Al Lado, spanish for next door is not only the name of this brand new spanish tapas and latin wine bar that opens today in Denver but is also a description of its location. I say this because when I asked for directions I was told it was “next-door to Zengo”, a well-known latin-asian fusion restaurant that not only shares a wall with Al Lado but a head chef by the name of Richard Sandoval.
After these helpful directions I quickly found Al Lado nestled alongside its more famous companion. Upon first impression what I noticed was the size of the place. It instantly struck me as unique because although it is more intimately proportioned for drinks rather than food, it also gives off the vibe that you are in a new hip Denver restaurant. I can easily imagine myself suggesting this place for after work drinks or as a meeting place to start a night on the town. However the size of the establishment can also be disconcerting because if it becomes too busy it will feel crammed which will diminish its relaxed charm that it makes it so appealing. Also its limited square footage only allows room for one unisex bathroom, which makes you instantly feel like you are at a bar while you are standing in line and not in a good way. Nevertheless the concern I have for its size is purely a hypothetical but very plausible problem.What is not hypothetical though is their menu…
Al Lado’s menu is filled with delicious and well crafted spanish tapas that are deserving of the Richard Sandoval name. Their Cocas or Spanish flat breads are especially impressive, and I left with a lingering desire to eat about ten more Cocas de Jamon Y Higos. I also truly enjoyed the authentic spanish feel of the menu. Because if you have ever visited Spain, especially Barcelona-a city that is near and dear to my own heart - you know there are several tapas served at almost every single restaurant. And of course Al Lado had the traditional patatas bravas, tortillas espanola and pan con tomate. All of which were very delicious and managed to introduce new complexity while retaining its authentic Spanish feel. However the price point on some of these tapas are too high. This does subtract from Al Lado’s casual atmosphere and the general appeal of sharing small plates. Even though I did not find the prices so appetizing there are other benefits of choosing Al Lado. Like Zengo this place is not solely representative of just one cuisine. Instead Sandoval has once again seamlessly paired two different cultures together just as he has done with his other well-known restaurant .
Al Lado has an extensive latin wine list that perfectly complements these spanish small plates. Along with its impressive cocktails, spanish cavas and house made sangrias, this well-rounded drink menu transforms the little restaurant into a chic and relaxed wine bar. As I described earlier this aspect of the restaurant is its saving grace because it makes its petite size more palatable but because its price points are much more reasonable. On average you can get an excellent glass of wine for anywhere from $7-10 dollars, which is impeccable for any restaurant standards. Plus latin wines such as those from Chile are becoming increasingly known as for their quality and their prices. Their cocktails and sangrias are ridiculously good and thoughtfully made as well. Most of their drinks use fruit puree like that of passion fruit and therefore are fresh and extremely flavorful. I personally loved the Basque Kiss and would consider it one of the best cocktails I ever had. And because of this great drink list I would highly recommend this place. Despite its flaws it can offer a different experience that can fit many occasions and give you a great experience on all levels. The food is excellent, although pricey and the drinks are exceptional and make up for the smaller space. So go before everyone finds out about this place and experience it while it’s at its best, and hopefully they will able to keep its balance between restaurant and wine bar that makes it so appealing and note worthy.