On a strip famous for Bastien’s, PS Lounge, and the Bluebird Theater, comes a bar quite unlike anything else around it but already very much in-tune with East Colfax. Like its new (old) neighborhood, Middleman is all about the contrasts: It’s a comfortable but carefully designed cocktail bar; it has a little kitchen that puts out small but hearty plates of New Mexican classics — posole, sopapillas, calabacitas; it’s got turntables and space for a band; and both the Hamm’s and the High Life can come with either a fernet or a Cynar.
“I’m 34, I’m tired of doing shots of tequila and whiskey,” says owner Jareb Parker. The New Mexico native and first-time bar owner went in with his family to start this business. His cousin Charlie is a co-owner, his brother Justin is leading the kitchen, even their aunt and grandma are helping out with operations (see the latter’s red chile sauce on the enchiladas). But what could be pinned as a New Mexican bar and restaurant is actually far from it.
Prior to moving to Denver, Parker spent time working behind bars in Los Angeles, and for a time, he studied architecture. He says he has avoided “concepting” Middleman as much as possible, instead going for a comfortable space that offers a little something for everyone: “For this spot, we’ll live and die by the neighborhood,” he understands.
Less than a dozen $9 to $12 cocktails will be offered at any given time, with easy-to-digest descriptions (see bright with bubbles or alpine herbal). The handful of food items are priced between $6 and $8. Eight beers on tap and 12 in cans are available; then there’s the list of amaro-focused boilermakers. The space is warm in shades of wood, gray, and green, with tintype wallpaper, plants hanging from the ceiling, and windowsills lined in succulents. Between Dolly Parton on the record player and Star Trek over the TV screen, Middleman could quickly become the new-Colfax living room.
Status: Middleman is now open from 4 p.m. to 2 a.m. nightly at 3401 East Colfax Avenue. For more information, visit the website.