IN BLUE SKY Colorado, al fresco is our middle name. Outdoor nibbling and sipping have always been fundamental to life in the state, but the past 18 months have given us a deeper appreciation as we’ve eaten at once-in-a-lifetime array of tents, ice fishing shelters, yurts, bubbles and parking spaces.
As summer kicks in and COVID-19 restrictions are loosening, we sorted through diverse Denver al fresco opportunities looking for exceptional locations, views, food and drink. Sample the following spots and you may find yourself diving into a bowl of steamed mussels on an urban patio, by a suburban lake, next to an airport runway, or on a roof. The 10% chance afternoon wind, hail and thunder showers only makes it that much more “Colorado.”
EL KARAJO MEXICAN RESTAURANT
This unassuming authentic Mexican restaurant is truly a hidden gem. Family-owned El Karajo Mexican Restaurant serves up vibrant flavors of old Mexico with a modern twist that has neighbors calling it their “go-to” any night of the week. The Mesa Platter, Street Tacos and Chuletas de Pierce are must-eats, and you would be remiss if you didn’t pair your meal with one of their smooth margaritas. The outdoor patio boasts enough room for small parties to soak up the sun or night air with bistro lights for a festive atmosphere.
6600 S Quebec St., Centennial
YAYA’S EURO BISTRO
It’s easy to forget the hubbub of the nearby I-25 corridor while sipping Italian wine and nibbling Greek and Spanish tidbits. This classy patio overlooks a park-like setting with a lake, views and peaceful greenery, which makes it feel more like the Tuscan hills. A Mediterranean-focused wine list pairs perfectly with YaYa’s assortment of palate-pleasing plates from creamy gnocchi and red beet salad to personal wood-fired Margherita pizzas. Make reservations early for a patio weekend brunch featuring Bloody Mary flights matched with snow crab and salmon eggs Benedict or blueberry Belgian waffles.
8310 E. Belleview Ave., Greenwood Village
Situated across the street from the outdoors-oriented Cabela’s store, this spacious eatery also celebrates the environment. A luxurious, semi-enclosed patio provides just enough protection from the elements but doesn’t shut out the foothills wind, rain and sun. Sierra’s menu is packed with hearty portions of familiar dishes including double bone-in pork chops, cowboy steaks, Santa Fe enchiladas with green and red chile, fajitas, ribs, grilled halibut and rotisserie chicken with mashers and gravy. The weekday patio happy hour is an ideal time to sample small plates and a jalapeño margarita.
10680 Cabela Dr., Lone Tree
If you are serious about your cuisine, your vintage wines and enjoying dramatic views, Uncorked Kitchen is unrivaled on its west-facing perch. From sunset to twilight, folks grab coveted patio spots with wide-angle views of the Front Range. Inside the eatery, garage doors are rolled-up to create an open-air date night space. Talented chef Eric Robbins crafts scintillating tastes to pair with a truly impressive list of reds, whites and rosés by the bottle and the glass. Imagine chilling with a bowl of creamy avocado and cucumber soup garnished with pickled onion and bacon and a glass of Empire Estate Riesling. Other to tastes include bacon wrapped dates, red wine-poached pear, char siu pork sliders and soy ginger wings with blistered shishito peppers.
8171 S. Chester St., Centennial
For diehard home gardeners and farm-totable fans alike, The Feedery is a feast of attractions. Herbs and veggies harvested from on-site hydroponic towers and a sustainable greenhouse end up on fresh plates emerging from the kitchen. Diners can sit among the greenery on the street-side patio and on the roof for breakfast, lunch and dinner. The eatery’s philosophy is sustainability while the menu embraces comfort food from veggie friendly creamy risotto and mushroom pot pie to bison steak frites with chimichurri sauce. The Feedery’s bar keeps it locally-focused with ales from breweries including Locavore and Raices as well as Stem Ciders.
900 E. Hampden Ave., Englewood
THE LAKE HOUSE KITCHEN + TAVERN
On a pretty evening, the new patio at the Lake House may be the perfect summer escape, sipping frozen cocktails and gazing out over Johnson Reservoir ringed with trees full of birds. With its aquatic theme, the restaurant showcases roasted lake walleye, blue crab cakes, green chile shrimp, crab Louie and fried Lake House is also known for fried chicken and perfect prime rib on weekends, when the brunch roster ranges from steak and eggs to breakfast tacos and mimosas. The don’t-miss dessert is the S’mores Brownie Waffle.
8026 W. Bowles Ave., Littleton
There is rooftop imbibing, and there is sipping on top of the City of Denver. Denver’s highest al fresco venue is 54thirty on the 20th the premier panoramic view of the city skyline, the foothills and the 14ers. Rooftop seating is end small bites range from avocado hummus and BLT deviled eggs with peppercorn aioli to burrata cheese with toasted ciabatta. Celebrating a big occasion? Moet Imperial Champagne, of course. For dessert, the Mile High City’s highest dessert: Chocolate Peanut Butter Pie with a pretzel crust.
1475 California St., Denver
MORE COOL PATIOS
Trestles Coastal Cuisine, Castle Pines, 303.663.3622, trestlescastlerock.com
Angelo’s Tavern, Littleton, 720.532.1389, angelostaverna.com
Wild Blue Yonder Brewing Co, Castle Rock, 303.814.3663, wildblueyonderbrewing.com
Duke’s Steakhouse, Castle Pines, 303.814.2487 dukescastlepines.com