Dining with a large group in Denver
I am one of a large group of teachers (12 in all) from Portland, Oregon who will be in Denver from October 30 to November 1. We were in Denver this past March and dined at Rioja. The food was absolutely fabulous and we would love to have a similar dining experience next week. I have been reading various board entries from the last couple of months and have come up with the following list:
Vesta Dipping Grill
Any thoughts on the list? Other recommendations? Thanks!
IMO, the wild card is which place can accommodate that a group of 12 on the night you want to dine. Those restaurants are all excellent. I would also add Panzano in the Hotel Monaco. It's large, and as a hotel restaurant, is accustomed to catering to groups. They have a really nice little private dining room.
Racine's is really popular with locals. It's not RIGHT downtown (but close) and has a something-for-everyone menu.
Maggiano's Little Italy is part of a small chain and is VERY accommodating to groups and can serve moderately priced meals family-style or a la carte. It's a big, busy place with serviceable southern Italian cuisine.
Vesta is great for groups! I've been there with groups and found that the entrees are ideal for passing around and sharing (and you can sample more dipping sauces that way, mixing-and-matching to see which combos are the best).
Maggiano's is still considered to be a small chain? They're in at least 20 states now. There are lots of great independent restaurants unique to Denver that are more deserving of consideration.
You might also look into Osteria Marco (which opened a stone's throw from Rioja).
RLM - As chains go, Maggiano's is pretty small. There are three in Texas w/ a fourth to open soon, and only one or two in other states. I didn't try to oversell Maggiano's as offering a Rioja-type experience, but 2008 isn't the same as 2007 -- and if some people are watching their dining dollars, it's a good value.
Then why does their locations map show that they have restaurants in 21 states?
They are owned by Brinker International, the same cats that give you a million Chile's, On the Border, and Macaroni Grill outlets.
I would rather support restaurants where more of my money stays in Colorado. That's better long-term for all of our wallets.
In tough economic times, our local chefs need us more than ever. When the dust settles, we don't want the only options left to be chains (who benefit from deep corporate pockets, national advertisements, etc.).
It's not like chains are that much of a value anyway (especially when you consider what all that heavily-processed junk does to your body). Would I rather spend 7 bucks on a greasy "awesome blossom" or Rioja's baked potato soup? Hmmm. :-)
RLM - I agree with you 100% about chains, and I know that the parent corporation has many "concepts." As I often write on my blog, chains in general are as abhorent to me as they are to you, and if you go through my posts here, you will note that I VERY rarely recommend any local outpost of any chain. I endorse the four suggestions that HollyM came up with in the first place and added three others, one of which was Maggiano's -- and I don't believe that my post was misleading. When a group is looking for a place to dine, especially if if happens to be on a weekend, the first challenge is finding a place that can accommodate a dozen people at a time they wish to dine. IMO, and correct me if I'm wrong, Panzano and Maggiano's are larger and have more flexibility to seat groups than some of the others.
To answer your first question, yes, Maggiano's has locations in 20 or so states -- but other than Texas (three, w/ a fourth coming), most states have just one or two, which in the great scheme of chaindom is small. I don't believe I oversold the food. I just offered it up as an option they might consider.
Well Hollym, I'm not sure you were interested in the whole "small chain vs. large chain" argument that was stirred up!
Back to your question; here are my thoughts on your list.
Vesta Dipping is great and would be a resounding: YES.
Via has recently closed, so: NO.
Lola is one of my favorites. If you like seafood, they have amazing Mexican-style seafood. Also they have a large dinning room, plus a downstairs lounge/party room. I'd say: YES.
Potager is trully my favorite restaurant in Denver. My reservation, however, is that they don't take reservations and are very busy with a bustling, but not large dinning room. For your group: NO.
One recommendation if you are looking for something like Potager; in the same neighborhood is Table 6. They have a private dinning room and take reservations. Food is awesome!
Thanks to everyone who shared an answer or thought to my query. The chain restaurant debate that ensued was interesting to read. So, having just returned from Denver I can report that we ate at Lola's and Steubens. While I loved my meal at Lola's, Steubens turned out to be the bigger hit. The service and food were great. The staff was especially helpful accommodating our large and, as it turned out, very loud group.