It's a tricky thing, picking a spot for a First/Early in the Game Date date. When you're going out with someone for the very first time, it's important that you find a place that has a good vibe, a wide selection of wines and cocktails, and the option to potentially order some decent food if things go well. What you most definitely do not want is to sit across the table from someone you barely know for a full-on dinner, trying to figure out what you do with your hands, and wondering if the people at the table next to you can tell that you're sweating real bad.
You've probably heard us talk about this first date thing before, but know that we only repeat ourselves because we're passionate about trying to help you solve this problem. Mostly so that we can ultimately get invited to your wedding, get drunk, and hop on stage with the band while they play Hotel California three times in a row because we paid them to. And a solid first step to getting us all to that point is you deciding to take your date to The Leadbelly.
The Leadbelly is an oyster and cocktail focused establishment that The Fat Radish folks opened directly across from their restaurant in September of 2012. It's much more of a bar with snacks than it is a restaurant, and that's part of what makes it so good for a hang with someone you may or may not be giving the romance to later. It's the perfect place to have a stiff drink and a dozen on the half shell while you suss things out. Assuming things are going well, you can order up some food from the kitchen and turn this party into a casual dinner, full of very good, and relatively simple plates from their menu. We particularly like the Colorado lamb meatballs, the mac and cheese, and the kale and sweet potato salad. If you really want to test the waters, throw a scotch egg into the mix and see what happens. Everything is tasty and should at the very least keep you from getting too bombed. To top it all off, there is live music every night here, which is usually something that we hate in bars and restaurants. But instead of some off-key asshole playing Dave Matthews covers, the Leadbelly employs a rotating group of tasteful musicians playing at a reasonable volume. Some nights it's bossa nova, some nights it's ragtime piano. Either way, it's a nice touch, and will make you seem more cultured, assuming you don't go up and request that Gotye song like an asshole.
One last piece of advice - The Leadbelly can get crowded at times, and it's far less pleasant if you're crammed into the front bar area instead of at a table. Try and come on the early side of the evening (before 9pm), or for a real gangster move, hit this place up on a Sunday afternoon.
Oysters are a focus here, and as a result, there's always a strong selection from both coasts. On our last visit we had some Shigokus (WA) and some Spring Creeks (MA) that were awesome.Citrus Red Snapper Crudo
This crudo is more raw fish on top of some salad than it is a plate of raw fish, but it's good. We could maybe go for some more of that snapper in there, but at $9, I don't suppose that's happening.Kale And Sweet Potato Salad
This is an incredible salad, and if it's on the menu, you want it. We've never had kale and sweet potato on the same plate before, and it's glorious. The "smoked bacon sherry caramel vinaigrette" probably doesn't hurt either.Scotch Egg
A deep-fried six-minute egg with some sausage around it. Scotch Eggs have become all the rage on gastropub type menus around town, and I'm not exactly sure why. They don't exactly make you feel good about yourself after you eat one.Colorado Lamb Meatballs
I loved these, but I have Lebanese in my blood and my people eat lamb like this with lots of allspice. These meatballs have some of that allspice flavor going on, and you will either love it or hate it. Proceed as you wish with that knowledge in hand.Jerusalem Artichoke Mac N' Cheese
This is a safe bet, and is an excellent pot of mac n' cheese. It's orecchiette rather than elbows, and there's some unusual cheese flavor in there...maybe from Pecorino. Either way, you want some.