Le Central
Not only is Le Central's impressive selection of French wines the best in town -- filled with interesting bottles from across France that you won't find elsewhere -- it's also one of the best-priced, with remarkably low markups and most bottles coming in at the $20-to-$30 range. This affordable French bistro is just the place to try a 1997 chablis from Domaine de Varoux, or the 1995 Clos du Roy Fronsac, or something elegant from the Bourgogne. And if you're in the mood to splurge, you're in luck: The 1995 Volnay, say, or that year's Châteauneuf-du-Pape, Domaine des Relagnes. If somehow nothing on the regular roster grabs you, then check out the month's featured wines or one of the excellent house wines, which you can buy by the bottle, the glass, the half-glass, the taste or, most intriguing, the percentage of the bottle that's been consumed. We'll drink to that.

Not only is Le Central's impressive selection of French wines the best in town -- filled with interesting bottles from across France that you won't find elsewhere -- it's also one of the best-priced, with remarkably low markups and most bottles coming in at the $20-to-$30 range. This affordable French bistro is just the place to try a 1997 chablis from Domaine de Varoux, or the 1995 Clos du Roy Fronsac, or something elegant from the Bourgogne. And if you're in the mood to splurge, you're in luck: The 1995 Volnay, say, or that year's Châteauneuf-du-Pape, Domaine des Relagnes. If somehow nothing on the regular roster grabs you, then check out the month's featured wines or one of the excellent house wines, which you can buy by the bottle, the glass, the half-glass, the taste or, most intriguing, the percentage of the bottle that's been consumed. We'll drink to that.

Barolo Grill
Mark Antonation
Blair Taylor spends so much time in Italy, we're surprised he hasn't been made an honorary Italian -- or at least had his estimable Barolo Grill given embassy status. Every summer Taylor takes Barolo staffers to Italy so they can taste the food and wine, and he can check out trends that might be worth incorporating into his restaurant. While he's there, Taylor also spends time honing his wine list, a carefully chosen roster of some of the best vintages Italy has to offer, many of them on the rare side, and all of them interesting -- from the barbarescos and the Piemontese to the Tuscan chiantis and an impressive collection of barolos. They go wonderfully with the finely tuned Italian fare put out by chefs Brian Laird and Jeff Vedovelli -- and the staff, thanks to its Italian summer-school lessons, is full of educated opinions about what works with what.

Blair Taylor spends so much time in Italy, we're surprised he hasn't been made an honorary Italian -- or at least had his estimable Barolo Grill given embassy status. Every summer Taylor takes Barolo staffers to Italy so they can taste the food and wine, and he can check out trends that might be worth incorporating into his restaurant. While he's there, Taylor also spends time honing his wine list, a carefully chosen roster of some of the best vintages Italy has to offer, many of them on the rare side, and all of them interesting -- from the barbarescos and the Piemontese to the Tuscan chiantis and an impressive collection of barolos. They go wonderfully with the finely tuned Italian fare put out by chefs Brian Laird and Jeff Vedovelli -- and the staff, thanks to its Italian summer-school lessons, is full of educated opinions about what works with what.

Mon dieu! The moment this hip, French-inspired restaurant opened, the beautiful people started flocking to the dining room. From there, though, they got a good look at the bar, a cozy yet chic enclave that sports six-foot-high chairs covered in plush fabric with a tilt to the seat, offering extra padding for delicate tushies that have been out clubbing all night; overstuffed lounge chairs and booths for large groups that like to mingle; and a long bar with stools for perching in case you must hop off and hobnob now. Just two months after Sacre Bleu's debut, you can hardly get into the lounge area, which seats fifty and is standing room only on the weekends. But true bar-hoppers will persevere, and their efforts will be rewarded with a varied appetizer menu -- try the scallops and anything with truffles -- as well as an extensive wine and champagne list, drinks prepared by bartenders who look at mixology as both an art and a science, and the best beautiful-people-watching in town.

Readers' choice: Blue 67

Mon dieu! The moment this hip, French-inspired restaurant opened, the beautiful people started flocking to the dining room. From there, though, they got a good look at the bar, a cozy yet chic enclave that sports six-foot-high chairs covered in plush fabric with a tilt to the seat, offering extra padding for delicate tushies that have been out clubbing all night; overstuffed lounge chairs and booths for large groups that like to mingle; and a long bar with stools for perching in case you must hop off and hobnob now. Just two months after Sacre Bleu's debut, you can hardly get into the lounge area, which seats fifty and is standing room only on the weekends. But true bar-hoppers will persevere, and their efforts will be rewarded with a varied appetizer menu -- try the scallops and anything with truffles -- as well as an extensive wine and champagne list, drinks prepared by bartenders who look at mixology as both an art and a science, and the best beautiful-people-watching in town.

Readers' choice: Blue 67

My Brother's Bar
Westword
Not only is this a bar where everyone knows your name, but the bar itself is so secure in its identity that it doesn't bother to announce its name outside. You don't need a sign to find your way to My Brother's Bar, however; anyone and everyone who appreciates a good drink -- with or without good company -- knows the way there. The brother is Jim Karagas, who's presided over this spot for almost three decades; his late brother, Angelo, used to run the Wazee Lounge and Supper Club eight blocks down 15th Street. For the record, My Brother's is at the corner of 15th and Platte streets, where it once stood out as an oasis of civilization in the deserted Platte Valley; today it's an oasis of neighborliness in an area that's increasingly highbrow (million-dollar "lofts" will soon rise just a block away). But inside My Brother's Bar, time stands still: A letter from Neal Cassady still hangs in the phone booth, classical music is still piped over the dark-wood booths, Girl Scout cookies are still sold through much of the year, and those great bar burgers (the Johnny burger is our favorite) are still served well into the early hours of the morning. The place has made a few concessions to progress, however: It added a great urban patio ten years back, and the menu has slowly expanded (gazpacho is this summer's special). My Brother's: Everyone should know this joint's name.

Readers' choice: My Brother's Bar

Not only is this a bar where everyone knows your name, but the bar itself is so secure in its identity that it doesn't bother to announce its name outside. You don't need a sign to find your way to My Brother's Bar, however; anyone and everyone who appreciates a good drink -- with or without good company -- knows the way there. The brother is Jim Karagas, who's presided over this spot for almost three decades; his late brother, Angelo, used to run the Wazee Lounge and Supper Club eight blocks down 15th Street. For the record, My Brother's is at the corner of 15th and Platte streets, where it once stood out as an oasis of civilization in the deserted Platte Valley; today it's an oasis of neighborliness in an area that's increasingly highbrow (million-dollar "lofts" will soon rise just a block away). But inside My Brother's Bar, time stands still: A letter from Neal Cassady still hangs in the phone booth, classical music is still piped over the dark-wood booths, Girl Scout cookies are still sold through much of the year, and those great bar burgers (the Johnny burger is our favorite) are still served well into the early hours of the morning. The place has made a few concessions to progress, however: It added a great urban patio ten years back, and the menu has slowly expanded (gazpacho is this summer's special). My Brother's: Everyone should know this joint's name.

Readers' choice: My Brother's Bar

After a shaky start, the railway-themed Great Northern Tavern has arrived. Not only has the kitchen gotten its act together -- it now puts out such inspired fare as seared sea scallops in a lemon-Riesling sauce with fennel mashed potatoes and wild-rice-dusted walleye in a port beurre rouge -- but the pub makes excellent beers. Down a pint of the hoppy Cascadian Pale Ale, with its malt bottom line and sweet scent, or the creamy, chocolate-heavy Empire Builder Stout, or the sharp, almost chewy Western Star Wheat, an American-style wheat that's delicious on its own or accompanying Great Northern's hearty chicken pot pie. All aboard!

Readers' choice: Wynkoop Brewing Company

After a shaky start, the railway-themed Great Northern Tavern has arrived. Not only has the kitchen gotten its act together -- it now puts out such inspired fare as seared sea scallops in a lemon-Riesling sauce with fennel mashed potatoes and wild-rice-dusted walleye in a port beurre rouge -- but the pub makes excellent beers. Down a pint of the hoppy Cascadian Pale Ale, with its malt bottom line and sweet scent, or the creamy, chocolate-heavy Empire Builder Stout, or the sharp, almost chewy Western Star Wheat, an American-style wheat that's delicious on its own or accompanying Great Northern's hearty chicken pot pie. All aboard!

Readers' choice: Wynkoop Brewing Company

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