Approachable. Naughty. Comfortable. Luxe. All of these words apply to Bar Helix, Kendra “Swirl Girl Denver” Anderson’s new bar on Larimer Street, which opens today.

It’s the kind of place where you can do just about anything, with anyone. Happy hour with co-workers? Yep. Bar Helix always opens at 4 p.m. so you can skedaddle from the office on the earlier side.

Date night with your partner? Absolutely. The glamorous-yet-gritty space is so sexy—complete with a “make out booth” in back—that late-night rendezvous there are sure to end happily (although preferably at home).

Dinner and drinks with friends? Bar Helix works for that, too, thanks to Anderson’s refusal to “compromise on the bar or the food.” She nabbed former Il Posto chef John Hadala to man the small, open kitchen; you can watch him craft seductive snacks from six chef counter seats, or, if those are full, from the handy-dandy drinks rail opposite the kitchen. (Thoughtful touches abound: All the drink rails and almost every seat in the place is adjacent to a coat hook and an outlet so you can hang and charge whatever needs it.)

The food comes as elevated bar snacks, but nothing overly fussy or precious. Instead, they’re just smart. Crab-filled rangoon are creamy and crunchy, as they should be, but also dressed in two sauces—sriracha sweet and sour and a bright chimichurri—that cut through the richness. “Crispy creamy balls” of fried porcini risotto sit on a bed of romesco made with smoked herbs, marcona almonds, and piquillo peppers. Popcorn is fluffy and light, but laced with a spicy lime butter and intended for swiping through the squid ink painted on its serving bowl; sounds crazy, tastes delicious.

Other savory delights include waffles made from smashed tater tots topped with pickle-brined fried chicken, wine-cured deviled eggs filled with dry-aged steak tartare (if you like that sort of thing), and a house snack mix spiced with za’atar and seasoned with chunks of Elevation Charcuterie and Artisan Meats’ divine bacon.

As for sweets, there are profiterole ice cream bonbons with porter-caramel sauce and Negroni donut holes—yes, you read that right—from neighbor Hotbox Roasters, which are stuffed with vermouth pastry cream and glazed with Campari.

Sipping something elegant and smooth with such fare is essential, and Anderson has designed a beverage program for everyone: There are cocktails (the house Negroni, made with honey-infused Old Tom gin, is perfection), wines by the glass and the bottle, beer, cider, sake, and bubbly for days. Custom high-boy tables even sport troughs for holding ice and bottles, leaving more room on table tops for glasses, plates, and flickering candlelight.

The space is RiNo chic, combining sophisticated elements—a custom back-lit acrylic bar topped with white quartz; translucent mid-century modern chairs; rust and gold accents; glittering lights and mirrors—with unfinished touches such as concrete floors and graffiti-tagged columns. It all comes off as glitzy-casual, the love child of a Manhattan lounge and your favorite dive bar.

Speaking of those street-art-tagged columns, Bar Helix is offering a deal exclusively for 5280 readers: Guess correctly what the graffiti on the columns says (share the answer with anyone working the bar) and earn a FREE house Negroni or glass of Champagne. So get on that, and don’t say we never did anything for ’ya.

Bar Helix is open from 4 p.m. to midnight, Tuesday through Saturday.

3440 Larimer St., 720-449-8587

Denise Mickelsen
Denise Mickelsen
Denise Mickelsen is 5280’s former food editor. She oversaw all of 5280’s food-related coverage from October 2016 to March 2021.