Cafe Society

Southern Sun and Vine Street Pub are connected by owner Kevin Daly

Kevin Daly waited almost ten years to open a second rendition of Mountain Sun, the successful pub and brewery he built in downtown Boulder, but with Southern Sun, he proved he could extend the brand — and he did it again with Vine Street Pub. These two outposts have the same woven tapestries on the walls, the same blond woods, the same lighting and the same worn red carpet as at the original; they are clearly cut from the same cloth. But also like the original, they were intended as true community pubs, and Daly's skill shows in adapting an eatery in south Boulder and an eatery in central Denver to their unique neighborhoods.

Southern Sun, at 627 South Broadway Street in Boulder, is vast, with a sprawling bar and large windows overlooking the Flatirons. While legions of twenty- and thirty-somethings cultivating more urban hobbies frequent Mountain Sun, the crowds here are families and, of course, the crunchy outdoor enthusiasts you can never escape in Boulder. The pace is less frenzied than on Pearl Street, and the dreadlocks are more plentiful.

Vine Street Pub, which opened in 2008 at 1700 Vine Street in Denver, in the former home of failed restaurants dating back to Juanita's (also an outpost of a Boulder original), has a patio just for lawn games, where young Denver residents spend long evenings playing cornhole, tossing beanbags with declining accuracy as the night progresses. Cruiser bikes are locked up outside. Inside, professionals in business casual mingle with urban-pioneer families.

Both Southern Sun and Vine Street share Mountain Sun's beer-and-food focus. Southern Sun has its own brewery; after dealing with zoning issues, Vine Street hopes to install its own fermentation tanks by 2012, and in the meantime is serving brews made by its siblings. But there are differences. Last week at Southern Sun, I had a XXX Pale Ale brewed with wet hops, which gave the beer more bite than the pint I'd consumed just two days before at Mountain Sun. And while the menus don't vary much — mostly burgers, nachos and grilled cheese — one excellent dish is available at both of the newer restaurants and not at the flagship: the Mountain Sun chicken wings, which are succulent and moist in the center with spicy, crispy skin.

Those wings alone are reason to visit Vine Street or Southern Sun.

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Laura Shunk was Westword's restaurant critic from 2010 to 2012; she's also been food editor at the Village Voice and a dining columnist in Beijing. Her toughest assignment had her drinking ten martinis and eating ten Caesar salads over the course of 48 hours. She still drinks martinis, but remains lukewarm on Caesar salads.
Contact: Laura Shunk

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