Feature

Denver's 10 Sexiest New Restaurants and Bars

By Ruth Tobias  |  October 10, 2016
Credit: TAG Restaurant Group

Beauty may be in the eye of the beholder, but we defy any beholder to deny the allure of these 10 drop-dead dazzlers — all best bets for your next date. Terrific eats and drinks are just a bonus.

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  • Credit: Adam Larkey Photography

    Departure Restaurant + Lounge
    Never mind the celebrity of exec chef Gregory Gourdet: The very architecture of this Pan-Asian destination in Cherry Creek exudes the sex appeal of star power. The aerodynamic thrust of the island bar. The shimmering-sunburst tile work of the open kitchen. The captains’-club feel of the dining rooms on either side. The racy X-rays lining the private tatami room (pictured). Departure's jetsetter chic just doesn’t stop until you hit the top — the rooftop, that is, where poolside and skyline views intoxicate as much as the cocktails.

    249 Columbine St.; 720-772-5020

  • Credit: Corey Anthony

    Avelina
    From the leather furnishings and glassed-in wine cabinets to the gauzy drapery and pops of color, Avelina's the interior design equivalent of Lauren Bacall and Humphrey Bogart at the beginning of Key Largo. Here, classy meets comfy, sleek meets lived-in, sultry meets handsome — all against a backdrop that recalls a breezy resort smack in the middle of LoDo. The fact that the kitchen is led by a beloved husband-and-wife team, John Broening and Yasmin Lozada-Hissom, only sharpens the picture.

    1550 17th St.; 720-904-6711

  • Credit: Nicole Branan

    Mister Tuna
    Troy Guard has a proven track record as the Pied Piper of beautiful people, who’ve long been lured by the glam Downtown scenes at TAG and Guard and Grace. Now he’s packing them into this soaring, streamlined RiNo hot spot, where the bar and chef’s counter run the length of the room parallel to a central plush banquette, all overlooked by a private mezzanine — so nearly every seat in the house is an invitation to cozy up to the person next to you, be it a date or a stranger. On the far wall, the mural portrait of a gorgeous woman only enhances the come-hither mood. (OK, it's Guard's mom, but just let that detail go.)

    3033 Brighton Blvd.; 303-831-8862

  • Credit: Ruth Tobias

    Black Eye Coffee/White Lies
    With its high ceilings and bold black-and-white geometry, Black Eye Coffee is buzzy and urbane — yet it’s also strewn with velvet booths and vintage accents that give it an almost-quaint intimacy. It’s bright and sunny by day, when it operates as a coffeehouse; by night, it transforms into White Lies, a twinkling lounge serving up cocktails and seasonal plates in equally sophisticated measure. Either way, its splashy style reflects well on everyone who enters it; looking good is just a matter of sitting down and soaking up the atmosphere.

    800 Sherman St.; 303-955-1205

  • Credit: Sushi Ronin

    Sushi Ronin
    Corey Baker’s LoHi haunt may not be a secret, but thanks to both the low-key intimacy of its setting and the engaging manner of its service, it still manages to feel like your own private rendezvous. Personal touches abound at the sushi counter up front, right down to the wall art that Baker painted himself and the lack of a partition between you and his crew. In back, a bar as amber-hued as the Japanese whiskeys lining its shelves beckons when you want a little tête-à-tête to go with your nightcap. 

    2930 Umatilla St.; 303-955-8741

  • Credit: Arcana

    Arcana
    Just as its open kitchen aims to showcase the diverse bounty of America’s past, present and future foodways, so too does the interior design of this Boulder stunner, mixing influences, materials and eras to richly multilayered effect — chandeliers and earthenware, leather and pine, a little Art Deco and a little farmhouse. The result is a magnet for anyone who wants to see and be seen.

    909 Walnut St., Boulder; 303-444-3885

  • Credit: Matsuhisa

    Matsuhisa
    VIP exclusivity be damned. Noba Matsuhisa’s Cherry Creek outpost is sexy not because of but despite its prestige, counterbalanced by the glow of warm woods, soft lights, earth tones — and uni shooters, of course. Nothing like a round of those to break even the thickest ice.

    98 Steele St.; 303-329-6628

  • Credit: Nicole Branan

    The Way Back
    An aura of simmering drama surrounds this low-lit Berkeley den, where the mood seems to shift moment to moment. Looking at the decor from one angle, you could almost be in a Japanese spa; from another, a train dining car; from still another, an old motel lounge. The bar crew plays along, pouring you an exuberant tiki drink here, a spot of Sherry there, a boilermaker redux after that, all placing you against a different backdrop and allowing a different backstory to unfold. Permission granted, in short, to step out of your routine and into a little mystery.

    4132 W. 38th Ave.; 720-728-8156 

  • Credit: Ruth Tobias

    Coperta
    Paul and Aileen Reilly’s warm and cozy Uptown trattoria feels more romantic than sexy. But just add cheese, and voilà: You’ve got yourself a setup for seduction. At the back of Coperta’s central dining room sits the gleaming five-seat mozzarella bar, snug enough that it’s physically impossible not to get up close and personal with your dining companion — especially when you’re sharing a dish of luscious, olive oil–bathed mozz to spread on perfectly crusty, chewy bread.

    400 E. 20th Ave.; 720-749-4666

  • Credit: Retrograde/Facebook

    Retrograde
    First, there’s the sheer unlikeliness of its existence: Who’d ever think to look for a cocktail bar behind the freezer door of an Uptown scoop shop? Second, there’s the mesmerizing decor — sparkling in the dark to evoke some sort of cross between a 1920s speakeasy and a scene from the sci-fi sexploitation flick Barbarella. Third: If booze and ice cream isn’t a tried-and-true formula for a hot date, we don’t know what is. 

    530 E. 19th Ave.; 720-600-6358