I lived in New York City after college and longed for the day I could go to one of the many expensive restaurants I read about in New York magazine — but I was barely able to pay my rent, much less splurge on an expensive meal. That, of course, just made me hungrier to try New York's iconic restaurants. I wanted to know what they looked like inside, how they smelled, what people were wearing. I wanted to see what it would feel like to be there. Luckily, I soon learned that while a sit-down dinner was out of reach, a cocktail and appetizer at the bar was a delightful way to experience a restaurant that was otherwise way out of my league. And even now that I'm back in Denver with a much fatter wallet, I still find that even in iconic Colorado restaurants, a bar stool is sometimes the best seat in the house. I recently visited the Flagstaff House, a Boulder institution and major destination restaurant; every date who's ever taken me there has scored serious romance points. The setting alone puts your head in the clouds, and that floating feeling is enhanced by the fine-dining service, fantastic food and world-class wine list (the cellar holds 20,000 bottles) — although the checks can also seem sky-high. This time, though, I sat on the cocktail deck overlooking Boulder, where you get that same million-buck view but a final tab won't set you back quite that far. In a salute to both the scenery and the Flagstaff's sister restaurant, Monettes, on the Kohala Coast of the Big Island, I tried the Hawaiian Sun Margarita ($15), made with Cuervo Gold, mango purée and Grand Marnier. As I watched the sun set over another iconic Colorado evening, I toasted being thousands of miles away from New York City, both in actual distance and life experiences. And bar tabs.
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