Everywhere You Need to Eat in Denver Right Now
Any meal at these restaurants is worth a reservation ASAP.
The most essential, the most magical, the most enduring question we face each day is: Where to eat? Luckily for those of us who live in and around the incredible city of Denver, the answers are tasty and plentiful. From a new French-Vietnamese bakery to a steakhouse redefining what a steakhouse can be, we have the opportunity—nay, the right—to eat at some pretty fantastic restaurants today, and every day. Here, the delicious answers to where to eat today.
The gist: Three-time James Beard semifinalist—and future Casa Bonita chef—Dana Rodriguez (better known as Loca) brings Mexico City-inspired tacos, enchiladas, and snacks to her first solo-owned restaurant.
The food: It’s all about fun at Cantina Loca, from chicharrones with salsa to the Loca-approved, flavor-filled tacos with barbacoa, house-made chorizo, and tempura fried fish. The tacos are a steal at $4 - $5 a piece, but don’t overlook the large plates like al pastor Colorado lamb and red chile chicken. Wash it all down with Rodriguez’s own Doña Loca mezcal and tequila.
Ghost Box Pizza
The gist: The team behind Acreage by Stem Ciders really likes pizza, especially the crispy-crusted Detroit-style pies. What started as a ghost kitchen to-go concept to stay afloat during the pandemic now has its own digs in downtown Lafayette.
The food: It’s all about the Detroit-style and wood-fired pizzas at Ghost Box, with toppings that veer both classic and creative. You can get both styles in a margherita, but the Detroit-style Potato Rosemary with mascarpone, garlic, and melted onion is even more special. Of course they’re pouring Stem Ciders, but the cocktails, like the Ghost marg and smoked basil mezcal, go down easy too.
Three Saints Revival
The gist: The vibe and decor of Three Saints Revival are just as interesting as the food, meaning your Mediterranean tapas come with a side of kaleidoscopic colors and dreamy touches.
The food: While they do have a short menu of large plates, it’s way more fun to sample a slew of tapas. The choices change often, but if they’re available, try the harissa carrots, lamb meatballs with sofrito, patatas bravas, and shrimp and chorizo. Definitely save room for dessert, as pastry goddess Yasmin Lozada-Hissom creates confectionary magic. The vibe is all vibrant Parisian daydream, so grab a drink, settle in, and let yourself be transported.
The gist: A slice of the Big Apple in the Mile High City, The Greenwich serves big portions of happy-inducing food in a comfortable setting.
The food: Most everything on The Greenwich’s menu is familiar and approachable, but there are enough twists and turns to make it exciting. There’s steak, but with anchovy, garlic, and pickled cipollini; there are roasted carrots, but they come with chile lime pepita and herbed buttermilk. Even the cheesy white pie comes with a kicky side of green chile for dipping. And while cheesecake is almost requisite eating when it comes to NYC, The Greenwich sets theirs apart with a good char and a salty olive oil drizzle.
The gist: Redeemer has swiftly made its way into the hearts of Denver pizza lovers with its New York-style, naturally leavened sourdough pizza. The concept comes from Dio Mio owners Spencer White and Alex Figura, who have a not-so-secret thing for bread in all forms.
The food: Sure, you can start with a farm-fresh salad or some crunchy cauliflower, but you’ll definitely want to dig into a Diavolo pizza with spicy meats and pickled chilis to get a proper fix of heat.
Forget Me Not
The gist: Culinary Creative’s Juan Padró, Katie O’Shea, and Max MacKissock and rockstar behind the bar, Nicole Lebedevitch, have created a small oasis in the midst of the refined Cherry Creek. Velvety couches, bright white brick, and gold accents make for an airy, elegant space to sip cocktails and enjoy company.
The food: While the main draw here is the expertly curated menu of handcrafted cocktails and lovely, clean atmosphere, the snack menu has quite a lot to offer. Meat and cheese boards and tinned fish are great for sharing, but we’d be remiss not to urge you to try the lobster crunch wrap, Chicago style hot dog, or raclette over confit potatoes and cornichons—each is even better than it sounds.
La Diabla Pozole y Mezcal
The gist: Chef Jose Avila, of the X’Tabai Yucateco food truck and El Borrego Negro fame, has brought to Denver its first restaurant dedicated to pozole. Avila sources heirloom ingredients from Mexico, sticks to traditional methods like nixtamalization to prep corn for his dishes, and relies on whatever supplies are available to him each week, meaning offerings are constantly rotating.
The food: There’s never a bad time for pozole, though winter offers more opportunities to seek something warm and comforting; cozy up and stay awhile at La Diabla for food that truly hits the spot. Several variations of the flavorful Mexican soup are available with or without meat, including a common Rojo (red), white, and green variety (representing the Mexican flag, of course). And because La Diabla is also a mezcaleria, don’t miss one of the signature cocktails, 1oz pours, or flights of distilled Mexican goodness.
The gist: The third installment from the Ronin group (joining LoHi’s Sushi Ronin and Highlands Ranch’s 47 Ronin Sushi & Spirits), Ronin Congress Park joins the ranks of some of the city’s best sushi. Guests can expect the omakase experience (similar to a chef’s tasting menu), with more emphasis on seasonal dishes and an even more refined technique from behind the sushi counter.
The food: Sushi that’s almost too pretty to eat and an impressive selection of fish to boot. Choose from nigiri or sashimi à la carte, specialty hand rolls like the Colorado (with jalapeños, naturally), smaller bites like edamame, warmer appetizers like pork or chicken gyoza and karaage, or rice bowl combos, served with a side of miso soup and house salad.
Baba And Pop's Kitchen
The gist: What started as a pierogi food truck run by Jeremy and Katherine Yurek quickly gained a large following and prompted the couple to open up a brick-and-mortar shop in Aurora’s arts district (close to neighbors Lady Justice brewing). Since its opening in March 2020 (yes, right around when the world shut down), Baba and Pop’s has been a nonstop force of flavor and tradition, honoring Jeremy’s grandparents, THE Baba and Pop.
The food: Well, pierogies, though not just any pierogis. There’s classic potato and cheese, of course, so mouthwateringly good you’ll have eaten a whole dozen before you blink. But the neat thing about Baba and Pop’s—aside from the fact that it also offers other Slavic dishes like stuffed cabbage rolls and a kielbasa and sauerkraut sandwich—is that there is always an array of pierogi flavors to choose from, like the Pizza-rogi with tomato, basil, and mozzarella, the Colorado with Chile Relleno and house green chile, or Uncle Paul’s Pierogi Poutine (pork bone gravy and cheese curds included).
The gist: The sister restaurant of Perdida, Lady Nomada opened last July in the quaint Olde Town Arvada, boasting a bright, coastal atmosphere and a menu full of “Baja bites,” tacos, and bright, refreshing cocktails.
The food: It’s hard not to imagine a sea breeze and sand beneath your feet when tasting the bright and colorful flavors of Lady Nomada’s coastal Mexican dishes. Enjoy classics like warm queso and Mexican street corn alongside unique takes, like the savory carne asada fries. Tender meats packed with flavor shine both in the selection of tacos (please see: birria and carnitas) as well as in the larger menu options like the posole verde, which features pulled pork amid the hominy, cilantro, and corn tortillas.
The gist: Located inside the Rally Hotel at the new McGregor Square development next to Coors Field, this retro-inspired eatery is a bright and fun spot to grab a bite.
The food: Classic diner eats get a playful, modern makeover with options that range from the all-American cheeseburger to the trout dip served with a bag of Bugles to the everything bagel deviled eggs with housemade salmon bacon. The drinks also get a nostalgic twist, with non-alcoholic options like Yoo-hoo, root beer floats, and of course, milkshakes (which you can definitely get a boozy version of). And yes, there is pie.
The gist: From hockey player to attorney, owner Natascha Hess took a winding path to the food scene and made a big splash with her food-truck-turned-brick and mortar location.
The food: Inspired by her time living in China and traveling to Thailand, Japan, Malaysia, and the Philippines, Hess’ street food inspired dishes go big on bold flavors. From the snackable Bangkok Balls to the spicy Auntie Zhang’s Chinese Noodles, the entire menu is full of crave-worthy temptations. But if you have to pick one place to start, it’s a bestseller from her food truck days, the tantalizing Char Siu pork with smashed cucumber salad.
The gist: Chef Ty Leon, beverage director Austin Carson, and front-of-house master Heather Morrison opened this fresh pasta haven in the former Cafe Marmotte space in January 2020.
The food: When Leon and his team first purchased Cafe Marmont in 2019, they kept the French cuisine intact, but after a brief makeover, they reopened with a new name and a dedication to Italian cuisines with a focus on Leon’s area of expertise: handmade pasta (do not skip the lobster spaghetti with black truffle). Carson’s cocktails are impeccably crafted whether you opt for a classic or one of his creative spins, like the caprese negroni (yes, there’s tomato and basil involved).
The Wolf's Tailor
The gist: Chef Kelly Whitaker (the founder of Boulder’s Basta) opened this unique eatery in 2018 where seasonal ingredients, house milled grains, and playful cooking techniques come together in unexpected ways.
The food: Heritage grains milled in house take center stage here in the form of house made pasta, although the preparations often jump the borders of global cuisines, taking your taste buds from Italy to Japan.
The gist: Known for his eponymous New Orleans restaurant, award-winning chef Alon Shaya brought his take on modern Israeli cuisine to Denver in 2018, and pita lovers all over the Mile High have rejoiced ever since.
The food: It’s nearly impossible not to fall in love with this spot after just one bite of the insanely fluffy, perfectly charred wood-fired pitas. And it only gets better from there. Pair those pitas with oh-so-smooth hummus topped with decadent lamb ragu or lutenitsa, a flavorful blend of roasted eggplant, tomato, peppers, and garlic. Then move on to harissa roasted chicken or pomegranate braised lamb shanks or charred cabbage or anything really. There are no bad moves to be made here.
The gist: After years of serving stellar ramen to the hungry masses at Uncle, owner Tommy Lee opened this Chinese powerhouse in 2015; its bold flavors continue to make it a must-visit spot today.
The food: If you still think Chinese in Denver means too-sweet beef and broccoli and chow mein, you’re missing out. The hip-hop soundtrack and high energy atmosphere pair perfectly with dishes that are ideal for sharing. Don’t skip the la ji zi (mouth-numbing—in a really, really good way, Szechuan fried chicken), bone marrow fried rice, and chilled tofu with bang bang sauce.
The gist: Aurora’s first James Beard Award winner (for Best Chef: Mountain region), Caroline Glover kills it night after night at the seasonal, modern American Annette.
The food: Glover’s driving goal for Annette is to make each service feel like a dinner party among friends, whether that means sharing snacks like house popcorn and chive-covered deviled eggs or conversing between bites of oysters and fresh, seasonal salads. While many items are perfect in their simplicity, like the sherry-glazed roasted half chicken, Glover’s also not afraid to tackle less common ingredients and transform them into comfort food, like the grilled beef tongue + marrow toast that’s become a staple on the menu.
The food: Delicate, hand-folded chili garlic wontons with the proper spicy kicks have quickly become this food truck’s signature item, but your best bet is to order (at least) one of everything on the menu. Wong often experiments with new items, like kimchi fried rice, Chinese baked coconut buns, and scallion pancakes. Follow the truck on Instagram for the latest schedule and ordering options. Try to pre-order for pickup, as items typically sell out very quickly.
The gist: A5 is the coolest steakhouse in town, with a menu full of lesser-known (but still top-notch) cuts, a fun, semi-tropical vibe, and tiki-esque drinks that go down a little too easily.
The food: Of course the meat is the main draw here, but the menu goes so far beyond what you expect from a steakhouse. Take the beef tartare appetizer, which, along with a soft poached quail egg, is sandwiched between two pieces of Japanese milk bread for the most delicious-ever sandwich. And steaks offered in cuts like Bavette and the Denver, which can (and should) be topped with roasted bone marrow and grilled onions. Or skip meat altogether and make a meal out of the yummy sides, like the chile crab fried rice, mac and cheese croquettes, and whipped potatoes.
Bánh & Butter Bakery Café
The gist: The place to go on the east side of town for flaky, buttery, French-style pastries, plus Asian-fusion desserts.
The food: Pastry chef Thoa Nguyen takes everything she learned working at her family’s classic New Saigon restaurant and bakery and blends it with the French pastry education she learned in Paris for some of the best treats around. Her 30-layer crepe cakes are super-popular, but don’t sleep on the almond croissants, raspberry cheesecake Danish, matcha cruffins, and cupcakes in unique flavors like ube and Thai tea. Save some sweetness for one of their Vietnamese iced coffees, made with Cafe Du Monde chicory beans.
The gist: Don’t judge a restaurant by its name: this French-but-not-so-French restaurant is equally at home cooking burgers as it is baguettes.
The food: Duck, but with a radish cake and sweet soy chili. Salmon, but with garam masala beurre blanc. Asparagus, but with a miso topping. This isn’t your traditional French brasserie, and that’s what makes Brixton so interesting. No matter how classic French you order or how far you stray, everything that comes out of the kitchen is a hit. Start with the baguette with uber creamy butter and let your taste buds guide you the rest of the way.
Allyson Reedy is a Thrillist contributor.
Molly Martin is a Denver-based freelance writer. Follow her @mollydbu on Instagram and Twitter for more updates on food, fun, and life in the Mile High.