The joyous combination of food and music is as old as time. Revelry at its finest generally involves the joining of the two, but all too often, venues are unable to master both. Fortunately, as Denver continues its course towards cosmopolitan sophistication, several venues have sprung up offering a good stage, well thought-out lineups and delicious food that could easily stand on its own. Each locale is original and offers a distinctly different scene. Barbecue and indie rock, upscale jazz and the blended stylings of an infamous gastro-brothel are all represented — quality and novelty are served in equal measure.
Where: 4483 Logan St., Denver
When: 4 p.m. – close, any day there is a show. Calendar here.
The Lowdown: Globe Hall is an oasis Denver didn’t know it needed. Stationed in Globeville — near to I-70 and Washington — the venue is an odd addition to the largely residential area. Consisting of a dining area and bar connected to a separate space where events are held, the two-year-old venue has the feel of a DIY space and a lineup to confirm the vibe. Chock full of indie rock, local showcases, non-mainstream hip hop and electronic acts, the space plays host to events five to seven days a week. The open format of the intimate room combined with the low stage makes it the perfect locale for the audience and performer to connect on a level that truly is the foundation of independent music. Upcoming events include Black Joe Lewis and the Honeybears, Zola Jesus and Shigeto.
To fuel the fire, a straightforward menu of top-notch barbecue is served from a window in the back corner of the room. Unobtrusive as it may seem, it only takes one bite to realize that the selections on hand may indeed be the star of the show. The menu is strictly the classics — brisket, pulled pork, turkey breast and ribs with a side selection of potato salad, slaw and mac n’ cheese — the simplicity is clearly by design. A half rack of ribs ($20) is six enormous ribs and — if paired with a couple sides — it’s enough to feed two. Opening at four and slinging throughout the night, the ‘cue has an authenticity that warrants a stop whether you intend to let your hair down or not.
When: Tuesday – Saturday, 6 p.m. – close. Calendar here.
Where: 1330 27th St., Denver.
The Lowdown: Nocturne might be one of the sexiest new venues in Denver. Opening its doors in March 2015, the seductive venue might be hard to find if it weren’t for the colorful mural by highly accomplished Denver-based muralist Detour that lines the entrance. But if jazz is even remotely your thing, you’ve got to find this place. Each evening plays host to performances from stunning local talent and more renowned players including international legends like Jeff Hamilton.
Boasting one of the best cocktail programs in the city, the classic and original compositions are done with a level of expertise that matches the sophisticated aesthetic of the lounge. The Corbata Mia ($12) is blanco tequila, watermelon shrub, lime, orgeat and pastiche bitters. It’s one of those cocktails that almost transcends description, and fits in with the entire creative oeuvre of the list — the pistachio and orgeat bring a nuttiness that is unexpected perfection in a tequila cocktail. The wine list is an excellent reflection of the kind of scene that owner and sommelier Scott Mattson is trying to curate. It includes a thoughtful selection of reds, whites, bubbles, ports and dessert wines.
The food menu is equally impressive. Oysters, charcuterie, pâté, and surf and turf are but a few of the markers of refinement that comprise the menu. The real highlight is chef Greg Weadick’s changing tasting menu inspired by historic jazz albums. Having taking inspiration from many records including Art Blakey’s Moanin and Led Zeppelin’s Houses of the Holy — the current menu is a tribute to Miles Davis’ Prestige Quintet Sessions. The five-course menu is $59 with an optional pairing selected by Mattson for an additional $35 per person.
Ophelia’s Electric Soapbox
When: Monday – Friday, 4 p.m. – 12 a.m., Saturday, 10 – 1 a.m. and Sunday 10 – 12 a.m. Calendar here.
Where: 1215 20th St., Denver.
The Lowdown: Justin Cucci has a knack for creative enterprises. From the converted mortuary Linger to his most recent endeavor — Middle Eastern tapas Shangri-La El Five — the man is no stranger to unusual aesthetic juxtapositions. Ophelia’s Electric Soapbox is a fantastic eatery and music venue occupying the space of an old brothel — with design elements to match the venues racy history. Erotic pulp novels and movie posters line the walls and bar top, suggestive slogans abound. Though it is the layout that is perhaps the venue’s greatest merit. The stage is downstairs, with the main dining area looking down on it from above. While the unconventional motif can be the initial draw, the quality of the place vastly surpasses the novelty. Extraordinary food and a lineup that includes big names, throwback gems and a variety of local parties ensure that Ophelia’s will be a staple of Denver’s growing music scene for years to come. Upcoming acts include reggae legends Black Uhuru, local hotshot Wes Watkins and hip hop icons The Pharcyde.
Like the rest of Cucci’s operations, the food at Ophelia’s is top notch — a long list of local partners and a commitment to using organic ingredients as much as possible lays a good foundation. Everything is approached creatively — ordinary items are rethought into something sublime. The brothel burger ($17) is elk, Korean BBQ, miso candied bacon, ponzu onions, pickled vegetables and a pretzel bun. The cocktail menu takes inspiration from the locales explicit underpinnings with beverage titles including Passion Tramp, Hard Eight and Call Boy. The Sex Machine ($12) is tequila, ancho reyes, Leopold peach, lime and cayenne. Spicy and refreshing, the peach still sits front and center. Also, open for a weekend brunch, Ophelia’s is a good indication that Denver is becoming a city where the bar set for imagination and excellence is indeed on the rise.
All Photography by Alden Bonecutter.