I'm the first one to bitch and moan about how all the great dives in Denver are disappearing -- but then when someone like Frank Bonanno (Mizuna, Luca D'Italia, Osteria Marco, Bones and Green Russell) comes in and gentrifies the hell out of one of those dives, I can't wait to see what he's done.
And I have to admit that I'm so much happier sitting on one of the 25 seats at the bar at Lou's Food Bar , sipping a fancy-pants cocktail, than I ever would have been downing a PBR at the previous occupant of this address, Ron and Dan's Keg. Especially when the fancy-pants cocktail is as delicious as the Pelee Tamarind ($10) made from Depaz Rhum, Pusser's Rum, tamarind-infused Flor de Cana 7-year Rum, lime and housemade Orgeat, a sweet syrup created with almonds, sugar and rose or orange flower water.
The first taste of this the bucket-of-rum combination transported me straight from Lou's super-clean, contemporary atmosphere to some beach bar.
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The cocktail menu changes nightly, so my travels continued to Paris with the French Revival ($10), made with lavender-infused Skyy Vodka, Domaine de Canton, St. Germain, Leopold Peach Liqueur and lemon and lime juice. I'm a lavender lover, so I was smitten -- although my friend, a lavender-loather, thought it tasted like soap (a common complaint of those loathers).
This northwest Denver neighborhood is changing, from the longtime 'hood of the Smaldones to a spot where ultra-modern duplexes are elbowing out the old bungalows. Lou's Food Bar may not seem a perfect fit yet, but if it keeps mixing up these delicious cocktails, more and more people will find their way to this bar.
I just don't want to know what the former patrons of Ron & Dan's will say about the lavender.