I have carried on a love affair with My Brother’s Bar for more than four decades. Before Coors Field and REI and a host of sports bars gentrified the area around Fifteenth and Platte, giving birth to LoDo, there was the bar on the corner with no sign outside, just an address. In an area that consisted of nothing but old and in many cases derelict warehouses, this was the place we called “the neighborhood bar without the neighborhood.”
And what a neighborhood bar it was. Back in the day, My Brother’s Bar served real beers like Labatts Blue; there was not a wheat or raspberry flavored craft beer to be found. It was dark and cool in the summer heat, and smoky to boot, as a good neighborhood bar should be (but it is probably OK that we’ve come a long way, baby, in banning smoking in restaurants). Classical music played on the sound system and they served the best cheeseburgers in town. It was relaxed and funky.
And no, neither of my brothers ever owned this or any other bar.
You could identify transplants to Denver when you announced you were going to My Brother’s Bar; newbies always responded that they didn’t know your brother owned one.
Now, here we are in 2015, and except for the smoking ban and an outdoor patio nothing much has changed. The ambience is still pure, relaxed neighborhood bar. The classical music still plays. And I don’t care how often other places get their customers to vote online 50 times for the Westword or 5280 Magazine awards, for my money, My Brother’s Bar still has the best cheeseburger in town. Big and succulent, it doesn’t come with a plate, but is wrapped in waxed paper soaked with the burger’s juices, along with a plastic tray containing the only condiments a burger ever needs: ketchup, mustard (if you are one of those freaks who puts mustard on a cheeseburger), relish, onions, pickles and peppers. That’s it. Just the basics.
My Brother’s Bar is best known for its cheeseburgers (my favorite is the double cheeseburger), but there are more than just burgers to be enjoyed. Just ask your waitress (yeah, that’s what we used to call them) for a menu. Oops, rookie mistake. There is no menu. But the offerings are posted on placards on the walls around the bar for everyone to see. To name just a few, there is the Ralphie, a bison burger named in honor of CU’s mascot, along with the Ralphie JCB (bison jalapeño cream cheese burger; this was the burger of choice for my old softball team). The Moisha, a pastrami and cheese sandwich, is another favorite. My Brother’s Bar also offers cold sandwiches and snacks (like jalapeño poppers and wonderful fries and onion rings).
And the Labatts is still there on draft; our softball team wouldn’t dream of getting pitchers of anything else. All of the beers are tap beers (there were 17 varieties the night The Docket stopped in), including other real beers like Guinness and Paulaner Pilsner. But I can’t fault the bar for succumbing to the pressures of being in the middle of thousands of millennials by offering a variety of beers, including (lord help us) craft beers. At least, I guess that is what options called Uinta Monkshine Belgian and Odell Cutthroat Porter must be.
The bottom line is that if you haven’t been to this Denver institution (reliable historians claim this is Denver’s oldest continuously operated bar, once patronized by Jack Kerouac’s buddy Neal Cassady), you should put it on your bar bucket list. The ambiance, beer and burgers are as good as it gets in this historic Denver locale.
By Marshall Snider, a former Colorado administrative law judge who works as an arbitrator and mediator. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.