Upon walking into Wildflower — once indoor dining is no longer restricted — you’ll be welcomed by the antique decor, moody lighting and nutty scent of smoked pecan. The leather-backed chairs, hand-drawn wallpaper and floral patterns evoke a sense of mystique that draws you in and a familiarity that makes you want to stay for a while. The new LoHi restaurant pays homage to Denver’s Mexican and Italian heritage through its elegant cocktail program, vegetable-forward menu and amicable hospitality.
After the pandemic caused the cocktail bar and restaurant There… to close several months ago, former owner Oren Cohen was approached by the owners of the Life House hotel group to manage the new LoHi concept. The hotel group creates artfully designed hotels that include community-driven restaurants meant to tell the story of the neighborhood. The LoHi hotel and restaurant was built to illustrate the American frontier in the Victorian era. The building’s simple exterior is a nod to the industrialists who built the city while the interior tells the story of Victorian opulence through floral patterns, textured glass and vintage keepsakes.
The hotel itself is meant to be a house — rather than a traditional hotel — with the warm hospitality of home. “We want to make sure we are connecting and engaging with every one of our guests when they enter and leave the space,” said Cohen. The restaurant acts as a living room that guests — and the public — can lounge in once restrictions are lifted. “The dining room feels like grandma’s house — it’s petite and soulful. When the chef is cooking you’re smelling the garlic and everything pouring into the space and that’s comforting,” said Cohen.
Life House was intentionally designed to be an intimate place for travelers to stay while exploring all that Colorado has to offer. It has 16 rooms ranging from spacious suites to bunk rooms for group travel. The bunk rooms at Life House aren’t your typical bunk room though — the beds are all custom made, with full-size mattresses and privacy curtains, not the rickety twin bunk beds from your childhood. The idea is for group travelers to have affordable accommodations that are high-quality, clean and comfortable. “We want the stay to be intimate so our staff can get to know the guests when they are staying at the hotel or dining with us,” Cohen explained, “We want it to feel like home.”
Wildflower’s cocktails are standouts, to say the least. The drinks highlight aromas and flavors from the Western landscape of Colorado like orange blossom, lavender, thyme and cherry. “The wildflower is the backdrop of Colorado, so we’ve incorporated floral elements into the drinks and food,” said Cohen.
The Smoked Old Fashioned ($14) is a must-try for not only the sophisticated mixology but for the presentation as well. It is served with Old Forester Bourbon and your choice of timber — maple cherry, oak or pecan — that is smoked and held around the cocktail by a glass dome until it’s served. The server wafts the smoke around the guest, leaving a pleasant lingering aroma.
Since you can’t enjoy the cocktails at the bar right now, Wildflower has altered the menu to be more takeout-friendly and now offers four to-go cocktails: the Wildflower Negroni ($15), Spicy Grapefruit ($14), Chamomile Sour ($14) and Lavender Kiss ($14). The Negroni celebrate’s Wildflower’s Mexican and Italian roots with mezcal instead of gin while the Spicy Grapefruit brings together tequila, grapefruit and jalapeño for a quirky and refreshing drink with a spicy kick. The Lavender Kiss is the older, more sophisticated cousin of the kamikaze with house-made lavender liquor and the Chamomile Sour is made with mead from Dragon Meadery and drinks like a whiskey sour with floral, warm notes of chamomile and honey. “We’re making fun, delicious cocktails that you’re stoked to drink at home,” said Cohen. You’ll also find several natural wines, local beer and locally fermented mead to round out the drink menu.
The Italian-inspired menu impresses with a new focus on “tasteful value” according to Cohen, “We had to change our menu to be more approachable for takeout and we’re excited to still be here to serve the community.” With Chef William Harris — former executive chef of Linger — at the lead, the kitchen does a wonderful job of incorporating Wildflower’s natural floral elements with rich Italian cuisine. The burrata in the Burrata Puglise and Beet Salad ($16) is flown in from Puglia, Italy within two days of being made. It tastes incredible when coupled with the rosemary toast and fresh beet salad and has an extraordinary, melt-in-your-mouth flavor you’ll be thinking about for a while. The house-made pasta in the Hand Cut Pappardelle ($19) makes the perfect backdrop for the rabbit sugo that pairs beautifully with orange gremolata.
Whether you want to rent out the entire Life House hotel for a future wedding or spend an evening at home enjoying Wildflower’s cocktails and seasonal plates, you’ll be greeted with warm hospitality that makes you feel welcome, even if it is a quick exchange through a takeout window.
Due to the current restrictions on indoor dining, Wildflower is offering food to-go as well as in-room service for guests. Wildflower requests that you place your order over the phone by calling 720-706-6615.
Life House and Wildflower are located at 3638 Navajo St, Denver. Open Tuesday – Sunday 5 – 9 p.m. All Photography Courtesy of Life House.