The Ultimate Guide to Eating, Drinking, and Killing Time at Denver International Airport

A concourse-by-concourse guide to the best pre-flight meals and activities.

United Club
United Club | Courtesy of United Airlines
United Club | Courtesy of United Airlines

Denver International Airport is impressive for many reasons. Its sheer size and breadth alone are unparalleled by many other airports across the globe. It’s been known to have a wide variety of above-par food and drink options, and of course, there are the conspiracy theories.

Whatever intrigues you most about DIA—or if you’re here against your will due to a long layover or canceled flight—one thing is for sure: it’s full of interesting ways to kill time. Sample your way through each concourse’s many eateries, enjoy Colorado craft beer or wine flights at various bars and tasting rooms, shop for all your pre- and post-flight needs (or last-minute gifts) at any number of storefronts, or relax at a lounge or designated rest area. Whether you’re feeling energized and excited about your eventual destination or fatigued and in need of some sufficient R&R, you have plenty of options while hanging out at the Denver Airport. Here are some of the best things to do, see, and eat while you’re here.

Grill & Vine
Grill & Vine | The Westin Denver International Airport

Hotel & Transit Center

Level 6, Center
The Westin’s full-service cocktail bar offers a rather luxe reprieve for weary travelers; enjoy seating removed from the stress and noise of airport gates and security and your choice of beverage in between flights. Be sure to stop at the Roasting Plant for your morning caffeine fix, too.

West Side of Plaza
Your favorite game day (or any day) Auraria Campus brews are now conveniently located at the base of the Westin Hotel, as is Tivoli’s signature pub fare. Crush pretzel bites, Buffalo cauliflower, tons of burgers, sandwiches, and mains as you hang out between flights, all while enjoying namesake beers as well as other Colorado drafts and beyond.

Level 5, Plaza
A fair amount of business is now being done at the Westin Hotel that’s attached to the airport. And what do you need when you’re doing that business? Food. And alcohol. At Grill & Vine, the name says, well, most of it, as grilled meats are paired with a long wine list. There are also sandwiches, beers, and all sorts of stuff to make you forget that you’ve, for some reason, found yourself inside a Westin attached to an airport.

Jeppesen Terminal

Level 5, South of Train Exit
There’s not much else happening on Level 5 in DIA aside from baggage claim and security. But there is a chance to try Colorado’s bagel chain, Einstein’s. In a pinch, the bagel sandwiches really hit, and when traveling, there’s really never a bad time for coffee—especially from an adorable cart.

Level 5, West
For all your traveling needs (i.e., all the things you forgot to pack), there is Hudson News. Whether you need a pre-flight snack or something new to read now that your flight’s been canceled, you’ll likely find it here. Heck, you can pick up souvenirs for loved ones back home and a new set of headphones while you’re at it.

Level 5, West
Denver-based Sleeping Giant Brewing is still producing a line of greatest hits from Boulder Beer, so you can still sip on Hazed & Infused, Singletrack, and Buffalo Gold as you munch on serviceable breakfast burritos, sandwiches, and green chile in the airport’s Great Hall.

Mercantile dining & provision
Mercantile Dining & Provision

A Gates

Near Gate A47
Wine lover who happens to have time to kill? Head to Vino Volo for a wine tasting. Sample flights of various wines in threes, or simply order a glass to pair with cheeses, cured meats, pasta, and sandwiches. If you’re easily persuaded, grab a bottle to go with you to your destination.

A Gate Center Core, Level 4
Relax, have a drink, or get some work done at the Delta Sky Club, just a few floors up from the hubbub of the A Gates Mezzanine. Depending on your Delta Membership, you can gain easy access or pay a one-time entry fee with valid flight credentials.

A Gates Center Core
There are a lot of shops and kiosks to check out throughout Concourse A, but if you’re going to shop somewhere, it should obviously be Tattered Cover. Find your next best read—or listen—as well as various accessories and trinkets to help make your imminent flight feel just a touch cozier.

Y-Juncture and A-Mezzanine
Explore this art exhibition on the Mezzanine floor of Concourse A, curated by CreatiVets, an organization offering creative outlets to veterans surviving post-traumatic stress and traumatic brain injuries. The large pieces displayed in this exhibit were created by local veterans during a workshop led by CreatiVets as part of the 2023 Partnerships for Veteran and Military Health, Strengthening Networks conference hosted by the CU Anschutz College of Nursing.

Kick your feet up and recharge yourself and your phone at the Rest and Recharge area on Concourse A. This seating area offers comfortable lounge seating, partitions for privacy, and plenty of outlets for all your devices. The best part? There’s no charge to hang out.

Center Core
A chic airport eatery that triples as a marketplace and coffee shop? Is there anything Alex Seidel can’t do? Doubtful. The long-awaited Mercantile outpost may be the most exciting new addition to DIA, for both its founder’s reputation as well as its high-quality offerings. From early-morning breakfast through after-dinner drinks, farm-to-table here looks like avocado toast, Turkish eggs, Wagyu pastrami sandwiches, and roasted half chicken. Chase with seasonal cocktails, beers on tap, or your choice of wine a la Mercantile’s Cruvinet Wine System.

Closest gate: A48
A few years ago, Denver Central Market joined the food hall craze in Colorado’s capital city, immediately distinguishing itself by way of its great location and unique offerings. Naturally, installing the concept at DIA was a no-brainer, given the varied selection of easy (and tasty) grab-and-go food. Here you’ll find cheese boards, sandwiches, salads, sushi, pizza, pasta, and a full bar, too.

Center Core
The Chophouse has long been holding it down as the fanciest option in the A gates, the land of international flights, Delta jaunts, and people who look really mad (so are almost certainly flying Frontier). Because it’s been around for a minute, it’s easy to overlook its solid sandwiches, steaks, and proprietary beers. Hang out for a bit, especially if your Frontier flight has been delayed for four days.

New Belgium Brewing
New Belgium Brewing

B Gates

B Gates Center Core, Mezzanine
A beloved Denver breakfast and brunch favorite, Snooze provides the warm comfort travelers’ need when far from home. From eggs Benedict to bloody marys, you can find hearty, delicious breakfast items in the signature cozy yet colorful Snooze atmosphere.

Traveling can be stressful; release some tension with a chair or table massage and reflexology treatments by the minute or hour in a calm, quiet environment. Professional therapists licensed by the State of Colorado offer a range of pampering styles and tailored services to leave you feeling relaxed.

B Gates, Center Core
A Colorado farmers market favorite, Björn’s has a DIA outpost for all your honey-related needs pre- and post-flight. One of the more unique shops in the airport, Björn’s is representative of Colorado’s artisanal makers and producers.

Of course, there’s plenty for kids to do at the Denver Airport, including checking out all that’s in stock at Kazoo & Company Toy Store. Offering a wide assortment of fun, educational toys, games, plush animals, and more, it’s a great place for families with children to visit or to find gifts for children of all ages.

If you’re fancying a glass of red or white during your layover, Lounge 5280 offers premium hand-picked wine selections from around the world as well as cocktails, spirits, and a beer list highlighting Colorado’s craft brewers. There’s also a food menu for bites between flights.

Multiple Locations
There are United Clubs scattered across the airport, but B Gates is where travelers will find several. DIA is a known United hub, so it makes sense that there are multiple spots for loyal United members to relax. The east B Gates location is one such spot, touting 35,000 square feet across three levels and more than 600 seats, making it the largest club in United’s network. Expect seasonal craft beer on tap, free high-speed WiFi, and elevated culinary offerings that’ll make you forget you’re in an airport.

Center Core
Dining with a flexible corporate account? Or perhaps your flight has been delayed for a weeklong snowstorm and you’ve lost the will to even care about any financial repercussions? This is your spot. At Elway’s, you’ll find killer steaks and stiff cocktails alongside various memorabilia honoring the restaurant’s namesake, owner, and Denver Broncos great, John Elway. And even if you’re not flying first class, a burger here won’t break the bank, but you’ll still be eating at one of the classiest spots available at DIA.

Mezzanine Level, northeast side
The Portland-originated donut chain is a favorite across the Mile High, with locations like those on Colfax and Broadway remaining hits regardless if you’re visiting at 12 pm or 3 am. The sweet shop is one of several new food additions to DIA this year, continuing the momentum of what will eventually be a total restaurant revamp at the airport. Needless to say, between this and Little Man, your sweet tooth cravings are covered.

Closest gate: B24
We’re still trying to figure out why it's so fun to eat a hot dog—especially one wrapped in a tortilla and topped with chili, bacon, and a bunch of other stuff that’s bad for you—in an airport... but it damn sure is. Steve’s—which began on Denver’s storied Colfax Avenue—is a hidden gem, one that features 12 beers on tap.

Closest gate: B30
The Fort Collins-based New Belgium may have lost its indie cred with its sale to the international behemoth that makes Lion and Kirin, but it still brews a mighty fine beer. And alongside its dozen taps which, of course, include the nationally sought-after amber, Fat Tire, this spot also offers creative takes on pub grub. Start your day with a breakfast burrito or Sunshine Scramble, or enjoy salads, tacos, burgers, and hot sammies later in the day, washing it all down with a cold and refreshing beverage.

Near Gate B51
Sibling to the Larimer Square staple, this is where you’ll find top-notch wines by the glass (including flights) as well as charcuterie boards, light salads, pizzas, and paninis that all pair nicely with whatever fermented grapes you’re sipping on pre-flight. Then, when you’re back in Denver, you can visit the OG location with your favorite varietals already in mind.

Timberline Steaks & Grille
Timberline Steaks & Grille

C Gates

Near Gate C29
The Coors Silver Bullet Bar is a full service sports bar and restaurant offering menu items for breakfast, lunch and dinner. It features a quick-serve gourmet burger counter and is a casual spot for a cold drink and catching the score between flights.

C Gate Center Core
Think you can’t find top-tier hair and skin products at the airport? Think again. C Gates boasts the ever-popular Kiehl’s at its center, so you can rest assured that whether you’re departing or arriving, you have access to the high-quality formulas required for your daily routines.

C Gates Center Core
Topo Design’s flagship store is in the beating heart of Downtown Denver, and its popularity has grown to the point that reaching a literal global audience via an outpost at DIA just made sense. From packs and bags to apparel and accessories, you’ll find popular and thoughtfully designed travel-friendly merchandise reflective of the modern mountain lifestyle Coloradans are known for.

Near Gate C30, Mezzanine Level
C Gates offer plenty of opportunity to relax as the other gates do, especially for loyal brand members. The American Airlines Admirals Club offers an oasis away from the airport hustle, complete with PCs with internet access, complimentary WiFi, food for purchase, and conference rooms.

Near Gate C46, Mezzanine
Another way to lounge in style is at DIA’s first non-airline lounge. Sip American Express’ first Craft Beer Bar with rotating selections of locally brewed beer, a live-action cooking station featuring a locally sourced Italian menu, an immersive game experience, and plenty of lounge seating and free WiFi.

C Gates, Center Core
Though there are a handful of other steakhouses at DIA, none are at the C Gates and none are quite like Timberline. Whether you’re hankering for a pulled pork sandwich, a 12-ounce ribeye, or elk medallions, you’ll find it here and it’ll be worth whatever airport crowds you had to speed-walk through to get there.

Closest gate: C32
Great Divide has long been a beacon of brewing prowess in the City of Denver, with this airport locale impressive in its own right. Start at the bar, which features a dozen Great Divide drafts (plus even more beer offerings) as well as cocktails, wine, and liquor. Then explore the food menu, which goes beyond standard bar fare with Colorado-inspired offerings like lamb meatballs, bison chili, and one of the best airport burgers you’ll ever have.

Center Core
Even if you didn’t have the chance to eat Mexican food in Denver on your trip—or are simply connecting—La Casita has your back. At the bar that’s tucked into a corner of the food court, you’ll find margaritas, burritos (including of the breakfast variety), and D-Town’s aforementioned crown jewel: green chile. The best part? You can get La Casita’s specialty tamales to go.

Closest gate: C27
Little Man has steadily become the biggest frozen dairy force in the Mile High City. So, it’s only fitting that the dessert empire erected a location at the airport. Its opening caused a fuss not only for the availability of its prized, trademark flavors like Salted Oreo and Purple Cow but also for its ice cream “sammies” and heavenly milkshakes.

Center Core
When the Edible Beats group decided to open a sister restaurant to its hyper-popular Highland spot in 2013, it wasn’t immediately clear whether or not the airport venture would pay off. It did, of course, and years later, it’s still tough to top Root Down’s craft cocktails, tap list, and singular take on farm-to-table cuisine. Find a well-rounded selection of apps, entrees, and desserts available daily for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, with most (if not all) offerings being especially health-forward or dietary-needs-friendly.

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Colin St. John is a Denver-based writer, editor and joke maker. He's written for Rolling Stone, Deadspin, Esquire, and Pitchfork.