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On Denver’s sun-smooched days — of which there are hundreds — locals and visitors alike flock outside to enjoy the scintillating scenery. And there’s no better way to soak up summer than on one of The Mile High City’s splendid patios. From skyward rooftop terraces to lushly landscaped gardens, these are some of the ultimate spots to eat and drink alfresco in Denver. For the hottest new restaurants, check out our Must-Try Restaurants page.
Occupying a see-and-be-seen plot in the Sheraton Denver Downtown Hotel, this elevated cocktail emporium famed for its innovative libations and equally inventive garnishes — think sugar-spangled rose petals — parades a 16th Street Mall-facing patio that pulsates with infectious energy. Sink into a comfy chair to bask in the warmth of a firepit, order a platter of charbroiled oysters haloed with candied habanero chilies and dusted with fennel pollen and sip a spirit-powered A Mile Up Mt. Hattan, a cocktail canon of George A. Dickel & Co. and Leopold Bros. blended rye, Amaro Montenegro, Carpano Bianco and orange bitters. If you’re shunning alcohol, go the zero-proof route and savor the Berry Sweet Dreams with cream, blackberries and raspberries.
A giant playground from morning till moonlight, Improper City, a sprawling outdoor complex in the River North Art District (RiNo), attracts everyone from java fiends who jumpstart their day with a latte to night owls who congregate on the artist-graffitied patio for beers, season-intuitive cocktails, eats from various food trucks, live music, yoga sessions and game nights. The 12,000-square-foot outdoor space is a romping ground for leashed and friendly dogs, too; just make sure its humans are equally well-behaved.
Residing in Denver's Lower Highland (LoHi) neighborhood, Avanti Food & Beverage, a dynamically diverse food hall occupying a former printing plant, shelters a collection of self-contained shipping containers, each of which is a mini restaurant. Diners can choose from a world-spanning variety of cuisines — everything from Hong Kong-style curry to poke bowls — and enjoy their bounty in the communal first-floor dining area, or on the riveting rooftop deck, which offers fashionable lounge furniture and enthralling views of the downtown Denver skyline. Along with its restaurants, Avanti also lays claim to two bars, including one on the altitude-high terrace.
Craft beer — dozens of them — is the backbone of this sprawling 12-acre Littleton-based campus trumpeting a behemoth restaurant and bar, a lovely wraparound porch that peers over thicketed open space and a delightful beer garden scattered with shaded picnic tables and lawn games — essentially everything you could possibly envision in your beervana dreams. Warm-weather outdoor concerts, firepits and a solid menu of beer-friendly food temptations (think charcuterie and cheese, fish-and-chips, elk burgers and chili) furthers the argument to plop your butt in a seat here as often as possible.
Named one of Bon Appetit’s Best New Restaurants of 2017, Annette, part of the restaurant roundup gracing Aurora’s Stanley Marketplace, embodies everything you could possibly want from a dining experience: an elevated casual vibe, unassailable ingredients, full-throttled flavor combinations, a small but enormously satisfying wine scroll and a brilliant patio situation. Small parties of two-to-four can hang out in one of the intimate polycarbonate greenhouses furbished with rugs, warm blankets, fresh foliage and space heaters, or have dinner in a luxurious insulated yurt bedecked with white retro-mod chairs, wood-trellised walls punctuated with framed artwork and two socially distanced tables that seat six-to-eight diners.
Leave it to restaurateur and design genius Justin Cucci (Linger, Ophelia’s, Vital Root and Root Down) to erect an epic rooftop patio with equally glorious skyline views from its elevated perch in Lower Highland (LoHi) An elevator whisks you up to the fifth floor of El Five, where Mediterranean tapas and creative cocktails timed for the seasons intersect, and while both the food and libations are noteworthy, we wouldn’t fault Cucci if he charged an entrance fee just for the opportunity to behold the bright lights of the big city from that sky-high deck.
Even if your preferred baseball team isn’t the Colorado Rockies, there’s no denying the obvious: The massive bi-level rooftop plaza, overlooking right field, is worth the price of admission into Coors Field. Decked out with multiple bars, good eats from numerous vendors (including the iconic Biker Jim’s Gourmet Dogs) and curtained cabanas that sport wall-mounted TVs, the aerial playground is a thrilling place to party, and no matter where you choose to sit (or stand), there’s a view to a thrill, whether it’s the downtown cityscape, Colorado’s magnificent mountain peaks or the field of dreams below.
Number Thirty Eight — named to recognize Colorado’s status as the 38th state to enter the union — is the River North Art District’s (RiNo) answer to, well, everything: live local and national bands; outdoor movie screens; beach volleyball courts; a taproom; food, wine and cocktails. The whopping 18,000-square-foot patio, packed with picnic tables, Adirondack chairs with cup holders and a duo of bar rails, is unlike any other concept in the city, its acreage a must-visit destination for outdoor frivolity, independent of the season. Its outdoorsy theme, a nod to Colorado’s preferred lifestyle, extends to the beer, wine and cocktail program, too, which is full-throttle Colorado. The food scroll, courtesy of Split Lip, a trio of pro chefs, is short, but the fantastic burgers are sky-high.
By some remarkable feat, a 1975 GMC RV, hued lime green, was dropped onto the massive rooftop of Linger, a hip Lower Highland (LoHi) hotspot for soaking up the sun, imbibing cocktails and grazing on globe-trotting small plates dispensed from the kitchen of owner Justin Cucci’s “eatuary,” a play on words that stems from its former days as a mortuary. But Linger is anything but morbid. The terrace channels a midcentury-mod vibe, and the food, much like the infectious energy that radiates on the rooftop, is full of verve (vegan Filipino spring rolls, Korean barbecue short rib tacos and pork belly bao buns with grilled pineapple jam). Gaze and marvel at the twinkling lights that kindle both the sky and the city skyline, and you'll see why Travel + Leisure named this one of "America's Coolest Rooftop Bars."
Tamayo, a modern Mexican restaurant from celeb chef Richard Sandoval (La Sandia, Toro and Maya), is venerated for its creative adaptations of regional south-of-the-border cuisine, extensive tequila syllabus and high-design rooftop patio, a partially enclosed expanse on Larimer Square that’s prime real estate for eyeballing those magnificent Colorado sunsets and the illuminated light display that blankets the block and city skyline. What to order: margaritas, crab guacamole, shrimp ceviche and the pork carnitas with pickled vegetables, black beans and housemade tortillas.
If you’re going to name your restaurant and bar “Viewhouse,” then you’d better live up to the brag. Viewhouse does exactly that by giving scenery fiends multiple vantage points to study the city’s vast panoramas, which expand in every direction. While the side patio is designed for lighthearted lounging in cabanas and engaging in lawn games, the rooftop is seriously breathtaking. And given its proximity to Coors Field, the rousing Ballpark gathering spot is a natural pre- and post-game party stop.
Everything tastes and drinks better on this sophisticated, vibrant, open-air rooftop sprawl — the highest in Denver — roosting on the 20th floor of the Le Méridien Denver Downtown hotel. Grandstanding showstopping views of the state’s imperial mountain vistas, as well as sweeping panoramas of the city sphere, it’s the perfect hotspot for an after-work pour and post-dinner cocktails around the firepit. The cocktail to drink? Mez Tai Meets the Sky, a mezcal-and-rum-forward sipper crowned with passion fruit honey foam. Note that the rooftop bar is seasonal; before you go, call ahead.
Lowry’s answer to a landing strip for kids, tweens and adults, this 500-seat, 9,000-square-foot German-style beer garden encompasses everything you could possible want from a patio perch: fire pits, communal Oktoberfest-style picnic tables, a beer syllabus inked with 16 tap lines and an additional 40 by the bottle and can, plus live music (seasonal) and a menu that appeases every appetite: brats, hot dogs, burgers, sandwiches, salads and a slew of snacks that seesaw from chicken wings to soft pretzels mated with melted cheese. Bonus: Leashed (and good-mannered) dogs are allowed on the patio.
From the owners of the Hornet, a longstanding neighborhood hang on South Broadway, comes this similarly convivial spot in Highland that caters to all tastes with a something-for-everyone menu of wraps and sandwiches, salads, soups, gluten-free fried chicken and fish and seafood dishes, including blackened salmon and spectacular scallops. The urban-chic interior, outfitted with ostrich heads painted on exposed brick, a host stand made from a repurposed pasta maker and cool blue pendant lamps, extends to the patio, a sun-drenched oasis with an L-shaped indoor-outdoor bar, a community table, greenery and plenty of umbrellas to shield a sunburn. To sip: an organic red or wine slushie with a float of Leopold Bros. blackberry liqueur.
The rooftop terrace at Platt Park’s Izakaya Den is like a civilized garden soiree high above the spirited party that’s South Pearl Street. Ascend the stairwell, flanked with foliage, to the alfresco oasis of serenity decked out with leafy greenery, marble, stone and wood accents and a retractable roof that ensures a cozy conservatory even when there’s an unpredictable summer storm brewing. A bowl of the immorally delicious lobster ramen paired with a few sake cocktails will make you want to stick around long after the night sky fades to black.
If you’re with a gaggle of friends and have an affinity for food trucks and innovative cocktails, then Finn’s Manor, in the River North Art District (RiNo), is your rumble. The expansive space, fenced with bright pink and yellow slats, makes the most of repurposed throwaways: rusty steel carts, surfaced with wood, double as tables, and they’re cleverly roofed with corrugated metal siding and weathered lumber. A fleet of food trucks shares space with Denver’s hungry, and the indoor bar, which grooves to a New Orleans vibe, inebriates the thirsty with punch and potent craft cocktails, many of which salute whiskey.
Funky, cool and effortlessly laid-back, this South Broadway tribute to some of the best wood-fired pizzas, cocktails and natural and organic wines in the city is also a magnet for patio prowlers. It’s a lovely rooftop sanctuary ambient with strands of warm white lights, a slatted wood roof to keep the sun from scorching your shoulders, ceiling heaters in the event the weather plays tricks, neon pink-lit flamingo yard art to channel a tropical vibe and a mesmerizing view of Colorado’s peaks. Plan accordingly to nab a front-row stool along the far west-facing wall to behold the sight of the dipping sun.
Worlds away from the busy backdrop of foot traffic that stampedes across the one-block stretch of Larimer Square, the courtyard patio of Bistro Vendome is as long on charm as the Eiffel Tower is tall. Potted with flamboyant foliage and illuminated with strings of white lights, it’s an enchanting oasis for a romantic rendezvous, especially when you have flutes of bubbles and a bowl of mussels and frites to share. In sum, it’s a lovely place for any kind of date, independent of whether it’s early in the game or a celebratory anniversary.
From humble beginnings, the Edgewater Public Market is now a show-stopping destination for terrific shopping, drinking, eating and special events, including outdoor movies and festivals. Coffee, arepas, gyros, wood-fired pizza, ramen, crepes, empanadas, lobster rolls, ice cream, burgers, tacos and some of the most notable and craveable Ethiopian food in the city pepper the market hall’s landscape, which gets a boost from the sun-drenched rooftop bar graced with an airstream trailer slinging beer, potent cocktails and hard seltzers. You can fault the magnificent views overlooking nearby Sloan’s Lake and, just beyond, the Denver skyline, for ditching the work-related Zoom meeting.
By Lori Midson
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