Even though we're past the summer solstice and the days are getting shorter again (depressing, isn't it?), the best days of July and August are upon us and should not be wasted. With drink in hand is the surest way to toast the sunset -- ideally from one of Denver's many rooftop bars. And if a drink's not your thing, there's still plenty of great food -- whether sliders, nachos, oysters or fancy tacos -- to enjoy in the cool Front Range evening air. To help guide you on your quest for the best party atmosphere or quiet loft among the trees, here's our list -- in no particular order -- of our favorite metro-area rooftops.
10) Linger 2030 West 30th Avenue 303-993-3120 For a stunning view high above the parking madness of LoHi and the noise of nearby I-25, the rooftop deck at Linger -- shaded by the original Olinger's Mortuary sign -- is the place to go, even with construction blocking some of the scenery. Whether you just want to sip brunchtime cocktails on the weekend or enjoy chef-owner Justin Cucci's globe-trotting menu on a breezy post-thunderstorm evening, you'll find plenty of hip and contented company doing the same thing. Divide your time between enjoying the panorama, observing the trendsetters ordering drinks at the big green RV that's been converted into a full bar, and digging into happy-hour favorites like achiote shrimp and grits or a cleverly concocted bowl of fried cheese curds with shishito peppers.
9) Vita 1575 Boulder Street 303-477-4600 With the proliferation of great patios in Highland, Vita makes the list for sporting a rooftop deck before there was a LoHi scene. The large deck -- big enough to merit the word terrace -- outfitted with umbrella-ed bar tables and featuring plenty of space to spread out, is still a great way to cool off with a well-crafted cocktail, even if the view, partially blocked by condos across the street, isn't what it used to be.
8) Los Chingones 2463 Larimer Street 303-295-0686 The view from the top at Los Chingones may not be breathtaking, but as you munch through a menu of both traditional and creative tacos -- ranging from pork shoulder or chicken on one end to the "wild card" on the other (camel hump or scorpion, perhaps?) -- you'll be able to look down on the teeming masses of Larimer and Ballpark wanderers who got there just a little too late to score a seat in the sun or just inside the garage doors at the bar. As you sip a house margarita or a spicy michelada, don't feel sorry for those below you. There are plenty of other new and hip joints nearby for the latecomers to grab a bite and a drink. It's just that none of them are Los Chingones.
7) Shells and Sauce 2600 East 12th Avenue 303-377-2091 Shells and Sauce lounges peacefully on a quiet corner in Congress Park, unbothered by the buzz and trends of other hot restaurant neighborhoods. Its rooftop deck is a bit of a neighborhood secret -- so secret, in fact, that it's only open on weekends. But amidst the rustle of leaves from towering trees and the broken, slanting late afternoon sun, sipping a glass of wine in a serene environment can be the perfect foil for hurriedly chasing the hippest or hottest new spot.
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6) Izakaya Den 1487 South Pearl Street 303-777-0691 As focal as the food is at Izakaya Den, Sushi Den's conjoined sibling, its almost impossible not to be awed by the interior decor, to the point where sitting outside doesn't have much appeal. Luckily, the Kizaki brothers, owners of both restaurants, put as much thought into the design of the top floor bar and rooftop deck as to the rest of the dining space below. Seamlessly blending indoors and out, the space flows from a concrete and glass interior softened with live bamboo and giant, egg-like lights dangling from the ceiling to a deck overlooking Pearl Street with wood slats underfoot and a retractable roof above. Distressed metal and glass panels follow the exterior around corners, creating reflections and separate volumes of space. The effect is sophisticated, cool, modern and most of all enticing.
5) The Pioneer 2401 South University Boulevard 720-536-4802 The Pioneer renovated its space almost a year ago, opening an upper deck facing University Boulevard to accommodate its growing clientele of mostly college-age patrons there for the beer-friendly menu of Mexican fare -- including one of Denver's best nacho plates -- and bar snacks. The tree-lined residential streets that surround the bar mean that neighbors come in too; we've even spotted a few professorial types. But its the pint-hoisting and jovial atmosphere, great for cheering on your favorite sports team or celebrating a milestone, that makes the Pioneer's outdoor seating such a welcoming find. And a gas fire pit means you'll still be able to hang out once the autumn chill sets in.
4) Jax Fish House 650 South Colorado Boulevard, Glendale 303-756-6449 East-side residents were thrilled with the influx of new restaurants that came when the City Set development opened overlooking the actual Cherry Creek (the waterway, not the mall or neighborhood, that is). Jax Fish House, a longtime favorite downtown, set up its latest Colorado location here, featuring a modern and sleek dining room with playful touches like columns made from caged oyster shells. The rooftop deck, dubbed Hi Jax, is equal parts contemporary and maritime, with just a hint of nautical kitch to remind you you're in a seafood restaurant -- not that slurping some of the freshest oysters in town isn't a big enough clue. Enjoy the briny offerings from the raw bar while taking in views of treetops, low-rise office buildings and distant mountains -- it's Glendale after all, not Golden.
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3) West End Tavern 926 Pearl Street, Boulder 303-444-3535 There are two sides to this Boulder spot's rooftop deck: a sunny, open space for diners that features views of the Flatirons and a shaded but breezy bar area where you can grab a high table, order up wings and a beer and catch sports on TV. And when the bar side is enclosed during the colder months, it makes a cozy spot for football watching later in the fall.
2) Alehouse at Amato's Alehouse 2501 16th Street 303-433-9734 It's 5 p.m. on a Friday -- or any day, really. Or any time. You need a beer or a glass of wine or a cocktail, a nice view, maybe a bite to eat and a dose of Colorado sunshine. There's no better spot to find all of the above than the breathtaking rooftop patio at Ale House at Amato's, which even has outdoor fires for chilly days. It may take a while to stake out a seat, but it will come complete with a view of the Central Platte Valley, the downtown Denver skyline and the mountains beyond -- and since Amato's fronts I-25, the deck will never lose that view, unlike so many other rooftop spots in this rapidly infilling city. Located on the edge of LoHi, Amato's will keep your spirits up. Way up.
1) The Rooftop at Coors Field 2001 Blake Street 303-292-0200 Can you have a rooftop deck on a place with no roof? You can if you spend $10 million dollars to remove little used upper-deck seats and build out a space with craft-beer-stocked bars and concessions from the Rio Grande and CHUBurger (owned by Oskar Blues Brewing), among others. Additional draws for the twenty-something set include clubby seating areas and wide-open views of the field and beyond. Attention may be turned inward, though, as more and more games drop into the "L" column, so its great to know that for a reduced-price ticket that includes $6 in concession credit, the party can start early without having to leave the ballpark for less spacious rooftop bars in the neighborhood.
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Do you have a favorite perch overlooking the city or the mountains? Let us know in the comments section below.