Food & Drink

The Best Restaurants in Denver Right Now

Updated On 03/19/2018 at 05:35PM EST Updated On 03/19/2018 at 05:35PM EST
the family jones
the family jones | Adam Larkey
best new openings
Julep Restaurant Denver

Julep

RiNo

Southern eats with a refined twist
Though it’s only been open since February 1st, this spot’s already made a big impression thanks to a dinner menu that isn’t your typical heavy, fried Southern food. Go against your instincts and order something veggie-centric, especially the delicate, almost dessert-worthy rutabaga and onion tart and the savory broccoli with bright blood orange and shaved cured egg yolk. And if you can, snag the table upstairs to enjoy bird’s eye view of the action in the kitchen below while you sip a signature julep.

Tavernetta

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 Italian eats will leave you craving a return visit asap. Stop by for happy hour for a quick introduction to the spot, and don’t skip the $10 melt-in-your-mouth gnocchi with lamb ragu. Then really get to know the place over dinner with a generous serving of tagliatelle enveloping chunks of Maine lobster and grilled branzino brighted with citrus and fennel.

Adam Larkey

The Family Jones

Highland

A distillery with a tasting room and shareable eats
The house-made spirits are the main draw at this elegant spot with a sleek, modern design so if the quality of your beverage is as important to you as the food, this is your spot. But they also serve a three cheese fondue in a pumpkin, complete with dippable accompaniments including buttered bourbon croutons. Other food highlights include a Colorado lamb stew and a meat and cheese plate that pairs perfectly with carefully crafted cocktails like the tea infused collins and avocado daiquiri.

Bang Up to the Elephant

Bang Up to the Elephant

Capitol Hill

A Caribbean escape in a vibrant setting
Island eats are not what you typically expect in Denver, and that’s exactly why this new addition from restaurateur Kevin Delk (the man behind Two-Fisted Mario's, Mario's Double Daughters Salotto and Beatrice & Woodsley) stands out. With hundreds of live plants, a wall of stained glass, and blue-hued lighting throughout, this spot is worth a visit for the atmosphere alone. Creative cocktails featuring unexpected ingredients like Andy Capp’s Hot Fries and Chinese five spice curry syrup will spark your sense of adventure. Then dig in to traditional Caribbean eats like jerk chicken (or seitan), macaroni pie, and even the Bake & Shark (a fried shark sandwich made with spiny dogfish). Breakfast, brunch, and lunch are also available -- Mofongo Hash, anyone?

Izakaya Ronin

Five Points

Stellar sushi with a bonus subterranean izakaya
This spot from chef Corey Baker (aka the man behind the much loved Sushi Ronin) is like two restaurants in one. In the main dining room, you can settle in for expertly crafted sushi, sashimi, and other small, shareable plates. Downstairs, you’ll discover a darker vibe along with a different menu featuring items like ramen (the recipe that made Booker Denver’s newest ramen champion after a showdown in November), karaage (Japanese fried chicken), and skewers cooked on a binchotan grill. And if you’re a whiskey lover, their large collection featuring more affordable choices alongside super rare bottles deserves your full attention. The downstairs was originally intended to be a late-night only option, but the hours were recently updated after high demand, so now you can get the experience nightly starting at 5pm.

Ultreia

Ultreia

Union Station

Spanish and Portuguese pintxos and tapas from one of the city’s most celebrated chefs
Rioja, Stoic & Genuine, Euclid Hall, and Bistro Vendôme have all been lauded as some of the Mile High’s best. They are also all part of the Crafted Concepts restaurant group, as is this new addition headed up by James Beard winning chef Jennifer Jasinski. The menu offerings include an entire section of gin and tonics to choose from, a selection of some of the best hams in the world, and a litany of small plates that are meant for sharing (though you’ll have a hard time giving up those bites).

Call

RiNo

The lighter side of a dual restaurant concept
Though its other half (literally), the slate grey Beckon, isn’t set to open until this summer, Call is already becoming a neighborhood favorite for coffee, pastries, and other daytime eats. A pork and fried egg sandwich will have you rethinking all your past bacon or sausage debates, and potato leek soup offer the perfect warm up on a chilly day. You can also swing by in the evening for cocktails and paired bites available in 4, 8, or 12 item trays. Beckon, a chef’s counter restaurant, will complete this unique set up, but until then, we’ll be happily calling upon Call’s salads, sandwiches, and tartines on the regular.

best of the best
Ruth Tobias/Thrillist

Bittersweet

Wash Park

A neighborhood gem with artisitcally plated dishes and impeccable technique
From the cool-toned, streamlined decor, to the suave service and the painterly compositions on your plate, dining at chef-owner Olav Peterson’s hidden-in-plain-sight neighborhood gem is like visiting a modern art gallery. Only instead of pretending to appreciate how an all-white canvas represents the decline of civilization, you can actually appreciate silken fresh pastas, salads like tiny flowering gardens, and the revelation that is properly cooked roast chicken, washed down with a beer from Estonia or Spain that you’ve never tried .

Ruth Tobias/Thrillist

Rebel Restaurant

Five Points

The best spot to challenge your palate and feel downright rebellious while doing it
Rooster-shaped ceramic pitchers and skull wallpaper, wooden planters full of herbs, and Slayer graffiti, all coming together in a dusty old brick building that used to house a dive bar: this place is as metal as farm-to-table gets. And that goes double for the menu; it's as dynamic and downright ballsy as any Denver’s ever seen. While the signature whole-roasted pig’s or lamb’s head warrants all the hype it’s generating, there isn’t a dish that doesn’t change whatever game it’s playing, from s**t on a shingle gone glam with brioche and walnuts in wine sauce, to a twist on poutine featuring fried tripe and foie gras gravy. The beer, wine, and cocktail lists are thrill-filled too.

Ruth Tobias/Thrillist

Table 6

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.

Ruth Tobias/Thrillist

To the Wind Bistro

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’s 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.

Courtesy of beast + bottle

beast + bottle

Uptown

The epitome of whole animal, farm-to-table cuisine
Relationships can be a lot of work, right? But (usually) you’re only involved in one at a time. At Beast + Bottle, though, there are countless relationships being managed all of the time. From the local purveyors who supply the restaurant with an ever-changing lineup of fresh ingredients to the diners who are each treated to a dose of old-school hospitality on every visit, everything is orchestrated flawlessly by the team of Paul and Aileen Reilly, who have yet another kind of relationship: they’re brother and sister.

McCall Burau Photography

Mercantile Dining & Provision

LoDo

Elevated comfort food and a European-style market
Though Chef Alex Siedel’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 sandwich to go from the counter.

Ruth Tobias/Thrillist

The Plimoth

City Park

Seasonal, classic cuisine with a modern twist
This restaurant touts a qualifier after its name: “neighborhood eatery.” If only all neighborhoods had a place like this. But no matter where you live in Denver, don’t wait to dine here. The menu changes constantly, offering up new takes on classic ingredients each time you visit. Right now you'll find dishes like country style pork rillette, smoked brisket pot-a-feu, and cracklin’ chicken. No matter what you get, don't skip dessert. The offerings always go beyond the average sweets so stay a while and refresh your palate with ruby red grapefruit sorbet, or indulge your chocolate craving with gianduia pot de crème with hazelnut almond streusel.

Dag Larson

Hop Alley

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.

Adam Larkey Photography

Mizuna

Capitol Hill

Creative American cuisine using French techniques
Chef Frank Bonanno's Denver restaurant empire includes plenty of spots that are beloved, but right now, it's Mizuna that stands out. Since 2001, this restaurant has been serving up creative American cuisine using French techniques. It's all about indulgence here, with dishes like pan roasted foie gras and their often lauded lobster mac and cheese. Planning for a special occasion? With an intimate setting, stellar service and impeccably executed food should put this eatery at the top of your list.

Adam Larkey Photography

Izakaya Den

Southwest

The originators of quality seafood in Denver
Over the past 30+ years, The Kizaki brothers (Toshi and Yasu) have innovated Denver's sushi scene with their system of having fresh, carefully selected fish shipped in daily from Japan. Any one of their trio of restaurants (the iconic Sushi Den, recently relaunched OTOTO, and Izakaya Den) deserves to be listed among Denver's best. But it's Izakaya Den's sheer beauty that has us swooning this summer, especially the stunning rooftop bar. There's no other place we'd rather sip sake while enjoying dishes like curried diver scallops and, of course, sashimi.

Cattivella

Cattivella

Stapleton

Classic Italian with a story waiting to be told for every dish
Elise Wiggins is anything but a newcomer after spending years heading up the kitchen at Panzano. But her solo venture that opened in early 2017 earned best new restaurant status thanks in large part to Wiggins herself. The chef’s regular trips to Italy steep each dish in personal ties and deep history. And when you visit Cattivella, you’ll likely hear at least a few of these from her passionate staff, or herself as she spends most nights cooking and chatting with guests along the longest chef’s counter in town. From fresh pastas and wood-fired pizza to the can’t miss Focaccia di Recco (an Italian cross between delicate pie crust and a cheesy quesadilla), you will want to (and you should) taste your way through the whole menu.   

Annette

Stanley Marketplace

The nationally recognized scratch-to-table stand-out
Chef Caroline Glover’s name became a lot more recognizable this past year 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.

Señor Bear

Senor Bear

Highland

Authentic Latin cooking with a refined, modern twist
This addition from the team behind Bar Dough just opened in the summer of 2017, but its updated plays on Latin favorites are no second rate impression. The food here is at once familiar and exciting, with classic options getting new energy from creative touches. Take the unsuspecting churro, served up here as soft yet perfectly chewy fried dough served with a brown butter sauce and vanilla lime sugar that will ruin you for all other fried dough incarnations. Or the bright and beautiful aguachile with tender scallops and chilled cucumber jugo de chile that’s tastes so fresh you momentarily forget that you’re over 1,000 miles from the closest beach.

El Taco de Mexico

Lincoln Park

Home of 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.

Citizen Rail

Citizen Rail

Union Station

The new go-to steakhouse that’s so much more than a steakhouse
Steakhouses used to be Denver’s best known cuisine, but in recent years, they’ve largely been overshadowed by other globally influenced trends. Enter Citizen Rail, a place where you can not only get a perfectly cooked steak dry-aged in house, you can also explore a menu filled with elevated spins on standard steakhouse fare. Mesquite-fired mussels are served swimming in a tangy dijon broth, potatoes are roasted in duck fat, and meaty hamachi collars are grilled over a wood fire. And don’t skip the cocktail list, especially the Plunder Road, a citrusy mezcal concoction make with clarified milk that will have you wondering why more bar menus don’t feature similar options.

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1. Rebel Restaurant 3763 Wynkoop St, Denver, CO 80216

With a name like Rebel, it’s no surprise that bold flavor and inventive presentation reign supreme at this Five Points restaurant. In lieu of your predictable New American fare, expect globally inspired creations like watermelon sashimi with daikon radish, wasabi aioli, and pickled jalapeño, as well as daily rotations like varied pierogies and the “pig part of the day,” a chef’s-choice selection of any part of a freshly butchered pig. The late night menu and formidable craft beer list make it a popular neighborhood dive, with an enclosed outdoor patio to attract the hipster masses.

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2. To The Wind Bistro 3333 E Colfax Ave, Denver, CO 80206

This is one of our favorite restaurants in Denver right now.

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3. Mercantile Dining & Provision 1701 Wynkoop St, Denver, CO 80202

This European-inspired restaurant has a menu made up of pickled veggies, seafood, meats and family-style entrees that are made to share between several people. Come for breakfast or come for a dinner that will quickly rack up the expense account, but come ready for a carefully prepared meal that will be made with a lot of love and fresh ingredients from their very own Fruition Farms.

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4. The Plimoth 2335 E 28th Ave, Denver, CO 80205

The Plimoth offers European-inspired plates locally raised proteins and herbs that come from the restaurant's patio garden. Choose something you like from their extensive wine list, or let them do the work -- each menu item comes with a suggested pairing.