Deciding where to satisfy the urge when hunger strikes has gotten exponentially harder in Denver this year. Every week brought openings of new restaurants that range from emerging neighborhood favorites to indulgent dining destinations. Now it's time to round up the best and with a list this delicious, 2017 has a tough act to follow.
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When Tommy Lee and the team behind the Mile High's beloved ramen joint Uncle opened the doors at this former soy sauce factory turned culinary hotspot, it didn't take long for people to discover the authentic flavors that go far beyond typical American-style late-night takeout. Dishes like their spicy fried chicken with mouth-numbing Sichuan peppercorns and bone marrow fried rice have awakened many a taste bud in the Mile High over the past 12 months. And there’s no signs of slowing down.
Newcomers are always surprised to find a vibrant seafood and sushi scene in Denver. And this past year, things only got better with the addition of Sushi Ronin from chef-partner Corey Baker (an alum of favorites like Sushi Sasa and Sushi Den) and restaurateur Alexander Gurevich. With an opening date of January 2nd, 2016, it was the first new restaurant to join the Denver dining scene in 2016 and almost 12 months later, it remains one of the best. The highlight: visually stunning omakase (chef's choice) dinners including a seven-course tasting menu that never disappoints.
More than just a restaurant, this warehouse space that opened in April is also a bakery, marketplace, and bar that often features live music at night and works to bring the community together through fundraising nonprofits, educational opportunities, and a focus on sustainability. So not only can you come here for a good time, but you can feel good about doing so. All this is backed up by food that you'll want to come back for again and again -- from a simple chicken club and roasted tomato soup from the market for lunch to more intricate dishes at dinner like the Niman Ranch crispy pork belly with yuzu kosho, black mission fig, brussels sprout, and radicchio.
When world-renowned chef and restaurateur Nobu Matsuhisa opened a new location of his eponymous new-style Japanese restaurant in Denver this past April, it was a loud and clear signal that the Mile High's dining scene had reached a new level of excellence. The space's sleek and elegant design details are echoed in the carefully prepared cuisine for a memorable dining experience from the time you walk inside through the very last course. In a town that typically embraces a more casual culture, the chance to spoil yourself at Matsuhisa has breathed new life into the fine-dining experience.
Troy Guard's been a busy man in the Denver dining scene for a long time. The opening of TAG in 2009 has been followed by bevy of eateries that include go-to steakhouse Guard and Grace, two locations of the taco-slinging Los Chingones, and his spin on Chinese, Lucky Cat (also new in 2016). But this year, he one-upped himself with Mister Tuna, a restaurant with food that reflects Guard's childhood in Hawaii and a name that is an ode to his father. Dishes like the Charlie Guard ahi poke with traditional flavors amped up by the addition of quinoa, avocado, and hearts of palm are an ideal example of how a dose of nostalgic influence and a healthy heaping of modern innovation can combine for an outstanding dining experience.
When this spot opened in September, it immediately garnered attention thanks to two names: chef John Broening and pastry chef Yasmin Lozada-Hissom. This culinary couple, a husband and wife team who built a following at Duo, Olivéa (now closed), and Spuntino, haven’t missed a step despite their hiatus from feeding the hungry masses. The menu is touted as New American, but it's filled with global influences with dishes like Moroccan lamb sausage flatbread, Peruvian shrimp, and squid ink linguini. And Lozada-Hissom's desserts are worthy enough to warrant a own stop in (chocolate hazelnut crunch cake bar, anyone?).
Though it's not a traditional restaurant, this new addition is changing the way Denver eats. Continuing the fall trend of halls that started with the opening of the Source in 2013, The Denver Central Market brings together 11 local vendors selling everything from fresh fish (Silva's), charcuterie and cheese (Culture) and ice cream (High Point Creamery) to wood oven baked pizzas (Vero Italian) and slow roasted meats (SK Provisions). All of these tasty options are anchored by a bar where you can order drinks to carry around as you peruse your options. Just be warned, it's easy to spend more time (and money) here than you planned.
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Appropriately located in an old soy sauce factory and wonton commissary, Hop Alley -- from seasoned Denver restaurateur Tommy Lee -- is a modern Chinese restaurant in RiNo with hip hop, a wood fire, and large format drinks like punch bowls and magnums of wine. The cuisine features regional Hong Kong dishes with modern interpretations, like bone marrow fried rice or the mouth-numbing (in a good way) la zi ji -- fried chicken with dried chiles and Sichuan peppers. With a reservation policy dedicated to large parties only, the 57-seat space is always busy, so be prepared to wait... with a cocktail.
An intimate sushi restaurant and sake bar in Highland, Sushi Ronin features upscale Japanese cuisine. With a focus on the seven-course omakase, the menu -- a la carte included -- is rooted by traditional Japanese dishes, with innovative flavor combinations to a modern touch to Chef Corey Baker's artful presentations. For an authentic omakase experience, explore the Japanese whiskey and sake pairings to enhance each course.
The Preservery is a warehouse space in RiNo that’s home to a restaurant, bakery, market, bar, and music venue. The menu is New American, with items like deli sandwiches and salads at lunch, and a seasonal vegetable and burrata salad, market charcuterie, and a Colorado chicken leg with beans and cornichons on offer at dinner. Enjoy a full bar and small-scale live music multiple nights per week in a space dedicated to the betterment of the community — eating and drinking at The Preservery is for a good cause.
From internationally acclaimed Chef Nobuyuki Matsuhisa, the Cherry Creek outpost of his eponymous restaurant is an elegant, 7,800sqft space serving upscale Japanese fare. Primarily featuring sushi, nigiri and sashimi, and omakase, the menu will include other elevated Japanese-based, globally influenced dishes like his now-famed uni shooters, Miyazaki Wagyu beef, umami chicken wings, and Toro tartare with caviar. Japanese whiskey, sake, or both, to complete the experience.
RiNo’s Mister Tuna is an American restaurant, specifically inspired by Hawaiian-style wood-fire grilling. With favorites like the King Crab with local apple, brown butter, and black lava salt, Chef Troy Guard’s menu includes raw bar, appetizer, and entrée options that emphasize produce, cheeses, and meats. The 3,500-square-foot space is lined with garage doors on one side and a large, open kitchen on the other, with a bar stretching the length of the room. The beverage program includes six beers on tap and a series of meticulously crafted cocktails for your sipping pleasure.
In a 4,900sqft space in LoDo, helmed by acclaimed husband-wife team, Chef John Broening and Pastry Chef Yasmin Lozada-Lissom, Avelina is a rustic, New American restaurant with a seasonally-rotating menu and a flair for Mediterranean flavor. Expect the famed duck liver mousse and Morrocan-spiced flatbreads among the share plates, and locally sourced ingredients like wood-fired High Plains Poultry chicken for two. Enjoy your meal with craft cocktails, craft beer and cider, and wine from lesser-known producers. And for dessert, the dulce de leche stack with kouign amann crisps and tahitian namelaka (just trust me).
Housed in the 12,000sqft, restored H.H. Tammen Curio Company building, The Denver Central Market is an open-air gourmet market, food hall, and neighborhood community space in RiNo. From restaurateur Jeff Osaka, the market features about a dozen vendors -- local butchers, confectioners, coffee roasters, bread bakers, and fish markets among them. Stop in for an afternoon of sampling products from some of Denver’s best culinary talent, grab a glass of wine, grocery shop, or all of the above.