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Denver's five best restaurants for blind dates

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Until fairly recently, we were big fans of online dating websites, racing off to meet perfect strangers several nights a week, making new friends, making out a little, maybe even finding someone we'd like to date.

It didn't take long for us to become strategic about our rendezvous locations, developing an affinity for restaurants and bars that we knew would have plenty of people around, both so our awkward small-talk interviews would be less obvious and also so our new acquaintances would have no opportunity to make us into lampshades. And we definitely focused on places with liquor licenses, since drinks helped conversation flow.

The best place we ever found for a blind date? Steuben's, which was awarded Best Blind-Date Restaurant in the Best of Denver 2011.

Even though we have no need of Steuben's for blind dates these days (and can simply enjoy it for the good restaurant it is), this recent spell of spring weather had us feeling so frisky we were almost ready to reopen our OkCupid or Match.com accounts and book blind dates for every night this week. If you're of a similar mindset, here are four more establishments idea for avoiding awkwardness... and maybe, just maybe, planting the seeds of a bona fide romance.

Vine Street Pub Crowds, casual digs and the worry-free vibe of the Vine Street Pub make it a good place to get to know someone new without risking the notice of everyone around you. Flowing tap beer is at the ready if you're having trouble creating a flowing conversation, and if that fails, there are lawn games on the patio, live bands several nights a week and people-watching scenes throughout the dining room. Incidentally, that mellow feel-good ambience also nabbed Vine Street an award for Best Break-up Restaurant, which is handy if you're a fan of symmetry in your relationships.

Paris on the Platte If you're more into lattes than liquor when it comes to choosing a blind date venue, the best bet in the city is Paris on the Platte, which was also our Best Old Coffeehouse. The always-crowded spot is dark, and tables are placed far enough from each other that you won't run the risk of another table listening in on every detail divulged during your get-to-know-you conversation. And if the front room seems a little too out in the open, there's always the back room -- or the secluded back patio.

Star Kitchen We're fans of blind dates with strange activities, since it gives you something to talk about besides the obligatory exploratory conversation topics like, "Where are you from?" and "What do you do?" Star Kitchen, our pick for Best Dim Sum, provides perpetual interaction with the cart-rolling staff, which means you'll be occupied for the first several minutes of the meal, and then you can work together to determine what you're eating -- or school your suitor in your knowledge of Chinese dumplings, if that's more your thing. Plus, chances of seeing someone you know in this crowded hall on Federal Boulevard are virtually nil.

El Diablo El Diablo won our Best New Bar award partly because it's a wonderful dark space, lit by reclaimed red glass lamps, and carries an air of sexy debauchery, suggesting anything is possible within those devilish halls. So if you're looking to impress an Internet match, intimate booths and a low-lit bar provide a perfect setting for putting your best foot forward. Oh, and the dozens of varieties of tequila might help, too.

Know of other ideal spots for blind dates? Throw a life-ring to other members of the dating pool in the comments section below.

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