This Soup Dumpling is 100 Dumplings in One
A dream team of culinary talent under one food hall roof
The food hall trend in Denver isn’t slowing down anytime soon, but the bar has been raised with the addition of this latest culinary destination. Speaking of, let’s start with the bar: a still-to-be-named oasis located in the center of the action where floral apron-clad staff will guide you through a selection of cocktails designed to be paired with the eclectic dining options. And what options they are -- from Biju’s Little Curry Shop and a new location to score Justin Brunson’s much-loved Royal Rooster fried chicken sandwiches (and one of the best burgers in town), to both thin and thick Roman-style pizza from Paul Riley and the Coperta/Beast + Bottle team as well as doner kebab from Chef Daniel Asher and Josh Dinar at Mother Tongue. And that’s not even all the options. Plus, there’s an actual beer wall with 24 taps that pour your selected amount from the bottom up. Have you left the house yet? We’ll meet you there.
French cuisine with a modern, playful twist
This eye-catching restruant is pushing Denver’s boundaries when it comes to French dining. Forget the moules frites and coq au vin, you won’t miss them. Instead, Morin takes its influence from modern French cuisine. The menu can look intimidating upon first glance, but the dishes that arrive highlight both surprising and familiar flavors. And as an aside, a lot of the menu features small plates, which makes tasting a wide variety of choices easy (and more affordable than you may think). Options change often, but you might find crispy sweetbread on fluffy milk bread -- aka the grown-up sandwich of your dreams, complete with cut-off crust, oyster mousse tucked into a crisp, round pastry which evokes all the pleasure of popping very refined Combos in your mouth, and a lineup of $1.75 dessert bites that can -- and should -- be enjoyed right along with the savory choices.
Middle Eastern cuisine from a James Beard award-winning chef
Alon Shaya and his eponymous New Orleans restaurant made a huge splash in the culinary world complete with the awards to back it up. Now, he’s brought his take on modern Israeli eats to Denver with Safta (the Hebrew word for grandmother). The result: a spot serving up insanely fluffy wood-fired pitas, oh-so-smooth hummus topped with decadent lamb ragu, Moroccan-spiced carrots on a bed of creamy labneh, golden-hued crispy Persian rice, and much more. The cravings you’ll have for these dishes after visiting Safta are real. Our advice: just give in to the desire and dine here. Often.
16th Street Mall gets gussied up with a local chef’s European fine-dining project
Chef Lon Symensma is well known around town for his Asian-style eateries ChoLon and Cho77 but with his latest European fine-dining venture LeRoux, he’s getting back to his roots. Symensa is putting a modern twist on classic cuisine, like a delicately layered king trumpet mushroom mille-feuille, or Wagyu beef tartare, served under a glass dome that releases a puff of smoke. Stay for dessert, a show unto itself: The baked Alaska is lit aflame tableside.
The long-awaited brick & mortar location of Denver’s best destination for brisket
Back in 2015, Karl Fallenius (who spent time working under Aaron Franklin at Austin’s famed Franklin’s) started serving barbecue out of a food truck at Finn’s Manor and quickly gained a cult following. In 2017, that outpost closed and news of a permanent spot nearby on Larimer circulated among his smoked meat-seeking followers. More than two years later, Owlbear is really, truly back. Meats are smoked for hours in two converted propane tanks then sold by the ½ lb or in sandwich form at a ridiculously good price considering the quality. Pro tip: Get there early to score a brisket sandwich ($6) and side of mac & cheese ($2.50) before they sell out.
Isreali eats from a heavy-hitting culinary team
What do Ash’Kara, Morin, Senor Bear, and Bar Dough have in common? Two things actually: They’ve all currently or previously held a place on this list and they’ve all come from the same team that’s helping to push Denver’s culinary scene to delicious new heights. This time, the venture comes in the form of Middle Eastern food. Of course there are puffy pitas, cooked to order over wood-oven flames and perfect for dipping into a bubbling cast iron skillet of saganaki. As you eat your way through options like the whole Alamosa striped bass (a nod to Colorado), make sure to save room for dessert cookie tray -- because why should you have to choose between baklava, brittle, and brownies?
Featuring a massive lineup of traditional Vietnamese dishes
Fans of New Saigon, take note. This restaurant which quietly opened in January of this year in the former King’s Land space near Pacific Ocean Mercantile is run by the daughter of New Saigon’s original owners. The menu comes in the form of a small book, with page after page of dishes that range from the familiar (pho, noodle bowls, fried rice) to the harder to find (snails sauteed with lemongrass, garlic, coriander, and coconut milk, or squid and pork belly in a spicy fermented shrimp paste). Your best play: Come with a group that likes to share so you can sample as many options as possible.
Grab your stretchy pants: Here's the lowdown on some of Denver's best breweries, burger joints, diners, and steakhouses.
Est. 2004 | Southwest
A reliable, but never boring, classic
Considering owner-sommelier Aaron Forman’s an ex-dog musher, the fact that a meal at this consummate neighborhood bistro remains full of surprises after a decade-plus shouldn’t itself come as any surprise. Chef Michael Winston takes the trademark playfulness of its New American menu seriously, which means at any given time you might get kimchi-Brie crepes, or yam kugel with the signature duck confit, or knock back some tater tots in fondue while you’re waiting for a foie gras tart with creamed spinach and pickled mushrooms. And the wine list’s still the vinous equivalent of the Iditarod: wide-ranging and racy.
Est. 2014 | East Colfax
A small eatery putting out big flavors
In a barely there East Colfax storefront, Royce Oliveira, Leanne Adamson, and their tiny crew serve up a slice of the good life with such intelligence, skill, and verve that, immensely satisfying as it is, you can’t get enough. Not so much a restaurant with an open kitchen as a kitchen surrounded by some tables and chairs, the twinkling two-room space sets a casually intimate mood enhanced by the chance to interact with the easygoing Oliveira while he’s cooking -- and whatever he’s cooking, you’ll want it, be it perfectly pan-fried whiting with crème fraîche, rye croutons and golden raisins, or luscious chicken and dumplings in mussel broth.
Est. 2014 | Union Station
Elevated comfort food and a trendy European-style market
Though chef Alex Seidel's Fruition is a perennial Mile High favorite, it’s his addition to the redesigned Union Station that's become a hotspot thanks to creative dishes elevated with fresh ingredients served in a bustling atmosphere. Nothing here is ever boring -- even trendy ingredients like shisito peppers get a memorable boost from sesame caramel and crispy pig’s ears. As Mercantile's name denotes, you can do more than just dine here. Be sure to browse their selection of charcuterie, preserved goods and more, or pick up a coffee and a sandwich to-go from the counter.
Est. 2015 | Five Points
Chinese that pushes the spicy, salty limits
If you still think Chinese in Denver means too sweet beef and broccoli and chow mein, you’ve been missing out. Owner Tommy Lee has been serving up ramen to the droves of customers that show up every night at his other hit, Uncle, for years. Now it’s Hop Alley, with a hip-hop soundtrack and high energy atmosphere matched only by the bold flavors that’s earning a whole lot of loyal followers. And once you taste the fried chicken with mouth-numbing (in a good way) Sichuan pepper and bone marrow fried rice, you’re sure to be among them.
Est. 2017 | Stanley Marketplace
The nationally recognized scratch-to-table stand-out
Chef Caroline Glover’s name became a lot more recognizable in 2018 thanks to the fact that her first restaurant, Annette, landed on Bon Appetit’s best new restaurants list. Before opening this sleek and homey eatery, Glover worked as a sous chef at Denver’s own Acorn, as well as The Spotted Pig under April Bloomfield. But Annette’s dishes are all her own. And with wood-fired fare and farm-sourced ingredients, she’s able to turn everything, from a seemingly simple biscuit to a grilled beef tongue with marrow toast, into memorable comfort food.
Est. 1985 | Lincoln Park
The spot to find Denver’s best green chile
Yes, that’s a big claim. And personal preference will always rule the great Mile High green chile debate. There are as many varieties of green chile to be found in Denver as there are places that make it, but just mention the name of this low-key, counter service joint around town and mouths will begin watering as a debate begins over what’s the best go-to order. Many are loyal to the chile relleno burrito. The enchiladas are less talked about, but just as delicious. Cheek and tongue tacos are a must try. And a big bowl (‘cause you better order the large) of their green chile (you want pork), eaten alone or spooned over the “special breakfast” of eggs, rice, beans, ham, bacon, and potato is the epitome of craveable, Denver-style Mexican.
Est. 2017 | Union Station
Italian cuisine and impeccable wine pairings from the team behind Boulder’s Frasca
Dining here makes you feel taken care of, in every way. The sophisticated interior is your first sign that this is a place ready to impress. The service will lock you in, and the Italian eats will leave you craving a return visit asap. Stop by for happy hour for a quick introduction to the spot with an array of cicchetti priced between $2-$4. Then really get to know the place over dinner with a generous serving of melt-in-your-mouth gnocchi with lamb ragu or grilled branzino brighted with citrus and fennel. But whatever you do, listen to your server, because they are primed and ready to guide you through a stellar dining experience.
Est. 1998 | Aurora, Glendale, and Central Business District
Denver’s go-to diner for the last 20 years
In the 1920s, Sam Armatas opened several Coney Island hot dog joints in Denver, but by the late '60s, only one remained: No. 3. Flash forward to 1998, when Armatas’ three grandsons felt the pull of the family business, resurrecting a new generation of businesses. All three locations sling the same menu of American, Greek, and Mexican fare, including that iconic Coney Island-style dog smothered in red chili. The wait can be long, especially during weekend brunch, but when it comes to massive green chile-smothered breakfast burritos, home-style classics like the meatloaf melt, and wedge salads draped in chunky blue cheese and onion rings for good measure, no one does it better. Pro tip: Try the Tex-Mex chili, a mix of green and red chilis topped with cheese and onions served in a bowl with tortillas or, even better, over tots or fries.
Est. 1984 | Platt Park
The originators of quality seafood in Denver
Over the past 30-plus years, brothers Toshi and Yasu Kizaki have innovated Denver's sushi scene with their system daily shipments of fresh, carefully selected fish straight from Japan. Any restaurant involved in their trio (their first venture, Sushi Den, Japanese gastropub Izakaya Den with its stunning rooftop bar, and OTOTO with its raw bar and Japanese robata) deserves to be listed among Denver's best. But it's Sushi Den’s dishes like honey miso-glazed eggplant, duck udon, and platters of sushi and sashimi that make it an icon not to be missed.
Est. 2013 | Uptown
The OG of responsible sourcing and whole animal butchery
Sibling duo Aileen and Paul Reilly (the same team behind Italian fave Coperta) have worked hard to develop relationships with local purveyors, highlighting the beauty of Colorado’s bounty. And they have a little fun with it too. Whether you come for the thoughtfully crafted New American cuisine or the cocktail list full of puns (how about a “Your Own Pear-sonal Jesus"?), beast + bottle is a serious affair without being precious. (Pro tip: Check out the Musical Chairs dinner series, which brings multi-course meals inspired by albums from influential musical artists.)
Est. 2015 | Lafayette
A very surprising place to find Asian street food
It may seem strange to drive to a farm in Lafayette to find one of Denver’s best restaurants that also just happens to be a food truck. But that’s exactly what you should do. After making the typical brewery and event rounds, this truck has found a home at Isabelle Farms where you can not only get some field-fresh produce at the on-site store, but also discover this culinary hidden gem. From hockey player to attorney, owner Natascha Hess took a winding path to the food scene and is now serving up dishes like May the Pork Be With You (oh-so-tender sous vide char siu), Chickity China the Chinese Chicken (her take on la ji zi or Sichuan fried chicken), and Bangkok Balls (fried rice balls packed with red Thai curry flavor).
Est. 2013 | Rino
Creative modern cuisine with a dash of Southern charm
From the team behind Boulder’s beloved Oak, this spot has always been a go-to for great food. But now, chef Ian Palazzola (who came on board at the end of 2017) is rolling out some big menu updates. Combining his Southern upbringing with a background in fine dining that includes time at Mourad, a Michelin-starred restaurant in SF, the new menu overhaul combines comfort food with surprising touches in a lineup of totally shareable picks. From the blue-hued heirloom cornbread that’s served with red eye butter and surryano ham to castelvetrano olives served warm with small cubes of lardo, every bite of every dish is worth savoring.
Est. 2011 | Highland
Not your average Italian eatery
To be clear, there’s nothing wrong with a classic red sauce joint, but this small neighborhood spot that’s owned and operated by the husband and wife team of chef Cindhura Reddy and Elliot Strathmann makes Italian their own. In the kitchen, Reddy cooks up dishes with classic Italian flavor profiles alongside creative spins that use local and seasonally available ingredients and unexpected additions that often tie back to her Indian heritage. Start with a customer favorite, the CarbonArancini, a fried rice ball with Parmigiano béchamel, Tender Belly bacon served with an egg yolk and black pepper aioli, then move on to one of the seasonal specials like turmeric and chile-infused fettuccine with South Indian spiced and braised Colorado lamb shoulder. And a bonus: Strathmann is an amari master -- let him guide you to the ideal sip to end your meal right.
Est. 1958 | City Park
The famed home of the sugar steak
Some restaurants go for the retro design. Others, like this Colfax institution, are actually retro. The property has been owned by the Bastien family since 1937 when they bought the Moon Drive Inn. In 1958, that building was replaced by the current iteration which remains pretty much the same today, complete with the neon sign out front and tassel-adorned lamps. Walking inside immediately puts you in the mood for a martini, extra-dirty (this is Colfax after all). The menu is filled with old school staples, from the jumbo shrimp cocktail to the iceberg wedge salad, but it’s all about that caramelized sugar steak here. Just don’t try ordering it cooked well done. It’s served rare or medium rare only and you’ve gotta respect traditions.
Est. 1893 | Lincoln Park
Denver’s oldest restaurant (and also home to the most taxidermy)
It doesn’t get more Old West than this. The Buckhorn Exchange is a National Historic Landmark and the holder of Colorado’s first liquor license. In its long history, everyone from presidents (five of them in fact -- Theodore Roosevelt, Franklin Roosevelt, Dwight Eisenhower, Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan) to Hollywood icons like Bob Hope and Charleton Heston, have dined on game of all kinds here. The menu’s impressive selection of options for carnivores is rivaled only by the decor -- a huge collection of taxidermied animals that hang wall to wall. For a truly classic Colorado experience, stop by for happy hour and get an order of Rocky Mountain oysters. Yup, this old school icon of Colorado cuisine is served here, sliced, fried, and with a side of horseradish sauce for dipping.
Est. Early 70s | Five Points
A fried taco institution
A true staple in an area of town that’s changed a lot in the last couple of decades, this low key spot is famous for one thing: fried tacos. Sure, they also serve up plenty of other regional Mexico favorites like giant green chile smothered breakfast burritos swathed in orange cheese, but the golden-fried white corn tortilla filled with your choice of steak, beef, or chicken is the real reason Mexico City is a Mile High must, and one we hope stays around for another 40+ years.