Situated on the ground floor of the Westside Pavilion Mall, just below The Landmark theater, Westside Tavern is a great date-night spot. The lighting is low enough that we’re looking pretty good & the cocktails are so well-balanced that after downing 3 of them.. I know we’re lookin’ good! Perfect date-night spot indeed.
Both the menu and decor have a strong similarity to Houston’s, Gulfstream, Bandera and the rest of the outposts of the Hillstone Restaurant Group. Menus that feature classic dishes with a modern twist – french dip sandwich with lamb, a classic burger updated with roasted garlic aioli & caramelized onions- and sleek, organic modern spaces with an emphasis on wood finishes & booth seating.
The first libation to catch my eye was the Grapefruit Rickey (10/10), made with vodka, St. Germain, club soda and lime & grapefruit juices. It was light and refreshing, a perfect recipe to rip off next time we have a backyard BBQ. Next up was the Moscow Mule (10/10). Now, I consider myself to be quite the Moscow Mule snob, considering they’re pretty much Colorado’s unofficial state drink (they call ’em Denver Donkeys & always serve them in copper mugs), but this version blew my mind. Instead of the usual ginger beer, it was made with club soda & pureed fresh ginger. It had an intense bite but was absolutely delicious. I wanted to try the Pepper Smash next (fresh spearmint, gin, lemon & bell pepper juices & homemade clover honey syrup), but I had to order another Moscow Mule. Had to.
As for the food, we started off with the day’s featured appetizer, Shrimp Ceviche (7/10). The bright flavors of lime, chiles and cilantro were tempered with chunks of creamy avocado & perfectly textured shrimp. It was served alongside tostada shells and made for a nice, light start to the meal.
Next up, the Shiitake Mushroom & Asparagus Flatbread (8/10). I’ve always been partial to thin crust pizzas, so it’s no surprise that I love the extremely crisp, almost cracker-like crust their flatbreads are known for. The toppings are no joke either – ours featured shiitake mushrooms, asparagus, Nueske’s bacon, fontina & truffle oil. As you can imagine, it’s a very rich and decadent dish and a little bit went quite a long way. My aunt Lynn thinks truffle oil smells like “the potty” – gross, right?? But after eating that whole flatbread, I kinda know what she means! It’s such an earthy scent and I felt like everyone could smell “truffle perfume” wafting off me for the rest of the night.
We also tried their Mac & Cheese with Crispy Onions (5/10), but were somewhat disappointed. The crispy onion topping was a great touch, but the dish lacked depth of flavor. Maybe a little fresh nutmeg in the bechamel would add a little interest? Or a dash of cayenne pepper? Overall, it was a good dish but nothing better than I can make at home (and that’s not saying much!).
We were definitely beyond full, but I always make room for dessert. Always. Nearly every review I’ve read about Westside Tavern mentions their Warm Sticky Toffee Cake with Mascarpone Cream (5/10). It was just meh. Definitely not bad, but it fell far short of the spectacular praise heaped upon it on Yelp. The Mascarpone Cream was a little too stiff but it had a nice, pure vanilla flavor. The cake itself was quite dense, as expected, but was so sweet that it bordered on cloying.
Overall, Westside Tavern is a great option for a consistent, if somewhat predictable, meal. The quality of ingredients is high and I’ve always had impeccable service there. Next time I’m definitely trying their incredible-looking Cobb Salad and I really wanna try a few more of their specialty cocktails. We’ll see if I can manage to tear myself away from that awesome Moscow Mule…
Overall Rating: 7/10