Six casual Denver restaurants with super-cool wine lists

Categories: Swirl Girl

madison 5498441.87.jpg
Madison Street is a good-looking restaurant, made better by its wine list.
Why is it that so many of Denver's more casual, moderately priced restaurants have wine lists that make the oenophiles among us want to just give up and order a beer? It's as if the people in charge of designing these lists decided that when entrees cost somewhere in the $12-to-$15 range, the wine list can get away with looking like an advertisement for a bunch of wine we've tried to forget we ever drank -- rather than a list designed to pique the drinker's curiosity and challenge his palate.

As for making an effort to ensure that the selections pair well with the menu? Yeah, right. But just because our budget might be better suited to popping bottles of Miller Lite than Moët doesn't mean our otherwise extremely satisfying meal should be subjected to a less-than-worthy (and reasonably priced) wine pairing.

Fortunately, things are looking up -- at least at these six restaurants that have wine lists as good as their wallet-friendly food:

1) LoHi Steakbar

Wine list worth loving for its: Globally sourced and inspired selection of white wines (including a torrontes and a viognier), a majority of by-the-glass offerings under $10, and a killer wine happy hour.

Wine most worth checking out: Frei Brothers Reserve Zinfandel, which was bestowed with California's certification of sustainable wine growing, is a juicy, boozy zin that's exactly the thing to savor with one of LoHi's ridiculously scarfable burgers.

2) Madison Street

Wine list worth loving for its: Approachable but never predictable selections that harmonize beautifully with this neighborhood restaurant's upscale comfort food. How about a lemony-crisp albariño partnered with a plate of fried tiger shrimp tacos? Or one of our all-time favorite match-ups, rotisserie chicken and a GSM-driven Cotes-du-Rhône? Money.

Wine most worth checking out: 14 Hands Merlot. Oooh, we love us some Washington wines, and this one is no exception. A full-bodied blend of merlot, cabernet sauvignon and syrah, we love it even more when there's also a hunk of beef on the plate in front of us - either the savory NY strip or the cheesesteak sammie will do just fine, thanks.

3) Bistro One

Wine list worth loving for its: Three - count 'em, three - sparklers available by the glass (two of which are just five bucks each), as well as a lively mix of old and new world offerings that suit B1's classic bistro-meets-home cookin' fare.

Wine most worth checking out: Jakob Demmer Riesling. If you have yet to experience the utter bliss that is the food-and-wine marriage of riesling and fried chicken, get thee to this restaurant. The crispy, salty bird makes the perfect, perceived sweetness-reducing foil for this off-dry German white. You will love the combo more than life itself.

4) Mellow Mushroom

Wine list worth loving for its: Regionally-appropriate focus. Because the last time we checked, pizza still fell into the Italian food category, correct? So it's great to see a pizza joint serving a nice selection of the high-acid, low-tannin wines that pizza gets along with best.

Wine most worth checking out: Corrina Sangiovese. Hey, if it ain't broke, don't fix it. Sometimes the best thing to drink is exactly what might seem the most obvious; there's no need to try to sex it up. Bright cherry fruit and a light style are just what you want to be guzzling with that pie, so order up a bottle of this delightful sangio and enjoy.

5) Racines

Wine list worth loving for its: Sheer volume and variety. According to our calculations, you can choose from over thirty different wines here, all of which are thoughtfully categorized to help make that choice a little less brain-damaging. While there are lots of familiar labels, Racines manages to keeps things interesting by throwing in a few unexpected bottles - have you seen much tannat or carmenère on a fast-casual (never mind a high-end) wine list lately?

Wine most worth checking out: Casa Lapostolle Chardonnay. Yes, you are reading that correctly - we're actually suggesting that you get over yourself and order a chardonnay, without mumbling the word under your breath (lest your dining companions overhear and proceed to talk shit about you for the rest of the night). This clean-drinking, mostly stainless steel-aged chard will be just right with an order of the ahi tuna.

6) Bones

Wine list worth loving for its: Edgy (bordering on wine geek) cool factor. Oh, yeah, there's sake, too. In fact, there something here for every palate, since Austrian Grüner veltliner happily cohabitates with New Zealand pinot noir, Spanish Rioja and Italian favorita.

Wine most worth checking out: Francois Pinon Vouvray. Chenin blanc! Chenin blanc! Chenin blanc! Can you tell that we get a little bit giddy about one of the world's most food-friendly grapes? This is a lush, exotic wine that can stand up to the broad array of the very big flavors on the board at Bones, including escargot potstickers and suckling pig steamed buns.


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9 comments
calhounp
calhounp

wade: the headline was screwed up; the restaurant scene is fine. I've fixed Kendra's post to reflect the "casual" definition she intended. My apologies.

Anonymous
Anonymous

It's a shame Mellow Mushroom was included on the list. A national chain (50+ stores) that does not show their wine list on their website? How is that well selected? They are happy to show their beer list which I'm guessing is their focus? I would have much preferred all of the six to be local, we don't need to promote national chains. How about Marco's? Cafe Calore? Even Brava! Pizza that serves wine under the clocktower?  National chain wine lists decided by a suit in an out of state corporate office does not speak 'super-cool' to me.

Margaret
Margaret

Mellow Mushroom Colorado is a locally-owned franchise that selects its own beverages for its two restaurants, including the beer and wine lists. These choices were made in Denver by Denver restaurateurs who wanted the selections to match the food menu or stand on their own. So there were no "suits" in the development of this wine list or in the beer list, which is always has more than half coming from our great Colorado breweries. We invite you to come in and see why our wine list was mentioned here among such great company.-Margaret, Mellow Mushroom Colorado

Elwood
Elwood

Margaret goes total smack down FTW!  Good show.

James Loo
James Loo

Thanks for the correction, Swirl Girl. Denver is known as the home to the fast-casual concept with many of the national chains starting here in the mile high city or its environs. Chipotle, Qdoba, Quiznos, Noodles & Co., Boston Market, Smashburger, Garbanzo, and Spicy Pickle, among others, all have roots and/or headquarters here. Too bad they, too, can't have a decent glass of wine.

Wade Sears
Wade Sears

just to follow up, i checked with the reataurant times and a few other trade publications; they also do not consider these types of restaurants 'fast casual' ( maybe the side business with food trucks, but that is trending down anyway. )

Sbuckyl
Sbuckyl

Gee, thanks for your diligent research there, Wade.

I think the author might have used the wrong term to describe these restaurants, I don't really understand why that makes the Denver restaurant scene screwed up however.

Wade Sears
Wade Sears

i now know why the denver restaurant scene is so screwed up. of the places listed here that i have been to, only mellow mushroom would qualify as 'fast casual' anywhere else in the US. these are all bars/pubs with food. and i can't really vouch for mellow mushroom since the last time i went there was the original location in Atlanta -- when the' shroom was a boulder dream, hippies serving organic pizza - no beer, no wine; hell, no bar!

a fast casual place is biker jims, illegal pete's or anthony's pizza.

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