Denver’s Bar Helix injects a little sex — and a menu to please everyone — into RiNo

Kendra Anderson knew two years ago that she was going to open a bar in RiNo and that it would be different from the others around it.

The "Side Piece" served up at Bar Helix, Oct. 24, 2017. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

denver; colorado; denverite; kevinjbeaty; food; bars; nightlife; rino; five points;
The "Side Piece" served up at Bar Helix, Oct. 24, 2017. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite) denver; colorado; denverite; kevinjbeaty; food; bars; nightlife; rino; five points;
The “Side Piece” served up at Bar Helix, Oct. 24, 2017. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

In a neighborhood where you’re more likely than not to leave with some beer-bloat, a new bar wants to give you more options. Sexier options.

Kendra Anderson knew two years ago that she was going to open a bar in RiNo and that it would be different from the others around it. It would have a creative cocktail menu, a strong wine selection, good beer and good food. Eventually, it would open as Bar Helix at 3440 Larimer St.

“I’ve lived in Denver 20-plus years, so I’ve been watching RiNo develop and knew that was where I wanted to be,” she said. “I felt like this neighborhood didn’t have the concept that I was imagining.”

Kendra Anderson, owner of Bar Helix, Oct. 24, 2017. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite) denver; colorado; denverite; kevinjbeaty; food; bars; nightlife; rino; five points;
Kendra Anderson, owner of Bar Helix, Oct. 24, 2017. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

Anderson has a background as a chef, sommelier and events planner. She owned a catering business from 2003-11. In that time, she became an advanced sommelier and started working in the wine industry. For about three years, she wrote a column about wine and entertaining for Westword. To bring all of those things into one job, she decided to open a bar.

“I started thinking about a bar where you didn’t have to compromise if you wanted an amazing glass of wine and also an option to have a great cocktail, legitimate beer. And my big thing with bars is that it definitely always felt like you weren’t going to be able to eat particularly well,” Anderson said. “I really wanted to put something together that would showcase all of those elements, so I started marinating on this concept and before I knew it three years had passed and here we are.”

Anderson hired chef John Hadala, formerly of Il Posto, to run the kitchen and help her round out a menu she’d already largely dreamt up. She has, as she said, “a very strong point of view” that you can see across the menus.

"Fresh to Death," a take on an Old Fashioned served up inside Bar Helix, Oct. 24, 2017. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite) denver; colorado; denverite; kevinjbeaty; food; bars; nightlife; rino; five points;
“Fresh to Death,” a take on an Old Fashioned served up inside Bar Helix, Oct. 24, 2017. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

The cocktail menu, for example, will feature seasonal variations on the Negroni, her favorite. You’ll also find ingredients that are maybe less familiar, at least to the average whiskey-and-coke drinker.

“I’m trying to kind of encourage people to try things that they might not be familiar with. We work with a lot of aperitivo spirits, bitter spirits —that’s why we have so many Negronis,” Anderson said. “Sometimes people are a little bit out their comfort zone when it comes to things like Campari, also amaro, so we’ve woven those types of ingredients into the cocktails, introducing people to those things and kind of encouraging them to try them in a different way than they had imagined.”

What you won’t find are drinks with more than four ingredients, not including garnish. Anderson doesn’t want any guests to be kept waiting long, so the cocktails can be made quickly and in some cases in batches.

And the cocktails have names to match the decor, which includes soft leather bar stools, lucite chairs, silky throw pillows and framed Playboy covers.

The bar and a wine room inside Bar Helix, Oct. 24, 2017. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite) denver; colorado; denverite; kevinjbeaty; food; bars; nightlife; rino; five points;
The bar and a wine room inside Bar Helix, Oct. 24, 2017. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

On the current menu, you’ll find the Side Piece (Don Q Añejo, Bauchant orange cognac, blood orange, lime), the Come + Get It (Death’s Door vodka, St. Germain, citrus, micro basil) and the Contessa (Death’s Door gin, aperol, cocchi Americano).

They had some fun with the food menu, too. There’s the Dirty Popcorn (made with huitlacoche-jalapeño butter), the Naughty Waffles (tater tot waffle with pickle-brined buttermilk fried chicken and sriracha-wildflower honey aioli) and — most blunt of all — the Hot Sex on a Platter (house-made blueberry pop-tart with fie gras parfait).

Essentially: it’s far from another RiNo brewery.

Bar Helix is open from 4 to 10 p.m. Tuesday and Wednesday and 4 p.m. to midnight Thursday through Saturday. Reservations can be made for groups of eight or more by calling 720-449-8587.

Ashley Dean

Author: Ashley Dean

Ashley Dean covers culture and other odds and ends. She previously covered music and did some copy editing for the Denver Post, the Colorado Daily and the Daily Camera. She's from New York, likes her bourbon straight and has strong opinions about Kanye West. She can be reached at adean@denverite.com, 303-502-2804 or @AshleyDean.