Best Dinner Destination for Impressing Potential In-Laws

Mel's Restaurant and Bar

You don't want to look like you're trying too hard, but you don't want to look like you're not trying hard enough. You want a place that's swank, but not too swank, someplace that's classic rather than trendy. Most important, you want a restaurant where you can whip out that brand-new Visa with the $300 limit and not have to worry about it being brought back to the table denied. For all these reasons and many more, you want to take your potential in-laws to Mel's. Dinner here proves that you know quality when you see it, that you know when it's right to show off and when it's not. The service is excellent -- personable but never intrusive -- and the ambience is 100 percent old-school cool. And even if it turns out that your beloved's parents can't stand you, the ever-changing menu cooked nightly by chef Tyler Wiard and crew guarantees that you'll all be well fed for that uncomfortable ride home.


Don't wait until your boss picks up the tab to try Adega. It's expensive, but not prohibitively so, and Bryan Moscatello's smart New American menu has something for just about every income -- from small plates and TV dinners at the bar to fantastic tasting menus and a seasonal full menu on the floor. Still, if you happen to be dining on someone else's card, you can do some real fiscal damage if you try. How about a $500 bottle of grape juice from the wine bible? Better yet, a $1,000 bottle (and Adega stocks a few). And that's just for starters. Were you to order one of everything on the full menu here -- in the process, tasting eighteen dishes that run the gamut from tile fish to antelope steak -- the final tab would come in around $350, not counting a cheese course, desserts or wine. Or a tip.

Don't wait until your boss picks up the tab to try Adega. It's expensive, but not prohibitively so, and Bryan Moscatello's smart New American menu has something for just about every income -- from small plates and TV dinners at the bar to fantastic tasting menus and a seasonal full menu on the floor. Still, if you happen to be dining on someone else's card, you can do some real fiscal damage if you try. How about a $500 bottle of grape juice from the wine bible? Better yet, a $1,000 bottle (and Adega stocks a few). And that's just for starters. Were you to order one of everything on the full menu here -- in the process, tasting eighteen dishes that run the gamut from tile fish to antelope steak -- the final tab would come in around $350, not counting a cheese course, desserts or wine. Or a tip.


Lindsey Bartlett
The best thing about chef Terri Rippeto's little restaurant, a longtime favorite of many of Denver's better chefs, is that it never, ever disappoints. From the entirely seasonal, garden-driven menu -- summers full of fruits, winters rich with root vegetables -- to the comforting plain-plaster dining room and garden patio in the back, Potager can do no wrong. No matter how many times you've eaten here, every visit makes you feel like you're about to discover something brand-new.

The best thing about chef Terri Rippeto's little restaurant, a longtime favorite of many of Denver's better chefs, is that it never, ever disappoints. From the entirely seasonal, garden-driven menu -- summers full of fruits, winters rich with root vegetables -- to the comforting plain-plaster dining room and garden patio in the back, Potager can do no wrong. No matter how many times you've eaten here, every visit makes you feel like you're about to discover something brand-new.


Molly Martin
There's this game cooks play when they get together. It doesn't have a name or any rules, but the crux of it is this: You're dying -- fatal disease, on death row, whatever. There's time for one last meal, anything under the sun. What's it going to be? No one wants to waste his last night on a tasting menu, wrapped up in a jacket and tie in some murmuring tomb of a fine-dining restaurant. You want something fun, something memorable, something incredible and comforting at the same time. And for us, that's Luca d'Italia, Frank Bonanno's amazing Italian dream restaurant where everything is good and nothing is forgettable. Start with an insalata of house-cured meats, a little fresh mozz, some prosciutto, then move on to the pastas -- the crab gnocchi, in particular -- and meats, like the kitchen's extraordinary "rabbit three ways." A meal at Luca would send anyone to the great hereafter with a smile on his face and the smell of truffles on his breath.

There's this game cooks play when they get together. It doesn't have a name or any rules, but the crux of it is this: You're dying -- fatal disease, on death row, whatever. There's time for one last meal, anything under the sun. What's it going to be? No one wants to waste his last night on a tasting menu, wrapped up in a jacket and tie in some murmuring tomb of a fine-dining restaurant. You want something fun, something memorable, something incredible and comforting at the same time. And for us, that's Luca d'Italia, Frank Bonanno's amazing Italian dream restaurant where everything is good and nothing is forgettable. Start with an insalata of house-cured meats, a little fresh mozz, some prosciutto, then move on to the pastas -- the crab gnocchi, in particular -- and meats, like the kitchen's extraordinary "rabbit three ways." A meal at Luca would send anyone to the great hereafter with a smile on his face and the smell of truffles on his breath.


Nate Day
Cafe Jordano doesn't take reservations, because if it did, there'd never be an open table for the neighbors, the folks who arrive a half-hour before the start of dinner and count heads to make sure they'll get a seat at that all-important first turn of the dining room. Over the years, we've learned the drill at Cafe Jordano and know that very nearly everything this strip-mall trattoria does -- from the smallest touch of service to the most labor-intensive entree -- is wonderful and well-considered. Perhaps the most surprising thing about the place is how it treats families. It doesn't matter if you walk through the door at the head of a party of twelve just in from a family reunion or leading a herd of squalling, snot-nosed rugrats: There's no customer, or group of customers, that the Jordano staff isn't happy to see.

Cafe Jordano doesn't take reservations, because if it did, there'd never be an open

table for the neighbors, the folks who arrive a half-hour before the start of dinner and count heads to make sure they'll get a seat at that all-important first turn of the dining room. Over the years, we've learned the drill at Cafe Jordano and know that very nearly everything this strip-mall trattoria does -- from the smallest touch of service to the most labor-intensive entree -- is wonderful and well-considered. Perhaps the most surprising thing about the place is how it treats families. It doesn't matter if you walk through the door at the head of a party of twelve just in from a family reunion or leading a herd of squalling, snot-nosed rugrats: There's no customer, or group of customers, that the Jordano staff isn't happy to see.

You may be someone's parents now, but you're still entitled to grown-up good food -- and the space to enjoy it. Hillcrest Grill is just the place for you. This neighborhood eatery not only has a decent kids' menu, but a fabulous children's play area -- a virtual kid corral -- where ankle-biters can go when they're done gnawing on their chicken strips. And while they're playing, you can get down to the serious work of eating the sort of adult entrees you deserve, everything from pastas and salads to steak and salmon -- with big, stiff drinks.

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