Top 5 Specific Things I Miss About Fort Collins Bars

Welcome to Top 5 Fun Friday, a regularly-occurring blog feature where I give you a list of extremely specific pointless shit from my life no one asked for. Why? Because the internet is STILL incredibly un-fun in 2021 and I miss blogging. It’s Friday and these will be fun! This week’s list…

Top 5 Specific Things I Miss About Fort Collins Bars

RIP The Vault

Fort Collins is a drinking town. Better yet, Fort Collins is MY drinking town. I had my first legal drink there at C.B. & Potts – a weird purple shot called an “Earl” (Jack Daniel’s and a bunch of other shit I have since forgotten) and a beer – roughly 10 minutes after I turned 21. I was by myself since I was the oldest one in my crew, and the bar was mostly empty considering it was after midnight on a Tuesday.

I learned to love craft beer there since Fat Tire, Sunshine, 90 Shilling and Easy Street were $1 every night somewhere in town, and you could right to the breweries and drink them for free. I have fond memories not just of the many haunts of Old Town, but of the Jackson’s off of Harmony next to the Kohl’s. Of doing shitty box trivia with my friends at Slider’s off of Shields between Drake and Prospect. Of playing pool at The County Cork off of Drake and Redwing. Of suffering through crappy country music and getting obliterated at $0.25 beer night at the Sundance way the hell out on Mulberry. Of too many house parties to name scattered all over town.

So, when Kristin told me she wanted to abscond to Fort Collins for a night on her birthday, we decided it was high time we hit up some of our old haunts. Granted, the hangover the next morning was really quite spectacular, but hopping from bar to bar when you’ve both been fully vaccinated for a month is energizing and you tend to forget about looming consequences.

Drinking in the Motherland has me all awash in nostalgia, so let’s call out some of the things I’ve missed about imbibing in my favorite drinking town on the planet. Here we go…

The Jukebox at Surfside 7

First of all, yes, I am roughly 80 years old getting all moony over a jukebox in 2021, thank you. Second, I asked Kristin if we could go to the Surfside specifically to see if the jukebox was still there. It was, and it’s still goddamn incredible. The Surfside is frozen in time, man.

The night after I defended my master’s thesis, I asked everyone to join me at the Surfside to celebrate. Mostly, I just wanted to drink beers with my friends and bully the jukebox all night. That was 15 years ago to the month, and despite being in a different location two blocks away, I don’t think a thing vibe-wise has changed. Same jukebox, same goofy, misplaced beach theme, same dirty rock and roll 20-somethings hanging out doing the exact same thing as us a decade and a half previous.

Three plays for a dollar, and in the interest of not monopolizing things, we slid in two bucks. “Folsom Prison Blues” by Johnny Cash, “I Get Wet” by Andrew WK, “I’m So Bored with the USA” by The Clash, “If You Want Blood” by AC/DC, “Jailbreak” by Thin Lizzy and one other I can’t bring to mind. Two things about that Thin Lizzy track.

  1. We actually apologized to the dirty rock n roll kids one table over for being old and having our own mini playlist in the middle of their night. They said, “Hey, you guys are killing it so far.” When “Jailbreak” fired up, they all went, “Awww yeah!” and started playing air guitar. It was bitchin’ and made me happy that some things never change.
  2. Kristin leans into me and says, “If I knew you were going to play Thin Lizzy, I would have had you choose ‘Whiskey in the Jar.’” DAMMIT! I was going to pick “Whiskey in the Jar” I just didn’t think she knew that one! Never underestimate your wife, kids.

Peanuts at Lucky Joe’s

We stopped by Lucky Joe’s last weekend and they were at (COVID) capacity, and since it was cold, we didn’t want to wait out there for someone to leave. Joe’s at capacity? Like I said, some things never change. I have no idea if, because of COVID, they even do peanuts anymore (probably not), but I got an intense craving for them as I walked by.

As a broke college student, Lucky Joe’s was a necessary stop to procure some nourishment as you punished your liver. Grab two big ol’ clawfuls out of that giant barrel, make your way to the table, get to work, and then just throw the goddamn shells right on the floor, which is your right as an American pig. I woke up many mornings (probably on Jason’s couch on Remington, just south of Mulberry) to find peanuts crammed into my jacket pockets, presumably so I could eat them later, which I then forgot about. I walked to class once hungover as balls, went to put my hands in my pockets, and found them stuffed to the gills with peanuts. I stopped in the middle of a crosswalk and just un-self consciously emptied them onto the street. I’m sure that was a fun sight for whatever cars happened to witness my oblivious ass.

God, thinking about these peanuts made me actually get up and see if I had any in my pantry. I had to settle for almonds, which are like the peanut’s effete cousin. Ooohh, look at me, I’m healthy! I’m good for the heart! They turn me into milk! Fuck off, poindexter. No one cares. You’re inferior to the peanut, and you know it. Nerd.

The weird interior design of Elliot’s Martini Bar

I never knew what to wear at Elliot’s, but I probably should have just gotten a shirt that said, “I don’t belong here.” I always felt like such an impostor at Elliot’s because I knew jackshit about cocktails, and even less about martinis. Naturally this was among my wife’s favorite places in college, so when we started dating, I spent a lot of time waiting for the Fraud Police to show up while we were there.

Elliot’s pulls off the paradoxical design trick of looking like it’s from both the past and the future. Stucco meets metal meets rounded corners meets severe angles meets neon lights in an extremely anachronistic way. It looks like some fucking space cantina from a 1970s sci-fi movie. Walking in there again, I remembered how uncomfortable this place used to make me and that brought back a wave of emotions about my wife. She’s always pushed me out of my comfort zone, and for that I’m intensely grateful.

I was thrilled that my wife’s favorite martini, the “I’m Batman,” was still there and she eagerly ordered one. I got one called “I’m Your Huckleberry” which was also excellent. At 39 years old, I’m comfortable enough in my own skin and know enough about booze to feel fine in a joint like this. Yet, I couldn’t help but be self-conscious thinking about how at 39 years old I was actively walking down memory lane trying to recapture the feeling of nearly 20 years previous. Man, Elliot’s just has my number no matter what age I am.

The cheap ass shots at Tony’s

First of all, hunky Tony. Secondly, when I was in college Tony’s had a sign above the bar that said something to the effect of:

All Day, Every Day
$2 shots
Jack Daniel’s, Jägermeister, Rumple Minze, Jose Cuervo

While you consider vomiting, I’ll go ahead and tell you I drank more Jager here than anywhere outside of my own home. For $2, and given that lineup, why choose anything else? I don’t think I’ve even tasted Jager in like 12 years, so walking into Tony’s was nearly Pavlovian. I asked my wife if she was down for a shot, and against her better judgment, she was. We ordered two Jagers, and out they came, ice cold looking like 10W-30.

Friends, lemme tell you something. A shot of Jägermeister after a 12-year absence is just about the strongest tasting shit I have ever experienced. I mean… fuck. Root beer and anise in wild abundance are joined by about 15 different botanical scents and flavors all crashing into each other on the palate like psychotic bumper cars. Unnerving viscosity. Ice cold temperatures that paralyze the throat while salivary glands pump and flex like coked-up bodybuilders. It’s an experience, man!

I’m not sure I’ll replicate it anytime soon, but Jägermeister gets an A+ for intensity! And it’s all thanks to Tony’s, a place where an unfortunate “Welcome to Jamaica” shot (Jägermeister, Goldschlager and Midori – the colors of the Jamaican flag) got me kicked out for booting on the floor.

The crusty old motherfuckers who sit at the bar of the Steakout

I drank plenty at night at the Steakout, but if I was drinking during the day, the Steakout was the jam. It’s a bar where the familiar smell of the fryer hits you first when you walk in the door, followed immediately by the sight of the giant tap list on the wall, concluded with noticing the Cubs are playing on TV. It’s home. And no home is complete without a visit from your grouchy old uncle!

I so rarely get to sit at the bar anymore, seeing two slots open at the Steakout was pure catnip. We posted up, the Cubs were finishing kicking the shit out of the Braves on TV, and next to me was some dude probably in his late 50s who, I swear I’m not making this up, says to the bartender in her mid-20s, “Of course, I’m also old enough to where I don’t think they’ve made any good music since 1972.” Ah, that’s the stuff. Nothing gets me quite lathered up like some old shitbag who hates new music (and also any music less than 50 years old, apparently). But in the case of the Steakout, that’s part of the charm.

I ordered a dunkel from Zwei Brewing, watched as that old bastard packed up his shit (including his phone charger), pay his bill, leave, and then come back looking for his charger.

It was good to be home, if even only for a day.

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