Opening a new restaurant or bar at this stage in 2020 seems far from ideal, but that hasn't stopped a handful of entrepreneurs from doing so, including the team behind The Patio at Sloan's, at 4032 West 17th Avenue.
"People are really excited to have us here," says Damien McHugh, the Patio's general manager. "We even have a neighbor who objected to the liquor license who's now a regular."
Located right across 17th from Sloan's Lake, the spot is a sure draw for the groups of moms strolling their babies around the lake, thirsty folks walking their dogs, other park-goers and anyone living in the newly minted complexes surrounding the south side of the eatery. The owners also claim that the Patio is closer to a lake than any other bar or restaurant in Denver, so the views are great. On paper, the setting makes perfect sense for the neighborhood, and until Odell Brewing Co. opens its outpost in the Kuhlman Building next door, the bar has little to no competition. But with winter setting in and the pandemic shutting down indoor dining, things haven't gone quite as planned.
"It was tough, though the toughest part was not knowing what was happening," says McHugh, who has managed several other establishments, including Ophelia's Electric Soapbox. "Hopefully the next time you're back, it can be packed."
Not that the Patio is empty; on a cold December night we visited the tented outdoor portion and watched as each of the distanced tables filled up with people. It was certainly chilly, but dressed in winter coats, hats and sometimes gloves, customers didn't appear bothered much by the crisp air. Warming whiskey cocktails and steaming plates of super-spicy meatballs didn't hurt.
Behind the food is chef Brendon Flood, formerly of Bistro Vendôme and the now-closed Mario's Ocean Club. The chef has added an array of international dishes, such as jerk chicken, eggplant curry and falafel. But even if some of the menu items have never shared a table together, Flood keeps balance in mind so that everything pairs up harmoniously. So you can load up with pimento cheese, spicy cumin-lamb meatballs, zangi (a style of Japanese fried chicken) and Brazilian pao de queijo (cheesy buns).
"We wanted Brendon to do international cuisine and a spin on tapas that weren't tapas," says co-owner Ciaran O'brien, who adds that the menu will soon have even more choices, such as brisket meatloaf and Nashville-style hot chicken.
The cocktail menu comes courtesy of Proof Productions, a consulting group started by Nick Touch of the Family Jones, and Chad Michael George, who has run several restaurants and bars around Denver. The idea, says Touch, was to make variations of classic porch pounders, such as the Slo-Hi G&T, with Woody Creek Gin, Q Tonic and seasonal fresh fruit and herbs; the Patio Smash, with Family Jones American Whiskey, lemon and Teakoe blackberry tea; and a frozen Irish coffee made with Pablo's Coffee (Touch says a hot version is coming soon). The Patio also has its own house hard seltzer on tap made with vodka and flavored teas.
While the tent was almost as full as it could be (with tables spaced far apart), things got off to a rough start when the Patio opened on October 26, since a positive COVID test led to a twelve-day closing and quarantine. And once the place was ready to get back to business, indoor dining was banned after only two days of service, on November 20. On the upside, the outdoor patio and cold-weather tent was always part of the plan, so it was ready to go when the interior closed.
As the name indicates, a patio was always going to be a big part of the eatery's identity, says McHugh, though he envisioned a much more crowded scene to help keep things warm. "I feel like we did a good job," he adds, "and I really hope come springtime, we will be giving everyone our best selves."
The Patio is open from 7 to 11 a.m. daily for breakfast and coffee, then switches over to the lunch and dinner menu until closing at 8 p.m. Takeout is available too, including cocktails. Visit the Patio's website for details and menus, and call 303-600-8386 to place your order.
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