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Denver has seen explosive growth in dining options, with new collaborative local marketplaces, chef-driven restaurants, brew-houses and hyper-local fine dining springing up in a series of neighborhoods. The Mile High City has long been at the forefront of the U.S. culinary scene – and in the past decade, it has become an award-winning culinary destination with nationally renowned hotspots, and unique and innovative concepts. Denver is now home to three James Beard Award winners, one of the most prestigious culinary honors in the U.S., and many more nominees. Additionally, Denver is the only city in the U.S. to host the annual Slow Food Nations festival, which casts a spotlight on innovative chefs and producers from around the world, as well as Denver’s remarkable food scene.
The most important part of Denver’s culinary identity is its deep roots in hyper-local cuisine. For years, Mile High City chefs have been working directly with local farms, utilizing Colorado’s bountiful harvest of fresh produce, artisanal cheeses, and organically raised meats to create dishes that are eco-friendly, innovative and – most importantly – delicious. In Denver, local has always been better.
Annual Culinary Events
- Denver Restaurant Week (Winter) –Denver Restaurant Week features multi-course menus with three price points at hundreds of Denver’s top restaurants. Diners can find multi-course menus at $25, $35 and $45 price tags.
- A Taste of Colorado (Labor Day Weekend) – This festival, held in Denver’s Civic Center Park and on the surrounding streets, highlights some of Colorado’s favorite food establishments – from ethnic specialties to traditional favorites, diners can enjoy full-sized or sample portions of their favorites throughout the festival. The festival also features live music from more than 25 national and regional artists, family-friendly activities and more.
- Denver Food + Wine Festival (September) – Denver Food + Wine Festival is a six-day extravaganza of food, wine and spirits education, promotion and tastings. Events include Dinner Under the Stars, a Culinary Cinema Series, Bartender’s Bash (a cocktail event) and the signature event, The Grand Tasting. Denver Food + Wine Festival aims to highlight industry impact, promote workforce development and celebrate Denver as a culinary destination.
- Slow Food Nations (September) – Slow Food Nations gathers leaders, eaters, farmers, chefs, educators and families for a weekend of tastings, tours and talks. Modeled after the renowned Terra Madre – the original Slow Food event in Turin, Italy – Slow Food Nations in Denver has become the center of the North American food world.
Here are just a handful of spots to enjoy the dining scene in some of Denver’s most popular neighborhoods.
LoDo (Lower Downtown) – This 26-square block neighborhood has the largest concentration of restored turn-of-the-century and Victorian brick warehouses in the nation, and is now home to more than 100 restaurants, breweries, rooftop cafes, music clubs and sports bars.
The famous Larimer Square is the city’s most historic block and home to some of Denver’s signature restaurants. James Beard Award winner Jennifer Jasinski made her first mark with the Mediterranean-centric Rioja, followed swiftly by French-inspired Bistro Vendôme and several other concepts around the city. Frank Bonanno, 2016 James Beard Award Semifinalist for Best Restaurateur, owns four concepts on the block, including Osteria Marco, Green Russell, Russell’s Smokehouse and Wednesday’s Pie.
The Dairy Block micro-district, located on a historic block that was once home to Windsor Dairy, is now a vibrant micro-district that boasts 18 restaurants, seven bars, 15 boutique shops, a luxury coworking space, and The Maven, a 172-room boutique hotel. Culinary favorites at Dairy Block include Poka Lola Social Club cocktail bar, Huckleberry Roasters coffee shop, a whiskey bar called Seven Grand, a cocktail bar called Run for the Roses, as well as an activated alley, featuring to-go pizza, Blanchard Family Wines and For[a]ged restaurant, which opened in 2019.
In addition to the activated alley, renowned Denver chef Frank Bonanno opened Milk Market in Dairy Block, a curated culinary marketplace featuring fifteen Bonanno Concepts food outlets – including a pastry shop; bao bun purveyor; hot fried chicken sandwich spot; fresh seafood eatery; Hawaiian poke bar; specialty salad bar; sandwich shop; handmade pastaria; taqueria; Bonanno Brothers Pizzeria; a wine bar; and a Colorado-focused tap room.
Famed Colorado brewery, Oskar Blues, also opened a restaurant and tap room in LoDo – Oskar Blues Grill & Brew – which pairs craft beer with a Southern-inspired menu; it is also home to one of Denver’s newest live music venues, The Black Buzzard.
Denver Union Station – Also in LoDo, Denver’s historic train terminal features 10 restaurants, bars and fine retailers. Following its reopening in 2014, the Beaux Arts train station’s revival spurred a major redevelopment in the surrounding blocks, with several new and upcoming hotels, communal spaces and top restaurants.
Stoic & Genuine, a seafood-centric restaurant in the tradition of New York’s Grand Central Station’s Oyster Bar, was included in the original restoration of the station from local powerhouse chef Jennifer Jasinski (2013 James Beard Award Winner for Best Chef Southwest and 2016 James Beard Award Semifinalist for Outstanding Chef). In late-2017, Jasinski opened her highly anticipated fifth Denver concept also in Denver Union Station, Ultreia – a tapas restaurant.
Alex Seidel (2018 James Beard Award Winner for Best Chef: Southwest) owns Mercantile dining & provision, featuring food items from his farm located in nearby Larkspur, CO. Homegrown brunch hotspot, Snooze, brings energy, creativity and delicious food to the morning. Snooze features iconic pancakes, morning cocktails and a huge patio.
Tavernetta – from the award winning team at Boulder’s Frasca – opened in late-2017 to immediate acclaim. Its sister restaurant, Sunday Vinyl – a wine bar with a highly curated selection of libations and food – opened in late-2019, followed closely by a James Beard Award nod for “Best New Restaurant.”
The adjacent Kimpton Hotel Born boasts Citizen Rail, an upscale steakhouse with a laudable cocktail program. Hearth & Dram in the Hotel Indigo features a New American concept and one of the city’s best whiskey selections. The Pig & The Sprout provides creative, seasonal fare for all palates; and Whiskey Tango Foxtrot is a bar and restaurant with more than 90 whiskeys, 30 beer taps and a simple, craveable menu.
Denver Union Station also includes Terminal Bar, situated in the station’s old ticket window and featuring more than 30 Colorado craft beers on tap. Terminal Bar also opened a second outpost on the opposite end of the Grand Hall as well as the Plaza Beer Garden. Cocktail lovers can enjoy hand crafted libations in Cooper Lounge, which was named Bon Appetit’s “Most Posh Bar in a Train Station,” overlooking the grand hall.
LoHi (Lower Highlands) – Connected to downtown by three pedestrian bridges, this culturally diverse neighborhood northwest of downtown Denver has experienced amazing growth over the past decade, and is overflowing with trendy restaurants, bars and shops.
Denver mainstay, Linger, is located in a former mortuary, adding a quirky charm to chef/owner Justin Cucci’s culinary creations, which are inspired spins on global street food featuring Colorado’s seasonal ingredients. The restaurant’s talented mixologists also bring locally sourced ingredients behind the bar, serving up unique cocktails to diners on Linger’s breathtaking rooftop patio. Neighboring El Five (from the creators of Linger) – has spectacular 360-degree views of the city skyline and the Rocky Mountains and a Spanish-style tapas menu.
Inspired by European markets and food truck roundups, Avanti F&B is a modern-day food hall and restaurant incubator. Seven rotating restaurant concepts housed in one collective space created by modified shipping containers provide guests with an eclectic mix of affordable, chef-inspired cuisine, ranging from now-stationary kitchens that started out as local food trucks to nascent restaurants testing their concepts in a public forum.
The Bindery, from Chef/Owner Linda Hampsten Fox, is a market, bakery and restaurant with coffee drinks, housemade pastries, breakfast items and an ambitious, seasonal dinner menu.
The Family Jones Spirit House, a collaborative project from some of Denver’s biggest names, is a distillery, tasting room and restaurant in one – serving innovative small plates alongside housemade spirits and liqueurs.
Acova – from the owners of classic Denver bar, The Hornet – features an indoor-outdoor bar and a 100-person patio with a kids’ playground. The menu is an eclectic mix of classic entrees, international fare and crowd-pleasers.
RiNo (River North) Art District – One of Denver’s popular arts districts, the RiNo neighborhood has become a hotspot for established and emerging chefs, restaurants and food concepts. A former industrial neighborhood now filled with art galleries, restaurants, breweries, distilleries and two urban wineries, RiNo has seen some of the most concentrated restaurant growth of any neighborhood in the city.
Work & Class is a casual, full-service restaurant that focuses on Latin and American dishes, including an array of slow-roasted, braised, and rotisserie meats, creative sides, and freshly baked breads, and desserts. The bar program is marked by interesting small-batch spirits, craft beers and a well-curated wine list; and cocktails are created with house-made mixes. Work & Class chef-owner, Dana Rodriguez, also helms Super Mega Bien, a concept in The Ramble Hotel alongside the second outpost of New York’s Death & Co. cocktail bar.
The Source Hotel + Market Hall features top restaurants including – Safta, from James Beard Award-winning chef, Alon Shaya; barbeque joint, Smok, with award winning Chef Bill Espiricuetta; Chicago-style pizzeria, Grabowski’s; and The Woods, a rooftop restaurant featuring New American cuisine and New Belgium beer brewed on-site. The Market Hall also features an award-winning bakery, local coffee shop and wares from several local artisans.
Chef Duncan Holmes of Beckon-Call was named a 2020 James Beard Award semifinalist for “Best Chef: Mountain Region” for his immense talent and creativity at Beckon. Additionally, Call was recently named one of “America’s Best New Restaurants 2018” by Bon Appétit. Beckon opened in November 2018 and is an 18-seat chef’s counter-style gourmet experience, with limited seatings and a new menu each night. Call is inspired by the all-day sidewalk bars of Europe and features breakfast, lunch and dinner fare made in-house, plus an expertly curated wine list.
Denver Central Market in RiNo was Denver’s third food hall and marketplace and has become a mainstay of the neighborhood. It features a selection of 13 local food purveyors – a produce shop, coffee shop, fish shop, butcher and bakery, wood-fired pizza place and chocolatier, among others, plus outdoor public murals by local artists.
South Broadway and Baker – Another hip neighborhood, South Broadway, is just one mile south of downtown. It has a distinct feel with everything from fine dining at Beatrice & Woodsley to unique homemade flavors at Sweet Action Ice Cream, to classic Irish pubs and live music joints.
Denver’s newest food hall, Broadway Market, is a collection of open-concept restaurant stalls, plus a chocolatier, coffeehouse, bar and self-serve beer wall. The nine different restaurant concepts come from some of the city’s most acclaimed chefs and restaurateurs and range from pizza and curry to fried chicken and sushi.
Just a few blocks off of Broadway in Denver’s Golden Triangle Creative District, is Leven Deli – a new take on the traditional deli that features popular items made lighter and brighter with Mediterranean ingredients.
Cherry Creek North – – Long known as Denver’s premier dining and shopping destination, Cherry Creek is undergoing a culinary renaissance.
Recently added to the dining scene in this upscale neighborhood are Narrative, a New American concept, and Kisbee on the Roof, a rooftop bar with stunning views of Denver and the Rocky Mountains – both in the Jacquard Hotel; and TORO, from famed chef Richard Sandoval, will open in the JW Marriott Denver Cherry Creek in 2020.
Philippe Delgrange and Rick Wahlstedt of famed New York City restaurant, Le Bilboquet, opened the second location of their restaurant in summer of 2019, the latest in a string of outposts from renowned restaurateurs. Notably, New York’s popular upscale restaurant, Quality Italian, also selected Denver as its second location.
Central Park – With 46 miles of urban trails that connect to Denver's 850-mile network, the Central Park, Lowry and Northfield neighborhoods are a peaceful escape from the hustle and bustle of downtown. After enjoying the outdoors, relax and take advantage of the shopping and dining at The Shops at Northfield, Stanley Marketplace and Hangar 2.
Like many other Denver neighborhoods, Central Park has experienced a lot of culinary growth, and many of its restaurants are quickly gaining local and national recognition. Stanley Marketplace extended Denver’s rapidly growing culinary marketplace trend to Central Park. Inside Stanley Marketplace, Annette, from Chef Caroline Glover, was named one of the “50 Best New Restaurants in America” by Bon Appétit in 2017, and Caroline and her staff were nominated for two James Beard Awards in the same year, with another nod to Chef Glover in 2019.
Popular Denver restaurateurs are also opening new concepts and second locations in the Central Park area – from Troy Guard’s (of TAG, Guard & Grace, FNG and more) HashTAG to Little Man Ice Cream’s Constellation, Lon Symensma’s second ChoLon and many more.