Good dining is more than just food.

Social distancing rules have forced a lot of restaurants to completely rethink their business models. There have been incredible efforts both from restaurants rising to the challenge and their communities rushing to support them. The evolving nature of social distancing responses means that it may be quite a while before dining looks completely like it used to.

In the meantime, here's an entree of nostalgia for restaurant experiences that we really miss:

Late-Night Pizza After a Concert

The evening hours after an intense concert are quite an experience. Emerging from the pit soaked in sweat, sore from standing up, and trying to safeguard overpriced concert merchandise often leaves a pizza-shaped hole in the evening's energy. It's an unspoken cosmic rule that any food eaten after three straight hours of screaming and elbowing drunk people tastes absolutely divine. 

Thankfully, Denver has no shortage of pizza places to shuffle into and decompress. Viale Pizza is one of our favorite places to quietly decompress and remember how to articulate non-screaming sentences again. 

Whenever live music events start again, you'll find us huddled in one of their booths quietly munching on pepperoni pizza (the traditional post-concert pizza topping). In the meantime, you can always capture some of the magic by ordering a takeout pizza and eating it in the backseat of your car while blasting the stereo at irresponsibly-loud volumes. While this isn't a substitute for the real deal, it's the next best thing. 

Live Bands at a Sports Bar

What pairs best with craft beer? Pretzels? Maybe. Pizza? Sometimes. Watching a band with a weird name like Swearwolf blow out the speakers on a dimly-lit stage several feet away from games of bar darts? Absolutely. 

Denver has a bustling music scene. Even if you're not frequenting any of its many small concert venues, swinging by a bar, brewery, or taphouse on a weekend night has been a surefire way to discover new musical acts. Few things partner with craft beers better than some indie rock, a small stage, and big amps.  

There's a certain authenticity to nights like these that's hard to replicate: a vibrant, booze-soaked coziness that makes each little venue feel like a veritable social oasis. Or, to put it simply, there's nothing quite like kicking back with your friends after a long week and watching some local musicians power through weirdly aggressive Garth Brooks cover songs and having to shout "WHAT?" at each other every time someone tries to speak. 

While in-person dining is slowly resuming, it's unclear when live music will return. Seeing local bands perform has always been a draw of places like the 20 Mile Taphouse in Parker, Colorado. When the '90s cover bands finally return, you can bet that we'll be there.

One Word: Barbeque

Summer's coming, and that means barbeque, barbeque, and more barbeque. It's no coincidence that we celebrate almost every holiday from May to September by breaking out the grill and cooking from sunrise to sunset. There's something profoundly American to grilling meat with some cold brews nearby. 

While it's possible to grill alone, the social element of barbeques likely won't return until social distancing requirements are further relaxed. The food may be there, but the experience is different. Sharing a freshly-smoked rack of baby back ribs with friends is a bonding experience; demolishing that rack alone at 1 a.m. while watching Netflix is grounds for an existential crisis. 

We've been keeping the loneliness away with Smokin' Dave's Barbeque. While the restaurant doesn't let us order friends (yet), their St. Louis Pork Ribs have been keeping us from going crazy. 

There's no telling exactly when things will go back to normal, but it's always important to support your local businesses. If you're also looking forward to some of these dining experiences coming back, consider ordering takeout or gift cards from your favorite late-night eatery as a way to show that you're still thinking of them!

What sort of restaurant experiences are you excited to return? Let us know in the comments!