Whether it’s Valentine’s Day, an anniversary, birthday or any day of the year — date night is an integral part of our society. If you’ve been in a relationship for a while — sometimes you need a night to spice it up and the right environment and food can do that. Same goes for meeting someone for the first time — making sure the restaurant has a lot of character and things that you can talk about is key to keeping the awkwardness at bay. We’ve rounded up a number of places for every type of date whether it be meeting someone from Tinder or Bumble, your longtime beau or someone you met at the bar last weekend. From shuffleboard to dinner and a movie to caviar and foie gras — here lies potential for the perfect date in Denver.
Where: 1890 Wazee St., Denver
The Lowdown: The Dairy Block downtown debuted in 2017 — and with it — Kachina, a modern southwestern cantina. It is inside the same building as the very new Denver Milk Market, the Maven Hotel, a Huckleberry Roasters and Poka Lola bar. So this restaurant is nothing short of lively — with activities and places to explore before and after. And Latin American food is usually a safe bet because who doesn’t like quesadillas or guac? The menu consists of three different types of guacamole, five salsas — and as for the food — not just any tacos but wagyu brisket ($4.50) and spicy cauliflower ($3.50) for the vegetarian. And we can’t not mention the green chile cheeseburger ($13) and the blade scorpion margarita ($10) made with green chartreuse and a scorpion tincture. Afterward, venture just feet away to Poka Lola for a nightcap or a glass of wine at the Cellar in the Milk Market.
Best Date for: a casual dinner that’s still romantic and shows effort.
Where: 4255 W. Colfax Ave., Denver
The Lowdown: Going to the movies is always a fun date — but when it involves dinner and drinks? It makes for the ultimate date night. Alamo Drafthouse in Sloan’s Lake (there’s also a location in Littleton) plays all of the new movie releases and every once a while cool events like Macaulay Caulkin or Neil Patrick Harris coming by to chat — or a Clueless screening/costume party. It has eight theatres, a bar and a huge food menu. Of course, they’ve got your regular movie popcorn but in addition, truffle parmesan popcorn ($8.50). Other snacks include several varieties of wings ($11), chips and queso ($8.50), burrata bruschetta ($11) and more. In addition, salads, pizza, brunch until 2 p.m. daily, hot dogs, sandwiches and entrees like fish & chips ($13). Watching Bohemian Rhapsody along with mac and cheese and a glass of wine? Sounds like a date that can’t go wrong.
Best Date for: a low-pressure date, great for movie buffs or weeknight date nights.
Adrift Tiki Bar
Where: 218 S. Broadway, Denver
The Lowdown: This place lives up to its name of making patrons feel like they are ‘adrift’ at a tiki bar on a faraway island. Adrift Tiki Bar‘s atmosphere is full on tropical with Tiki totems, a bamboo bar, island art on the walls and a beachy patio with a fireplace to add to the ambiance. The waiters wear Hawaiian shirts and features like Gilligan’s Island play on a big screen — they even do events featuring luau dancers. But, the real McCoy is the Polynesian drinks and shareable cocktails like the Black Pearl ($28 for 2/$54 for 4) which consists of two different rums, absinthe, house falernum, Amaro, cassis, lime and pineapple. The food is lite and summery like the aloha chicken lettuce wraps ($10) and Island salmon poke ($16). We recommend going during happy hour which is 5 to 7 p.m. every day, offering $2 off all tiki cocktails, $5 daiquiris, $4 draft beers, and cheap appetizers. Escape to a beach in the city with your main squeeze or first-time bumble date.
Best Date for: a fun date, that’s casual but still intimate.
Where: 3264 Larimer St., Denver
The Lowdown: Nestled on 32nd and Larimer in RiNo is the hip Italian handmade pastaria Dio Mio. When it’s warm out, you can often catch its garage doors open making it a very inviting spot. The interior was designed by Nguyen Lawrence who has designed several other restaurants in the city — the ceiling has what looks like neatly folded pieces of paper scattered all about. Here, you seat yourself and order at the counter — but it’s not what a normal Italian counter would offer. Instead, think more upscale. Start with a shareable plate or two like the house sourdough ($14) with prosciutto, burrata and 15-year aged balsamic or the broccoli ($9) with cheddar sauce, crunchy onions and pickled stems. And the pasta ranges from rigatoni ($16) with fennel sausage and greens to squid ink radiatori ($17) with pork belly and kimchi. Gluten-free fettuccine is offered as well for a $3 charge. For dessert, a healthy sized wine list, dessert liqueurs like cynar and fernet, Italian standard espresso drinks, affogato ($4.50) and olive oil mousse ($9). The food may be up there with fancy — but it’s affordable and the atmosphere is casual and all about good vibes.
Best Date for: a casual but fun date, bonus if they love pasta and hip-hop.
Where: 1487-A S. Pearl St., Denver
The Lowdown: Calling all sushi lovers — one of the best sushi restaurants in the city also happens to have one of the coolest interiors and rooftop patios as well. Izakaya Den — sister restaurant to Sushi Den and on the same block — is a Japanese oasis surrounded with bamboo and modern light fixtures and décor. If you’re trying to impress someone or give them a unique experience — this is a good choice. It is the epitome of sleek and luxurious — the sushi just makes it that much more awesome. The list of sashimi and rolls is huge — any fish or cut or combination and items you may have never tried like the truffle sashimi (5 pc, $18) with kanpachi or uni sea urchin ($8) sourced from Santa Barbara, California. If you and yours aren’t raw fish aficionados, other fare includes pan-fried dumplings ($6), shrimp and lobster wontons ($12) and more. Sip some sake under the stars.
Best Date for: a date you’re trying to impress. The upstairs bar is swanky and beautiful but not white-tablecloth.
Forest Room 5
Where: 2532 15th St., Denver
The Lowdown: Here in Colorado there is no shortage of mountain paradise so it’s only right that here in the capital city is a restaurant and bar that commemorates the outdoors. Forest Room 5 is a woodsy wonderland both inside and outside. Most notably — the outdoor area has fire pits and wood stump chairs that feels like a fancy campsite. The inside is all wooden with fake birds hanging from the ceiling above the bar, a bear statue and deer antlers on the wall. The food and cocktails are outdoor-inspired. Small plates include smoked trout dip ($10) and creamed cornbread ($6) — and for dinner, you can get a sandwich like the smoked bison ($13) with amber ale caramelized onion or a cast iron skillet pie ($13). Many of the cocktails are named after books like the clockwork orange ($12) which is a mix of gin, St. Germain, dry and sweet vermouth and bitters.
Best Date for: a fun, quirky and casual date. Good spot if you want to show that you’re “hip”
Where: 3915 Tennyson St., Denver
The Lowdown: Vital Root is a favorite among the vegan and vegetarian community here in Denver and all foodies alike. But the real attraction is the atmosphere — it has one of the coolest patios with fresh herbs growing on the walls and has a feel of being inside and outside. It’s modern and colorful and has pretty prints of flowers and plants on the walls. As for the food — it serves flavorful dishes using organic oils, unrefined sugars and organic flours. The menu is versatile and multi-cultural using Korean, Indian, Japanese and other influences to make soups, salads, small plates, woks, sandwiches and more. Some good starters are the Korean BBQ veggie wings ($8.50) made with broccoli and cauliflower — and the cashew ‘queso’ dip ($9). Mains include plates like Bahn mi tacos ($10) made with edamame pate and lemongrass tofu — and the vital cobb salad ($15) which comes with coconut ‘bacon.’
Best Date for: a date with a vegan or someone with a lot of allergy-restrictions. Very casual but cool.
Where: 1808 Blake St., Denver
The Lowdown: Pony Up in the ballpark neighborhood has a rather unique concept — french dip sandwiches and craft cocktails. The environment is brick, industrial with a very long bar, fun lighting and casual seating. If you’re the type of couple that dislikes big menus and likes beef — this is your spot. There are five types of French dips — one variety being the Alameda street classic with sea salt, rosemary, mayo and au jus. The rest of the menu is just five sides, one being classic chicken wings with bleu cheese, and one salad — the kale Caesar. Most importantly though, Pony Up has 13 creative drinks for the adventurous drinkers out there. We suggest the grande matcha-colada which has aged rum, coconut cream, pineapple matcha green tea or the sunsets and death with union mezcal, lime, blood orange, genepy and tajin. Food is served until 1 a.m. so it’s good for a late night date spot. It has a shuffleboard table, too.
Best Date for: a fun date, casual but cool and great cocktails.
Super Mega Bien
Where: 1260 25th St., Denver
The Lowdown: Across from Work & Class in RiNo is its newer sister restaurant that you’ve got to try called Super Mega Bien. The concept is Pan-Latin dim sum — like the traditional Chinese concept of small plates like dumplings being pushed on a cart and served at your table — but with the flavors of Brazil, Cuba, Spain and Mexico. When you walk inside it feels like an art gallery — 1,800 Ash Wood dowels shoot from the ceiling held up by 6,000 pounds of steel. And as for the dim sum — the menu lists each item with whether it’s gluten-free or dairy-free and you point out which items on the cart look good or just tell them what you want. The dim sum cart is always changing but it’s got a pretty constant lineup of family-style dishes like the braised lamb mixiote ($15 half, $29 full) served with tortillas and hot stone stew ($29) cooked tableside. And the drinks are just as good — several large-format drinks are offered that you can split with you and yours like the Chilean wine float ($30) (750ml) made with terremoto and fruit sorbet.
Best Date for: an intimate and fun dinner in a cool atmosphere.
Ophelia’s Electric Soapbox
Where: 1215 20th St., Denver
The Lowdown: If you’re into live music, DJ’s, comedy or burlesque — Ophelia’s is your spot. On any given night — there is always something cool going on whether it be a Motown Monday, a ’90s dance party or dueling pianos. The building has previously been a flophouse and peep show parlor of which it pays homage in its décor through dark burgundy and black colors and vintage wallpaper. Whether your date is just for drinks and dancing or a nice dinner — you can have it all here. The food is all responsibly sourced and 75 percent organic. Start with a small plate like the drunken mussels ($18.50) with fresh herbs and grilled bread or the chicken tinga tostada ($9) with avocado crema. As for the main course, you’ve got many options from sandwiches to flatbreads and entrees like the savory chicken & waffles ($25). If you love it, you may want to come back for one of their famous music filled brunches.
Best Date for: a fun but not quite casual dinner. Good for outgoing couples. Stick around for live music, performances or parties downstairs.
Where: 1600 15th St., Denver
The Lowdown: The new French restaurant, Morin in the former Wazee Supper Club space does not disappoint — food wise and aesthetically as well. Both the food and design are somewhat futuristic. It is the epitome of downtown chic and it has tons of seating — and gorgeous décor like a wooden sculpture above the bar that is supposed to be an inverted depiction of Mont Blanc which is in the French Alps. If you’re looking to go more on the fancy side and impress that special someone — you can do it here. Hors d’oeurves include the likes of caviar ($8) with pani poori, creme fraiche and egg yolk — and beef marrow custard ($8) with onion caramel and crispy tendon. If you want to go all out, try the chef’s choice five course ($85) or seven course ($125). And in case that’s not enough extravagance — you can add on foie gras ($10) or Perigord truffle ($50) to your dish. Afterward, grab a dirty martini and hang out in the lounge upstairs.
Best Date for: a fancier dinner that has a great atmosphere and inventive food. Not stuffy. Must like French cuisine.
Where: 3 S. Broadway, Denver
The Lowdown: In the hip area that is South Broadway — home to Mutiny Information Cafe, NOOCH Vegan and a slew of bars, vintage shops and live music spots — is the equally hip restaurant Sputnik. It is a vegan and vegetarian-friendly watering hole with a full espresso bar, too. It’s a funky intimate space with string lights, cozy booths and rotating paintings and art for sale on the walls. It is the perfect spot for the couple that has one vegan and one meat eater — for example, you can get a Cubano ($10) with jackfruit or pork — or a white bbq sandwich ($12) with smoked tempeh or deep-fried chicken breast. A must is the fried pickle chips ($6) with one of their many vegan sauces — the most popular being the vegan ranch. And if you need some grub after a show at the Hi-Dive, they are open until 2 a.m. daily.
Best Date for: a super casual date. Good spot to get to know each other but still low-pressure.
Where: 2930 Umatilla St., 5th floor, Denver
The Lowdown: El Five opened in 2017 and has already been named the restaurant with the best views in the city. It boasts a 360-degree look of the city from the patio as well as inside through the huge windows. And the food is just as elevated with a Mediterranean menu featuring Spanish and Mediterranean tapas, mezze platters and paella. It’s all about sharing here — just a heads up if you’re going on a first date. Start with some quesos ($16) with whipped honey, almonds and crackers — or the spreads of Med ($24) which is two types of hummus, Turkish eggplant, artichokes and pita. Crave-worthy tapas include patatas bravas ($9) with chorizo, salsa and garlic aioli — schwarma spiced lamb ribs ($16) and much more. But again, the views are what it’s all about. Enjoy a romantic cocktail de Gibraltar and take in one of Denver’s world-class sunsets.
Best Date for: a nice dinner in a swanky and sexy atmosphere. Good spot to impress.
Bang Up to the Elephant
Where: 1310 Pearl St., Denver
The Lowdown: In need of a total sensory experience? Bang Up to the Elephant is a fairly new addition restaurant to Capitol Hill and is an ocean of brightly colored mosaic glass, flowy patterns and the intense blue walls and lighting give the feeling of being under the sea. It offers Caribbean-inspired food or as the team calls it ‘calypso cuisine.’ Open as a cafe during the day serving chicory coffee and doughnuts — it livens up at night with rum drinks and jerk chicken aplenty. The tropical vibes are intensified with flavorful dishes like the mofongo ($8) — a plate of plantains, potatoes, peppers, roasted tomato and spiced rum. It is vegan and gluten-free friendly with the option to substitute dishes with seitan. Open until 2 a.m. — stay late and have an island fizzie ($6-7) which comes in six different varieties of club soda and flavored syrups, and add a well shot for $4.
Best Date for: a fun, off-beat date that’s a little more casual.
Where: 2705 Larimer St., Denver
The Lowdown: Attached to the popular Meadowlark Bar — is Meadowlark Kitchen — known for having one of the best burgers in town. This signature burger ($15) is piled mighty high with Irish cheddar sauce, candied spicy bacon, an onion ring, poached egg and jalapeno bacon confit on a house-made brioche bun. If you’re trying to impress your fellow burger connoisseur, you have to make the pilgrimage. Not only that, but it’s also a super cute, intimate spot with colorful paintings throughout and a nice little bar scene. Other food items range from jalapeno dip ($12) with pretzel bites to a roasted half duck ($38) with fried rice, baby corn and mushrooms. If the night goes well — venture next door to the bar for a PBR and some tunes.
Best Date for: a casual dinner right in the heart of RiNo. Good for going out afterward.
Where: 241 Columbine St., Denver
The Lowdown: Quality Italian first opened in NYC in 2013 and recently opened a second location here in the Cherry Creek neighborhood. When we think Cherry Creek — we think dollar signs — but don’t be afraid to venture over here for some Manhattan rooted authentic Italian. The interesting interior makes it a real destination with brown and gold colors reminiscent of the early 20th century with a modern twist. Old family portraits are arranged on the wall in a beautiful fashion, pretty accent plants rest on tables and the bar is a piece of architectural mastery. It specializes in Italian style steaks with alla marsala nero, gorgonzola, horseradish and truffle butter. But start with a half dozen west coast oysters ($18) or some 24-month prosciutto ($16) from Di Parma, Italy. Then go for the steak, like the filet mignon (8 oz. $42, 12 oz. $49) along with a delectable pasta such as the spicy lobster rigatoni alla vodka ($39). It has plenty of non-steak dishes as well.
Best Date for: a nice dinner for picky-eaters and foodies alike.
Where: 3330 Brighton Blvd. #201, Denver
The Lowdown: Safta — located in the Source Hotel + Market Hall — is a restaurant that’s based around Middle Eastern flavors from countries like Israel, Bulgaria, Morroco and more. The dishes are minimalistic — meaning not a lot of filler, just straight fresh ingredients that go together well. The dinner menu consists of an array of salatim which is a term for Israeli side dishes — for example, roasted beets with sumac onions, tahini and coriander. But its true delicacy is the hummus — of which there are five different kinds like the lamb ragu ($16) with crispy chickpeas and scallions and the soft cooked egg ($13) with pickles and harissa. Large plate examples are the harissa roasted chicken ($44) and seabass chraime ($39) with tahini and herbs. And why is this a great date spot? Well, because of the food — and before and after, you can roam around the Source and grab a beer at Crooked Stave or New Belgium and check out the many purveyors and vendors.
Best Date for: a more upscale dinner that’s not stuffy. Must like Mediterranean food.
Where: 3500 Larimer St., Denver
The Lowdown: Hop Alley has been named a top restaurant in Denver for the past few years — and for good reason — a combination of excellent Chinese cuisine and its sleek modern interior. Usually, the best Chinese restaurants have white tablecloths and an assumed dress code — here it’s more laid back and fun like most places in RiNo. The menu is simple — divided into vegetables, meat and seafood, and noodles or rice or dumplings. Some notable dishes are the chilled tofu ($10) with bang bang sauce, fried wontons ($8) with cream cheese and duck sauce and the favorite among spice lovers — the la zi ji ($19) fried chicken with dried chilis and Sichuan. It has an impressive wine list and cocktails named after rappers but with their proper names like the Dwayne Carter Jr. ($12/$25) which is none other than Lil Wayne, consisting of Absolut elyx, honeysuckle, lemon and curacao.
Best Date for: a fun and hip dinner for an adventurous eater or foodie.
Jovanina’s Broken Italian
Where: 1520 Blake St., Denver
The Lowdown: A new addition restaurant to downtown — Jovanina’s Broken Italian — has lots of character. It sticks to Italian tradition and at the same time goes along with the popular trends of the food world making for something really special. When it comes to dates, this place is pretty romantic due to the candelabras on every table — maybe not the best first date but a good fourth or more. The brick walls and the wheels of steel that drape and hold the tables up is a very conversation worthy topic. If not that, the duck fat brushed house rolls ($6) with black truffle butter may tickle your fancy. Starters include burrata and prosciutto ($17), many vegetable dishes and chilled or wood-roasted oysters (6 for $12, 12 for $22) — oysters are an aphrodisiac by the way. For mains try the wood-fired pizzas, handmade pasta or other unique entrees. And FYI — it has a basement wine speakeasy.
Best Date for: a nice dinner with a crowd-pleasing menu.
Beatrice & Woodsley
Where: 38 S. Broadway, Denver
The Lowdown: This may be the ultimate date spot due to its euphoric atmosphere of tables surrounded by tree bark and draped by curtains and lanterns — an ‘urban aspen grove.’ Suitable for a date of two or a double date — due to its amply spaced booths. It feels like an exclusive club and bar but it has award-winning food to match. For starters, the delicacy that is roasted bone marrow ($14) or the grilled squid ($14) with charred broccolini are good choices. For dinner, duck leg confit ($29) with braised leeks and grilled baby bok choy ($23) for the vegetarians. Even just having a cocktail and appetizer here is worth it. Though, a reservation is almost required because this place is very sought after.
Best Date for: an intimate and very romantic dinner.