Ask the Critic: The art of the Man Date

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Last week, I posed this question: Where should Guy Fieri eat when (and if) his show, Diners, Drive-Ins & Dives, rolls through Denver? The comments poured in, and the debate was both spirited and (relatively) civil. I've culled the best of the bunch and sent them along to the production-company researcher trying to get a handle on our lovely burg. You guys made us look good, so thank you for that.  What's more, you made us look in public as fiercely passionate about our dives, joints and holes-in-the-wall as I know we all are in private.

Because last week's digital Algonquin Round Table of cuisine was so successful, I'm making it a regular (or at least semi-regular) feature at Cafe Society -- a kind of Monday morning intellectual pick-me-up for those having difficulty transitioning into another work week. And this week's question is a good one: Where's the best place in town for a "man date"?

This question came up several times last week, when no fewer than three diffferent guys came up to me and asked for a restaurant that would be right for a "man date."

To define: a "man date" is a formal, scheduled meeting between two or more men where the standard three pitchers/round of shots/plate of chicken wings notion of dinner comes up a bit short.  The man date is not a gay date (because that would just be, well...a date) and it is not any kind of business meeting (which would require an entirely different set of parameters), but rather a social event where two men are just having dinner together as men.  The food should be good and solid, but not too fussy.  The environment should be nicer than the neighborhood bar, but not in any way romantic.  The crowd should be bustling, the menu must offer something slightly more challenging than cheeseburgers and fries.  Oh, and it would help if there were a bunch of hot girls around because...because everything is nicer when there are a bunch of hot girls around.

Three slight variations on a man date were as follows:

Man date #1: A serious local gastronaut entertaining a friend in town on business. Said friend is also a serious gastronaut on his own turf, requiring the Denver local to both show off the best of his city while not accidentally ending up somewhere like Beatrice & Woodsley or Le Central and giving his out-of-town friend the wrong impression about their relationship.

Answer: Bones, with no reservations. Sitting at the counter guarantees both excellent service and a never-ending stream of things to talk about as the guys behind the bar work their magic with knives and ovens and fire.

Man Date #2: Bigshot local business guy doing some non-business entertaining with four male friends. Needs great food, great service and a totally man-friendly environment, but has decided against Morton's for reasons not disclosed.

Answer: Table 6.  Good wine, great food, but a casual (though upscale) neighborhood vibe with plenty of pork products on the menu (which tend to keep men happy) and lots of attractive ladies on the floor (which tend to keep men even happier).  Alternate suggestions were Capital Grille (like Morton's, but without the aging Captains of Industry pretension), Venue (a little fru-fru, but dammit I love that place and, frankly, couldn't care less if someone thought I was gay for eating there with male friends) and Osteria Marco.

Man Date #3: Friend of mine, flying with a wingman on a Friday night, and looking for a place for a substantial meal where he won't look too gay dining with a man.

Answer: I sent him to Delite because the happy-hour food is fantastic, the bar is cool and because odds were good that he and his buddy would totally be mistaken for a gay couple out on the town. But still, Delite seems a good spot for a man date among the enlightened. Alternate suggestions were Govnr's Park (excellent tater tots and a great crowd at the bar almost any night), 8 Rivers (cold Red Stripe and jerk chicken) or Steuben's -- a nice fallback for everything from man dates to parents-in-town to celebrating-best-friend's-early-parole, or any other awkward social dining situation that might arise.

And now, I leave it to you, my friends. What would you recommend for a man date? Remember the parameters above, and no fair just naming all the dive bars in your neighborhood.  Also: bonus points for anyone who can find a man-date-friendly brunch spot.

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