Organizing a group dining experience in the Mile High City can be tricky. Not every Denver restaurant can accommodate the group of 20 friends celebrating your birthday or the business associates coming together for a working lunch. But with some advanced planning, you'll find there are plenty of restaurants that have space for large parties. If your looking for a casual (but noisy) dining atmosphere with top quality upscale American comfort fare, reserve a long table or private side room at Steuben's. If you need more elbow room and less noise, then check out Palettes at the Denver Art Museum, which offers a contemporary, sunlit private dining room, accented by original artwork, that can accommodate up to 60 people. While at Range, large parties can dine in one of three original bank vaults, for a unique experience.
When dining with a group it is imperative to make an advance reservations. Even restaurants that cater to groups will need time to organize tables, and if you are heading out on a busy night, space can be an issue. When making a reservation for a group where one person isn't picking up the entire tab, it's also worth asking in advance whether separate checks can be issued as this will make figuring out the bill at the end a whole lot easier.
So whether you're looking for posh or family friendly, quiet or rowdy, a back room or just a long table, here are the best places to eat with a group in Denver.
Range, the just opened restaurant in the brand new Renaissance Downtown City Center Hotel in the former Colorado National Bank building, is so masterful with its culinary creations it can make a brussels sprout taste good to a person who normally can't stand this vegetable. Executive chef Paul Nagan is that good. The New West menu is creative and quite varied including everything from inexpensive wood-fire pizzas that truly stand out taste wise to deletable meat and seafood entrees. We loved the sea scallops with sweet potato mashers and Tasso ham. The shellfish was seared to perfection and the flavor was divine. If you like game meat, the ancho cocoa elk rack is the menu's star attraction. Also don't skip the equally creative cocktails – for something different try the Sage & Berries, it's a rum drink that tastes exactly like a sipping tequila. If possible save room for dessert. (720-726-4800)
Vesta Dipping Grill
Contemporary and upscale, Vesta Dipping Grill offers great food that finds much favor with the business set. Young professionals looking for a twist on American cuisine flock to this LoDo eatery, enjoying dishes that bear global culinary influences. The menu is focused on protein in the form of meat, seafood or chicken that are served with three dipping sauces. It works well for groups, as a number of plates can be ordered and shared. The savory choices include grilled tenderloin and chicken as well as game meat like venison and some excellent fish, shrimp and scallop options, each with a different seasoning. The decor is as appealing as the cuisine with burnished hues, open vistas, and exposed brick and an open kitchen. Friendly, expert service also comes standard. (303-296-1970)
Palettes at the Denver Art Museum
When it opened in 1997, Palettes was one of the first chef-driven restaurants to be located in a museum. Now a staple at Denver Art Museum, Palette's is one of chef Kevin Taylor's great Denver successes. For one thing, its floor-to-ceiling windows look out on the architectural wonder that is the Frederic C. Hamilton Building, designed by Daniel Libeskind, and that is a fine accompaniment to any meal. Contemporary in focus, Palettes has an excellent brunch menu and a main menu with so many worthy choices it will be hard to decide. Snow crab summer rolls with mango, apple herb salad, gold raisins and peanut ginger coulis? House-made mac & cheese? Seared diver scallops with Brussels sprouts, Parma ham, basil, fingerlings, orange and sweet corn chowder? Palettes stays open until 8 p.m. on Fridays. (3035341455)
Bittersweet Artisanal Cuisine
Away from the hustle and bustle of downtown Denver, find Bittersweet Artisanal Cuisine in the Washington Park Neighborhood. What was once a former 1950s gas station is now a high-end restaurant serving up thoughtful and innovate dishes like pork belly with strawberry puree and pickled Fresno peppers. Organic produce from two on-site gardens (600-square-feet total) provides many of the fresh ingredients inside the chef driven and chef owned restaurant.
The love child of Olav Peterson and Melissa Severson, Bittersweet is the culmination of the couple's hard work and the hope for a bright future and much of what you eat has been created in house (or grown in the garden). Try the smoked mussels to start. While the duroc pork rib-eye (English peas, bacon, truffled pea puree, fried spring onions, natural j�s) or the scallops (smoked rock shrimp & pasilla risotto, sweet corn sauce) are excellent main choices. (3037254353)
Inspired by the Carrettiera, or Cart-Driver, who brought goods from Southern Italy's farms to its villages via horse-drawn cart, stopping along the way to serve people, this tiny pizza and oyster shack is all about sharing be it food or conversation.
Dining here is an experience. With a maximum capacity of just 29, and tucked into a 640-sq-ft shipping container space, it is an intimate experience to say the least. But it's also kind of cool, being in such a small place, you can see food cooked in front of you, and whether you are dining on a date or solo, the atmosphere feels congenial and not stuffy and the service genuine.
Best of all is the food. The menu basically feature fresh oysters (selection changes daily), prosecco on tap and the best wood-fire pizza I've had in Denver. Try the Cart-Driver which is topped with crispy kale and sausage.
Ace Eat Serve , set up in the old Storz Garage space in Denver's Uptown neighborhood, offers a different kind of late night out that includes entertainment. A Ping-Pong Hall is at the center of the restaurant. You can play a non-competitive game or sign up for a tournament. When it comes to the food, expect Asian inspired dishes that are meant to share. You will also find house made sodas, fresh juices, Asian beers and craft cocktails. Like it' sister restaurants, Steuben's and Vesta Dipping Grill, repurposed and recycled materials are a big part of the design, which makes for an industrial look.
The very essence of homestyle, Steuben's menu was originally composed of the opening staff's hometown favorites. The owner is from New England and for him it was a Maine lobster roll. One manager is from New Mexico, so a green chile cheeseburger went on the menu. There are all the other home-kitchen favorites you'd expect, from mac and cheese to meatloaf and fried chicken. The goal was to take customers back to their own memories of favorite foods from their mom's kitchen or even the local diner. What do you remember about the food you ate when growing up? Maybe Steuben's fried chicken will stir up the memories. It's made in a buttermilk brine, dredged with house-seasoned flour and served with mashed potatoes, chicken gravy and a house-made biscuit. The patio is heated so if it's not raining or snowing, you can sit out there. (303.830.1001)
Guard and Grace
Opened in April 2014, Guard and Grace is chef Troy Guard's latest. Steaks are front and center--there are 22 different options in three categories: Prime, Angus and Grass-fed, all made from Colorado-raised beef. It can be cooked however you like it from blue (very red, cold center) to well done. But the creative, distinctly contemporary menu also includes oak-grilled chicken enchiladas and Rocky Mountain trout among the entrees, a starter of oak-grilled carrots (rave reviews), excellent salads, vegetable- and meat-topped flatbreads and all kinds of shellfish in the raw bar, as well as American sturgeon caviar and both tuna and kampachi sashimi. (303-293-8500)
Tamayo is one of the most popular restaurants on historic Larimer Square with good reason. Richard Sandoval--of Zengo and La Biblioteca fame--has created a posh, airy space in which Mexican is re-imagined as an artful, surprising cuisine yet true to its roots. Among the starters are a wild-mushroom flatbread with goat cheese, black-bean puree, caramelized onion and truffle oil, and a chile-encrusted calamari served with Napa cabbage salad and a chipotle-blood-orange reduction. La Tampiquena is one of the chef's specials, a dish featuring filet mignon and served with poblano-chile potato gratin, mole-cheese enchilada, cactus salad and guacamole. A variety of tacos and enchiladas round out the menu, and there are also cazuelas--traditional braises of chicken, pork shoulder or short ribs accompanied by warm tortillas, Mexican-style rice and crema fresca. Don't skimp on the delectable sides here, especially the caramelized plantains with chipotle butter. If the weather is nice, sit upstairs on the rooftop for sublime city views with your South of the Border flavored breakfast. (720-946-1433, 646-285-0796)
The former mortuary building seems an unlikely place for a restaurant, but chef/owner Justin Cucci (of Root Down restaurant fame) has done it again with another Highlands restaurant, Linger. A nod to the space is found in the tongue-in-cheek reference to Linger as an "eatuary." Whatever that is, we like it. The menu is arranged by global region and features what might be called global street food. You could choose the Mongolian BBQ tofu bun or pork belly bun from the Asian offerings, the shrimp and grits or Veracruz fish tacos from the Americas, or chicken bastille from the African and Middle Eastern list. It's all a happy global feast in an urban setting with non-stop views of the Denver skyline. On weekends, try the brunch. ((303) 993-3120)
About Becca Blond
Becca Blond is an award-winning Denver based freelance travel writer. She has authored more than 30 Lonely Planet guides on five continents. She also writes about Colorado and the world for Afar Media, The Guardian, Los Angeles Times, Cadillac Magazine and others.
When not out of the country, Becca loves hanging with her three dogs, Duke, Bobbi and Poppy (who review hotels with her). She loves Denver for its sunshine, craft beer scene and outdoor activities.
Read more about Becca Blond here.
Connect with Becca via: Blog | Facebook | Instagram | Twitter | Pinterest