indulge + imbibe
Sit
at the Bar
Eat, Drink, See and Be Seen
By Gabby Gourmet
Today’s dining scene brings many choices, not only in food and service but also in ambience and vibe. Denver’s dining scene has grown up over the past few years, and we’re proud to feature some of the country’s most highly hyped offerings. Even though relaxing in the restaurant dining room is a treat, one of the best ways to savor today’s eating-out vibe is to grab a seat at the bar. So where to start? Here are two local options that have wonderful dining rooms and an awesome bar scene.
LE BILBOQUET
299 St. Paul
Denver, CO 80206
303-835-9999
lebilboquetdenver.com
The vibe
Le Bilboquet, the latest opening in Cherry Creek, boasts a sensational atmosphere. This successful transplant from Manhattan has adapted to Denver style with lower prices, no dress code, and very friendly service. Surrounded by colorful velvet lounge chairs and sofa, a well-appointed dining room, and flowers that enhance the scene, this restaurant is inviting and lovely. And the bar is gorgeous, with florals and a mirrored backdrop of liquors, wines, and Rosé – the signature wine and owner’s favorite.
The food
The French-inspired menu offers many options. Along with beef tartar, Cajun chicken, steak frites, and duck confit, do not miss the shareable mussels, which arrive in a huge bowl, swimming in a white wine and butter sauce with diced tomatoes accented with crostini. Also not to be missed is the crabmeat salad, complemented by smashed avocado to create real yum. Curry chicken brochette also uses the smashed avocado, along with bright lime and cilantro. Both dishes have hints of spice to keep things, well, slightly spicy.
The drinks
The signature French 75 features lavender syrup, while the Cajun Riviera combines mezcal, ginger, serrano pepper, Cajun spices, and ginger ale. And, get folded by their wicked Paper Plane. Rosés, many wines, and beer also are available.

Open daily for lunch and dinner, weekend brunch, and a terrific happy hour, grab that seat at the bar and watch the pretty people waiting to see and be seen. Dress up if you like, but casual works too. Le Bilboquet is one of the more sophisticated places in Denver, but by no means is it stuffy. Come early and stay late at this special bar or relax in the gorgeous dining room. Remember first come, first serve at the bar, but it’s worth the wait.

Le Bilboquet restaurant
El Five restaurant
EL FIVE
2930 Umatilla Street
Denver, CO 80211
303-524-9193
elfivedenver.com
The vibe
El Five is in the Highlands on the fifth floor of an office building. The vibe roars “This is not the Denver I was expecting!” An uninterrupted 360-degree view of the city is astonishing and totally Instagram-worthy. The décor features posters of celebrities popular in the middle east, emblazoned with descriptions in Egyptian. Dark glass-speckled mirrored ceilings, tile walls, and an open kitchen with seated prep kitchen add to the stunning ambience. Booths and tables throughout the dining room are surrounded by huge glass windows and a heated patio for even more spectacular viewing. The bar has its own area and it’s one of the most exciting lounge spots around. The Mediterranean décor continues with posters on the tile walls and filigree-covered shades that cast a soft glow. The back wall holds liquor while the center of the bar gives staff the chance to interact with guests. El Five gets a “10” for people watching – whatever your age.
The food
The menu is a melting pot of all Mediterranean regions, labeled as Tapas De Gibraltar. Share appetizer platters, order from a selection of awesome small plates (tapas) or go for the signature paellas. Or combine them all. Don’t miss the med spread dish of peanut and charred carrot hummus, mohammara, Turkish eggplant, artichokes, and house-made pita. Crispy cauliflower yufka brings a chickpea crust filled with smashed cauliflower, while pinenuts, tahini, avocado Fattoush, and cumin aioli on the plate help create the most popular dish on the menu. Moroccan lamb sausage with hummus, fava beans, pea tendrils, and lemon mint are delish; and, matzo ball dumplings take this Chinese favorite food to new heights. The chicken bouillon, mirepoix, lemon olive oil, and dill in the broth accent the flavor of the “not for Passover” dumpling. Outrageous seafood paella brings mounds of crab, lobster, shrimp, mussels, and fish atop basmati rice. Mideastern spices used in the dishes offer great flavors without extreme heat.
The drinks
A long list of specialty cocktails includes the Ray Donavon concocted with Johnnie Walker Black Label, Velbet Falermum (ginger, lime and almond syrup of Caribbean origin), and two dashes of Angostura bitters. Another favorite is the signature sangria with frozen fresh fruit and lots of booze, and yes, a high-flying Paper Plane. Add great wines with a focus on regions from the Mediterranean, beers, and a list of non-alcoholic offerings.

El Five is the most exciting restaurant in the area with its astonishing décor, incredible service, and unique elements. The crowds come early and late, young and old, people watching is unbelievable, and food appeals to all. El Five is open nightly for dinner and brunch on Sunday. No reservations at the bar, but do reserve for a table in the dining room. Delight in the experience at this most popular spot for locals and out-of-town visitors.

El Five restaurant bar
James Florio Photography
For fun
Recipe: The Paper Plane –
not the folded kind, but it will help you “fly”.

  • 1.5 oz. amaro
  • 1.5 oz. aperol
  • 1.5 oz. bourbon
  • 1.5 oz. fresh lemon juice

Shake well in a shaker with ice. Strain into two coupe glasses and take off!