With inspiring views, innovative cuisine and plenty of restaurants with intimate atmospheres, Denver has ample opportunities for a rendezvous with your sweetheart. Looking for classy French dining or something trendy and unique? Check out the romantic restaurants below, and be sure to make reservations ahead of time for those you intend to visit.
BEATRICE AND WOODSLEY
Gauzy white curtains, towering aspen trunks, wooden footbridges traipsing across the ceiling — Beatrice and Woodsley's interior is as creative as it is romantic. Feel like you've escaped to a mountain cabin while you adventure through the innovative menu. Start with a farm-to-glass cocktail, such as the cucumber-and-dill-spiked Wayward Englishman, then delve into crawfish beignets or pork shoulder rilettes and finish with the date-studded sticky toffee pudding cake.
One of Denver's hottest spots for special occasions is Rioja, located right in the heart of picturesque Larimer Square — which often has twinkling lights strung across the street and is always alive with couples strolling the boutiques and stopping in cafes, bars and restaurants. Inside Rioja, exposed brick walls, white tablecloths and vintage mirrors set a sophisticated tone, matched by the sumptuous Mediterranean-inspired cuisine: artichoke tortelloni, lobster gnocchi and a decadent pistachio-and-pears dessert are just a sampling.
Elegant, beautiful and oh-so-romantique, Bistro Vendome is tucked away in a charming Larimer Square courtyard for a glorious French dining experience. When the weather permits, nothing is as splendid as the flower- and plant-filled patio, but when it's cold, venture into the warm intimacy inside and sit by the French patio doors. This little oasis in busy downtown is the place to savor duck confit or coq au vin, finished off with orange-scented chocolate fondue — what could be more sensuous than sharing that?
The Fort is a lovingly created replica of historic Bent's Fort in southeastern Colorado, with its adobe walls, mesquite-wood open fireplaces and exquisite Western art and memorabilia. It's situated west of the city in Morrison. After dinner, stroll outside in the courtyard and view the twinkling lights of Denver in the distance, while the foothills beckon behind you. The view and ambiance would suffice for any romantic evening, but then there's the food. Indulge in fine cuts of steak and buffalo, along with several other types of wild game and frontier days cuisine — all elegantly adapted for modern-day palates.
THE 9TH DOOR DOWNTOWN
This hip restaurant and lounge features award-winning Spanish tapas, creatively infused with zesty flavor, plus an extensive wine list and unique specialty cocktails. Inside The 9th Door, white candles flicker against rustic brick walls, the bar glows a passionate red and the crowd's warm chatter creates a romantic ambiance. Indulge in the fried calamari, pintxos jamón (Serrano ham with olives and piquillo peppers) and herbed goat cheese with romesco sauce. And be sure to finish with the Chocolava, a warm chocolate cake with a ganache center.
JAX FISH HOUSE LODO
Romantic doesn't have to mean stuffy. Jax Fish House LoDo is a laid-back, always-hopping joint that's a favorite for downtown happy hour. Whether you join the afternoon crowd or nab a table later in the evening, you'll want to order up some fresh oysters (isn't there something about oysters being an aphrodisiac?) and decide if you really want to impress your sweetie with a serving of osetra caviar. Whatever you select from the menu will be delicious, and the boisterous din of the place will put you both at ease and have you inching ever closer to one another.
With just 16 tables, Mizuna always feels special and private. This innovative, French-inspired bistro specializes in small-plate, locally grown and seasonal cuisine. For special occasions, ask for Table 15 — it's in a private wine room! If your loved one doesn't swoon over the spinach-wrapped oysters, he or she will definitely be head over heels for the lobster macaroni and cheese. Finish up with the ooey-gooey, warm chocolate cake. French dining at its best.
PALACE ARMS IN THE BROWN PALACE HOTEL
Since 1950, Denver's majestic Brown Palace Hotel has been hosting guests in search of elegance, romance and gourmet cuisine to its regal Palace Arms restaurant. Enjoying numerous accolades from Zagat, Forbes and Gourmet, Palace Arms is renowned for its award-winning cuisine and its sumptuous setting. The innovative chef, sommelier and manager ensure the restaurant stays "au courant" while still maintaining its tradition of excellence.
The art of rustic elegance has been perfected at Barolo Grill, in Cherry Creek North. Named for the wine of the Northwestern Italian province of Piedmont, the restaurant succeeds in transporting you to Italy — and there's a lovely spot waiting for you beside the flickering glow of the fireplace. Peruse the wine book (yes, book) to choose just the right accompaniment for the divine creations by chef Darrel Truett, and go ahead and resign yourself to completely indulge. After all, there's fennel-crusted diver scallops, risotto with butter-poached escargot and the house specialty, braised duck, to try, followed by bombolini: delicate house-made donuts with chocolate and huckleberry sauce.
The distinctive concept of dipping and sharing entrees makes Vesta one of the first restaurants in town to sell out for Valentines Day. Mostly two-tops and cozy booths fill this chic downtown spot. The lighting is just enough to see what you're dipping into some of the 36 sauces offered. Ready to split a dessert? Take turns dunking sweets into hot fudge, crème anglaise or strawberry Cointreau, and then compare notes.
COOL RIVER CAFE
Inside Cool River Café is a dramatic, vaulted dome with a blue-tinted skylight and a towering stone fireplace. The vineyard-inspired décor leads you into the exceptional wine offerings, which you can pair with such delights as Filet Oscar. Then, with a cognac or port, serve each other some chocolate mousse cake drizzled with raspberry sauce. Best of all, step into the lounge afterward and dance to the live band. A perfect ending to a perfect evening. For special occasions, ask to be seated in the incredibly cozy Cognac Lounge — if you're lucky, no one else will be there and you'll feel like you're in your own, private ski lodge.
Low lighting, swanky decor, top-shelf cocktails — Kona Grill has always been romantic, but their sleek remodel really ups the game, with shimmering tiled columns, a soft glow from artful light fixtures and an impressive lounge at the heart of it all. Located at the Cherry Creek Shopping Center, the feel is upscale but not out of reach, with a menu studded with inventive sushi dishes, like the yamada roll, topped with fried wonton slivers, and twists on traditional plates, like the macadamia-encrusted chicken. Finish it all off with warm butter cake or passion fruit-infused creme brulee.
Filled with sunlight and right in the heart of upscale Cherry Creek North, Cucina Colore has been delighting its patrons for 13 years. Serving mostly couples, this sophisticated, bistro-like restaurant serves authentic Italian cuisine with a twist. Sitting on the flower-bedecked patio on a warm spring evening is as close as you'll get to Europe without an airline ticket. Feel like sharing with your date? Try some pan-seared black mussels, followed by a luscious pasta or fish plate. Don't forget to top it off with the rightfully renowned peach bread pudding with caramel sauce. Ahhh...
THE BRIARWOOD INN
It's been described as a European country inn. And The Briarwood Inn definitely feels that way, with its high ceilings, fireplaces and antique furnishings. About 20 minutes from Denver on the outskirts of Golden near a creek, it's quiet and romantic. It's no wonder so many couples get engaged here! Outdoor tables and gorgeous landscaping add to the ambiance and provide the perfect weekend brunch spot. The inn has been owned by the same family for more than 30 years and they've been delivering consistently fine cuisine from the beginning.
Nothing says Boulder like the renowned Flagstaff House, which has been a destination restaurant for special occasions for decades. Tucked into the foothills overlooking Boulder, the Flagstaff House offers an extraordinary menu in an equally extraordinary setting. Try for one of the window seats for a romantic view of the city below — keep an eye out for deer wandering by — then feast upon such elegant plates as a Wagu beef or diver scallops. Don't forget to take advantage of the restaurant's wine program, which has won the Wine Spectator Grand Award every year since 1983. Even the coffee is special here, served up on a tray filled with 10 add-ons, including tiny chocolate bits and whipped cream.