Tucked away in a totally overlook-able corner of the lower highlands neighborhood, Z Cuisine looks like it could sit next to any café in Belleville, Paris.
The exterior walls are shellac-ed with art and mis-matched sets of outdoor bistro furniture line the entrance. On one half of the quirky restaurant is the mothership, Z Cuisine itself, while the other half hosts “À Côté” (ah koh-TAY, lit: next to), the cleverly named bar.
Z Cuisine, like most French restaurants in Denver, tends to be more “special occasion”-y, but À Côté remains cozy and community oriented. Locals drop in and out for drinks or a bite and the restaurant’s owner, Patrick DuPays, sips some wine at a small table in the back corner.
My friend and co-host of KEWZ’s “The Main Course,” Elizabeth Woessner, swears that it is the closest thing to France in Denver.
It definitely has the look down, so how about the wines?
À Côté Drinks
Z Cuisine À Côté is definitely all about the Absinthe (can you tell by the sign?) but they’ve also got a killer wine list. The list highlights unusual finds that even surprise a wine expert like Elizabeth. Maybe even more surprising are the prices.
At $9 – 14 a glass, you’re getting some really good steals. Eli Kerlin, who heads up the bar, tells me that he knows many people feel like that’s a lot to pay, so he really tries to give you the best value for your glass. He meets with tons of importers and distributers to make sure he’s putting something really special on the frequently rotating menu – this isn’t your liquor store pinot.
After a few glasses off the menu (and a few pulled by Patrick off the top shelves!) I realized I needed something to eat or I was going to have to ask Eli for a sleeping bag with my next glass.
À Côté Eats
The menu at À Côté is a bit more humble than the full restaurant next door, but it is NOT to be underestimated. Some dishes of note:
— The Cheese Plate. You might have guessed that I love cheese, but this cheese plate is specially prepared every night by some kitchen experts who know their cheese. Our plate had great French AND local cheeses with very tasty accompaniments (like a fresh baguette)!
— The Quiche. This is probably the menu’s sleeper. You don’t really think to order a quiche when you see it on a dinner menu, but don’t pass this up. The quiche is fabulous and authentically French.
— Boeuf Bourguignon. Affectionately called a “bourgie” by the waitstaff, this is enormous and really made for two. It comes in a mini cast-iron bowl with some mash on top, kind of like a shepherd’s pie. To give you an idea of how good this was, I ate the above-mentioned cheese plate and still nearly finished all of this Bourgie. Regrettably, it’s only offered Thurs – Sun nights, so plan ahead and bring a friend (or don’t… I won’t judge).
I left Z Cuisine full of delicious food, delicious wine, and great conversation — not only with my dinner date, but with the whole staff and some of the locals.
This is the kind of place where you could arrive alone and leave feeling like you had dinner with old friends. It’s what a good Paris bar should feel like, and suddenly I knew exactly what Elizabeth meant when she said that Patrick’s bar was the “closest thing to France in Denver.”
What makes you feel ‘at home’ at a restaurant or bistro? Let me know in the comments!