Dinner in Denver for Two Friday Aug 31
My husband and I will be in Denver for my daddy's 70s surprise Bday party (being thrown at Luca D'Italia). We have Friday to eat on our own (and we can't let my daddy know we're in town!). We're doing Mexican for lunch (Blue Bonnet - long time favorite) and want to go somewhere fabulous for dinner - really creative and well executed cuisine and service would be fantastic. I grew up in Denver (years ago) and haven't yet seen the level of cuisine or service that I'm used to getting in some of the better restaurants in NYC, Asia or Europe. We used to love going to Mel's in Cherry Creek, but want to try something different and maybe a bit more fancy. Someone suggested Cafe Star - anyone know it?
If you want the level of cuisine and service you are accustomed to in major foodie cities, you must swing by Frasca Food and Wine in Boulder (owned by French Laundry alums and one of Gourmet's Top 50 in the country). Your best shot on late notice will probably be one of a couple of walk-in tables for two they have OR you could sit at the salumi bar or regular bar (where you will be lavished with the same superior service). It's always worth calling to see if they've had a cancellation.
In Denver, I'd hit Fruition on E. 6th Avenue or Rioja on Larimer. I've heard great things about Deluxe.
I worship the duck confit leg at Cafe Star, but agree it's not fancy, plus you have to parallel park off of a busy street in a residential area...grrr.
Mel's closed down, but the owners opened Montecito on E. 6th Avenue and another in the south part of the metro area at Orchard and Holly. http://www.montecitorestaurant.com/
Mel and Janie Masters and chef Adam Mali also opened Anabel's, next to one of the Montecito's (I think the one down south). Nine75 (975 Lincoln), Panzano (Hotel Monaco), Fruition (East Sixth Avenue) and Duo (Highlands) are also doing fine food. FWIW, not everyone finds parallel parking an unsurmountable problem. That should not deter anyone from the Cafe Star.
My last meal at Cafe Star was really uninspired, unfortunately. I've enjoyed it on other visits, so I am hoping it was just an off night. Even on its better nights, I think there are better places in town for a romantic dinner with your husband.
I would choose between Fruition and Z Cuisine. I'd normally recommend Mizuna, but since you are doing Luca with your dad, two nights of Frank Bonanno won't give you much an idea about the depth of the Denver dining scene.
On the more fancy side of things, you may also want to consider Restaurant Kevin Taylor or the Palace Arms.
I've been reading about restaurant Kevin Taylor for some time. Also about Frasca -- don't want to drink and drive tho and I'll want wine w/ my meal (that's the hard part about being spoiled by taxi lifestyle in Manhattan!). So - we're actually staying at the Brown -- should we do Palace Arms? Is it inventive or stodgy? I remember going as a kid and it seemed a bit stodgy.
I'll read about Rioja, too. Is it Spanish? I may try to get a table at Fruition, too, as we'll be downtown.
Sounds like I need more than one like a week to eat my way through Denver!
Frasca has a nice ride service they will call for you if you wish to indulge. We use it to the 'burbs all the time.
Rioja is Mediterranean. http://www.riojadenver.com
There's a blogger on another food board who has recent pictures on Flickr of tasting menus from both Palace Arms and Kevin Taylor that look great:
We had dinner at Restaurant Kevin Taylor last night and it was amazing! We had the 4 course tasting menu ($65 pp w/o wine). The food was spot-on and the service was superb. Our experience (in both the food and service categories) there was MUCH better than at Frasca. The menu is posted at www.ktrg.net. You could definitely walk there from the Brown Palace.
I like Cafe Star quite a bit but would not describe the restaurant as fancy. More like retro chic maybe? And Colfax is no 5th Avenue.
Assuming you want to stay in Denver and not Boulder, I am guessing the number one recomendation from the board would be Rioja:
I would also recommend Deluxe:
Reservations at both places can be difficult though.
Oh, and Mel's recently closed down.