Longform

FOOD & DRINK

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Best View of Coors Field
Lodo Bar and Grill
1946 Market St.

In the wake of hyperdevelopment seizing lower downtown, it seems you can't climb a staircase without finding a crowd of Dockers-bedecked barflies buzzing about the roof. The best example of the genre has to be the Lodo Bar and Grill--an industrial, urban-cowboy bar inside, with an oasis of cool breezes on top. Beware: Beer prices are steep. But with a location catty-corner from Coors Field, the people-watching afforded by the view is worth the price, and the food has improved considerably.

Best Indoor/Outdoor Patio
Blake Street Baseball Club
1902 Blake St.

Not only does Blake Street Baseball Club have a great outdoor patio, it is a great outdoor patio. Walk in the door and then...walk outside. The scene is like a baseball diamond, complete with grass and advertisements hanging from the walls. Even the food service is set up like concessions at the nearby field--ribs, burgers, chicken and, of course, hot dogs all come sizzling off the spit. Coors is the main draft, but microbrews abound. Catch a band under the stars, kick back and relax as only the boys and girls of summer can.

Best Outdoor Patio
La Coupole Cafe
2191 Arapahoe St.

With its graceful wrought iron, clinging vines and adorable tables, La Coupole's outdoor patio is a breath of fresh air. Instead of being overwhelmed by car exhaust and clunky furniture, the alfresco diner at this French brasserie is treated to a scene evocative of a countryside courtyard--a fantasy played out against the aged-brick wall of an actual historic landmark, the old Paris Hotel Building. The cooking at La Coupole, a comfortable version of nouvelle but with larger portions, is breezy and light, and if the elements prove to be too much, the interior is just as charming.

Readers' choice: Rock Bottom Brewery

Best Trip Back in Time
Gold Hill Inn
Sunshine Canyon

Among the first restaurants in this country were boardinghouses, where a nickel bought a six-course meal (and sometimes even a night's lodgings) at a large table filled with fellow travelers and manual laborers. The meat was usually boiled and the potatoes came from a patch outside the kitchen, but it was honest food at an honest price. Well, the ante has been upped to $21, but there's still gold in them thar hills, just outside of Boulder. The atmosphere at the Gold Hill Inn even harks back to the boardinghouse, with its mismatched chairs and rustic accents, but the grub's good and the drive breathtaking, particularly in the fall. Your six courses include a platter of fruit and cheese at the end, but load up on the homemade honey-wheat bread with strawberry-rhubarb jam at the start. The rest of the menu changes daily; memorize it from the blackboard in the rocking-chair-filled lounge--you'll never see it again once you're in the dining room.

Best New Dining Room
The Denver ChopHouse & Brewery
1735 19th St.

When Rock Bottom Restaurants spent $2.3 million renovating the turn-of-the-century Union Pacific headhouse, they could have made the place into another one of those theme-park concept restaurants. But they didn't. Instead, they took the building's original function and made the ChopHouse an extension of it. Inside you'll find soothing, warm tones and overstuffed booths covered with plush fabric, lots of rich wood and tabletop lamps, and seating evocative of railway dining. All very sophisticated but casual at the same time, and that's the beauty of the ChopHouse--you feel as if you're somewhere nice without having to don a jacket. The service is attentive but not fawning, and the microbrewery puts out a good selection of beers. All aboard!

Best Restaurant Resurrection
Today's Gourmet Highlands Garden Cafe
3927 W. 32nd Ave.

Patty and Chuck Perry left a huge hole in the tablecloth of Denver dining when they sold their Today's Gourmet restaurant in 1992. It took them three years to find a new space, in an old house in the Highland neighborhood, and now they're back in business, putting out some of the most innovative and well-executed food you'll find in Denver. Much of the menu (which changes daily) leans toward Italy and France, with a nod at our West Coast. Although such healthy offerings as trout sauteed in garlic and lemon shout with flavor, Patty's talents really shine when she hits the sauces--as in honey-bourbon glaze and dry vermouth cream. The lobster bisque has an inspired dose of brandy, and the veal sweetbreads are a sinful gathering of thymus glands in a mushroom cognac cream sauce. Dessert, especially the apple dumpling with caramel sauce, should not be optional.

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