Here's Our Travel Guide to This Nation of Over 7,000 Islands
Japanese: Sushi Den
On top of just about everyone’s list when it comes to a sushi night out, this restaurant’s been open since 1984 and there’s good reason for its longevity. Over the years, brothers Toshi and Yasu Kizaki have redefined the way Denver eats Japanese (and seafood in general) with their commitment to sourcing only the freshest ocean fare. And if you’re not craving sushi in particular, you’re in luck. Sushi Den’s two sister restaurants are also on Pearl St and offer a different approach to this cuisine: the stunning Izakaya Den and newly resurrected OTOTO.
Italian: Bar Dough
Some of the Mile High city’s all-time best restaurants serve up Italian (Panzano and Osteria Marco are two that shouldn’t be forgotten), but it’s this newcomer to the dining scene has quickly become the go-to. Executive Chef Max MacKissock’s menu is filled with memorable dishes from the bright (in flavor and color) tri-color salad to the house-made pappardelle with lamb Bolognese and the lineup of perfectly scorched wood-fired pizzas.
French: Bistro Vendome
Grief is slow process, and we’re admittedly still drying our tears after the closure last month of Le Central and the loss of its rightfully famous mussels and frites. But at Bistro Vendome, moving on is made easier thanks to a menu filled with French classics like escargot, bouillabaisse, and the resto's own mouthwatering version of mussels draped in garlic, herbs, and white wine, and served with grilled bread.
Mexican: El Chingon Mexican Bistro
You can drive down any street in Denver and spot a Mexican restaurant (or three), but many seem to serve up the same greasy, sloppy plates. Not at El Chingon. From ceviche and enchiladas to the not-to-be-missed chile rellenos, this spot plates up carefully prepared Mexico City-style dishes with authentic flavors as the focus -- not electric-orange cheese.
Thai: Thai Pot Cafe
One mouthful of the food at this unassuming spot tucked into a strip mall and you’ll see why it’s more than worth dealing with the perpetual traffic on Colorado Blvd to get here. Whether you’re a spice-level 1 kind of person (we forgive you) or you like things full-on Thai hot, the warm embrace of deeply flavored dishes (like the rich green curry and pad kee mao with fresh noodles) add up to more than your average takeout.
Vietnamese: Pho 95
Mar Lee & Centennial
We know that there’s a lot more to Vietnamese cuisine than just pho. But also, like most of Denver, we just can’t stop craving this ultimate comfort food. Even though there’s quality pho to be found on many corners in town, the family-owned Pho 95’s tender noodles, rich broth, and huge portions consistently keep us coming back.
Chinese: Star Kitchen
Two words: dim sum. Want to order a heaping box filled with beef and broccoli covered in some kind of sweet sauce? Go right ahead. More steamed buns for us. If you’re ready to go beyond the typical American version of Chinese, this is your spot. It’s best to go with someone experienced, otherwise the idea of items like preserved duck eggs might keep you from something truly delicious. But otherwise, expect cart after cart filled with flavorful dumplings, veggies, seafood, desserts, and so much more.
Indian: Little India
University & Speer
If you’re willing to travel north a bit, both Zaika and Azitra in Broomfield admittedly win the Indian food battle on taste alone. And Biju’s Little Curry Shop in Five Points is redefining what it means to eat Indian food with its veggie-packed fast-casual set-up. But in Denver, Little India is the place to go for popular dishes like chicken tikka masala along with the requisite kitschy decor and lunch buffet that really make going out for Indian food a crave-worthy experience. Just be aware: flavors here tend to be on the tame side, so if you like spice, don’t forget to ask and you shall receive.
American: Tom’s Home Cookin’
American, as a cuisine, is a bit hard to define. But straightforward comfort food is always a winner no matter where you’re from. Especially when it’s from Tom’s. This weekday, cash-only lunch spot serves up its fare in a Styrofoam box, but don’t let that fool you. The line out the door isn’t a fluke. Whether you’re going for Southern soul food classics like fried chicken and collard greens or the gigantic servings of meatloaf and mashed potatoes topped with mouthwatering gravy, just go soon -- rumor has it the owners have put the building up for sale which means there’s a chance that Tom’s may not be cookin’ much longer.
Korean: Dae Gee
Congress Park, Arvada & Speer (opening soon)
Once a well-hidden secret stashed away in Arvada, the buzz on this place hasn’t died down since the opening of its second location off Colorado Blvd. A third is coming soon to Broadway, but even that may not be enough with all of Denver seemingly craving this restaurant’s delectable array of grilled meats. Definitely go all in with the all-you-can-eat option, and be sure to schedule time for a nap after.
Vegetarian: Root Down
Chef and restaurateur Justin Cucci brings energy to Denver dining with playful restaurants like Linger (housed in a former mortuary) and Ophelia’s (housed in a former brothel), but it’s his first endeavor, Root Down, that we love for bringing together vegetarians and meat-lovers alike in peaceful, delicious harmony. The current menu is packed with the kind of veggie-centric dishes that are so good, we order them even though there’s also a rack of lamb listed.
Ethiopian: Ethiopian Restaurant
This place is as nondescript as it comes. If you’ve driven down Colfax, you’ve likely passed it a thousand times without noticing a thing, despite it’s brightly colored exterior. It’s time to change all that. Run by a husband and wife team, this cash-only restaurant serves up a wide array of traditional Ethiopian dishes. Get a group together, order yourself an Ethiopian beer and dig in (with your hands, of course) to one of their platters filled with richly flavored items like doro wot and spicy lentils all served with spongy injera bread.
1. Sushi Den1487 S Pearl St, Denver
2. Bar Dough2227 W 32nd Ave, Denver
3. Bistro Vendome1420 Larimer St, Denver
4. El Chingon4326 Tennyson St, Denver
5. Thai Pot Café1390 S Colorado Blvd, Denver
6. Pho 951401 S Federal Blvd, Denver, CO, Denver
7. Star Kitchen2917 W Mississippi Ave, Denver
8. Little India2390 S Downing St, Denver
9. Tom's Home Cookin'800 E 26th Ave, Denver
10. Dae Gee827 Colorado Blvd, Denver
11. Root Down1600 W 33rd Ave, Denver
12. Ethiopian Restaurant2816 E Colfax Ave, Denver
Expect long lines but a full reward at this sushi staple. Sushi Den is still going as strong as it was 30 years ago thanks to their deep respect for tradition and technique in sushi making.
This cozy neighborhood bar offers casual Italian fare, with wood-fired pizzas and house-made pastas, plus creative cocktails and craft beers.
Living up to it's bistro name, this spot brings the Left Bank to denver. Modern updates on French focused dishes make it unique, but they also keep classics like steak frites available.
Having moved El Chingon from Aravada to Northwest Denver, executive chefs David Lopez and Gloria Nunez haven't skipped a beat. Delicious carnitas, green chili, and specialty cocktails come from a kitchen that buys ingredients locally, so you can enjoy both the food and having supported local business.
Although this unassuming spot is nestled in a strip mall, Thai Pot Cafe boasts incredibly flavorful dishes that makes the Colorado Blvd traffic worth it.
Serving up authentic Vietnamese cuisine with a pho-cus on noodles and soup, Pho 95 is well known for offering a taste of Vietnam and their "Pho-King" challenge. If you can house 2 lbs of meat, 2 lbs of noodles plus 200 ounces of broth AND extra veggies on the side, you can call yourself a Pho-King and get a nifty t-shirt. If you lose, you still get a t-shirt, but the bill's on you, sucker.
You can get duck-and-sausage-stuffed sticky rice, steamed pork buns with chili sauce, and Chinese broccoli all with quality black tea at this killer dim sim spot in Southwest Denver.
Classic Indian dishes like chicken tikka masala and lamb curry, along with entrees that are baked in a clay oven, make this small chain a Denver favorite. Little India also offers a variety of vegetarian options and a lunch buffet.
Tom's Home Cookin' is full of delicious and simple Southern comfort foot -- get yourself some fried chicken or catfish, mashed potates and green beans, and finish everything off with some of their peach cobbler. Also, be sure to take home a gallon of their sweet tea to tide yourself over until your next visit.
This Korean BBQ joint rocks just as hard as its Westminster sibling (harder, in fact, because it’s got a full bar). Marinated meat’s only half the story anyway — the rest is a sizzling, bubbling, thrilling saga starring textbook zucchini pancakes, bibimbap, sinus-clearing stews, and the best dubu kimchi in town, bar none.
Chef-owner Justin Cucci turned an old gas station into a trendy restaurant that uses all the right, hipster-friendly ingredients; offers vegan, vegetarian, and gluten-free options; and serves a bottomless mimosa brunch. The dimly-lit space features mosaic windows (with excellent views) and eclectic art, but the universally lovable dishes, like spinach and ricotta gnocchi and diver scallops, are likely what make this funky spot a neighborhood staple.