A half-dozen downtown Denver restaurants suitable for different business lunch occasions

When I reviewed H Burger Co this week, I was especially drawn to the spot as a great downtown option for lunch on a work day -- an escape from the office where you can sit down to eat a good meal quickly and cheaply.

That kind of lunch was just one of the many midday meals I used to partake in on a regular basis, and it led me to evaluate the downtown landscape for places I'd go for takeout, or restaurants I'd choose when my boss was paying the bill.

It led to a list of a half-dozen downtown restaurants suitable for different types of work day lunches.

Best place for a lunchtime first date: Osteria Marco, 1453 Larimer Street If you're using your hour to woo a potential romantic prospect on the safe lunch first date, Osteria Marco's cozy subterranean digs provide the proper setting. Dark nooks and crannies provide intimacy, even in the day time, and you'll both find something to love on the restaurant's menu of house-cured meats, housemade cheeses, and salad and sandwich options that blow most delis in the vicinity out of the water. And if things go hopelessly awry, you can always sidle up to the bar for a post-meal cocktail, taking the edge off a bit before you head back to the office.

Best expense account lunch: EDGE Restaurant & Bar, 1111 14th Street EDGE just opened its doors, but its luxurious Four Seasons digs and game-heavy menu make it a prime spot to try when Uncle Expense Account is paying the bill. Because nothing makes a potential client swoon like fat-marbled Wagyu beef carpaccio. And nothing shows your boss how appreciative you are of her willingness to buy lunch like going for broke and ordering a porterhouse. The restaurant just rolled out its "Business Quickie lunch," which includes four dishes on one plate (in the name of time efficiency), best supplemented by one or two "Business Pours," a three-ounce glass of one of fifty different wines.

Best place for a lunchtime interview: Panzano, 909 17th Street The elements of a lunchtime interview spot: professional, straightforward food that's easy to eat and slightly off the beaten path (you don't want to get caught by an office mate, do you?). Panzano is all of that and more, because the Italian menu, encompassing pizza, pasta and panini, is solidly executed and delicious. Make it even easier on yourself and order the three-course power lunch, giving you ample time to ask and answer questions without having to think too hard.

Best excuse for a liquid lunch: daily beer specials at Wazee Supper Club, 1600 15th Street Maybe it was a rough morning, a terrible conference call or maybe it's just the end of tax season -- but sometimes, a drink at lunch is absolutely necessary. The Wazee Supper Club offers ever-changing daily beer specials, which include discounts on pints and pitchers available for pairing with pizza or consumed alone at the historic spot's dark bar. Bottoms up.

Best takeout: Brava! Pizza, 16th and Arapahoe Streets Dave Bravdica is out on the 16th Street Mall, rain or shine. And though that sucks for him during the winter months, it's great for you if you work nearby, because he makes some of the best pizza in the state -- and he does it out of a mobile cart at the base of Lannie's Clocktower Cabaret. When you've only got time for takeout, skip the chains and head to him; he'll get you a crisp, thin-crusted pie bubbling with mozzarella and drizzled with olive oil in the time you would have spent fighting the line in terrible lighting across the street at Paradise Bakery.

Best place for pleasing a group of co-workers: The Market, 1445 Larimer Street You're in a conference room, busting out a group project, and you all decide to take a break together in order to go pick something up for lunch. It sounds like a much-needed team-building reprieve, but it inevitably devolves into a passive-aggressive struggle over where to go, subtle jabs made at the vegetarian and person with the gluten allergy for making things tough. That's not good for morale, and it calls for an all-purpose lunch counter that will, at the very least, grudgingly satisfy everyone. Enter The Market, which serves up a glass case of salads and baked goods, plus daily sandwiches and dishes made to order -- and wraps everything to go. Plus, with proper planning and a phone-ahead takeout order, you can let your teammates wait in line, while you duck into any of the Larimer Square establishments conveniently located at your fingertips.

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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