Award-winning Rioja's menu and service shine in Larimer Square
It’s hard to find a restaurant with a distinctive menu that uses local, seasonal ingredients to create palate-pleasing selections on a continual basis. Bonus points if it all happens at a great location in a stylish, comfortable atmosphere. Add impeccable customer service and an upbeat vibe, and you’ve found nirvana. In Denver, diners have found Rioja.
Larimer Square’s shining star has won critical acclaim and customer loyalty since it opened in 2004 with Mediterranean-inspired cuisine seamlessly integrated with Colorado and seasonal products. The end result: ever-changing, intriguing menus for lunch, dinner and weekend brunch with favorites that adapt according to the time of year. Meatloaf offered as a wintertime dinner entrée might turn into a lunch sandwich for spring. (One manager says that Rioja’s meatloaf is her personal favorite, even though she always hated it growing up.) You might find Colorado lamb on the dinner menu and also as a tasty lamb burger at brunch--that burger is a staple now, since it has inspired a fervent fan base. Salads and vegetarian options dot the menu and there’s often a tasting menu available. Ask your server what's cooking when you visit.
The restaurant ambiance is upscale-comfy, whether you’re downtown attending a game or dressed for a night at the Performing Arts Complex. Rioja features a small patio that seats 16—if you’re in people-watching mode and the sun is out, be sure to arrive early to stake a table. Customer service is paramount, and servers are friendly and attentive. Parking can get dicey downtown--head for adjacent Larimer Square garage or take advantage of valet parking.
Under the "odd, but true" category: Be sure to check out the state-of-the-art Dyson hand-dryers in Rioja’s restrooms. They were installed just before the 2008 Democratic National Convention and have been a hit with customers ever since.
HelloDenver tip: Want to try out Rioja favorites at home? Look for "The Perfect Bite,” a cookbook being published with 83 recipes created by talented executive chef-owner (and former Wolfgang Puck protégé) Jennifer Jasinski.
Posted on May 9, 2010 by Lisa Perry