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Behind the Design: Cuba Cuba’s New Patio

The restaurant's new patio has downtown views that pair beautifully with a mojito and some empanadas.

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Outdoor dining in the Mile High City is a guaranteed summertime pleasure. This year, add the new patio at Cuba Cuba Cafe & Bar in the Golden Triangle to your alfresco line-up. Here, good design adds something special to your happy hour vibe. Created by Jonas DiCaprio, owner of Design Platform LLP, the newly elevated patio is a true urban retreat.

“We went for a homey feel,” says DiCaprio. “But still modern, just like the interior of the restaurant.”

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Known for its killer mojitos and authentic Cuban fare, the original Cuba Cuba location is also famous for utilizing Denver’s two oldest freestanding homes. These historic landmarks provide unmistakable charm, but also add some design challenges for restaurant owner Kristy Socarras Bigelow and DiCaprio.

“Because these are historic buildings we really can’t touch the exterior,” says DiCaprio.

DiCaprio and Socarras Bigelow were determined to make the updated patio feel like an extension of the restaurant itself. That meant continuing a mix of textures (including lining the interior with barn wood), dropping lighting and fans to a cozy low level, and utilizing a corrugated steel roof to connect the patio to the restaurant, providing shade and cover for Colorado’s finicky weather patterns.

Combining the patina of the original buildings with today’s code requirements for the addition was a challenge for the designer, but it delivers a bonus for Cuba Cuba’s diners. By raising the floor level, patio diners now get a sparkling view of downtown.

“I knew we’d get a great view, but I didn’t know it would be framed this perfectly,” says DiCaprio.

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The project was an extension of a design partnership between DiCaprio and Socarras Bigelow. After joining forces on the restaurateur’s home—also a modern interior housed in an older home—the two have continued working on Bigelow’s commercial projects. To date that list includes three Cuba Cuba Sandwicheria outposts—in Glendale, Boulder, and DTC—as well as the original location.

“Our creative dynamic is incredibly complimentary to each other,” says DiCaprio. “We had so much fun with the house and in all the restaurants. It’s a very collaborative relationship.”

Get to Cuba Cuba early this season and check out DiCaprio’s living wall of Virginia creeper, a dense climbing vine that’s just beginning to scale up one of the patio walls. The former patio was lush with plants, and DiCaprio plans for the living wall to deliver a signature ambience while literally connecting the old and new spaces.

Watching plants grow over mojitos and empanadas? Sounds like a perfect item for any summertime “to-do list.”

Visit: Cuba Cuba Cafe & Bar, 1173 Delaware St., 303-605-2822d

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