nice Greek gentleman and will often do shots of ouzo with you. That personal connection, lack of pretension, and good strong drinks (and an awesome pizza) are what really make a dive bar for me.”—Dan Kane, Del Frisco’s Grille

“I head over to The Three Lions because it is a good place to relax after work, and it isn’t crowded or crazy. A little sports, a beer, and a shot, it hits the spot.”—Bryant Reyes, Cochino Taco

The DiningOut (DO) Chef Panel serves as the voice of culinary talent in Denver, Boulder, and beyond. These 70-plus chefs answer our burning questions about the local dining scene, cooking, and food trends on a monthly basis.

Curated by Morgan Carter, Editor