Are the stars out tonight?
Michael Wray, professor of restaurant management, suggests the best Denver area spots to dine al fresco.
It’s summer. It’s Colorado. You know what that means – breezy evenings cooling hot days. Dining with friends outdoors, maybe in a garden or by a creek, under the stars, or up on a roof taking in the urban scene.
So with that in mind, Michael Wray, Ph.D., professor in MSU Denver’s Department of Hospitality, Tourism and Events, has put together a list of his favorite local places to dine al fresco.
1. Top on my list and a short walk from the Auraria Campus is Larimer Square, on Larimer Street between 14th and 15th streets. This dining hotspot features several patios on the street side. Bistro Vendome has a hidden patio in its own courtyard while Rioja, Corridor 44 and others have street-side or even rooftop dining.
Nighttime is special as the lights over the street add to the ambiance. Currently, along with the lights are butterfly banners. Perhaps look at all the menus as you stroll the street and decide among the amazing collection of restaurants. See the full restaurant list at www.larimersquare.com.
2. Solera restaurant (5410 E. Colfax Ave. at Grape Street), with famed Chef Goose Sorensen, has a side patio that is lined with herbs that he uses in cooking. The best night is Wednesday at the bar, as they often feature a winemaker and have multiple tastes of wine at a reduced price. You can’t go there without trying the Thai calamari or the white truffle macaroni and cheese.
3. For pizza lovers, I beg you to try Racca’s (2129 Larimer St.), if you’ve not already been. Happy hour is the best time. Don’t skip the meatball sliders or the wings, as they are marinated in limoncello and fine herbs… roasted instead of fried. Racca’s has the true Napoletana oven and scratch-made sauces, which add to the unique approach to doing pizza right!
4. Don’t forget Domo… it is still there! It’s right by campus, just south of Colfax at 1365 Osage Street. The garden is in full bloom for summer. Authentic décor and Japanese done-right cuisine were leading the way in Denver, long before current upstarts. What is old is new once more; visit again for the first time.
5. For my fifth, and most heartfelt recommendation, I’d suggest to leave Denver and explore. Evergreen is a short jaunt from the city, yet a world apart. Creekside Cellars, at 28036 Highway 74, is home to winemaker Michelle Cleveland, who assists students in fall to make wines in our enology course. A visit to the winery starts with a tasting at the bar, but should finish creek-side with an antipasti board, which will feed four. I suggest starting with a flight of whites. Then progress to the Bordeaux flight with one of Creekside’s amazing sandwiches, such as prosciutto and fig, or try a scratch-made zuppa and fresh-baked focaccia. After your adventure, walk off the tastings with a short hike around the lake, visit shops or head for round two at local breweries El Rancho, Revival Brews or Lariat Lodge.
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