You scored a first date… now where?

So you got her number. You go, Glen CoCo.  You guys have the spark and the mutual interest, and now you are planning a first date.  Just you two.  High five, my friend.  Thursday, 7pm, and  you’re in charge of the spot. Where do you go?

If you’re the type that prescribes to “no food with firsts,” and you’re not planning on skiing/face-painting/playing putt-putt/visiting the circus (circuses, oy, been there), then chances are it’s a place with adult beverages.  And that’s where the Wagon comes in.

glasses

Table of Contents:

 

Places with a view/porch that sparks conversation:

LoLa

With one of the best views in the city, LoLa is perched in the Highlands overlooking the Denver skyline.  Combine that, a sultry evening after a gorgeous Denver day, and tequila, and you’ve got a great date in the mix.  LoLa specializes in Latin American cocktails with the spice for which you may be looking.  And it may just lead to dinner…
View Downtown before sunset

Breckenridge Ale House at Amato’s

Just down the road from LoLa, this new establishment up in the Highlands has a great view of the city and a comfortable rooftop patio.  The menu provides many choices with their abundant beers taps and beer cocktails.  If she hasn’t had a beer cocktail convince her to try one. First times in the bar may lead to first times in the bedroom in time. Patience.

Wynkoop Brewing Company

On an enjoyable afternoon in Denver, Wynkoop’s porch seats overlooking the side walk and Union Station is a comfortable location.   Wynkoop is great for a date, conversation, and afternoon tanning. And now that Hickenlooper’s old brewery has notched up its brewing quality, it is a great place to stay and drink more if your date leaves prematurely. Note: if your date leaves prematurely, not the end of the world. You deserve someone who likes beer.

Others we recommend:

 

If you’ve gotten to know some of her past experiences, tailor your date:

Example: she visited Ireland in college and really misses it, take her to the Irish Rover.  Sure, the bartenders are big, burly men, but don’t be threatened.  There’s enough decent beer on tap.  Other Irish bars: The Celtic Tavern, Fado’s, Katie Mullen’s, and The Irish Snug.  If you choose to go this route, you get points for creativity/thoughtfulness/listening skills, but you get big negative points if it crosses the line of “creeper.”

 

For that playful date:

The 1Up

Pacman, Tron, Skeeball, Street Fighter and Donkey Kong. It’s a child-of-the-80’s vintage video arcade with drinks.  Um, awesome.

Dazzle Restaurant and Lounge

They’ve a great happy hour with 23 item food menu and great martinis & manhattans.  You and your date can schmooze over cocktails while tapping your foot to jazz in the Dizzy Room or in the DazzleJazz Showroom.

Others we recommend:

  • Bars at bowling alleys – better than a movie because you actually interact with one another, better than dinner because if you end up with someone you don’t like you can pretend you are really focusing on your roll.  Bowling is better than putt putt because it’s easier to dodge a swinging arm than a swinging club.
  • Live music – concerts are great, but a commitment and could be disastrous, instead try a bar that has live music such as El Chapultapec or Appaloosa Grill.  Don’t forget to always tip the band and your server.
  • Comedy clubs/shows – A date is a success when a laugh is shared.

 

Off the beaten path:

My Brother’s Bar

The bar at Beatrice & Woodsley

The bar at Beatrice & Woodsley

Oh, Brother’s, how I love thee.  Sturdy and thoroughly-used wooden tables, great cheap tap beers, and hello, whiskey collection.  It’s chill, unassuming, and a great place to be left alone to you and yours.  And don’t mind the Girl Scout Cookie stack on the side–if the date goes well, you can grab a box for dessert.

The Lobby

Don’t be fooled by the name, there’s no waiting here.  They have some good cocktails and good food.  It’s not too fancy/not too casual and is right next to Great Divide Brewery.  Winning.

Beatrice & Woodsley

Like walking into an enchanted forest on Broadway, it has a mythical ambiance and great cocktails.  (At least that’s my rendition of an enchanted forest.)  Some of the decorations are, uh, interesting, but hey, something to bond over on your date.

Others we recommend:

 

The Romantic Places:

A Cote

This tiny French bar a absinthe is adorned with Parisian accoutrements, artwork and a gorgeous, handmade chandelier. French films play on the wall, soft music fills the air and sexy lighting sets the mood. Finger foods provide ample opportunity to “accidentally” graze fingers; a glorious wine list and stellar run of cocktails and spirits (including, yes, absinthe) will give you just enough liquid courage to stare deeply into her eyes while you make intense and meaningful conversation.

The Village Cork

This spot was named Westword’s Best First Date Restaurant for good reason: it’s quirky, flirty and feminine. And lest that scare you off, gentlemen, there’s no better way to woo a woman than to take her somewhere charming, open a bottle of bubbly and let her guide the conversation (i.e. flirt her face off with you). She’ll be whispering sweet nothings in no time and possibly inviting you home shortly after that.

Rioja‘s sidewalk porch.

As a typical, sunny Denver afternoon, there’s nothing better to sit on the sidewalk in Larimer square to people watch and soak in the nice weather.  If you pick a later evening date, sitting underneath enchanting white lights with a glass of wine in hand has quite the wooing effect.  Well done, sir.

Others we recommend:

 

For the comfortable atmosphere:

Great Divide Tap Room Great Divide Brewing Company

Caveat: make sure she likes beer before visiting Great Divide because it’s, uh, a brewery.  Their beer styles range the palate and having beers straight from the source is plus for you. Tag along for a tour of the urban brewery, maybe sneak off for a quick kiss by the kettle, and stick around for a pint on the patio.

Encore on Colfax

Voted as Denver’s Best Martini by Westword, Encore is an interesting combination. On one hand you have upscale cocktails and retro lighting and on the other you have t-shirts and families dotted among the patrons.  After drinks, peruse through the Tattered Cover and happen upon some new book titles.

Lala’s Wine Bar

Pizza and Wine.  It’s got the Italian kick, but not over-the-top.   Jeans are perfect at this classy-casual spot.  The bar and wine list help translate the fun, comfortable atmosphere.

Others we recommend:

 

Good vibes, high energy:

Sputnik

It gets cranking late at night and they typically have 1960s music going.  Best place to twist and shout with your lady–on the dance floor, that is.

El Diablo

Tequila, seductive vibes and a fun-loving crowd looking to be just a little naughty are about all you need for a guaranteed sexually-charged evening. And if the tension becomes too strong, there are plenty of dark corners where you can, uh, get to know each other better, inside and out.

El Camino

All you need at this swanky Mexican joint is a pitcher full of house margaritas and a spot in one of the banquettes. Noise levels ensure that you’ll only be able to talk to each other; tequila + flattering lighting means she’ll be flipping her hair and touching your arm in no time.

Others we recommend:

 

For great apps/happy hour:

Root Down

A great place to belly-up to the bar.  The lights are low, the drinks are unique, and the happy hour is killer.

9th Door

9th Door scores on happy hour.  Between the small-bites of tapas and intermittent sighs of satisfaction you can quench your thirst with spectacular (and potent) sangria. They also have absinthe.

Others we recommend:

 

Dive bar? Why not:

Star Bar

With a juke box, a cluttered bar space of great liquor and beer, and a chalk board in the bathroom stalls, Star Bar is a great place to feel like a local.  If you want to impress your date with some sweet vocals, Karaoke is on Tuesday and Thursday nights.
PSLounge.jpg

PS Lounge

Every lady gets a rose and everybody, everybody, gets an Alabama Slammer for free.  It’s a great place to kick-back, enjoy the awesome juke box, and marvel at their whiskey selection.

Bar Car

The walls may never be expunged of the barroom grime that’s been ingrained into the surface of this old joint, but the chandeliers are girlishly delightful, classing the place up a bit. The killer juke box and amicable tenders add to the fun, and there’s probably not a more intimate dive in town.

Others we recommend:

 

For the intimate atmosphere:

A Cote

Looking for forced intimacy? A Cote will do the trick because the place is tiny. As in, you’ll practically be sitting on each others’ laps, linking arms and clinking glasses because the tables are so close together you have no other choice. The place manages to make that charming and comfortable, though, and because of the mellow vibe, there are few places in this fair city that boast an atmosphere so conducive to conversing about what really makes you tick.

Green Russell

On any other night before the Larimer Square bar crazies get out, Green Russell is a great place to cozy up next to each other in plush 1930s era furniture, with dark lighting and delicious cocktails.  The role play of the speakeasy adds enchantment as you push past the Wednesday’s Pie kitchen door. Cell phones are banned, save for the in phone booth, so no need to worry about interruption.

Cheeky Monk

This beer bar has a hushed ambiance and is rarely ever full.  Their booths are small and cozy with just the right amount of plush.  It’s also a great place to try different beers you don’t typically see.

Others we recommend:

 

For late night dates (in public, not your couch):

Exterior of Steuben's Restaurant in Denver

Steuben’s

The cocktails are delicious, the atmosphere is oh-so-hip, and after the date ends, I’m completely fine with hanging out bit longer. It’s a young, fun place and no matter if there’s a second date, I always have a good time.

Thin Man Tavern

Red lighting, late hours, and alcohol.  If that doesn’t get you going, maybe the various portraits of Jesus Christ will help.  No better motivator than to keep your hands in your pockets and not on your date.  In all seriousness, Thin Man is a great place for a late cocktail and fun conversation.

Pete’s Kitchen

For the late LATE night. Good people watching abounds and it’s less sketchy than taking her to, uh, Tacos Rapidos.

Others we recommend:

 

Dress to impress:

So you like her.  A lot.  And you want to impress her.  You’re pulling out all the stops.  Tip for intimate bars: when she runs to the lady’s room, or if you arrive before she does, talk with the maitre’d and bartender, say this is a first date and you’re aiming to impress.  They’ll help you out.  Don’t forget to tip generously for their wing-man efforts.

Colt & Gray

A sophisticated yet simple bar at Colt & Gray beckons you to pull up a chair and marvel at the spirits.  Or, take a seat and cozy up by the fireplace.  Little candles adorn the table tops and the overhead lighting sets a sexy mood.  Go ahead, lean closer to her and lightly brush against her skin.  The bartenders here can recommend a beverage for every palate, helping guide you and your date through a myriad of flavors with a bartender’s choice.  The drinks and appetizers here will give you the extra nudge to leave and go necking elsewhere.

TAG

There’s a healthy dose of showmanship in everything TAG does, and that spans the cocktail list, the menu board, and the sleek, cavernous enclave that constitutes the dining room. Best thing to do with a date is belly up to the bar. That crafty mixology will give you plenty to talk about; the dim lighting and sexy space will make you feel warm and toasty about your romantic decisions.

Others we recommend:

 

Sports date places:

Maybe you met at a Nugget’s game? Your paths crossed during a kickball game? You’re both Under Armour models? Whatever the situation may be, you want to go watch the game as you get to know each other. Here are some suggestions where the TV is always on, and the [insert championship game of the season] is on the PA.

 

Wine Bars:

It’s a safe bet or an adventure into regions you’ve never been to. Either way, bars that specialize in wine tend to specialize in dates. Here’s a few offerings.

 

Beer Halls:

Unless you’re new to town, you’ve probably noticed we’ve got some good beer in Denver. Beer halls around town range from a few taps and some pizza to upscale foodie-heaven establishments, like Euclid Hall.

(Picture courtesy of fallingrocktaphouse.com)

 

 

Just remember, a date is a great place to get to know each other and have fun.  It has to be something that fits both of you.  Don’t worry about who gets the tab, who opens the door first, or who pulls out the chair, it should be you and it should be comfortable.   You know the date went well if the hug or handshake at the end last longer than a second.  Either way, it can get you a hook-up, friend, or relationship…what is there to lose?

Suggestions?  Leave them in the comments! (Updated 10/3/11)

[Disclaimer: If you’ve ever dated / ever date anyone from Denver Off The Wagon, thank you for contributing your experiences to this list. You were special. We swear.]

1935 ... first date!

Someone for everyone.

About Jess Hunter


Jess is a lady and a scholar. If she's not mulling over the various names of famous mustaches and their respective bitter cocktails, she's nibbling on American Craft Singles and Cantillon. Connect with her by email at jesshunter@denveroffthewagon.com.

  • http://www.bigmargaritacrawl.com Mike

    Do that many people skip the food on their first day? I feel like impressing her with a nice dinner on the first date is a must… Am I wrong?

    • Jess Hunter

      Mike, I’ve seen quite a few people hold “no food” as a dogma, but it depends on how you met each other. If it’s through friends, I think a nice dinner on the first day is absolutely perfect. She’s a lucky girl.

  • Phill

    can I downvote Lime? the food is overspiced and overpriced. not even worth 1$ taco tuesdays in my opinion. Plus they are a-holes that leave their patio speakers on until 1AM on a wednesday night with no one on the patio!

    Brothers BBQ next door has dollar ribs on thursdays, way better deal! although messy for a datenight…

    • Jess Hunter

      Yes you can absolutely downvote Lime. The times I’ve been there have only been for tacos, as the drinks are generally watered down and few-and-far between each other when I get thirsty again. Thoughts on Brothers BBQ for drinks? Something’s gotta wash those ribs down…

  • Ryan

    I was completely in awe to read an Off The Wagon article that didn’t mention FreshCraft, until I got to the last section.

    Cheers, this is a great piece, full of ‘on point’ suggestions. This could keep a bachelor in the game for some time depending on the variety of women that he’s meeting.

  • KDubb

    Truly exceptional, my darling! A thorough and thougtful compendium, I only wish I had this when I was a denver bachelor…

    • Jess Hunter

      I mean, there can always be friend dates, right, KDubb?

  • Hater

    I like the article but suffer from an over-opinionated psyche.

    My experience at Jonesy’s was less than impressive. Cool neighborhood diner but not first date material, unless you’re not eating.

    If I took my ‘first date’ to Hanson’s, Fresh Craft, Lime or a dive bar, I would expect to get my ass kicked when I told my buddies about the evening.

    Looking forward to trying Dazzle Restaurant and Lounge as well as Encore.

    TAG is always a culinary adventure paired with inspired cocktails.

    Falling Rock is an incredible place to get to know someone better, after all, if someone doesn’t like to try new things or doesn’t like at least some kind of beer, what is the point?

    StarBar has got to be one of the best dive bars i’ve been to. For me a dive bar doesn’t have to be filthy or dangerous, and you don’t have to drink with Dad. As for a first date? I’d say this is a great last stop on a first date if all things are going well. This place could be just the venue to seal the deal.

    A Brother’s Bar, Amato’s Ale House, Colt and Gray combo could be a great first date.

    Interstate? Real cool venue with a great menu.

    What happened to TAG Raw Bar? If I really wanted to get to know my date, I’d put a plate of kangaroo tartar in front of her. This place will challenge any eater and is sure to shatter any barriers between getting to know your first date a little better.

    Green Russell- great cocktails and ambience that is sure to illicit some spirited conversations. This place is like a time capsule.

    Looking forward to dating my way through the list. Thanks for such a comprehensive article with so many rad suggestions.

    • Jess Hunter

      Hater,

      Thanks for your responses!

      Jonesy’s is an interesting place and for the food, it would not be good first date material. I agree. But for drinks, they do a pretty good spread.

      As far as taking your ‘first date’ to Hanson’s, it’s actually not a bad place. It’s high-energy ambiance, low-risk entry menu, local-feel touch, and if you both live in the neighborhood, it’s a comfortable place for a pint. As for Fresh Craft, Lime or a dive bar, those are very niche locations for a first date. Unless you’re going for a beer hall, cheap apps on Tuesday ONLY, or a different experience (respectively speaking), I’d stay away from these as first date. They’re mentioned solely for those specific date reasons.

      I thought about mentioning TAG|RAW for a first date, but held against it. Josh Smith does a fantastic job with cocktails and his style works perfectly with the food. But it’s a small joint, with brutal lighting, and slightly cramped seating, and really a place to drink and eat. It’s a fantastic place for a second date, particularly when she’s working with the kangaroo tartare and the numerous foie gras dishes.

      Good luck to you and your lucky lady!

  • http://devin.reams.me Devin Reams

    Excellent guide, Jess. Well done…

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  • eldaveablo

    I have to completely agree with the inclusion of the PS Lounge – assuming you are both cool with the Dive Bar vibe.

    – Great mixed drinks
    – Cool Jukebox to pick songs from
    – Free Children’s Tylenol tasting shot
    – Free Rose for the lady
    – Cool vibe conducive to talking
    – Last but not least, if you hang around long enough and make a good impression, Pete the owner will buy you a round.

    You can get to know each other and there are plenty of memory-inducing extras (rose, jukebox picks, drink from Pete).

    Great list, I need to get more dates so I can try some of these places out.

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