Room for Milly is the future of Denver bars and restaurants. Here’s why.

The bar at Room for Milly was designed with a fictional character, Milly Parker, in mind, and her world travels at the turn of the last century. (Provided by Room for Milly)

Until recently in Denver, a bar or restaurant was just that — a place to grab a bite, somewhere to have a drink, a space for diners and drinkers to pile in and hopefully enjoy a little something.

For me, that began to change about a year ago.

With the 2018 opening of Beckon, a dinnertime chef’s table that’s more experience than meal, customers don’t so much start a conversation when sitting down to eat as they do become part of one already running. The story is built in — to the service, the menu and the room around them.

Last week, while at an opening party for Room for Milly, a new cocktail bar and small plates destination on Platte Street, I experienced the same feelings that Beckon, Somebody People and few other spots have managed to elicit.

Like live music and theater shows before them, restaurants and bars are starting to become a performance in and of themselves. I’m not talking about a theme; the 20th Century can keep that trend. No, the change that’s happening now is more akin to artwork.

Here’s the first clue at Room for Milly: The new bar is based on a fictional character who hailed from the East Coast and traveled the globe 100 years ago. (What’s your backstory, Red Lobster?)

With Milly’s eclectic (but, let’s not forget, privileged) persona and travels as inspiration, Room for Milly aspires to some very specific world-building inside its 30-seat quarters.

From start to finish — from the velvet-curtained entryway to the powder room-style toilets — everything of Milly’s evokes a fully reimagined, jazz-age New York setting.

The entrance to Room for Milly at the base of the new Circa Building will transform you to New York in the 1920s. (Provided by Room for Milly)

Drinkers can view curated prints, photos and sculptures along the walls. You can perch with your Le Hotel Bristol collins at the brass bar rail, or sit with a petite beef Wellington and Waldorf salad in the salon area. 

With design led by Fiona Arnold’s team at Mainspring development, Room for Milly never shies away from its feminine touches. One section of the drink menu is dedicated to Milly’s conquests; put another way, “where romance was a part of the journey.” See cocktails named after men: Ishan, My Dearest Pike and Mururi. 

On that note, if I have one early complaint about Milly, it’s that she can boast progressively about her sexual exploits while also leaning in a little too hard to her imperialist upbringing.

A beautiful but head-tilting mural behind the bar recalls period views of the Orient, while certain romantic but dated menu language employs phrases like “…exploration of foreign lands and curiosities.” 

Because, along with restaurants and bars becoming experiential destinations, another change we’ve seen in them, thankfully, is the idea that international is no longer foreign — and that curious can be, for many, just the new normal.

If you go: 1615 Platte St., at the base of the Circa Building, 720-630-7020, 3 p.m.-midnight Sunday through Thursday and until “later” Friday and Saturday, roomformilly.com 

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