Best Dinner Destination When You've Got No One to Impress

Brewery Bar II

Brewery Bar II
Kenzie Bruce
Thirty years after it made its debut on Kalamath Street, Brewery Bar II is now about as close as you can get to honest, unmanufactured perfection in a divey, old-guard neighborhood bar. It's small, cramped and homey, smells alternately wonderful or horrific, depending on how close you end up to the men's room, and the walls are covered with the knickknacks of a collective beer-drunk sports culture. At this hole-in-the-wall, you can expect (and deserve) an earful of abuse from the staff if you try to do something like split a check three ways during overtime in a Broncos game or demand that the kitchen serve your chile on the side. But once you get in the swing of things, Brew II is the perfect spot for an unpretentious lunch or just a few too many drinks with the guys. On those nights when you're after a hot, greasy, cheesy Mexican meal and have no one to impress, Brew II will fill you up right.
With the Dragonfly Cafe, Greg and Christie Metheny hit on an idea whose time had truly come: a restaurant that wasn't just kid-friendly, didn't just make a few half-assed attempts at catering to children, but was actually built as a place for the little rugrats to congregate. But they kept the parents in mind, too: The Dragonfly's coffee shop/lunch bar is built around a play area for kids, so that Mom can keep an eye on Junior while grabbing a quick breakfast or lunch or cup of java. The menu includes wraps, panini sandwiches and salads, with PB&Js, sliced apples with caramel and plenty of other healthy choices for kids.


Big Bowl is one of those places we like to think of as dressed-up fast-food chains: They're more expensive and time-intensive than McDonald's, or even Noodles & Company, but then again, the portions are bigger and the extras more extravagant. And that's not necessarily a bad thing, especially when you're trying to please everyone -- your chic sister-in-law, customer-service-intensive grandmother, ravenous uncle Randy, half a soccer team and a thousand and one small, hungry, whining children. At times like these, it's the little things that count. Immediately on arrival, Big Bowl presents your kids with a bowl of rice and a cardboard takeout box filled with crayons, small toys, rookie chopsticks and a children's menu. That's enough to keep them occupied while you peruse the grown-up menu, which is expansive enough to include mac-n-cheese along with the stir fry for small-fry, potsticker and grilled-satay offerings.

Best Dinner Destination for Impressing a Date

Vesta Dipping Grill

Vesta
Mark Antonation
Short of roofies, booze, candles and dim lights are still the best way to kindle the fires of passion. At Vesta Dipping Grill, fire and passion are the primary elements on display. And booze, of course. With its virtually endless combinations of appetizers, entrees and thirty-odd dipping sauces, Vesta's menu is structured for sharing. And the gorgeous space -- all wrought iron, wood and brick, with deep, horseshoe-shaped booths and well-spaced tables illuminated by guttering candlelight -- is made for getting that mojo working. What are you waiting for? The good folks at Vesta are doing all they can to make it easy on you, Romeo, so splash on some cologne, polish up that gold card, and get ready to feel the love.
Flamingo, a converted Congress Park salon, once was devoted exclusively to ladies' locks. These days, it helps look after their tots. This coffeehouse caters to adults by providing the usual coffee drinks, pastries and occasional live entertainment, but it also offers a play area for toddlers and after-school snacks suitable for older kids. People reluctant to give up those long, relaxing hours in the coffeehouse just because they've become parents should flock to Flamingo.
Red Robin
With the Dragonfly Cafe, Greg and Christie Metheny hit on an idea whose time had truly come: a restaurant that wasn't just kid-friendly, didn't just make a few half-assed attempts at catering to children, but was actually built as a place for the little rugrats to congregate. But they kept the parents in mind, too: The Dragonfly's coffee shop/lunch bar is built around a play area for kids, so that Mom can keep an eye on Junior while grabbing a quick breakfast or lunch or cup of java. The menu includes wraps, panini sandwiches and salads, with PB&Js, sliced apples with caramel and plenty of other healthy choices for kids.
Big Bowl is one of those places we like to think of as dressed-up fast-food chains: They're more expensive and time-intensive than McDonald's, or even Noodles & Company, but then again, the portions are bigger and the extras more extravagant. And that's not necessarily a bad thing, especially when you're trying to please everyone -- your chic sister-in-law, customer-service-intensive grandmother, ravenous uncle Randy, half a soccer team and a thousand and one small, hungry, whining children. At times like these, it's the little things that count. Immediately on arrival, Big Bowl presents your kids with a bowl of rice and a cardboard takeout box filled with crayons, small toys, rookie chopsticks and a children's menu. That's enough to keep them occupied while you peruse the grown-up menu, which is expansive enough to include mac-n-cheese along with the stir fry for small-fry, potsticker and grilled-satay offerings.
True, true, dogs these days are already too fat. But since you've already committed to pampering your pets, you might as well try to make the snacks they're vacuuming up healthier and tastier. Blue Hills not only creates new doggie takeout dishes every day, but on Saturdays it hosts an all-you-can-eat buffet for pooches, where the dishes range from buffalo pizza to salmon hot dogs, turkey meatloaf and -- mmm, mmm -- liveroni. Thankfully, they also provide doggie bags. Atta boy!
Flamingo, a converted Congress Park salon, once was devoted exclusively to ladies' locks. These days, it helps look after their tots. This coffeehouse caters to adults by providing the usual coffee drinks, pastries and occasional live entertainment, but it also offers a play area for toddlers and after-school snacks suitable for older kids. People reluctant to give up those long, relaxing hours in the coffeehouse just because they've become parents should flock to Flamingo.
It's unlikely that any restaurant will ever top Adega when it comes to the size, depth and complexity of its wine list. That is, it's unlikely until someone else builds a restaurant around a wine room the way Adega did, until some other enterprising gang of booze-hounds assembles a store of 800 labels and thousands of bottles the way Adega's owners did, and until some other house arranges a menu so carefully tailored toward pairing. In the meantime, we have Adega, and -- lucky us -- it is both the best-stocked and least-intimidating wine board around. With a sommelier on the floor and a staff of native guides, you never have to wonder what to drink with dinner. Red or white, champagne or port, from the dizzyingly expensive to the sublimely affordable, no matter what your taste, Adega has a grape to feed your need.


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