Eat Here Now: 15 Can’t-Miss New Denver-Area Restaurants
Unless you won the lottery while getting engaged and promoted at the same time, there’s no way the past 12 weeks (or the amount of time since our last round-up of notable new eat/drink spots) of your life have been half as spectacular as they have been for the Denver dining scene. But you can still celebrate like they were at any of the places on our list of the Mile High’s hottest new restaurants.
When it comes to a good meal, Golden is more like Fool’s Golden. Or it was until this stylish little bistro opened a couple of months ago. Given the elegance of the market-driven contemporary menu -- which might feature swordfish a la plancha in fried-herb vinaigrette one day, fresh whole-wheat trofie tossed with house-made Italian sausage, oyster mushrooms, spinach, and shallot cream the next -- owners Brandon Bortles and Barry Dobesh could probably get away with major attitude. Instead they double down on their hospitality with a wine list that’s as smart as it is reasonable. If you want to flaunt your taste in grape juice without ruining the effect by flinching at the price tag, here’s the place to do it.
Alpine Modern is Colorado’s own J. Peterman: a design brand that produces both a line of rugged luxury accessories and a glossy quarterly devoted to “elevated living” (read: being posh on mountaintops). Now the company that pimps hand-painted axes and prints photo spreads on Norwegian pine cabins has opened a coffeehouse on The Hill, and it’s just what you’re picturing: a sleek, chic sanctuary where you can stare out the window at the turning leaves and smugly reflect on all the clever choices you’ve made in life over a cortado made with Huckleberry Roasters beans and, you guessed it, quinoa-almond porridge or avocado toast.
In Italian, avanti means “forward.” If you still haven’t hit this slick food court for cool kids to stuff down MiJo’s kung pao wings, black bean-and-fried plantain masa cakes from Quiero Arepas, Brava’s pizza bianca, or a daily special from any of the other four stands, and then wash it all down with beer cocktails from the bar, that means you’ve got your priorities... um, not forward.
Laced with sweet nothings that’ll make a displaced New Englander tremble (“knuckles,” “stuffies,” “Plymouth Rocks”), the menu of this Humboldt sibling reads like a love letter to East Coast seafood presented in an envelope of a dining room that, with its weathered hues and textures, recalls raw bars from Cape Cod Bay to the Long Island Sound. No judgment for openly weeping garlicky tears over a plate of linguine alle vongole or grilled oysters swimming in butter, Parmesan, and Ritz cracker crumbs.
Flickering lights on white linen in a low-key storefront. Steak tartare, sole meunière, coq au vin, and crème brûlée. A bottle of bubbly to start, and a sip of Sauternes to finish. These are the reasons that people fall in love in French bistros more than any other type of restaurant, according to a poll we just made up but that sounds totally plausible considering that the duo behind this mini version of Telluride fixture La Marmotte are themselves a couple. And any food town worth its fleur de sel needs at least a few, so it's a good thing they showed up just as the doors of neighborhood legend Le Central were closing.
What do Wu-Tang, Michelangelo, and Navin R. Johnson have in common? Nothing in the whole world -- except this at hip-hop- and pot-themed coffeehouse/bar/donut shop. It’s a riddle whose answer will make sense when you get here, we promise. So will cold-brewed coffee-spiked Manhattans, candy cigarettes, and faux McMuffins layered with griddled Spam. Especially if you order them all at once.
Despite slinging “gourmet” south-of-the-border eats, the brothers behind this breezy cantina are well versed in, and deeply respectful of, the regional -- especially coastal -- cuisines of Mexico, and it shows in such electrifying stuff as aguachile, essentially souped-up shrimp ceviche; sikil pak, a luscious dip made from pumpkin seeds (which also top the tricked-out guac); and of course specialty tacos like achiote-marinated mahi mahi with local-peach salsa. Pro tip: start with a mean mezcal-sotol cocktail. Another pro tip: probably stop after one of ‘em.
This city’s already lousy with sports bars that specialize in craft beer. Does it really need another, especially an interloper from Oregon? Only one way to find out: by settling into a leather lounge chair and catching the game here over a pint of something you’ve never seen before from Henry’s bank of 100-plus taps. And then a second. And then a barley malt-crusted pizza alongside a tower of fat, juicy onion rings or waffle fries almost as big and crunchy-yet-fluffy as actual waffles. (Spoiler alert: the answer’s probably yes.)
Lately, Justin Brunson’s been launching new project after new project in less time than you take to make lunch plans -- plans that, coincidentally, he has just helped you settle (again). Putting a streamlined urban spin on farmhouse chic, his latest hit is as sexy as the fast-casual genre gets, and the menu follows suit with stealth-healthful eats like chia seed fried chicken on a chile aioli-smeared fresh roll, or edamame-hummus veggie pizza in lemon vinaigrette, all paired with kombucha or wine on tap -- or, hey, why not both? (See, you’re a quick thinker after all!)
So you put a touch too much soy sauce on your perfectly sliced and riced nigiri and the itamae’s giving you the evil eye: sushit just got real. It’s at times like these that your friendly neighborhood Japanese joint > the most rarified shrine to Edomae mastery. Not that this Colfax storefront is just some generic California-roll factory. In addition to (very) guilty pleasures like the weirdo sushi pizza -- a giant potato pancake topped with everything from flying fish roe and spicy tuna, to sun-dried tomatoes and black olives -- there’s artful chirashizushi and Osaka-style hakozushi, pressed in a box to form colorful cubes.
Everything you know and love about Sushi Den and Izakaya Den... is not what you’ll love about their twinkling little slice of a sibling next door. At least not primarily. You’re coming here to cozy up instead to charcoal-grilled oysters, squid, and beef tongue. To Japanese-style escabeche and sake-steamed clams. And, speaking of sake, to barrel-aged taruzake -- or rice lager from Platt Park Brewing Company down the street. But if you still want raw fish after all that, there’s a sashimi sampler with your name on it. (Not literally, unless your name is Maguro.)
Making the most of primo real estate with splashy decor and a spacious patio, this outpost of a Phoenix franchise styles itself as a wine café, which is basically a wine bar where you and your bros can also drink beer after kickball. In fact, the list of about 30 mostly local craft brews is slightly larger than that of wines by the glass (though there are some sweet off-list bottles on the racks by the entrance), and pitchers go for $5 every day until 5pm. While the menu’s dominated by easy-to-like antipasti and panini, its highlight is an array of crostini with vibrant toppings like warm artichoke spread and caper-studded smoked salmon over pesto.
With Ukrainian roots, a global outlook, and a setting in an old dive that looks so casually put together you’d think the owners just broke in to host an illicit word-of-mouth pop-up, this freewheeling gastropub is turning out some of the coolest plates in town. If you didn’t know you needed foie gras pierogi, pig’s-blood gazpacho, or a whole roasted lamb’s head with flatbread in your life, well, now you do. (Unless you’re a vegetarian, in which case, you’re still in luck: think za’atar-crusted eggplant in tahini yogurt or kimchi-miso potato salad.) If you kick back at a communal table over a spiced rum cocktail with cantaloupe-hibiscus shrub and pink peppercorns, you’ll feel like the guest of honor at the smoothest dinner party ever thrown.
Good thing breakfast isn’t just for breakfast anymore, or you ass-draggers wouldn’t even know what you were missing at this classy comfort kitchen. But so long as you can roll out of bed before it closes at 3pm, you’ll get all the dulce de leche-filled churro holes, and red chile-smothered rancheros you need to start your day right. Granted, by that point you may already be up for lobster deviled eggs, a killer Cubano with habanero pickles, and a shot of house-infused maple-pecan bourbon -- what the hell, it’s almost happy hour anyway.
Situated in the sweet spot between a boisterous dim sum scene and a suave cocktail soirée, Bradford Heap’s instant seafood sensation centers on tray and cart service -- which means you’d better go easy on those oysters, mussel sliders, and other items off the small printed menu (tempting as they are). Otherwise you’re going to feel like a chump when someone comes around with, say, fried smelt. And then again when you see the octopus salad. And then again when you’re offered a slice of creamy salmon terrine. That’s three times a chump before you’ve even finished your first cocktail, which you’d better let your bartender custom-build for you, or that’s four times. (And then you’d better have a nightcap in the underwater-chic Pearl Dive downstairs, or yeah, that’s five.)