Summer al fresco dining in a dimly lit courtyard transports you to a private oasis amongst a concrete jungle. Cool autumn nights are kept at bay in an intimate dining room bustling with conversation at community tables. Drinks at the cozy bar are crafted by expert mixologists and the service throughout the space is attentive, descriptive and some of the best in the city. Every visit to the populist in denver will have a familiar feel but will be distinctly different. It’s a place that draws you back in, leaving you wanting more each visit.

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The populist puts an emphasis on community in many aspects; creating a small plates menu for sharing, communal dining tables and sourcing local product to feature on both the menu and throughout the space. I will admit I was a bit hesitant about sharing my anniversary dinner with a table full of strangers but somehow it works, without feeling like you are listening in on someone’s conversation. I guess it is very similar to dining at the bar which is a favorite of mine anyway. I have made multiple visits to the populist and no experience was the same but the service and food stood out each time.

Bad service is talked about on the web and socially with friends, just like the daily news. Yet, good service is expected so it goes without mention. It must be said that every server, bartender, host and buser on staff at the populist was gracious, well-informed and willing to walk diners through the menu with poise and benevolence. The service alone would be reason enough to stop in for a cocktail or join friends for a meal.

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Oh and the food, swoon-worthy on so many accounts. The cauliflower and pear soup is one of the best items on the menu; silky, light and the perfect way to warm your belly on a cold evening. The broken duck ‘cubano’ plate is not only a huge portion but the crispy pork and grainy mustard is an amazing combination. There are a few salads on the menu and while the curried chickpea salad was chalked full of flavor from the toasted hazelnuts and yellow raisins, the kale and farro salad, along with the cobia crudo were unmemorable and lacking complexity and flavor. Luckily the highlights out weigh the low-points which reigns true in the beautifully plated beet agnolotti which is earthy and light all at the same time. The best part, the menu is well priced, allowing guests to try multiple dishes without breaking the bank.

The populist draws you in to see what is just beyond the ivy-lined courtyard or past the front table filled with happy diners. Your visit will become an experience that you look back on fondly and the food will entice your senses to come back for more very soon.

Written by Jaime
South on Broadway is a Denver based food + lifestyle blog for lovers of food, fashion and design. a destination for daily inspiration

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