Cool Cucumber at Chinook Tavern

When Chinook Tavern shuttered its longtime home in Cherry Creek North back in the summer of 2008, many regulars were left crying in their one-liter steins, wondering where they would ever find another place to drink German beer and eat veal wiener schnitzel.

Now they have their answer: The new Chinook Tavern that opened last month on South Fiddler's Circle in Englewood (after a doomed attempt to open in the Landmark project). As I sat down at the enormous bar, I overheard the woman next to me say, "I love this new place, it's just so very Colorado." And she was right.

The old Chinook, what was located in a basement, was dark; this new Chinook, all 9,000 square feet, is intensely bright, with floor-to-ceiling windows throughout. Patriarch Manfred Georg designed the space; his wife, Lieselotte, an artist, provided much of the decor; son Clemens is the manager and son Markus is the executive chef. Gorgeous, wide-plank floors stretch throughout the space (I later learned later they're not real wood, but they look more authentic than any faux wood floors I'd ever seen before); the ceilings are real wood, and designed to minimize the noise, with beautiful bubble lights cascading down.

And I'm far from the only person to appreciate the new Chinook. A staffer said it's doing great business with lawyers in the area who drink three shots of Stranahan's at lunch without blinking (lawyers still do that?); Newmont Mining execs use it like their corporate dining room. And being next to light rail has helped business: Chinook has a coffee bar that sells java and pastries in the morning, and the bar fills weeknights with commuters who want a quick pop before they get on the train to head home.

Although I was tempted to order a one-liter stein of Paulaner Hefeweizen (at $10, it holds almost the equivalent of three twelve-ounce beers), I instead asked to see the cocktail list. Alas, there was no such list -- so I asked the bartender to make me a summery cocktail that she likes to drink.

She returned with a Cool Cucumber ($8.59) made with Hendricks Gin, a splash of Sprite, soda and muddled lemon cucumber. The bartender explained that she hates gin, but was committed to making a gin drink that even she would drink. I, on the other hand, love gin, and while this wasn't the most inventive cocktail I'd ever tasted, it was a good light, summery drink.

Still, when I return I'm going for that one-liter beer, if just so that I can repeat the line those savvy commuters were all preparing to tell their significant others: "But honey, I only had one beer...."

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