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First Look: Kendra Anderson Pops the Cork on RiNo's Bar Helix

This chic lounge is the atmospheric equivalent of the little black dress and the smoking jacket
October 2, 2017
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by Ruth Tobias

Photos by Ruth Tobias (unless otherwise noted)

The gist: Anyone who follows Kendra Anderson — the former catering chef and sommelier-about-town long known to Denverites as Swirl Girl — on social media knows of her love for the good life. Anyone who doesn’t is about to find out. “This is my lifestyle,” she says of Bar Helix, the ultra-glam ’70s-inspired lounge she’s opening in RiNo on October 3. “This is the way I live. Let’s all drink rosé and listen to yacht rock.” From the sexy drinks to the witty small plates to the splashy yet cozy vibe, it’s a mix in her own words of polish and trash: a little bit Herb Alpert, a little bit of the late Hugh Hefner (“I drew so much from the interiors of the Playboy Clubs,” she says) — and all Swirl Girl. The fact that “I have roller skates and I plan to wear them while I’m serving,” as she explains, should tell you almost all you need to know. Here’s the rest.

Kendra Anderson, owner of Bar Helix; photo by Shannan Reese

The food: Anderson’s high-low aesthetic is vividly encapsulated in the menu. Working without a hood on induction burners, executive chef John Hadala (ex Il Posto) is nonetheless delivering snacks to make date night go right: think lardo bagna cauda with ciabatta and crudités, housemade blueberry pop tarts with foie gras parfait and “ballerific caviar service” completed by lemon crème fraîche, tater tots and Pringles, for real. Still squeamish about fish eggs? Try the Bump and Bubbles: your server will daub a bit of caviar on your thumb joint for you to lick after a shot of champagne. Anderson calls it “the gateway to caviar addiction;” after all, she adds in an allusion to bumps of a different sort, “in another era, this may have been the bar where such debauchery went down.” 

Alba Avella, the de facto GM (official titles aren't a thing here), shows off the bar cart on the patio

The drinks: Anderson aims to push buttons and boundaries here as well. A temperature-controlled wine room will contain about 100 labels, with 30 by the glass; commit to two glasses, and your server will open any bottle on the list. It’s her way of getting people to leave their comfort zone of Pinot Grigio and Cabernet Sauvignon in favor of Chablis, Cabernet Franc or any other region or varietal they’re not familiar with. In a neighborhood flooded with local craft brew, she’s sticking to a few seasonal beers from outside Colorado and the U.S. — but, she promises, they’ll “totally be for the beer nerds.” And as for cocktails, the emphasis is on the suave and the flirty, starting with five variations on Anderson’s beloved Negroni, which at any given time could feature rye, mezcal or Aperol in place of gin.

The house Negroni, served in branded glasses, contains honey-infused Barr Hill Old Tom Gin and Montanaro 6 PM Aperitivo instead of Campari to give it what Anderson calls a richer, rounder profile

The space: “I had such a clear vision of what I wanted this place to look like,” says Anderson — “luxurious, but also very RiNo. Floors bared, ceilings exposed, graffiti… Naughty in all sorts of ways.” The bar’s patterned with a bubble motif to evoke champagne; behind it, wall tiles suggest “my own little disco ball,” as she describes it. A small patio boasts a separate drink cart, while the back lounge glows in hues of crimson and gold, lined with her own photos of Negronis as well as a partitioned banquette to cuddle on. A six-seat counter lines the tiny kitchen that serves as a bridge between the parties going down in each room — because the spot will be a grown-ups’ party place, guaranteed. Dress like you mean it. 

The details: 3440 Larimer St.; 720-449-8587. Bar Helix will be open Tuesday–Sunday from 4 PM to midnight.  

"Crack mix" combines whole wheat Chex, pita chips, herbed chickpea crackers and crumbled bacon with Worcestershire butter, honey, herbs, za'atar and lemon rind for an indeed addictive, Negroni-friendly nibble.

Popcorn seasoned with jalapeño powder, cilantro and lime comes in a bowl rimmed with funky huitlacoche butter. (Ask for a wedge of lime to keep your teeth from staining black.) Here, it's served alongside the Bad Bitch, containing rye, Aperol, blackberry simple and a hint of lemon to subvert conventional thinking about masculine versus feminine cocktails

Crispy smashed fingerlings — aka "trailer taters" — are cooked in beef tallow, flavored with Parmesan-truffle salt and accompanied by Miller High Life–white cheddar fondue

Tater tots also appear in waffle form, topped with your choice of luscious house-smoked salmon, everything-seeded cream cheese and dollops of caviar or pickle-brined, buttermilk-fried chicken with Sriracha–wildflower honey aïoli

Drag the two-bite porcini arancini through the swath of romesco, redolent with smoked chives, parsley and thyme

Just say yes to mini profiteroles stuffed with buttermilk-basil ice cream atop porter-caramel sauce

The dreamy back room. Note that there are outlets everywhere; though Anderson hopes it will be the kind of place that inspires people to get to know the people in front of them rather than the contacts on their screens, but she also understands that the charging struggle is real

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