Treat your friends, family members and random one-night stands to something out-of-the-ordinary this holiday season: Throw your traditional soiree at one of these offbeat, quirky and totally unforgettable spots.
10) Vert Kitchen
For extraordinary, eco-friendly French fare, nothing beats Vert Kitchen, a sandwich spot at 704 South Pearl Street that is now available for private events. "We have been receiving increased interest at Vert for holiday events," says owner Noah Stephens. You'll love Stephen's store for its cozy, inviting atmosphere -- and, of course, all his delectable food. "Customers are attracted to the intimacy of our small space, saying that they feel as though they have been transported out of the city," he adds. Private events include full rental of the space and a tailored menu with savory and sweet bites (many internationally-inspired, all locally sourced) plus great wines and fun cocktails. Vert can comfortably accommodate around thirty party-goers. Call 303-997-5941.
For a super-chic and affordable soiree, might we suggest Bin, at 1884 South Pearl Street. "This is a beautiful space," says Theresa Scamperino of her artisan cheese store and restaurant. She also owns the adjacent wine shop, which means you and your guests will fold long before the wine runs dry. "I try to find really fun, interesting selections at affordable prices," she says of her reds, whites, and roses. For private events, Scamperino typically serves light or heavy hors d'oeuvres and cheeses along with a selection of her wines. This online menu will give you an idea of what's available, but keep in mind that Scamperino does custom stuff, too, and is happy to help you think outside the bin. Events usually average about $20 per person, which includes room and service charge. "With the parties I've done thus far, people have been really happy with the quality they get for the money spent," says Scamerino. Call 303-284-0784.
8) Lumber Baron Inn & Gardens
The Lumber Baron Inn is the only place in town that offers private, casino-themed murder-mystery parties during the holiday season. This time of year, says owner Walt Keller, "we up the ante by adding in real casino tables." Guests (up to 100 can be accommodated) get $1,000 in casino chips when they arrive, and the fun starts with games in the parlor dealt by outrageous actors. The group is then swept upstairs, where dinner is served and friends solve a crime. Prices vary and start at $39.99 per person for dinner and entertainment. The chef-prepared meals are always made in-house. Prices, schedule, and availability are listed online.
7) The Gnome's Nook
If you're looking for something out-of-the-ordinary, you won't need to look much further than the whimsical Gnome's Nook, 1078 South Gaylord Street, which is filled with gnomes, confections and nostalgia. In an age where "imagination is at a premium with everything being handed to people on an iPhone," says co-owner Steve Hostettler, he's is glad to give locals a place where the imagination can run wild. Little-known fact: This kid-friendly candy shop also throws some seriously kick-ass adult parties. "We often work with local restaurants like Agave around the corner, who will pair wines with tacos for us," says Hosteler. Of course, there's also a gnome's-load of chocolate at the end of the meal. With two floors of vibrant, offbeat décor plus a quaint exterior nook with a fire pit, wood stumps and magical, mythical woodland creatures, unique is an understatement. Hostettler can accommodate up to 100, but usually gets requests for smaller groups. To reserve your space, call 303-997-7103 or e-mail Hostettler at firstname.lastname@example.org.
6) Stir Cooking School Make your foodie friends do some of the work, too; host a private event at Stir, 3215 Zuni Street. Simply chose a class theme and menu: Wine and Cheese Pairings, Cupcakes and Champagne, or Iron Chef Competition, to name a few; there are thirty-plus different menu options. Then, owner Katy Hume will take care of the rest. She can accommodate twelve to 24 guests, and parties take three hours. Also, there's a full bar, so Hume will throw in a mixology lesson, if you please. For more info, call 720-287-4823.
5) Johnson's Corner
What started as a gas station in the middle of farmland has grown into a nationally-recognized, 24/7 truck stop and restaurant -- the iconic Johnson's Corner, 2842 SE Frontage Road off I-25, where it's been serving up old-fashioned cooking and hospitality since 1952. "We don't close," says Chauncey Taylor, who lets party-goers do their thing well into the wee hours. The no-muss-no-fuss banquet room holds up to eighty, and there's no room charge as long as everyone in the group has a meal, which can be buffet-style or, for smaller groups, sit-down from off the menu. Alcohol is only available if you sign a waiver, however. For more details, call 970-667-2069.
4) The Fort
The Fort, 19192 Highway 8 in Morrison, is an award-winning restaurant that sells more buffalo steaks than any other independently owned restaurant in the country. Specializing in cocktail receptions (among other things), the Fort offers a variety of menu options with various price ranges. If you're ready to take a few steps back into the early West, call Jennifer Weeks at 303-697-2282 to book your room.
3) Biker Jim's Gourmet Dogs Forget holiday ham. Nothing says December-time in America like gourmet dogs with lots of toppings. Biker Jim's, 2148 Larimer Street, is renowned for such offerings as rattlesnake and elk dogs. And while Biker Jim won't let you buy out his space on busy Friday and Saturday nights -- actually, he says he might be persuaded -- he'll happy to let you use his digs on the weekdays. You'll have access to the full menu, plus the restaurateur has been known to do custom things, too, like incorporating gasto-chem cocktails with liquid nitrogen courtesy of Ian Kleinman of The Inventing Room. Hot dog! For details, call 720-746-9355.
2) Mile High Station
Adjacent to Sports Authority Stadium, the Mile High Station, 2027 West Lower Colfax Avenue, occupies the former Midwest Steel and Ironworks building, which dates back to the turn of the last century. This historic space -- very urban chic with exposed brick and beautiful chandeliers -- can accommodate events with everything from 100 to 1,200 guests. Choose from one of nine local caterers to feed your group. For more info, call 720-946-7721.
1) The Ronald McDonald House
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Grab a group of friends -- five to ten is the suggested number -- and host the kind of party you'll feel really great about the next day: Make a meal for families and kids coping with cancer at Denver's Ronald McDonald House, 1300 East 21st Avenue. Volunteers can cook breakfast, lunch or dinner, and are asked to provide food for 15-55 people (they'll let you know how many in advance), which must be prepared at the site. Don't worry: There's a commercial-grade kitchen. Call 303-832-2667.