Duo Denver

Bobby Rayburn is Duo's GM, and the friendly face behind the bar.

Psst. Here’s a little secret that might score you a free glass of wine next time you’re dining at the bar of Duo in the food-centric Highland neighborhood of Denver: Order the elk, and then answer “it’s from Colorado” to the question that follows.

General Manager Bobby Rayburn, who often tends the bar, has been known to pour the Mesa Park Vineyards 2006 Cabernet Franc for those who just ordered the elk, offering to buy it for them if they can guess its origin.

“They usually guess France, Provence or whatever,” he says. “I tell them Colorado, and they’re floored by it. It’s rich. That fact alone makes people think of France, and it’s good, it’s really good. That makes people assume France as well.”

He admits if too many people read this and go in armed with knowledge of his bar game, he might have to stop offering the giveaway bet. Probably not. Rayburn is big on interacting with those who sit at the bar (which is one of the most enjoyable ways to enjoy a brunch or dinner there). Considering Duo is big on local ingredients, slinging local brands is just something he likes to do, too.

“It gives me an opportunity to educate and inform them that there’s good wine in Colorado,” he says.

This coming from an admittedly beer-first kind of guy. “I drink beer just about every day. Beer is generally my go to,” he says. “I prefer wine with food. Quiet evening in with my girl is usually wine. Then it’s usually back to beer at the bar unless we’re at a good cocktail bar.”

Rayburn has been with Duo since it opened six years ago, jumping behind the bar from the get go, a part of a restaurant he’d never worked before. Well the switch from server to GM/bartender has been a welcome one.

“It’s the atmosphere. It’s the energy,” he says. “People sit at the bar, and they are out to have a good time. They are usually open minded and they are down to learn. I like to educate as much as possible and get people to try new things.”

Part of the reason Rayburn came to Duo — besides the chance to serve as general manager — was the concept.

Beyond being the the first stellar restaurant to open on the east side of the Highlands, an area that has become the epicenter for good food in Denver in the last few years, it focused on a local menu and being part of the neighborhood. It hasn’t strayed from there, producing a great seasonal American menu (serving perhaps the best brunch in Denver, too) that’s taken home numerous local and regional accolades along the way including being named one of the 25 best restaurants in Denver by 5280 magazine in 2011 (check out all the awards here).

Mesa Park and a few select other Colorado wines, several local spirits, and a 100 percent Colorado beer list play into the concept on the liquid side. The Mesa Park Cabernet Franc is a recent addition to the list (by the glass, $9, and bottle, $34).

It being the only Colorado wine by the glass allows for Rayburn’s guess-the-region game. But he also just loves it with the Elk Medallions ($26) on the menu right now, a dish that features a butternut squash puree and port reduction.

“The wine and that dish where meant to go together,” he says. “It’s got that crazy, crazy pepper on the nose and in the body. The pepper contrasts the sweetness of the butternut squash puree; how rich and deep the wine is makes it go really with the elk.”

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Get a glass of Mesa Park Cab Franc at Duo, 2413 W. 32nd Ave., Denver.