Along with our growing population, Denver's food and beverage scene is really exploding, not only in quantity but in quality too. It's no longer a matter of driving across town for a great restaurant or heading downtown for a day of on-foot, food and booze hopping. Now, nearly every neighborhood in Denver has its own collection of distinct and delicious options. For example, the Highlands have become known for having an organic, progressive, on-trend restaurant scene. Unsurprisingly enough, this neighborhood, and its reputation, continue to spread its roots. Follow me to the "Island of Awesome" as described by co-owner Lauren Bailey of Postino Lo-Hi. This "Island of Awesome" is one triangle-shaped block at roughly 17th Street, Erie, and 32nd Avenue where three brand new restaurants sprouted this September: Postino Wine Bar, Recess Beer Garden, and the Occidental.
Postino, a Phoenix, AZ favorite, branched out to Denver this month re-opening the former Denver BookBinding Company built in 1962. The craftily reconstructed space tells the story of the building's history with a warm, cozy interior, a book wall and colored glass light fixtures. And for those Denver view snobs- a big, bright outdoor deck takes advantage of the never disappointing downtown Denver skyline.
All of their locations feature an eclectic yet approachable wine list alongside simply satisfying food sources paired with local ingredients. In addition to the extensive wine list, Postino has become known in Arizona for their supped up bruschetta's, with 11 different versions to choose from; including one seasonal selection and one with gluten free bread upon request. The "choose 4 bruschetta" dish is an adventurous and delicious way to try new flavors and share your thoughts (and food) with friends. The menu also has a variety of starters, including: salads, paninis, desserts and rotating wine and beer. Looking for a bargain? On Monday's and Tuesday's after 8pm Postino's puts on a special pairing of bruschetta and a bottle of wine for only $20! And for the earlier eaters, they have $5 pitchers of beer or glasses of wine before 5pm.
Recess Beer Garden opens up right as school lets out on weekdays at 3pm and at 10am Saturday & Sunday's. They feature both a large indoor space with booth seating and a wrap around bar stretching the entire length of the inside as well as a spacious outdoor beer garden as their name alludes to. The beer garden's design of scattered tables, gravel underfoot, fire pits, and games such as corn hole, hula hoops and hopscotch encourage us adults to enjoy our own version of recess. One equipped with strong drinks and nostalgic memories of playgrounds past. We visited a couple weeks ago for some night time fun and as one could have expected, the bar was packed with tons of patrons who had the same idea. People were unleashing their competitive spirit while playing a various assortment of schoolyard games (obviously not without a drink in hand!). We would have liked to dueled it out on the playground as well, but there were only two sets of corn hole boards, two chalked on hopscotch drawings and a few free hula hoops . . . which only entertained the people standing around us. Just more incentive to get there early!
As a rule of thumb, recess is normally accompanied by some sort of snack-whether that be lunch or tots-it was always something to look forward to. At Recess Beer Garden there is a nice assortment of American staples like burgers, mac & cheese, ribs, salads and starters. We had the chili tots, beef sliders and green chili artichoke dip with a Breckenridge Brewery Autumn Ale. All of which were tasty but made us wish we had the metabolism of a kid again.
Their beer selection is substantial, but not as eclectic as we would expect given the word beer is in the name. But, we believe they plan/hope to expand the list of Colorado and "Beyond" beers. For those looking for something a little stronger, or lighter depending on how you look at it, there are a couple wines and a few cocktail staples as well.
The third stop on this "Island of Awesome" is William & Graham's new offshoot Occidental. This is a much more laid back, punk rock style bar featuring plenty of can, bottle, and draft beers, classic cocktails and a handful of special concoctions that highlight the award-winning bartender Sean Kenyon's creativity and class.
Kenyon himself was in New York when we visitied, but we enjoyed having bearded-bartender Brandon mixing up our cocktails for the evening. We tried three of the House specials and for our last drink we asked Brandon to come up with something semisweet using their homemade Ginger Beer. This resulted in a crushed ice tall glass of Ginger Beer, Vodka, pineapple and lemon syrup and bitters that went down way too fast. Before this we had shared a Paul Collins, Sailin' On, TV Party and Sonic Reducer (had we had a third person, or it been a weekend- we would have tried them all for you). The staff brought out little circus bags of roasted whole peanuts for each group at the bar to enjoy, which helped us imbibers to keep on drinkin' a little bit longer. Every drink was different and exciting. The price was on point given the reputation and quality of the establishment.
With winter's inevitable arrival almost upon us, our internal clock is telling us to couple down, cozy up and pack on a few pounds for the chillier months ahead. And in our opinion, there is no better place to do this than at Denver's own, "Island Of Awesome". Grab a date and a plate and hunker down, because it's going to be a long winter.