Sometimes, you have to take your partner out on a lavish and lovely date to treat them right. Whether it’s going to a show or taking them to wine tasting, there are plenty of places to take your lover out.

However, easily the most popular option when it comes to a romantic date night is taking your loved one out to a fancy dinner. There are plenty of options to be had in Colorado, but it appears there’s one that stands above the rest.

Recently, the website loveFOOD released a list of the best date night restaurants in every state in the US, and their pick for Colorado has been a staple in Denver’s dining scene for quite some time now.

Rioja in Denver, Colorado is Named the Best Date Night Restaurant in the State

Google Maps
Google Maps

Rioja has been a big player in Denver’s crowded restaurant scene since it first opened in 2004. The restaurant specializes in creating Mediterranean-inspired dishes that pair well with their fantastic wine list.

The website loveFOOD noted the combination of Rioja’s great pasta dishes and romantic atmosphere make it an easy choice for their list. They also note that their brunch menu makes them a great spot for day dates as well.

Rioja’s Menu is Filled to the Brim with Great Entrees and a Stellar Wine List

Facebook // Rioja
Facebook // Rioja

As mentioned before, Rioja has a fantastic selection of pasta that are inspired by Mediterranean cuisine.

You can get a Colorado lamb ricotta gnocchi that comes with toasted almonds and pickled onion, which sounds absolutely delightful. There’s also an artichoke tortellini that has white truffle brodo, aged Manchego, and chervil for good measure.

When it comes to entrees, they also have a fantastic selection. There is a great seared salmon with turmeric broth as well as Thai chili pork. If you want to get your Wagyu fix in, you can get the grilled Wagyu tri-tip. If you’re feeling more adventurous, you can try out the grilled octopus as well.

Along with an extensive wine list, this makes Rioja a fantastic place for a date night. Compared to some of Denver’s pricier options, Rioja is much more affordable as well.

Rioja Has Been Racking in the Awards Ever Since it First Opened

2023 James Beard Restaurant And Chef Awards
Getty Images for The James Beard

Not only has Rioja found its way on loveFOOD’s list, but the restaurant has seen a truly incredible amount of national attention ever since it first opened.

For one, the restaurant has been nominated twice for a James Beard Foundation award, winning once for Best Chef Southwest in 2013 and being a semifinalist for Outstanding Chef in 2016.

For those not in the loop, the James Beard Awards is one of the top honors for chefs and restaurants alike in the United States. Ever since it started in 1991, each nominee has gone through a huge vetting process through a subcommittee to even get a chance. To even get nominated is a huge honor. To win shows excellence across the board.

Rioja has also gotten recognition this year from Condé Nast Traveler as one of the 33 best restaurants in Denver. It has also received a ton of local attention, getting great feature stories from Denver Life Magazine and 5280 Magazine.

The Story of Rioja’s Two Owners, Beth Gruitch and Jennifer Jasinski

Facebook // Rioja
Facebook // Rioja

Finally, Rioja’s success can be accredited to the two owners of the restaurant, Beth Gruitch and Jennifer Jasinski.

Gruitch has been in the restaurant industry for quite some time and has accrued quite the resume. She has worked as both a busser and a manager in the past, she now owns four other restaurants in Denver along with Rioja: Bistro Vendôme, Euclid Hall, Stoic & Genuine, and Ulteria. She also is a level-one sommelier, which explains Rioja’s fantastic wine list. She has also recently received a Lifetime Achievement Award and was inducted into the Colorado Foodservice Hall of Fame by the Colorado Restaurant Association.

She owns all of these restaurants along with her business partner, Jennifer Jasinski, who also serves as the head chef. With an immense culinary background, Jasinski studied with famous chef Wolfgang Puck for 10 years before settling in Denver in 2000, where she met Gruitch. She was the one who received both the James Beard Award for Best Southwest Chef and the 2016 nomination for Outstanding Chef, and continues to be an icon in Denver’s restaurant scene.

Together, they have cultivated a fantastic crew to bring together some of the best dining experiences in Colorado. So next time you'd like to take your partner out on a romantic night out on the town, make sure to keep Rioja on your mind.

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