It's above 80 degrees right now in Denver, which means that for the past several hours, we've been doing nothing but daydreaming of our favorite patios, counting down the minutes until we can shut down the computers and head outside for a drink. Adding urgency to our mission is the fact that it's supposed to be cold again tomorrow...and Saturday.
So in the spirit of celebrating today -- and the onset of late spring and early summer -- here, in no particular order, are Denver's ten best restaurant patios.
Ignite!, 2124 Larimer Street Ignite!, which I review this week, may not exactly be our top choice for food in the neighborhood, but there's no arguing with the lure of its outdoor attributes. Skip the street-side strip of tables for the rooftop deck, where you'll be rewarded with a partial view of the skyline, a full view of what's going below you -- and in Ballpark, you never know what that might be -- and a spot where you'll want to while away several hours drinking beer. Linger, 2030 West 30th Avenue The views from inside Linger, the restaurant Justin Cucci built on the edge of Highland in the old Olinger mortuary, are breathtaking, but from the roof? Drop-dead gorgeous. And that's why the place ia packed full of people sipping a special run of cocktails from plastic cups, taking in the panoramic views of the cityscape from beneath the twinkling lights of the patio and Olinger sign. The deck is eventually getting its own kitchen and a bar, one of which may be in a food truck. Cafe|Bar, 295 South Pennsylvania Street Owner Dane Huguley carefully considered the neighborhood when he set out to build Cafe|bar, and then he worked hard to fill a missing niche. And part of his master plan was an oasis-like patio, where trees and umbrellas provide shade and stone-lined walls provide intimacy, creating a perfect hideaway for whiling away an afternoon or night, when candles in mason jars add charming ambiance. Domo, 1365 Osage Street Dining at Domo is a little like dining in Epcot's version of Japan: The dining room is like a house in a dark, enchanted forest with tables made from stone slabs and seats cut from tree stumps. But the real place to relax is in the garden out back, which the restaurant keeps lush with trees and flowers that lend a zen note to a meal of Japanese country food. It's an ideal place to soak up the sun over a quiet lunch. El Noa Noa Mexican Restaurant, 722 Santa Fe Drive The margarita may be our very favorite patio sipper, and it's even better when paired to a basket full of chips and a little salsa. And when we're craving that kind of afternoon, we head straight for El Noa Noa, a Santa Fe Arts District restaurant with a vast, shady garden in its back yard. It's a great place to kick back with a drink and gaze at the waterfall while the sweet sounds of a mariachi band roll over you. Indulge Wine Bar, 1601 Mayberry, Highlands Ranch You'll have to head deep into the southern suburbs to find this restaurant tucked deep in the heart of Highlands Ranch. But if it's outdoor dining you're after, Indulge is worth it. The spot features a long wine list and typical wine bar-tapas fare, all consumable on a deck with unadulterated views of the front range, fire pits and ample, comfortable seating. And best of all, you won't have to fight crowds to relax and enjoy it, glass of bubbly in hand. Lola, 1575 Boulder Street Illuminated with strands of lights and emanating Latin rhythms, Lola's covered patio is a worthy competitor for outdoor dining digs in a neighborhood that features a lot of decks. But the reason why we're regulars is because it's an ideal spot for people-watching, flirting, socializing and meeting your neighbors over margaritas, beers and items from the raw bar, which also features a couple of patio-side seats. Ale House at Amato's, 2501 16th Street Ale House at Amato's features a pair of patios that peer over downtown Denver, and they pull a mixed group of ale aficionados, Lower Highland residents, pre- and post-Rockies game attendees and men and women just looking to have a good time. The downstairs ledge is an extension of the main bar; the rooftop features its own taplines, a fire pit and, generally, a more party-oriented crowd. Gaia Bistro, 1551 South Pearl Street Gaia Bistro is one of the homiest restaurants in the city, not least because it's actually located in an old home.The dining rooms are cozy and comfortable -- especially in the winter, when they create a warm, welcoming haven -- but Gaia shines brightest outside, on the planter-lined patio or at one of the tables scattered across the font lawn. When summer settles over the Mile High City, these outdoor areas are packed for weekend brunches. But on weekdays, noon or night, the deck is only about half full, making this a perfect respite for a mellow meal. 1. Bittersweet, 500 East Alameda Avenue The duo of patios that flank the property Olav and Melissa Peterson transformed from a gas station into a restaurant are ideal for lingering over a post-dinner coffee and dessert: planters filled with shrubbery obscure you just enough from Alameda, as do the twinkle of lights and piped-in sounds of, say, Van Morrison. But the decks are also practical. Those planters hold a wealth of produce Olav uses in the kitchen, which means you get to experience the immediacy of his bounty over dinner. And that landed Bittersweet our Best Restaurant Patio award in this year's Best of Denver.
Have another favorite? Tell us about it below.
More Best of Denver® 2012 Lists:
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All of these lists are also available on our Best of app; see it in action at http://bestof.voiceplaces.com/denver-boulder.