Denver's a sunny city, according to weather statistics, but sometimes you want to have it (dinner, that is) made in the shade. Eats and drinks on a secluded, quiet patio can be nourishing for both the belly and the soul. Here's our list of the ten best hidden patios in the metro area, in alphabetical order:
4450 West 38th Avenue
Brazen's patio isn't exactly hidden; after all, it's in the front of the West Highland restaurant. But Brazen faces away from busy West 38th Avenue, so the patio is set far from traffic and overlooks a piney greenbelt and the historic Elitch Gardens Theatre. Leash your dog to a nearby tree and settle in by the fire pit for drinks and small plates from Brazen's talented kitchen.
9. Cheese Importers/ Bistrot des Artistes
103 Main Street, Longmont
The White family moved its venerable cheese company, founded in 1976, to an abandoned power station on Longmont's Main Street in 2012; the new space had plenty of room for a refrigerated cheese shop, a kitchen-supply store and a très jolie French bistro that spills out the back door onto an elevated patio. Colorful umbrellas, painted iron tables and chairs, and a plethora of potted plants lend the spacious seating area a country-cottage feel, even in its industrial setting. Relax with a glass of beer or wine and a plate of imported cheeses, and you'll feel like you're in Provence, not Longmont.
8. Chili Verde
2311 Federal Boulevard
Federal Boulevard is more about authentic eats than sophisticated ambience, but Chili Verde manages to capture a little of both: delicious Mexican food in the style of Puebla, and an upscale atmosphere that's far from hole-in-the-wall. And Chile Verde's walled-in patio takes guests even farther from Federal, with overhanging vines, potted plants and enough shade to beat the heat on sunny summer days.
1365 Osage Street
This traditional Japanese restaurant has an equally traditional botanic garden set with dark-wood tables among carefully manicured trees and shrubs. It's no secret: Most food-loving Denverites will say the name Domo when asked about great food in a great outdoor space. But every visit feels like a journey to a hidden land, even with Colfax Avenue and I-25 just beyond the ivy-covered fences.
6. The Hornet
The Hornet is almost always packed inside, but not many people know about the fenced-in patio in the back. The little square is bigger than it feels, with six or seven tables and a cozy bench. Strings of lights add a warm glow after dark, making for an intimate escape from bustling Broadway out front.
Keep reading for more of the best hidden patios in Denver...
5. The Lobby American Grille
2191 Arapahoe Street
The Paris Hotel was erected on the corner of Arapahoe and 22nd streets in 1891 and eventually converted into loft spaces, with a shady quadrangle as its back yard. The Lobby maintains one corner of that courtyard for guests who choose to dine outdoors, separated by a wrought-iron fence and brick columns from the gritty streets just beyond. The Lobby's patio boasts comfort food in a comfy setting — beneath towering trees and red-striped awnings — for a relaxing getaway in the city center.
1109 Ogden Street
The word potager is French for "kitchen garden," so it makes sense that some of the allure of this Cap Hill hideaway — which has gone without reservations or self-promotion for nearly twenty years — comes from its secluded back patio, which is green with vines, shrubs and herbs overflowing pots of every shape and size. White tablecloths add a touch of formality to the covered section, which carries the weathered charm of a French country inn, while cafe tables under the open sky feel a little more offhand and casual. What's on the plate from chef/owner Teri Rippeto's kitchen matches what's growing all around you, as Potager has set the standard for seasonal cooking since before most of us knew our turnips from our rutabagas.
3. Sera's Ramen Enclave
3472 West 32nd Avenue
Anyone who visited Bang! on West 32nd Avenue during its nearly twenty-year run knew about the cozy back porch that was really part of the front entrance of the restaurant, since the entire design was flip-flopped from that of standard eateries. Sera's kept the layout when it took over the space in early May, with a narrow walkway between buildings that leads to a partially enclosed outdoor dining space that all guests must pass through on their way to the main dining room. If the weather's decent, a seat outside means enjoying excellent ramen and other Asian treats while a cool Colorado breeze wafts scents of star anise and rich broth from table to table.
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3927 West 32nd Avenue
Solitaire's twin Victorian houses are surrounded by gardens and plenty of outdoor seating, some within view of West 32nd Avenue and some set back behind the restaurant for a secluded, romantic dinner. But even more hidden is Solitaire's rooftop patio, with only a handful of tables surrounded by red brick, privacy fences and the blue Colorado sky. Impress your sweetie with chef Mark Ferguson's sexy small plates, and feel like you're the lord of the manner with a table at the top of the Highland neighborhood.
1. Yazoo Barbecue Company
Yazoo's hidden patio is on its rooftop, where it also has an indoor/outdoor bar. Views of downtown and the surrounding neighborhood go great with a plate of smoked meats and a cold beer. Canvas awnings create plenty of shade, and high walls all around keep the wind at bay. From the street, you'd never know that lucky Yazoo diners are up top enjoying some great Denver ’cue.