story

Denver's 9 Sexiest New Restaurants and Bars

What's simmering, shimmering and sizzling now
September 22, 2017
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by Ruth Tobias

What makes a place sexy? Though there’s definitely some overlap, it’s not necessarily the same thing as a hot spot, however stylish. Sexy’s also different from romantic (if it’s intimacy you’re looking for in a new dining experience, consider Annette, 12 @ Madison, French 75 or Atelier by Radex). Rather, it’s a combination of qualities — the sheen of glamour, the promise of adventure, the intense engagement of all five senses — that elevates these nine restaurants and bars from merely beautiful to downright, drop-dead sexy.

Tavernetta
It’s as though the beautiful people in the Slim Aarons photographs on the walls are stepping right into the electric atmosphere of this instant Union Station hit and sibling to Boulder's James Beard Award–winning Frasca Food and Wine. (The likewise acclaimed Semple Brown Design did the interiors.) You’ll feel special just for being in the midst of the dazzling buzz, never mind the service from a legendary hospitality team. Order up a bottle of champagne and roast chicken for two to complete the magical spell.

NOTE: Due to a kitchen fire, Tavernetta will be closed for a few weeks as of late September.

1889 16th St.; 720-605-1889

El Five
The skyline view: breathtaking. The decor: oh-so-sultry, with its exotic old Egyptian and Turkish movie posters and glowing gold-and-copper accents. The food and drink: tapas and meze for trading bites across the table, and porróns for dramatic, even suggestive, imbibing. Edible Beats’ penthouse-level Spanish-Mediterranean haunt in LoHi (also pictured top) is nothing but sexy.

2930 Umatilla St.; 303-524-9193

Emmerson
Call it the thinking diner’s sex symbol. While the cool edginess of this Boulder “neo-bistro” is obvious at a glance, its sensuousness is in the lovingly executed details: the old Victrola playing as you enter, the subtle pearl-pink hues, the tables set back from the action at the bar for more privacy and oh, that racy cocktail list. The dry-aged rib-eye for two seals the deal.

1600 Pearl St., Boulder; 303-953-9852

54thirty
This chic open-air bar and lounge 20 stories high has views of the mountains on one side, Downtown lights on the other. It's strung with twinkling lights of its own, strewn with lounge furnishings and dotted with fire pits. And the cocktails deliver smoky, spicy and fizzy notes by turns. You’d have to be pretty hardened not to find the just-opened rooftop retreat of the Le Méridien/AC Hotel dead-sexy (and by the way, stubbornness isn’t sexy at all). 

1475 California St.; 303-893-1888

Mizu Izakaya
Funky Japanese scroll–inspired artwork and colorful lights set an enchanting mood at this LoHi izakaya, perfect for cozying up in a window nook along the bar or at the sushi counter: from raw oysters to fried frogs' legs to live uni, half the items on the menu are considered aphrodisiacs in one culture or another.

1560 Boulder St.; 720-372-7100

Hearth & Dram
Bright lights, big city: Expanses of steel, glass and leather have a way of making you feel like you’re moving and shaking in the right place at the right time, especially around the bar. But the seating arrangements at this gorgeous purveyor of wood-fired fare and whiskeys galore balance out that effect, with lots of space between tables and numerous two-tops lining the banquettes to keep you and your companion in your own little bubble.   

1801 Wewatta St.; 303-623-0979

Concourse Restaurant Moderne
It’s all about the undulating, up-lit ceiling. Essentially a hanging sculpture of wooden waves, it almost seems to be gently washing over you even as you bathe in the glow of Concourse’s LIVstudio-designed dining room in Stapleton. And the sense of immersion in warmth extends to the menu — elegant as chef-partner Luke Bergman’s New American cuisine is, there’s a heartiness that makes you want to dive right in with someone.

10195 E. 29th Dr.; 720-550-6934

Il Posto
Another LIVstudio project, this two-story RiNo stunner combines see-and-be-seen glitz with peekaboo secrecy. Tall circular booths are practically rooms of their own, while the couples at the bar take shelter in their shadow, and the tables on the mezzanine await high above it all. The lusciousness of chef-owner Andrea Frizzi’s contemporary Italian food only enhances the setting, which is lit by a free-form sculpture of blown-glass bulbs that hang from the ceiling like amber stars.

2601 Larimer St.; 303-394-0100

Poka Lola Social Club
If the lobby bar of an office building sounds like a dud for a hot date, you haven’t seen the one in Dairy Block. A collaboration between Sage Restaurant Group and notable New York firm Crème, the art deco–inspired design captivates with its stained-glass panels, low lights, couches to curl up on and plenty of tables for two, never mind the fabulous cocktails. Besides, there’s actually something to the way the lobby sets you at a remove from the LoDo grind — it takes you a little out of time and place, where all sorts of surprises can happen. (On that note, there's also a boutique hotel on-site.)

1850 Wazee St.; 720-460-2725

BONUS: Bar Helix
Shortly after this story went live, Kendra "Swirl Girl" Anderson opened her su​ltry, slinky RiNo lounge, and we couldn't resist updating our list any more than we can resist the place itself — neo-Negronis, caviar service, glittering bar, banquette cage, "yacht rock" and all. 

3440 Larimer St.; 720-449-8587

cocktails
tapas
downtown
lohi
boulder
lodo
rino
stapleton
union station
central business district
dairy block
el five
tavernetta
il posto
emmerson
54thirty
mizu izakaya
poka lola social club
concourse restaurant moderne
hearth & dram
bar helix