Best Restaurant for You and Sixty of Your Closest Friends 2002 | Highland's Garden Cafe | Best of Denver® | Best Restaurants, Bars, Clubs, Music and Stores in Denver | Westword

Best Restaurant for You and Sixty of Your Closest Friends

Highland's Garden Cafe

Last year, the popular Highland's Garden Cafe changed course: Instead of acting like a regular restaurant, it's now a mecca for folks looking to get together with anywhere from six to sixty for private meals in the comfort of these two joined Victorian homes. While the gorgeous spaces are still open to the public a few times a month, the rest of the time the charming rooms -- many decorated with trompe l'oeil walls and overlooking lush gardens and a stunning back patio -- hold groups of businesspeople, wedding rehearsals, family reunions and old friends, all of whom get to take advantage of chef/owner Pat Perry's striking dishes paired with wines from the extensive cellar. Party on.

Best Place to Tell Your Mother You're Gay

BJ's Carousel

Okay, maybe the name should be her first clue, but if that doesn't do it, a walk through the bar, filled with drag queens and male strippers, might be all she needs. But sometimes Mom just doesn't get it, and that's when you can sit down in the colorful dining room at BJ's Carousel and, over very good, all-you-can-eat spaghetti for $2.50, drop the bomb. If she runs out screaming, you won't have blown too much cash, and any change you have left over will snag a bag of popcorn from the old-fashioned machine in front. Then you can sit back and watch the floor show.

Best Place to Tell Your Significant Other It's Over

Sacre Bleu

Mars and Venus never had it so bad: You two come from such different planets, NASA is trying to get additional funding to study your relationship. It's clearly time to end it, and Sacre Bleu is just the place for that. Start the evening with dinner in the upscale eatery's lavishly decorated dining room, and after the bill has been paid -- insist on going Dutch, by the way, and treat yourself to the foie gras -- announce that it's over. Then head into the lavishly decorated bar, where dozens of available beautiful people linger over Champagne splits and sashimi tuna, reminiscing about the good ol' dot-com days. If you can't find Mr. Right, at the very least you'll find Mr. Right Now.

Over the past 35 years, hundreds of men -- and a couple of women -- have popped the question at the Greenbriar, a romantic old country inn surrounded by twenty acres of lush landscaping, with a heated, French-door-lined atrium and an elegant, wood-lined dining room. Let the management know of your plans ahead of time, and they'll get as many people in the restaurant involved as you'd like -- or not. Some folks propose quietly and then slink off into the night, while others ask chef Edwin K. Wiles II to come out and take their picture. Hide the ring in a mess of pan-fried frog's legs or have your waiter drop it into a glass of champagne. Whatever happens next is up to the two of you.

It's noon, and you're feeling naughty. Head to the Burnsley Hotel, where the dimly lit, low-ceilinged dining room has an intimate atmosphere and cozy nooks and crannies just right for cuddling up. If it's true love, split an entree of angel-hair pasta with fresh roma sauce so that you can slurp up the noodles together. If it's just sex, go for the hearty, blood-pumping beef tenderloin with béarnaise. And if you're too worked up to go back to work right away, might we suggest a trip upstairs to one of the Burnsley's newly remodeled rooms?

Best Place to Take Your New Girlfriend and Her Kids

Cherry Creek Grill

Last year, Cherry Creek Grill was Bandera, the best place to find divorced and single forty- and fifty-somethings who liked their liquor. Under a new name but the same ownership, it's now a family-friendly eatery that's the perfect spot to treat your date -- and her kids -- to dinner. The space is groovy enough to be impressive, and the food is good for all ages. The kids' menu features the usual grilled cheese, chicken sandwich and PB and honey, along with more serious dishes, including roasted chicken and prime rib; each kids' meal is $5 and includes a side, a drink and a Dove bar. The adult fare is just as tasty (roasted chicken is a sure bet for grownups, too), and the odd cabbage-laced mashed potatoes -- like the chicken, a holdover from the Bandera lineup -- are a must. In the end, everyone goes home happy -- as long as they go to their own homes.

At most restaurants, where there's smoke, there's ire. And even at Racines during the first six hours of the day, smokers can light up only in the welcoming bar area. But starting at 2 p.m. -- and all day on Sundays -- Racines gives smokers some room of their own by turning the comfortable back area of the restaurant, with its warm lighting and sink-into-them swivel chairs, into a smoking section where ciggy heads can light up, eat a great salad (filled with heart-healthy veggies) and enjoy one of the best margaritas in town.

Best Place to Recover From Smoking


In Japan, miso soup is known as "smoker's soup," because the soy and ginger in the restorative brew are thought to counteract the harmful effects of cigarettes. And nowhere in town is the miso soup more flavorful and restorative than at Taki's, where owner Hisashi Takimoto has been working on his own brand of miso -- now available in grocery stores and specialty food markets -- since 1990. Customers rave about its curative properties, calling it "flu shot soup." And with recent studies touting more healthful qualities of soy, some Taki's regulars are even downing the soup in the hopes of preventing gallstones and cancer, lowering cholesterol and relieving menopause symptoms. But even if you aren't ailing, this soup is good food.

Anyone who's had a restaurant meal ruined by clouds of secondary smoke coming from the next table (or one across the room), take note: With a little help, even you can safely inhale your food. GASP of Colorado (Group to Alleviate Smoking Pollution) and the Denver Alliance on Tobacco and Health have teamed up to compile the Denver Guide to Smoke-Free Dining, a handy booklet that could ensure you'll never again have to pay for food that hasn't been blackened on purpose (mistakes from the kitchen notwithstanding). Pick up a free copy at Denver Public Health, or order it online -- where you can also search a list of restaurants that have come clean.

"The only advanced, home-study cooking course designed to improve the grilling and smoke-cooking skills of the novice backyard BBQuer, the professional chef and the advanced competition cook," the Culinary Institute of Smoke-Cooking was founded in the mid-'80s by Missouri residents Ruthie Knote and her late husband, Charlie. But CISC has since become the grill next door, as a group of Denverites took over administering the "master's level program," an eight-lesson, totally online course that nonetheless offers "in the pit" training and promises to reveal to students such hot tidbits as How to Master the Meat Market Maze and How to Grill Steak, Hamburgers, Chicken and More to Perfection the First Time and Every Time. Participants who finish the eight courses within a year are awarded the CISC Master BBQ Cook Certificate. Although we haven't shelled out the $299 tuition yet, we plan to as soon as we can find the right apron: This sounds like a smokin' deal.

Best Of Denver®

Best Of