stoolsWhen a restaurant is busy, I scoot my way around the waiting masses, flag down a hostess, and ask what the wait is for a party of two. If the answer is “40 minutes for a table, or bar seats available now”–which is often the case during busy meals–I don’t even hesitate. Bar seats are my favorite, wait or not. At the bar, with the bartenders easily accessible, I can ask questions: Is this vodka Polish? Is the restaurant always this busy on a Wednesday night? Are my French fries sprinkled with seasoning? I feel in the restaurant-know. Plus, the drinks-and-small-plates eating I prefer is practically mandatory. Luckily, Denver has several good options for bar seating.

At Bones and D Bar Desserts, from the counter seats you can watch the chefs whisk toasty bone marrow out of the oven or slide tall slices of chocolate cake onto white plates. Or, if you take a seat at the Rioja bar, you can spend your meal looking back over the clean, modern space. At south Broadway’s Beatrice & Woodsley, bar seating is given as much credence as a table, and only the hostess can allocate spots at the sleek bar. But even at those restaurants with the best bars, there are times when I pick a table over a stool. If I’ve brought my dad, who’s slowly losing his hearing, we opt for a two-seater so that we can hear each other over the din of the restaurant. Or, if I’m out for a more formal occasion–perhaps a business dinner or a first meeting–a table is the way to go. On a casual night, though, when I’ve got no one to impress and only the food matters, I slide onto a stool, let my feet dangle, and strike up conversation with the bartender. Am I missing out on a better spot?