To us, a bar seat in a restaurant isn't a consolation prize. In fact, more often than not, we'd prefer to land one of those more low-key seats instead of going all-in at a table, especially when there's an interesting cocktail list and an affable bartender to lead us through dinner with a good chat.
Dozens of Denver's restaurants feature exceptional bars, but here are the five best spots where we'd actually never dream of skipping our stool at the counter to sit in the dining room.
5. Cherry Creek Grill Sure, the Cherry Creek Grill is part of a national restaurant group, and yes, there are trendier concepts all over the city. But there's no discounting the draw of the bar, which centers the open dining room -- in fact, every table in the place seems to peer down on it -- and brings in nightly crowds. They come for the long list of domestic wines by the glass, the steak-and-potatoes comfort food, the nostalgia the place induces and the latest gossip about the neighbors.
4. Colt and Gray The design of the bar at Colt & Gray mirrors the classic opulence of the dining room, with black wood and white marble flanked by plush couches that back up to a fireplace. And while the cocktails are top-notch, beer and wine lists tight and interesting and the service warm and knowledgeable, there's extra incentive to grab a spot here. Because in addition to the regular menu and a collection of bar snacks, the restaurant frequently offers up bar-only specials, giving you the chance to nab some of the most interesting treats the kitchen turns out.
3. Satchel's on 6th Andrew Casalini and his wife, Jen Dactano, wanted a neighborhood joint. So they made a smart design move when they opened Satchel's on 6th, which I review this week: They made the focus of their restaurant the U-shaped bar, which dominates the center of the room and forces most of the tables along the edges into a dark periphery. Regulars and newcomers alike are attracted to that glowing counter, where they spend long nights of lingering over the stellar wine list and tight board of New American food. And in the true neighborhood spirit, Casalini and his staff chat up every single patron over the course of the evening while those patrons, in turn, start conversations with each other.
2.La Loma This Mexican joint, located in a Highland neighborhood house, is a Denver institution: It's been serving up Americanized Mexican fare and birdbath-sized margaritas since 1973. It's the giant ornate bar, though, that really holds an extra-special place in our hearts, since we'll happily while away an evening with a basket of chips and salsa and round after round of -- dare we say it -- tequila-infused frozen drinks and maybe a Tecate or two.
1. Linger Justin Cucci's redesign of the old Olinger mortuary is heart-stoppingly beautiful, and the bar is no exception. Located up a staircase, it features low ceilings and intimate seating, a killer cocktail and wine list, the full Linger menu -- a list of small plates ideal for accompanying drinks -- a Lite-Brite bar and all types of beautiful people. And if that isn't enough, the space also looks out on breathtaking views of the skyline, rivaled only by those from the restaurant's rooftop patio, which will, eventually, also have a bar. It's enough to make you forgo the dining room forever.
We could list about fifty honorable mentions, including the kitschy bar at Root Down and the bar at Row 14.
Have other favorites? Tell us about them below.
More Best of Denver Lists: - Denver's five best restaurants for blind dates
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