When you ask a restaurant proprietor about the house specials, you usually hear a list of what they think sets their restaurant or bar apart -- but sounds like the same not-so-special deals found at many other spots around town. But The Lobby American Grille offers something that definitely puts the "special" back into "drink special": the two-liter mimosa tower, best enjoyed on the patio, a secret garden on an otherwise drab block of warehouses and parking lots -- and an ideal spot to spend a very hot summer day.
From the front of the building, the secret garden looks like nothing special. In fact, owners Meg and Christian Batizy acknowledge that they installed a front patio two years ago so passers-by would see chairs and umbrellas -- a sign that the Lobby is not an actual lobby, but a living, breathing restaurant and bar. Beyond the intentionally average street patio, though, hides a second, more secluded back patio originally created when this place was La Coupole.
On a recent visit, a friend and I agreed it reminds us of a shady green oasis typical of the bars of New Orleans. Accessible through a vine-covered entryway, the patio is bordered by brick walls and iron fencing. During the day, its awning and overhanging trees create a shady haven for the brunch crowd, while at night lampposts and strings of lights illuminate diners.
Even with a bare-bones, boring menu, the patio would be a treat. But the Lobby's menu is chock-full of comfort food and classics, plus a few hidden secrets. Beyond the printed menu (which includes brunch all day, every day) hides a secret unprinted list. "We took our menu items and made (them) a little out of control," says Meg, who credits consultant Jenson Cummings (of the Slotted Spoon Meatball Eatery) with the idea. As at In & Out Burger, you only know about the menu if you are actually in the know -- or happen to have received one of the menus given to guests over two weekends in May.
The secret menu includes batty creations like the Meatloaf Fiasco, which slaps the regular menu's meatloaf onto a bun along with a burger patty and a portobello mushroom -- all smothered in beer cheese soup. If that's not enough, the kitchen's take on chicken-fried steak, called the Burly Boy Scout, piles the Southern specialty onto cheddar bacon mashed potatoes, along with a toad-in-the-hole, thick onion rings and a coating of gravy.
The Lobby also offers an appealing list of unique drink attractions, like the mimosa tower, similar to the yard of beer at the Yard House (where she previously worked). At almost a half-gallon, the tower is designed to be shared. In fact, the Lobby won't serve it to groups of fewer than five, unless you happen to have friendly neighbors at the next table. Meg says that tables of two or three often team up to make the five-person cut and share a tower. "We're really strict about the five people so the mimosa doesn't get hot and the people too drunk," she adds.
If your group is short of five, you can still order bottomless mimosas all day for $10 ($13 without ordering food) except during happy hour, when mimosa flutes go for a dollar each. There's also the Adult Kool-Aid, a Thursday-night special that mixes house-infused sour-cherry bourbon with lemonade, served with a straw in a $10 pitcher. If you're like me and don't love bourbon, the Kool-Aid is still delicious and refreshing.
The Lobby has beer covered, too. Ten new taps have been added to the original twelve -- each one pouring a Colorado beer. Meg seeks out start-up breweries around the state to offer a sampling that few other bars can match. The Lobby uses the TapHunter app to notify Denverites of up-to-the-minute beer changes; users of the app receive a text message whenever the Lobby (or other participating bars) adds new beers.
I'd hate to see the Lobby mess with a good thing, but changes are coming in September, according to the Batizys. Those changes will be small, though, Meg assures us. A few healthier options will be added to the menu, while some of the rarely ordered sandwiches will be ditched. It's more of a "freshening up," she says, promising the secret menu and drink specials will remain.
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The Best Deal: Bottomless mimosas for $10 -- served in the mimosa tower if five or more people order the bottomless special. The Best Feature: There are so many! -- the patio's cool and shady tables, the mimosas, the Adult Kool-Aid, the secret menu.