I’ll have another: Denver’s new Thirsty Lion

On Thursday, the Thirsty Lion Gastropub and Grill (201 Columbine Street), an upscale spot with locations in Arizona, Oregon and Colorado, previewed its second location in the posh Cherry Creek North neighborhood in Denver. The Food Report attended for free in order to offer the scoop.

It’s a relaxed but sophisticated watering hole, coupling a casual pub vibe with a high-end cocktail bar feel. The decor is modern and tasteful with a few appropriately placed quotes on the walls to make it feel approachable. The bar has dozens of craft beers and ciders on tap, as well as signature cocktails and modern classics for the more spirited drinker. I opted for a blood orange margarita, which had just the right balance of sweet and tart, while my guest went retro with a Bulleit Rye Old Fashioned.

What to eat?
What to eat?
Blood Orange Margarita & Bulleit Rye Old Fashioned
Blood Orange Margarita & Bulleit Rye Old Fashioned

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In the kitchen they’re offering up traditional English fare, like scotch eggs and IPA-battered fish and chips. Those rest amidst a versatile menu ranging from filet Mignon to kung pao chicken.

Brussels sprouts appetizer
Brussels sprouts appetizer

We started our meal with sautéed Brussels sprouts, cooked with pepper bacon, red onions, olive oil and Reggiano cheese. Our main brought grilled salmon and asparagus risotto, with fresh asparagus, mushrooms, Roma tomatoes, shrimp fume, braised leeks, garlic butter, shallots and a sprinkling of Reggiano cheese. A recommended Spicy Mule had the perfect amount of jalapeño kick to keep it refreshing yet with a mild hint of burn.

Grilled Salmon & Asparagus Rissoto
Grilled Salmon & Asparagus Rissoto
Spicy Mule: Smirnoff Vodka, Ginger Beer, Lime juice, simple syrup, jalapeños & a lime wedge
Spicy Mule: Smirnoff Vodka, Ginger Beer, Lime juice, simple syrup, jalapeños & a lime wedge

My date went for a heaping bowl of spicy mac-and-cheese, with Italian spicy sausage, Jack, cheddar, Swiss and Parmesan cheeses topped with chipotle cream, red peppers and scallions. Next came a flight of tasters: Elevation 8 Second Kolsch, Funkwerks Farmhouse Saison, New Belgium Trippel, Dry Dock Apricot Blonde, Deschutes Fresh Squeezed IPA and Ballast Point Grapefruit Sculpin IPA. The brews came in handy because that mac delivered on the spice.

Spicy Mac & Cheese
Spicy Mac & Cheese
Beer Flight
Beer Flight

We finished up with white chocolate and raspberry Grand Marnier cheesecake. Did I mention I love cheesecake? It came off light and balanced, not too sweet.

White Chocolate Raspberry Grand Marnier Cheesecake
White Chocolate Raspberry Grand Marnier Cheesecake

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Though obviously it was a media event, so your mileage may vary, our overall experience at Thirsty Lion was a win. The service was outstanding; the grub scored high marks for taste, presentation and portion size; and the atmosphere was chic yet welcoming. A definite Denver go-to for those looking for pub-fare with great beer/cider selection or a fine-dining experience accompanied by solid mixology.

The new location’s grand opening  is Tuesday, June 14th.

Cheers!

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[Images: Dionne Roberts]