Intimate Evenings

By John Lehndorff

COUPLES FIND FRESH SIZZLE at a pair of date night-friendly south metro bistros

Photo by Devon K, Nolia restaurant

When date night comes around, couples know they will face The Big Question. No, not “Will you marry me?” or “Should we have another kid?” It’s the eternal riddle: “Where do you want to eat tonight?” A successful romantic evening often depends on finding a Goldilocks dining situation. 

The restaurant lighting should be subdued but not so dim you can’t see the sparkle in your partner’s eyes. The background music can’t be so quiet it goes unheard or so thump-y you can’t talk without shouting. 

The service, the menu and the sips should set the stage for conversations and maybe a little romance. In other words, you—not the restaurant—are the center of attention. Two south metro eateries were born to be the kind of places where couples, friends and family love to gather. 

Photo courtesy of Nolia Restaurant

Intimate Dining with a Big Easy accent

For Louisiana-born Lilli Black, hospitality was the first inspiration for Nolia, short for “Magnolia,” her cozy, year-old Centennial eatery.  

“Our vibe is providing a space, service and food that makes it easy to connect. When you come to my restaurant, you’re at my house for dinner, and I want you to feel comfortable,” Black says. 

She believes date night calls for ordering strictly shareable dishes. “You order a little charcuterie, a few small plates and share everything. You talk about the food and really get involved with each other,” she says. Besides, you might have casual hand contact as you both grab for the same appetizer.

Charcuterie has become the go-to order for first dates. “It takes away any awkwardness in a new dating situation about what to order since a board gives you many tastes,” Black says. Nolia’s serious charcuterie menu offers more than 100 choices of meats, cheeses, jams, spreads, mustards and pickles.

Photo by Devon K, Nolia Restaurant

The small kitchen dishes a roster of Louisiana and European favorites, including perfectly cooked sous vide filet mignon, tender butter-poached jumbo shrimp with creamy grits, and Nolia’s best-selling item, Louisiana-style crab cakes. Wines are well suited to sampling, with more than 30 reds and whites poured by the glass. 

That chill Big Easy vibe rules Nolia’s service, too. “We’ll never dump all your food on the table at the same time. You shouldn’t be trying to shovel one dish in your mouth so that the other dish doesn’t get cold,” Black says. “We would rather you sit there for three and a half hours and drink wine, hang out with us and enjoy it.”  

Photo Courtesy of Ambl Global

How to Romance a Restaurant 

Wherever you are, couples across the planet are making plans for date night, whether they call it soirée à deux (French) or noche de cita (Spanish). 

Ambli Global celebrates the international nature of gathering with an experience that transports diners out of the day-to-day humdrum, according to Pariza Mehta, co-owner of the eatery at Belleview Station. 

Three spaces in the eatery suit different couples’ needs and wants. A lively lounge greets diners with small tables and an urban “buzz-y” vibe, Mehta says. The modern, elegant dining room has a quieter, conversation-friendly ambiance. Just opened is an eight-seat intimate back bar ideal for date nights. “The menu is unique with dishes combining Asian and Latin American flavors,” she says.

Photo courtesy of Ambl Global

Ambli Global takes its name seriously with a roster of dishes with Indian, Asian, East African and Latin American influences. Among the tastes are crispy tuna rice, Kuku Paka (coconut chicken) and an Indian plate with fresh naan, plus lobster dumpling shooters in red coconut curry created at the table.

Mehta says the Ambli experience is built on interacting with a corps of perceptive servers and bartenders. 

“Some tables want silent service without many interruptions,” she says. “Some couples want us to order for them or make special cocktails. The ones who seem to have the best time are spontaneous.”

It’s obvious when the “magic” is happening. “We’ll see a table celebrating, and they have that energy,” Mehta says. “The guests and the servers are having fun with each other. Then we know we’ve done our job.”

Nolia Restaurant
8100 S. Quebec St., Centennial

Ambli Global at Belleview Station
6799 E. Belleview Ave., Denver


More South Metro Date Night Specialists

Upstairs Circus
5370 Greenwood Plaza Blvd. #106,
Greenwood Village 720.527.1355

Your hands won’t have time to get awkward when you’re on a date at this entertaining DIY workshop bar in Greenwood Village. They’ll be too busy making wine bottle tumblers, leather pet collars, decorated fedoras, hex nut bracelets and butcher boards. The full bar menu includes cocktails like Julius the Great, a boozy Orange Julius upgrade. Drinks can be paired with a short menu of bites or food delivered to the premises. 

Photo Courtesy of Upstairs Circus

Tribe at Riverwalk
115 Wilcox St., Castle Rock

Colorado-inspired decor and dishes are spotlighted at chef Arthur Gonzalez’s recently opened upscale Castle Rock eatery. Menu ranges from duck leg carnitas and goat cheese brulee to rack of elk with Hunters Sauce, and brown-butter steelhead trout. Pair with flights of mezcals or rums.