Cafe Society

$200 limit: A dozen restaurants worth the bill

A host of restaurants now out-Barolo Barolo Grill, and if I wanted to drop $200 on another date dinner, there are at least three dozen places I'd rather go. To put my mouth where my money is, I'm listing a dozen of them here (in alphabetical order). For the next two dozen, go to

Colt & Gray, 1553 Platte Street: I've blown $100 on myself at this restaurant more times than I want to count, whiling away a night at the opulent bar, sucking down cocktails and eating my way through the appetizer list. And I don't regret a minute — or a dollar — of it.

Duo, 2413 West 32nd Avenue: The wine list may be small, but it's incredibly thoughtful and pairs well with the solid, seasonal menu. Throw in some of the best desserts in town, and you've got a dreamy evening for two in this cozy restaurant.

Frasca Food & Wine, 1738 Pearl Street, Boulder: When it opened six years ago, Frasca quickly became the Front Range's next measuring stick for fine-dining establishments, and even if you know exactly what's going on behind the scenes (as I do, since I worked there), this glittering restaurant continues to provide a fantasy-worthy dining experience, every single time.

Fruition, 1313 East Sixth Avenue: Fruition turns out some of the city's most consistently excellent food in an intimate, cobbled-together dining room staffed by competent servers.

Green Russell, 1422 Larimer Street: The food may just be bar snacks, but the cocktails are incredible, and it doesn't take long to rack up a hefty bill in this sexy subterranean lounge underneath Larimer Square.

Mizuna, 225 East Seventh Avenue: Frank Bonanno's finest dining spot is elegant and graceful, with a menu of decadent, well-executed food that makes it perfect for a romantic special occasion.

Pizzeria Basta, 3601 Arapahoe Avenue, Boulder: Kelly Whitaker has a way with the wood-fired oven, and he uses it on plenty of appetizers, entrees and desserts, in addition to airy, ethereal pizzas, all of which are well worth the assigned price tags.

Potager, 1109 Ogden Street: For thirteen years, this homey eatery has seduced its neighbors with simple food and warm service. In the summer, the enchanting back patio is an added bonus.

Sushi Sasa, 2401 15th Street: An intimate, modern dining room is the setting for an enthralling sushi experience, with interesting specials punctuating a stellar list of classic nigiri and sashimi offerings.

Table 6, 609 Corona Street: Table 6 offers an eclectic menu and wine list in a quirky, vibrant spot that's always fun and full of buzz.

Tarbell's, 6955 South York Street, Centennial: I was captivated by the American Classic burger at Tarbell's months back, but I'd happily drop big bucks so that a date and I could eat through the rest of the menu, washing it down with a bottle of wine.

Z Cuisine, 2239 West 30th Avenue: Cozy and romantic, this bistro caters to couples willing to endure the wait (made more bearable by À Côté, the absinthe bar next door) for fine French cooking served in a tiny dining room.

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Laura Shunk was Westword's restaurant critic from 2010 to 2012; she's also been food editor at the Village Voice and a dining columnist in Beijing. Her toughest assignment had her drinking ten martinis and eating ten Caesar salads over the course of 48 hours. She still drinks martinis, but remains lukewarm on Caesar salads.
Contact: Laura Shunk