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Dining in Denver

I will be visiting my a friend who recently moved to Denver. I will be staying at the Hotel Monaco on Champa street. I think on one night we're going to Rioja. We're both from the San Francisco and love wine and great food. We particularly love restaurants with great bar dining. I'm looking for suggestions for a place to have lunch on a Friday afternoon, if it's nice out a place with outdoor seating would be preferred. Suggestions for another dinner spot and any recommendations for lounges or after dinner spots with great cocktails would be really appreciated. Thank you in advance for you help.

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  1. I'd recommend Steuben's for your lunch. They have a nice side patio and open up the front of the restaurant when the weather is nice. http://www.steubens.com/

    What sort of food are you looking for for your second dinner?

    7 Replies
    1. re: Megiac

      All food types. Particularly Italian and French. Places that really emphasize seasonal high quality ingredients.

      1. re: hannah

        If you guys want French, you should try Z Cuisine. It's teeny tiny (although they were supposed to expand--I'm not sure if that has happened yet). They do not take reservations, but the food is terrific. I love brunch at Bistro Vendome, but don't love the dinner as much (except for the $9 all you can eat moules frites on Sundays).

        1. re: Megiac

          When I was last there, their expansion to the as-yet unconnected spot on the corner was still underway. An update from last week on their website (http://www.zcuisineonline.com) says, "We've started construction of our 1930's Bar à Vin Parisien 2 doors down from Z Cuisine...Z Wine Bar will open sometime around the summer 2007." They do take reservations, but only for one six-top table. It is worth noting that they're only open Wed. through Sat.

          1. re: Megiac

            If Kevin Taylor, of Z-Brasserie, Z-Bistro, etc., is involved, I'd go for this one. Have not dined there, but I have a big fondness of his versions, and iterations, of various Z-whatevers.


            1. re: Bill Hunt

              Z-Cuisine is no relation to Kevin Taylor's late Zenith or Z-Anything-Else. Z-Cuisine is owned by chef Patrick Dupays.

              1. re: ClaireWalter

                Thanks for the clarification. I was going by the name, and obviously got it all wrong.

                Hope to get back to the dining scene next month, when we're back in DEN for a wedding. I'm really watching this board, as it's been too long, since we were back "home."



        2. re: Megiac

          I was just at Steuben's and thought they did a thoroughly good job,The place is a retro mid - century modern inspired design that is fun,relaxed ,bright and airy.The crowd is a trendy mix of thirty somethings,with a laid back bar scene with many patrons sporting artistic tattoos.They have a nice patio and huge roll-up doors at the front to also enjoy the nice weather from the inside.I would say that this is an upscale Diner,and as such I had a burger.fries and coke on my first visit.All were well executed,well presented and fairly priced.The $6 burger seemed inexpensive,but was slightly smaller than many others i've had.The service was prompt, efficient and friendly.My coke was replaced numerous times with a full one before I had actually finished it.If I could pin point one problem it would be that the $3 espresso sucked (no crema and was served with a regular coffee spoon).I hear they do an excellent Lobster Roll,but as I had enjoyed the delicious Lobster BLT at Jax ,I settled with the burger.I would go out of my way to visit this place again,and if I lived in Denver I would be a regular.

        3. The Monaco is VERY cool; good address, attentive, a lobby with upholstered chairs you sink into. (I have had food delivered to the lobby, when my group got a little large for the room). Lounges? At 17th and Champa, in the Oxford Hotel, is the Cruise Room. Art Deco frescoes from the 30's, lighting, everything so art deco-period authentic. Equals or betters anything in South Beach. Have a raspberry martini and relax. It has a McCormicks fish house, with outdoor seating, too. But the Cruise Room is a must.

          1. As someone who visits the Bay Area frequently and adores the quality and variety of food, I can tell you that two places in the Denver area that will compare to what you are accustomed to are Fruition on East 6th Avenue and Frasca Food & Wine in Boulder (the latter was opened by French Laundry alums and is well worth the drive). Fruition doesn't have a bar (book a table there anyway--trust me), but Frasca's walk-in bar is an excellent place to dine. It's regional Italian food (Friuli) that showcases local farmers, and the menu changes daily. They can even call a swanky but reasonably-priced ride service for you back to the lovely Monaco if you indulge a bit too much from their amazing wine selections. Co-owner Bobby Stuckey is a master sommelier who works the floor dispensing down-to-earth advice for food and wine pairings, but you could reliably ask anyone here for a recommendation since their entire staff is so knowledgeable. Matt and Dustin are a couple of other sommeliers who will take good care of you, but the servers and bartenders are wonderful as well. Put yourself in their capable hands.

            I also love dining at the bar at Rioja (especially for brunch) or on the relaxing patio at the chef/owner's other place across the street on Larimer, Bistro Vendome.

            For French-influenced food, you could go for Mizuna or Z Cuisine.

            If you don't already have a suite at the Monaco, upgrade if you get the chance! ;)

            Sorry Veggo, but I would skip McCormick's Fish House (it's a chain related to McCormick & Kuleto's in Fisherman's Wharf, but not as good).

            3 Replies
            1. re: rlm

              rlm; I concede the McCormick's throw-away, provided that you endorse the Cruise Room recommendation. I feel responsible and personally vested in all of my rec's here:)

              1. re: Veggo

                I haven't spent any time in the Cruise Room, but now I'm intrigued.

                1. re: rlm

                  Cruise room is a true Denver institution, and one of the coolest bars in the world as far as I'm concerned. They have true art deco style, that feels like it has been that way for decades (which it pretty much has). Great place to have a martini, and listen to Sinatra. The place is tiny, but if you wait a few minutes, you can usually snag a table (just keep your eyes open, they don't stay available long).

                  McCormicks has a great low price happy hour. The food isn't chow-worthy, but pretty good, and one of the better values in town. I wouldn't head there as a destination, but if you happen to be hungry, on the way home from the bar, it is a good place to stop.

            2. I highly suggest Vesta Dipping Grill. I grew up and Denver and never had the opportunity to go there until a recent visit and now I'm kicking myself for not going sooner. The food is great, the service is attentive and the atmosphere is very nice.
              If you have a car I recommend getting Mexican food in some of the neighborhoods just outside of downtown. Tacos Jaliscos is one of my favorites, but if you're wanting to stay closer to downtown, Benny's is decent and a quintessentially "Denver" experience in my opinion.

              For another "Denver" experience, you should go to the Ship's Tavern at the Brown Palace Hotel for drinks and/or a light meal. This is an institution in Denver and it's an interesting place to hang out. You may want to be a sort of smartly dressed to go there though. It's less than a 10min. walk to the Monaco (which is a great place to stay, btw).
              Have fun!

              1 Reply
              1. re: empecot

                For lunch, Tamayo in Larimer Square has one of the nicest outdoor seating areas downtown (the terrace on the second floor). I would think you would be able to get a table at lunch.

                Bistro Vendome (owned by the Rioja people) also has a very nice patio but smaller and might be harder to get a table.

                Both those places and Rioja are in Larimer Sqaure so easy to find.

                Vesta has a good bar dining scene.

              2. I stayed a night at Hotel Monaco this past weekend as part of my birthday celebration and loved it! The service was awesome, the lobby beautiful and everything very comfortable. The same night I discovered Corridor 44 in Larimer Square right next to Rioja. We didn't eat there but had a few rounds of drinks. They are a champagne bar so they have an extensive list of champagnes and a friend had a really nice flight of champagne but I stuck with their martinis. I personally don't call their fruity drinks martinis but they do so I'll go with it but there were quite a few to choose from and were enjoyed by all. They have a small but enjoyable little patio.

                1. Thank you so much for your great responses I will report back on how the weekend goes. I also hear there is a there is wine and food festival going on in Denver over Memorial day weekend. Any thoughts on that?

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: hannah

                    Sheehan reviews Fruition in this week's Westword and makes reference to "the short bar" being "full" on one trip. Are they actually squeezing people in there now for dinner? I was seated near the service station on my first trip during their first month open, but I don't recall there being any seats or customers at that teeny-tiny bar that looked like it was just being used as a wine storage area. I sat in the other room on the last two trips, so I didn't pay attention. Do they have bar seating now where you can order the full menu or was Sheehan just hammered? ;)

                  2. I just wanted to second Rioja. I was traveling for business, staying at The Curtis, and ate at the Rioja bar TWICE in one day. The food was completely spectacular. For lunch I had the house salad, which stood out because of the Medjool dates sliced in the salad. For my main, I had a special (squash blossoms filled with a tuna mousse and dressed with fresh watermelons), which was incredibly tasty and interesting. Desert was the carrot cake, which was a little dry, but I supplemented with more of the goat cheese biscuits and lavendar sourdough.

                    When it started raining that evening, I had the excuse I needed to go back to Rioja. Patrick the bartender again helped me to select an outstanding meal -- I started with the radish salad, had the artichoke tortelloni (which may be the single best pasta dish I have ever had) for my main, and finished off with the beignets. I must say that this was such a delicious meal, made even better by the reasonable prices.

                    1. You can't help but have a great meal at Rioja! My favorite appetizer is the picnic. Enough for two to share.

                      1. We love Pagliacci's (Italian) in Northwest Denver, The 9th Door (Spanish tapas) in Lodo and I would second Steuben's for lunch - their poutine fries and coconut cake are fabulous.