At African Grill and Bar, owners Osei and Adowa Ford-Wuo strive to make everyone’s African dining experience fun and unintimidating, personally attending to guests and making suggestions from the menu of beef and goat stews, fried snapper and grouper, and fragrantly spiced spinach and vegetable plates. Unlike traditional American starches such as boring white bread and canisters of uncooked biscuit dough, even the carbs of West African cuisine lend distinct flavors to plates. Fried plantains, ground cassava, and tender spheroids of pounded yam accompany dishes, which range from groundnut soups to chicken curries. Fried-rice pilafs pop with the vibrant colors of spinach, tomato, and spices, complementing the décor of dark red tables, wicker chairs, leafy plants, and walls bedecked with African woodworking and weaving.
Amid the lively Kinga’s Lounge, owner Kinga Klek regularly rolls up her sleeves and tends to the full bar and kitchen, working beside a family of staffers as they construct traditional Polish cuisine from scratch. The chefs turn fresh ingredients into authentic dishes, such as stews, schnitzels, and pierogis, while bartenders help diners navigate the staggering menu of Polish beers and vodkas.
Inside the lounge’s dining area, a full-wall mural interrupts a red-and-white color scheme as light from chandeliers dapples ornate wood furnishings. Leather armchairs cradle patrons upstairs, who can carry their merrymaking downstairs to Kinga’s Basement, an equally spirited watering hole where exposed-brick walls stand sentinel under arches and pillars. Festivities spill over to the outdoor patio, enclosed by verdant foliage and strings of lights that crisscross the al fresco space in a foolish attempt to make their way east to become one with the sun. A full schedule of events, including a live DJ on weekends and a comedy showcase on Sunday evenings, keeps revelers reveling.
Seasoned cook Jose Aparicio, affectionately known as Chef Pepito, puts his more than 20 years experience to use preparing authentic Peruvian dishes with an American twist, cooking inside a sleek, brightly colored eatery decked out with rustic wrought-iron chandeliers. He marinates his classic ceviche’s halibut in lime before mingling it with corn, potatoes, red onion, and cilantro, as well as sizzles up heartier entrees such as tacu tacu—bean cakes and brown rice topped with a quintessential Peruvian seafood sauce. He also riffs on classic Peruvian food with mushroom ceviche and spiced filet mignon with crunchy potatoes.
Behind the bar, which is inlaid with exposed brick, drink mavens craft Peruvian cocktails, such as pisco sours and the Mosquito, a variation of the mojito that’s amped up with Cointreau and fruit juices before being swatted, not stirred.
Every aspect of Next Door Lounge is designed with one goal in mind: helping patrons unwind. Craft beers complement Next Door’s menu of pub food classics, such as juicy Angus beef burgers and wings doused in fiery atomic sauce. As tunes play from the jukebox, the night’s biggest games and most crucial advertisements are shown on a 10'x6' television screen. Other matches unfold in-house, from tests of true aim on the beer pong table to careful stacking sessions with the bar’s giant Jenga set. Evenings at Next Door Lounge also pack plenty of live entertainment, including bingo and open mic nights.
City, O' City is a community café serving vegetarian and vegan fare, much of it local, for friends and family around downtown Denver. Commence morning mealtime with a cup of Pablo's on 6th coffee and a fried banana-bread PB&J ($4.25), which, like a denim skort, incorporates two independently enticing entities into one awesome conglomeration. The appetizer menu features favorites such as meat-free seitan wings ($8) and a Mediterranean pesto plate, a hodge-podge of hummus, basil pesto, olives, pepperoncini, marinated eggplant, french fries, and flat bread ($12). City, O' City is lauded for its pizzas, which can be made gluten-free and vegan upon request. The Florentine ($10 for 10", $22 for 18") is a classic mixture of olive oil, spinach, mushrooms, roma tomatoes, fresh rosemary, and three cheeses and is so delicious that it may inspire diners to don their finest Dante mask and script an epic poem about the human soul struggling to ascend circle after circle of cheese and sauce.
Pizza Public’s dining area takes on two different looks during any given business day: it’s a family-oriented "craft" pizzeria by day and turns into a full lounge and bar at night. Amid soft lights and flat-screen TVs, daytime diners and families nibble on house pizzas fresh from the kitchen that can be decked out in traditional pepperoni or more daring toppings such as goat cheese or mango. When the sun goes down, the eatery’s bar comes to life as patrons sip on cocktails or a large selection of Colorado craft beers. The full menu is available all day, with gluten-free options for all pizzas and a tapas list that includes bruschetta and the eatery’s inventive prosciutto puffers.