Set The Bar

The world famous Dark Horse has been a Boulder landmark since 1975. This joint perfects the art of the pub.

Article by Mark Miller

Photography by Bailey Batchelor

Originally published in Boulder Lifestyle

Off we go on another weekend following my daughter's lacrosse team around the country while she plays for USC women’s lacrosse. I guess there are a few games you can miss once in a while but playing against Colorado is not one of them. Maybe it’s the rivalry, or perhaps it’s the cool factor of being in downtown Boulder, but in her short four years that she’ll be playing there, I hope never to miss a game. That being said my second favorite thing to do besides watching them play and battle with the snow in the background is to visit the best local nostalgic public houses in any given city that we visit. There are no cities in the US more enriched in real old-school taverns than Boulder!  

So I’m up at four to beat the traffic on Long Island, off to Kennedy airport and four hours later I land in Denver. Immediately you can’t help but notice the different vibe comes off of people.

Arriving a little early my room wasn’t ready which of course is no problem when you’re in Colorado, but a huge problem when you’re in New York. In New York it’s the end of the world, but in Colorado, it’s “where is an old-school bar and restaurant that is family owned?”

“There are many in town sir, but your best bet is the Dark Horse right across the street,” says Tom over at the Best Western Plus. “The place is over 40 years old, and they have the best burger from here to Vail.”

Great. Quick cigar in the sun with the mountains in the distance, check a few emails and it’s off to the Dark Horse.

In a few two days I’ll celebrate 19 years without a drink and yet I am still addicted to a well run, dark old school pub. You’ll never find me at Applebee’s or Buffalo Wild Wings, not that there is anything wrong with that environment. I need to be with the people from the area and hear the stories and smell last nights stale beer. I can tell you that I was not at all disappointed. The bartender Sarah was in charge! Two calls on hold, three orders were going in and all the while answering questions to new work employees. Sarah was my kind of publican. How do I know a good bar and a good bartender? Back home where I’m from I currently own four large establishments on the water and growing up from a young age, and through college, I worked night and day in our towns local. Five minutes after meeting Sarah I strike up a conversation with the owner of this Boulder Lifestyle magazine… which is why I am writing this article. After a few beers for him and a few nonalcoholics for me, I promised I would send over an article about the Dark Horse and my absurd affection towards local taverns in towns like Boulder all across the United States.

It is the responsibility of local publicans like the fellow who owns the Dark Horse to represent his community at large and also serve the art of the pub. I have been in the business for 33 years, and a few of my children are now helping me. To someone who is “in the biz“ as soon as you walk in you can tell if the place is on point. You come in, and you evaluate the staff and the vibe, and if I'm honest, you never stop evaluating probably for the rest of your life. There is just something about a well-run community local tavern with the right vibe and the Dark Horse certainly has it.

So my promise is fulfilled to my new friend from Boulder Lifestyle. I’m sure this article will never get printed but if it does be sure to continue to invest in your community by shopping local and buying local. I’m quite sure I probably had lunch with half of them this afternoon at the Dark Horse. 

Each time I return to Boulder, I will be sure to come and look for Sarah at the Dark Horse. Until then cherish this great city that you all are fortunate enough to be a part of because not everybody is this fortunate.  

Warm winds, cold beer and great memories to you all.


Mark Miller

Old School Pub Enthusiast  

Long Island, New York

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