The ‘burbs are a great place to raise a family. But when parents want to get away for date night, choices for grownup nightlife are slim to none — until now. The suburbs got a whole lot more sophisticated last summer with the opening of the rooftop tequila lounge Estrella in Denver. This grownup gathering place has all the panache of a downtown nightclub, yet isn’t smothered between office buildings and high-rise condos.
Its unobstructed view of the entire Front-Range mountains from its perch atop La Sandia Restaurant at The Vistas in Park Meadows is one of the best views in all of Denver – suburbs or city. This means the sunsets are, quite simply, magnificent. And the stars? Well, estrella is Spanish for stars.
Masterminded by Bart DeLorenzo, Estrella belongs to the cache of Richard Sandoval’s international “modern Mexican” restaurants that include Denver’s Zengo and Tamayo, in addition to another La Sandia at Northfield Stapleton. DeLorenzo designed the concept for the rooftop lounge to maximize the incredible space atop the Park Meadows location.
“We are creating high quality for the late-night crowd,” DeLorenzo says.
High quality, indeed. Beginning with the food, “modern Mexican” cuisine is a thousand steps up from what most diners know as Mexican fare. Sandoval’s pioneering art of cooking combines authentic Mexican ingredients with French and Asian influences, creating different interpretations for each of his restaurants. Other places blessed with the Sandoval cuisine include Las Vegas, Mexico, Dubai, New York, Washington, D.C., and Virginia, all overseen by Executive Chef John Calloway.
The small-plates fare at Estrella is perfect for happy hour or late-night noshing. Botanas include guacamole prepared at the table in a lava rock bowl. Our server mixes fresh tomato, onion, cilantro and Serrano chile with a whole avocado that perfectly globs onto homemade tortilla chips. Two ceviche dishes — one with rock shrimp and one with mahi mahi — are impeccably marinated in citrus-tomato broth and citrus-habanero sauce, respectively. The Taco Baja features a finger-sized beer-battered tilapia resting on a soft flour tortilla with chipotle aioli and a side of Mexican slaw. You get the idea; this is not Tex-Mex.
While the food is some of the best in the ‘burbs, it’s the ambiance that makes Estrella shine. You feel it at the dramatic entrance where star-shaped lights fashioned from New Mexican tinwork illuminate orange walls and a black freestanding staircase. At the top of the stairs, you enter an indoor bar with a comfortable living-room atmosphere complete with fireplace, sofa groupings and potted plants. This room leads to a large second-story open-air deck that is the essence of Estrella.
Here on Friday and Saturday nights, the rooftop lounge comes alive at 9 p.m. with sultry Latin music punctuating the cool night air. The late-night crowd sips exotic cocktails and tequila from a selection of 110 varieties while basking under the stars.
If late-night is not your thing, come for a special happy hour on Thursdays when, from 7 to 10 p.m., longtime DJ Harry Jay spins from his collection of Latin Swing, Salsa, Cha Cha and other rhythms for Latin dance lessons by professionals.
And when it gets cold? “We roll down the shades and continue the party inside,” DeLorenzo says. “We do it right or don’t do it at all. We raise the bar on ourselves.”
The sunset blazes orange across the mountains and, in Estrella tradition, we toast to luck and love. “You don’t have to drive downtown to get something beautiful,” DeLorenzo says.
If You Go
Estrella, atop La Sandia restaurant at The Vistas, adjacent to the west side entrance of Park Meadows Mall, 8419 Park Meadows Center Dr., Lone Tree, CO 80124; 303-586-5511; modernmexican.com Open daily, 11 a.m. to close.
Claudia Carbone, an award-winning journalist, is editor of Out of Denver, a suburban lifestyle magazine.