A good bar serves a proper pint. But a great bar has soul. Here are two new pilgrimage-worthy bars where the walls, the bartenders and the drinks all tell a story. By Jen Murphy
Silver Plume, Colorado
Owners Stephen Fenberg, Rob DuRay, Casey Berry and Sam Alviani approached Bread Bar with a “build it and they will come” mentality. The quirky watering hole has made a trapped-in-time mining town an essential detour off I-70 since opening last July.
Built in the 1890s, the bar originally housed a mining supply store, spent most of the last century as a bakery, and served a short stint as an artisanal bitters tasting room.
Drink & Food
Denver’s hit bar, the Way Back, consulted on the standout cocktail menu. In a nod to local lore, drinks are named for historical regional characters, like infamous gambler Cortez Thompson, who is honored with a lava salt-rimmed tequila and grapefruit soda libation. There’s also a well-edited selection of Colorado wines and craft brews. A barbecue truck and guest chefs supply food.
Open Friday through Sunday, Bread Bar acts like a time warp, transporting locals and visitors to simpler, stress free times. Inviting staff mix cocktails against a backdrop of artsy botanical wallpaper and the past is preserved in decorative touches including original grain bins, a hanging scale, and a small Colorado-focused library. In winter, the cozy space feels like you’re in a Wild West snow globe. Come summer, live bands perform on the patio, creating the feel of a backyard party.
San Antonio, Texas
The bar takes its name from a 19th-century custom allowing brewery employees to enjoy a free workday beer. Since opening in November 2015, the space has become the fledgling Pearl District neighborhood’s communal living room.
Hotel Emma is housed in the 1800s-era Pearl Brewery. The bar space was originally a cellar that held finishing tanks for beer.
Drink and Food
Classic cocktails get an artisanal twist from lead bartender James Santos, who proudly crafts syrups and infusions from scratch. The gin-based signature drink, the Three Emmas, is a named for the wife of Pearl Brewery founder Otto Koehler, and the two Emmas he had affairs with. Taps boast Texas craft beers and a creative snack menu offers addictive bites like Cracker Jack Brussels sprouts and lamb meatballs.
Designed by hip, Brooklyn-based firm Roman + Williams, the space feels like an old-fashioned private club, infused with a cool, industrial-edge. Flickering candles and a large fireplace create a sexy mood and buffalo-leather sofas, Moroccan ottomans, and Kilim-upholstered chairs beckon late-night lounging to a soundtrack of everything from Texas country to Kings of Leon. A regular local crowd keeps the scene buzzy even midweek.