Tucked away in a subterranean space below Larimer Square, Frank Bonanno’s new cocktail lounge is literally underground. But unlike the Prohibition-era speakeasies it’s modeled after, Green Russell is otherwise aboveboard. Indeed, given the buzz it generated prior to its opening, you’d be hard-pressed to find a drinker in Denver who doesn’t know about this dark, cozy den, where local masters of mixology tailor their libations to your tastes Thursday through Sunday nights. The friendly crew also gladly serves up a limited but cheeky selection of eats that includes slices from Wednesday’s Pie, the tiny shop that Bonanno has installed as a faux-front for the bar.
Denver’s karaoke bars are getting a run for their money since the opening of this self-styled dueling piano saloon in Lodo. Part old fashioned singalong, part comedy showcase, the performances (Tuesday through Saturday nights) star pianists who take requests from the audience, so don’t be shy about your Billy Joel fixation or your soft spot for honkytonk blues! Downstairs, dance club Juke keeps things current with DJs, but the same fun interactive format applies: while you call the songs, the turntablists try to trump one another in granting your every rockin’ wish. One caveat: if you fear the wild bachelorette party crowd, come on a weeknight.
In its airy, almost starkly modern elegance, EVOO Marketplace could almost be mistaken for an art gallery. Or maybe that’s no mistake: given the stunning array of olive oils from all over the world—Greece, Chile, Australia—stored on tap in silver kegs, it’s a condiment connoisseur’s studio. Infusions come in eye-opening flavors: blood orange, cilantro and roasted onion, even wild mushroom and sage. The same goes for the balsamic vinegars from Modena: think cinnamon-pear, dark chocolate, and honey-ginger. You’ll get excellent pairing advice from the friendly owner, who also stocks a small selection of imported pastas and sauces as well as accessories for proper storage of your new purchases (and there will be many).
The name’s a bit cheeky—real dives rarely refer to themselves as such. And sure enough, Dive on Fifteenth doesn’t look all that different from its previous incarnation as Tryst Lounge. But its slogan, “LoDo in a Blender,” says it all: from rotating DJs and a Wii system to a shot wheel and the famous strawberry vodka (a Tryst holdover), it’s clear Dive’s ultimate goal is to be all things to all downtown bar-hoppers: a dance club, a rec room—and, of course, a watering hole.
Insider’s Tip: Speaking of shots, come Monday and you’ll score a free one on the house; “Cheap Ass Sundays,” meanwhile, are true to their billing with $5 martini and $1 PBRs all night long.
Sometimes it’s chill, the calm enhanced by the woody, green-accented décor; sometimes it’s wild. But whether it’s catering to the after-work or the after-hours crowd, Mynt Mojito Lounge means business when it comes to play. From happy hour ($4 martinis from 4pm to 9pm!) until the wee hours, the bar whips up 12 different kinds of mojitos, from guava to ginger, many by the pitcher; at 10pm, bottle service begins—and so does the dancing, especially on weekends when DJs spin house and techno. If you need a bite to absorb the alcohol—and keep yourself on your toes—there’s a limited menu of small plates, appropriately Latin-themed.
Centered around an ultralounge that looks like a futuristic parlor—all mirrors and chandeliers, in shades of black, white, yellow, orange, Lucite, and chrome—5 Degrees aims to be as cool as its name. So does the flirty LoDo crowd, who dresses to kill before settling into wraparound booths and splurging on bottle service, mingling out on the patio, or meeting face-to-face on the small, tightly packed dance floor.
Special events are a club hallmark—from fashion shows and photo shoots to Whipped Wednesdays, as the often-themed ladies’ night is called (a recent, cheeky example: Barbie’s Birthday). In sum: keep the footwork to a minimum, the ogling to a maximum, and you’ll fit right in.
The name evokes dusty shelves and cobwebbed corners, but the Tattered Cover Book Store is a sprawling, gleaming, three-location Denver institution—and its owner, Joyce Meskis, a local hero. No mere literary retail outlets, the trio of stores are veritable community centers, boasting in-store coffeehouses and hosting everything from film and lecture program series to book clubs for adults and kids alike to the city’s best readings (think Dave Eggers, rising star Joshua Ferris, and Barack Obama!). Yet another bonus: a mind-boggling magazine selection.
But it’s Meskis’ involvement in the community beyond the bookstores’ walls that really stand out, from making donations to local charities through the Tattered Cover Gives Back program to her participation in the annual citywide literacy promotion event One Book, One Denver.
You won’t find your traditional portraits here, but at the Andenken Gallery you can see much more interesting things like bodies wrapped in wooden flooring and works of art featuring the alphabet. Specializing in anything pop and graffiti, this LoDo gallery has featured some of the world’s best known modern artists. It always challenges the boundaries of tradition, making the Andenken Gallery a fun trip.
Expect the unexpected from the kitchen, which specializes in eclectic mix-and-match dishes meant to be shared. Appetizers and entrees centering on grilled meats, fish, and vegetables come with your choice of several dipping sauces (hence the name) that range from the familiar—Carolina barbecue, peanut sauce, chimichurri—to the inventive (try bacon aioli, Asian pear chutney or rose blossom yogurt on for size). Desserts follow the same formula; order the caramel apple with hot fudge for you and your date, and you can rest assured the evening won’t end at the restaurant. Reservations are essential.
From the moment its doors opened in 2004, handsome Rioja has been on the short list of candidates for Denver’s best restaurant not only among locals but in the national press (including GQ and Details).
Though Colorado is always in the background, chef-partner Jennifer Jasinski keeps her focus admirably sharp and tight on the cuisines of Italy and Spain, and the result is a seasonal repertoire as robust and colorful in flavor as it is precise in presentation. Handmade pasta is always a must, as is the signature appetizer of spiced pork belly in fresh chickpea puree—but then, so are the remarkably rich soups and fruit-based desserts. Perhaps the ultimate must is more than one visit.
It’s a suave moniker for a swanky joint. Not just old school but downright historic, The Cruise Room in The Oxford Hotel was downtown Denver’s first post-Prohibition bar. And it’s still every inch an Art Deco–era wonder—resplendent in red neon, leather, and chrome and replete with elegant murals, a classic jukebox, and natty bartenders who pour proper martinis (the real three-to-one deal, even if the rest of the cocktail list is a tad twee). Throw in some oysters on the half-shell from McCormick’s Fish House (located just across the lobby, it services the bar)—and prepare to lose yourself in retro reverie.
Handsomely high-ceilinged and woody, Denver Chophouse & Brewery is a decent place to dine (tip for filet fiends: order yours one shade pinker than usual). But it’s a better place to imbibe, with a good-sized selection of wines by the glass, generous cocktails, nearly ten housebrews on tap—including an oatmeal stout conditioned in Wild Turkey barrels—and bottomless bloody marys and mimosas for weekend brunch.