They say context is everything, and it certainly matters when researching Denver’s best alfresco dining spots. We wouldn’t recommend celebrating your spouse’s birthday in the same place you bring your dog on weekend afternoons. (And neither, we bet, would your spouse.) So, here are our 20 patio picks for every occasion.
A first date:
With landscaped flora, a koi pond and a wooden bridge, Domo’s garden would be a magical place for a tête-à-tête, even if it weren’t attached to a Japanese restaurant. But it is. And if service proves as slow as it often does, you’ll have all the more time to get to know one another while you wait (and wait) for your sake and donburi.
1365 Osage St.; 303-595-3666
Nervous? The swanky, fire-pit-dotted fourth-floor terrace flanking the ART Hotel’s signature dining room (pictured top) should ease any qualms. If things are going well, you can cozy up on a couch and talk the night away over cocktails and small plates. If not, you just might meet your next match in the hopping bar.
1201 Broadway St.; 303-572-8000
An anniversary dinner:
Wrapped around the back of a beautiful Victorian-turned-contemporary dining destination, the brick-lined patio couldn’t be a more romantic place in which to splurge on an array of exquisitely plated delicacies, surrounded by lush greenery.
3927 W. 32nd Ave.; 303-477-4732
This one’s a no-brainer: We’d bet more couples have toasted to their love in the garden behind this farm-to-fork pioneer in Capitol Hill than anywhere else in Denver.
1109 Ogden St.; 303-832-5788
A secret rendezvous:
Solera Restaurant & Wine Bar
If the last thing you want is to see and be seen, the first thing to do is hit this Park Hill Mediterranean fixture’s secluded patio. Fenced in along an unassuming stretch of East Colfax, it’s as charming as it is comfy, an ideal setting for heart-to-hearts — especially on Wine Wednesdays, when a five-glass flight goes for $15. (In vino veritas, after all.)
5410 E. Colfax Ave.; 303-388-8429
On the snug, hidden back patio of this ranch-to-table gem — a private oasis in the wild heart of Ballpark — no one will find you but your server, who can bring you all manner of meaty tidbits (try the bison balls) to match the juicy ones you and your companion are exchanging.
2233 Larimer St.; 303-296-2750
Wining and dining a client:
Guard and Grace
Because even your stuffiest colleague is bound to loosen up over a prime rib dinner amid the beautiful people who strike poses on the patio at Troy Guard’s glitzy Downtown steakhouse.
1801 California St.; 303-293-8500
Mercantile Dining & Provisions
Set at a slight remove from — but in full view of — all the action surrounding the Grand Hall, Mercantile’s suave outdoor lounge on the Union Station plaza is a perfect spot for soaking up the LoDo scenery and feasting on the likes of brûléed bone marrow and smoked pork shank in quince butter from one of Denver’s very best kitchens. If your associate isn’t impressed after a dinner like that, negotiations are over.
1701 Wynkoop St.; 720-460-3733
Wining and dining a hipster:
From smoked marrow-and-shrimp dumplings and ham-and-egg arepas to loaded Bloodies and local brews, the options at this new-school food court are endless — just like the skyline views from the hopping second-floor deck, where your cooler-than-thou cousin from Crown Heights will have to take back whatever he said about flyover country. (And here are yet more rooftop patios that make this city look good.)
3200 Pecos St.; 720-269-4778
“Patio” is a massive understatement. With a hipster-junkyard vibe and plenty of room for eclectic vendors like Owlbear Barbecue and Island Peppapot to serve up a movable feast, this RiNo haunt’s outdoor enclosure is a real adult playground.
Now that the kitchen’s dishing up three different variations on mussels and frites, happy hour in the sun-dappled, foliage-filled courtyard of this très français escape off Larimer Square just got even more heureux.
1420 Larimer St.; 303-825-3232
Housed in an old brick Victorian, lined with shade trees and flower beds, this all-day American cafe feels like a little slice of California wine country in the suburbs — all the more when you’re relaxing on the porch or in the front yard with a glass of (what else?) Napa Chardonnay.
5649 S. Curtice St., Littleton; 303-794-6054
A people-watching break:
Whether you're indulging in funky margs and tacos at Comida or chic cocktails and small plates at Acorn, you'll have front-row seats to the constant bustle of this beloved food hall on either of its two patios.
3350 Brighton Blvd.; 720-443-1135
Of course, every restaurant on this much-trafficked RiNo corner offers prime people-watching. But the glorified front stoop at this pizza-and-oyster bar — it’s too small to be called a patio — stands out as a place to watch the world go by, with an atmosphere all its own, at once dynamic and intimate.
2500 Larimer St.; 303-292-3553
Playtime for the kiddos:
The POST Brewing Company
In the spacious backyard of this laid-back chicken-and-beer shack, cornhole and other games help your rugrats burn off the energy from the free soft-serve cones that come with their meal; a makeshift lending library keeps your little bookworms occupied. And the live-music lineup on Sunday afternoons equals a fine time for a family dance-off.
105 W. Emma St., Lafayette; 303-593-2066
Lucky Pie Pizza & Taphouse
Meanwhile, you could practically mistake the front lawn this family favorite shares with creamery Sweet Cow for a small city park, filled as it is with parents sunbathing while the youngsters romp to their heart’s content.
637 Front St., Louisville; 303-666-5743
Playtime for the grown-ups:
Ace Eat Serve
What could be more fun than soaking up the sun over a few rounds of Ping-Pong? Doing it while drinking Singapore Slings and gnawing on tiger wings, that’s what.
501 E. 17th Ave.; 303-800-7705
The Old Man
But for a less obvious pick, how about a suburban dive bar/barbecue shack with sand volleyball courts out back? Sign up for a league to compete a couple of times a week, come on Fridays for a pickup game — or just kick back and watch over a beer and a honking plate of rib tips.
4381 W. 120th Ave., Broomfield; 720-536-4821
Playtime for the pups:
Mas Kaos Pizzeria & Taqueria
For you, this instant Berkeley hot spot has got tacos and tequila shots, pies and brews, and a sweet sidewalk table. For your four-legged mini-me, it’s got the canine equivalent: regularly replenished water bowls, treats and carabiners for leash hookups. (And the same goes for Platt Park siblings Kaos Pizzeria and Uno Mas Taqueria.)
4526 Tennyson St.; 720-638-2100
Recess Beer Garden
Though it’s decorated to resemble a schoolyard, there are times the sprawling grounds of this LoHi gathering place look more like a doggy day-care center, what with all the pooches hanging with their owners.
2715 17th St.; 720-638-0020