Denver is a hub for chef-owned, neighborhood restaurants that always impress. These Denver restaurants show off the city’s most cutting-edge and up-and-coming culinary talent, not to mention the abundance of local products in the nearby area. Denver diners will be wowed by these upscale, epicurean eateries, and the city’s recently progressive food scene in general.
HOT NEW SPOTS
98 N. Steele St.
The much-awaited Matsuhisa Denver has opened in the heart of the booming Cherry Creek area. Chef Nobuyuki "Nobu" Matsuhisa, known for his innovative fusion cuisine blending traditional Japanese dishes with Peruvian and Argentine ingredients, opened his first Colorado locations in Aspen and Vail and now joins The Mile High City's thriving culinary scene. Can't decide from all the tantalizing choices? Try the "Omakase" Tasting Menu, a multi-course feast for seven or more featuring Nobu signature dishes or chef's daily creations.
DENVER LOCAL FAVORITES
AVANTI FOOD & BEVERAGE
3200 Pecos St.
An original food concept is playing out at Avanti Food & Beverage in Denver's Lower Highlands neighborhood. A huge two-story warehouse has been converted to shelter a collection of shipping containers, each one a self-contained mini-restaurant. Diners can choose from the variety of cuisines and enjoy their meal in the communal dining area, complete with stunning views of downtown Denver. A perfect incubator for new flavors and chefs, we fully expect Avanti to set some trends in the national restaurant landscape.
GUARD AND GRACE
1801 California St.
Guard and Grace is a modern, American-style steakhouse that prides itself on serving locally produced meats, cheeses and produce. Chef/owner Troy Guard emphasizes wood-fired dishes for that authentic taste.
THE KITCHEN DENVER
1530 16th St.
The Kitchen Community is a Boulder-based community of restaurants that has now set up a sister to its world-class neighborhood bistros in downtown Denver. Like the other Kitchen locations, the restaurant on 16th Street boasts a menu that has been sourced from local farmers, ranchers and purveyors. The Kitchen Denver boasts a seafood bar, a small plates menu and a main menu with selections like wild char-grilled salmon, oven-roasted sirloin, tagliatelle and bolognese. Every day from 3 to 6 p.m. at the Kitchen is community hour, with a menu designed to be shared. Don't miss the quiche and the cocktail du jour.
OPHELIA'S ELECTRIC SOAPBOX
1215 20th St.
Ophelia's Electric Soapbox pays homage to its building's unorthodox brothel-turned-peep-show-turned-restaurant history with sensual (yet somehow completely tasteful) artwork, crushed-velour ottomans and neon-tinged lighting - plus more salacious decor that's brought out later in the evening. The atmosphere of indulgence bodes well for the menu, an intensely flavorful selection that ranges from wild boar sausages to octopus and chorizo flatbread and bison burgers - plus dozens more sinfully good dishes with unpredictable ingredients.
609 Corona St.
This Capitol Hill restaurant is a popular destination spot for visiting politicos, and for good reason. Table 6 creates an ambience that is warm and elegant without being overdone. And then there's the food. The varied menu includes everything from comfort food starters (like sloppy joe sliders and tater tots with chorizo and picked peppers) to thoughtful main plates (like duck confit with cherry sage vin and maple smoked pork loin with oat risotto), and Sunday brunch (which features the popular chèvre chantrelle bread pudding).
1431 Larimer St.
Rioja was the start of celebrity chef Jennifer Jasinski's transformation of Larimer Square with her award-winning restaurant concepts. The Mediterranean-themed eatery is well-known among Denverites for its fresh ingredients and regularly rotating specials, homemade pastas, extensive brunch menu and thoughtful pastry program. Rioja's house-made doughnuts have caught the media spotlight and made several national best-of dessert lists. In 2013, Jasinski received a James Beard Foundation award for Best Chef Southwest.
3350 Brighton Blvd., #150
A unique, eclectic, contemporary bar and grill in Denver's River North (RiNo) Art District. Located within The Source, Acorn boasts chef/owner Steven Redzikowski's eclectic, contemporary American cooking in an approachable, family-friendly format, alongside beverage director/owner Bryan Dayton's ingredient-driven cocktails.
1441 Larimer St.
Another Larimer Square gem, Troy Guard's TAG serves "continental social food." The menu, inspired by his Hawaiian roots, includes a medley of several different Asian cuisines prepared with Colorado ingredients. Among the many sharable plates at TAG are wok charred edamame, goat enchiladas and caramelized butterfish. Daring customers should order omakase, a chef-selected multi-course meal that demonstrates TAG's eclectic menu.
1317 14th St.
Many know Euclid Hall as Denver's best restaurant for food and beer pairings, and many others know the restaurant for its off-the-wall menu items, including an entire section called "Because We Can." But what most don't know about Euclid Hall is how approachable the food is. The helpful, non-pretentious staff at Euclid Hall is delighted to give guests the skinny on elevated dishes like bruléed center cut beef marrow with sherry gastrique, pad thai pig ears and foie gras by the ounce. Also notable at Euclid is the house-made hand-cranked sausages, and an entire menu section dedicated to poutine.
1555 Blake St. Ste. 101
The well-traveled executive chef Lon Symensma fuses several international cuisines at his modern Asian bistro, ChoLon. Upon opening, ChoLon was a James Beard Finalist for Best New Restaurant in America, and has since received many local accolades for best restaurant and best chef in Denver. What's especially exciting about ChoLon is its thoughtful presentation of already thought-provoking dishes: Try the pork belly buns with sesame honey glaze, beef tartare with tapioca puffs, or the duck fried rice served with farro and a poached egg.
2413 W. 32nd Ave.
Whether it's for lunch, brunch, happy hour or evening drinks, customers are never disappointed in this hidden Highland neighborhood gem owned by Keith Arnold and Stephanie Bonin. The locally sourced, seasonal menu at Duo is always impeccable. Not to mention the restaurant's rock star pastry program that often falls under the radar.
519 16th St.
For more than 30 years, Paramount Café has been one of downtown Denver's oldest gathering spots. Paramount started as the entrance and lobby of the historic Paramount Theatre. The original Art Deco terrazzo tile floor and ornate handcrafted gilt work are still present in the café and the patio is one of the best spots on the 16th Street Mall to enjoy a handcrafted cocktail. With two daily happy hours, 45-plus beers on tap and a late night menu, Paramount welcomes visitors anytime - all year long.
225 E 7th Ave.
Mizuna, chef-owner Frank Bonanno's flagship restaurant, is the place to go when you're looking for upscale New American cuisine matched with exceptional wine selections. Incredibly knowledgeable servers here can recommend wines to pair with menu items like Burgundian escargot with French onion soup, lobster mac and cheese or veal sweetbreads.
WORK & CLASS
2500 Larimer Street Unit #101
Work & Class is a casual, full-service restaurant located in Denver's River North (RiNo) neighborhood, driven by the motto, "a square meal, a stiff drink, and a fair price." The restaurant goes on to describe itself as "a tribute to the working class" where they strive to create an atmosphere that is "unpretentious, fun, and a bit irreverent."
2500 E. 1st Ave.
1881 Curtis St.
It doesn't get more classically Colorado than Elway's. With locations downtown at the Ritz-Carlton hotel and in the Cherry Creek neighborhood, this steakhouse group offers surf ‘n turf at its finest -- everything from hand-cut prime steaks to Colorado rack of lamb, and from fin fish to crustaceans. Don't miss the specialty lounge menus that sport elevated bar food and an extensive wine list. And if you're headed to the airport, go early. Elway's has another location at Denver International Airport.
SECOND HOME KITCHEN + BAR
150 Clayton Ln.
Another Cherry Creek restaurant worth visiting is Second Home Kitchen + Bar inside of the JW Marriott Hotel. The chic space and thoughtful menu make for an upscale experience, while the approachability of the food and the service make it anything but pretentious. Try a flight of deviled eggs, chicken and waffles, brick oven pizzas, Mile High meatloaf, or matzo ball soup. Don't miss the Sunday Pajama Brunch that serves DIY Bloody Marys and bottomless mimosas.
1400 Wewatta St.
With a focus on local, regional, and farm-fresh ingredients, Coohills restaurant and bar is reminiscent of what you might find on the streets of Europe. The open kitchen and modern interior underscores Coohills style and community feel. Diners can tuck in at an intimate table for two or more, or enjoy the outdoor terrace for a spirited drink with one of Denver's only beautiful views of the mountain sunset. From crudo salads, homemade breads and cheese, to pate selections and warm duck leg confit, the menu reflects the best and freshest foods from each season.
COLT & GRAY
1553 Platte St.
The term to describe absolutely everything that this LoHi restaurant does is "spot-on." Be it the artfully crafted cocktails by beverage director Kevin Burke, the simplistic menu by executive chef Nelson Perkins, or its impeccable service, Colt & Gray doesn't skip a beat. This gastropub will further explore its love of charcuterie and cheese with its downstairs sister businesses Ste. Ellie, a cocktail bar with a small-plate menu, and Viande, a meat curing project.
DENVER UNION STATION
1701 Wynkoop St.
Denver Union Station may be the city's main transportation hub but it's also one of the "it" places to dine, grab a coffee or a cocktail, and soak up the sunshine on one of the many patios. For a quick bite, hit ACME Delicatessen, Pigtrain Coffee (snacks, fresh-squeezed juice and of course java), and Milkbox Ice Creamery dishing up local Little Man Ice Cream from the charming former barbershop space adjacent to the Great Hall. If an adult beverage is the main goal, flash back to the golden age of swank bars and lounges at The Cooper Hall or pull up a chair in the historic ticketing office that is now the Terminal Bar, specializing in Colorado craft brews and spirits and satisfying wine aficionados as well.
For a more leisurely culinary experience, The Kitchen (Next Door Union Station) is a community pub that offers simple, quality favorites using ingredients from local farmers, ranchers and purveyors as much as possible. Mercantile Dining & Provision focuses on seasonally inspired and elevated comfort food for breakfast lunch and dinner and has a market that sells everything from pickled beets and fruit spreads to cheese from chef Alex Seidel's Fruition Farms. For something completely different, head to Stoic & Genuine for multi-coastal seafood, oysters and a granita bar, plus cocktails and a growing list of champagnes. Love breakfast in the morning or early afternoon? Hit Snooze, an A.M. Eatery for iconic pancakes, artisan benedicts, A.M. cocktails and a whole menu of breakfast delights.