I receive an invite to check out the new cocktail menu at the Wazee Supper Club. Summer is coming and a new cocktail menu has been rolled out to welcome it. Last week I was invited in to try out the new menu and a few of the cocktails (and, let’s face it, the beers) and left pleasantly surprised.
As a rule, I avoid LoDo. This rule harbors deep in my younger drinking days when the idea of paying a cover to get into a place to drink something mercilessly overpriced was beyond me. When the girls were a little to insane and, at the end of the night, I’d much rather be in my junk one-bedroom apartment playing Xbox. Sort of like the idea of “if there is that many people in one place, it can’t be that great.” Like that, but with drinking and peers I couldn’t relate to.
We grow up. Things change. We adjust our rules and change our standards. Now I don’t mind too much venturing south of 20th street on a weeknight, just like how Wazee Supper Club has done a bit of an overhaul on what they’ve been up to. My previous visits to Wazee, while favorable, left a much darker impression. One night was for a book club where we were discussing Chabon’s Wonder Boys – a story, on the surface, that was the wildly narcissistic ramblings of a writer who could never seem to get to a point. Also, his wife left him. The book group gathered around one of the larger tables in the loft and we were all cozy and comfortable so long as no one had to get up for any reason.
So that’s what Wazee was. What it is now is recognizable, but very different. They’ve moved the kitchen around, opening up their bar for more seating and a wider selection of Colorado craft everything. The loft is smaller, but present. And, most importantly, the dumb waiter is on full display. And as much as I would rush to make a joke about the name of it, I was all but hypnotized for the evening watching full glasses of beer and elaborate cocktails elevate to the loft, only to be replaced by their spent comrades for a trip back down to the bar.
Seriously, could have watched it all night. I can only imagine what my reaction would have been had we ordered the Absinthe (yes, should be mentioned, they’ve got Absinthe on the menu).
The menu matches the kind of crowd you’d expect to see at an establishment that is equidistant-ish from both the Pepsi center and Coors Field. One way or another, you’re looking for the kind of food that can sustain – whether you about to sit in a stadium seat for several hours or if you are going to remain perched on a bar stool over a pitcher of beer, the menu sustains.
We ordered the perogis as an appetizer. Fried potatoes and cheese served up with a green onion sour cream dip – just one of the many well prepared variations that were a step above your typical fried-bar-foods: mozzarella cheese sticks, rosemary-parmesan fries, meatball sliders. The dinner menu sticks to the classic Italian-esque fare: “Legendary” pizzas of every variety and an unusual stromboli – not made with the usual heavy-as-hell marinara and mozzarella cheese, but with feta, artichokes, olives, tomato and onions and served with a side of hummus. Very filling, but not bloat-inducing, and a welcome departure from the usual bar-room fare.
The cocktails. The drinks. Yet another well-thought investment that makes this place more unique than another restaurant-bar in Denver’s red-brick district. The most notable selection on the menu comes in a tiki glass with a properly adorned (read: topless) mermaid on the side of it. Better yet, it’s on the menu as the “Wazee Pain Killer”, and it’s full of rum. Also enjoyed: the Sazarac made with Wild Turkey and a cocktail called “Grass” featuring Breckenridge’s Agave Wheat and Bison-Grass Vodka.
As for the beers (and who would I be had I not talked of the beer?) the menu features several carefully thought-out flights of 4 oz tasters – all from their taps which change to match the seasons. We were met with quite a few saisons, IPAs, Pales and Wits. Yet the porters and stouts weren’t neglected. As we flip over into the summer I imagine lighter lagers will be present, and the heavier, darker beers will return in the fall.
If you’ve been to Wazee’s before and haven’t been impressed for whatever reason, give it another shot. It’s worth it. Even if the only thing you get out of it is the dumb waiter .