With so many great restaurants to choose from, cash-strapped Denver newcomers — challenged with rising rents and skinny paychecks — are finding it hard to have a fun night out without blowing the bank. Twenty- Something for Twenty-somethings will help you find hot destinations where you can enjoy cutting-edge cuisine in a stylish setting — all within a twenty-something budget (less than $30 per person). And you don't need to be under thirty to take these recommendations; just be ready for a great eating adventure.
To the Wind Bistro sits quietly alongside the noise of East Colfax Avenue, its large windows shielding diners from the commotion of traffic, neighboring bars and the Bluebird Theater, well within earshot. Though the bistro may be a more subtle destination on the block than some of its neighbors, the food and intimate dining room — with only a handful of tables and a four-seat chef's counter — create an experience worthy of a night out on the vibrant street.
Owners Royce Oliveira and Leanne Adamson opened the quaint bistro four years ago, Oliveira as the head chef and Adamson as the head pastry chef. The two created a simple but whimsical environment that feels is as if you're walking into a friend's home. You immediately get a glimpse into the cuisine, since the open kitchen is the restaurant's most prominent feature, with a small dining room on the left. To the Wind doesn't take reservations, so be prepared for a wait.
The short menu changes often and with the seasons, limiting how hard a customer can fall for menu items, although a few favorites — the roasted marrow bone, for example — have remained to draw you back. To the Wind is a good option for those of us on a budget, because the short roster of creative appetizers gives a clear taste of what Oliveira has to offer, as well as a full stomach, because the portions are a good size for the price.
The first step in a budget-oriented evening is enjoying a complimentary appetizer or amuse-bouche. On my visit, Oliveira was sending out boiled peanuts soaked in a salty/sweet, barrel-aged Worcestershire sauce that the chef makes himself. Don't feel bad about using a spoon to scoop up every last bit of the sauce; it's that good.
When eating rich food, an acidic beverage is a good way to balance out the meal. The beer choices at To the Wind are always well thought out, though they do tend to rotate. Look for Birds of Paradise from Cerebral Brewing; the sourness from the fermentation and the use of fruit is balanced by the addition of lactose in the brew. If it's not in stock, ask for a recommendation for something a little tart and a little smooth.
Order the bone marrow as the first appetizer; it's rich and creamy and dissolves on the tongue. After you spoon the marrow out of the bone, you can use the bone as a luge for a shot of A.D. Laws whiskey (for an additional $6). Then, for a fruity change-up to the beefy marrow, order the poached Blake’s Pride pear. Slices of poached pears and arugula are placed on rye bread topped with brie melted to the perfect oozy consistency.
Wrap up the meal with the TTW “poutine,” which replaces the traditional French fries with a light, crusty waffle, which holds up well to a mound of pork shoulder and spicy tomatillo sauce. A cauliflower and arugula salad adds refreshing brightness to the dish.
To the Wind Bistro is an intimate cafe that feels like a home away from home, making it hard to leave once your dining experience is over. It's a rare night that you don't find Oliveira in kitchen and waving to customers between dishes as they walk by.
Have a beer each, share the three dishes between two people — and then have a serious conversation about who gets the bone marrow whiskey luge. The damage is just $53, or $26.50 per person:
Bone marrow: $14
Poached Blake’s Pride pear: $9
TTW “poutine”: $10
Laws whiskey luge: $6
Two Cerebral Brewing Birds of Paradise: $14
To the Wind Bistro is located at 3333 East Colfax Avenue and is open from 5 to 9 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday, and 5 to 10 p.m. on Friday and Saturday. Call 303-316-3333 or visit the restaurant's website for more information.