The last few years opened the culinary gates to a flood of new food halls in The Mile High City, exponentially multiplying our dining opportunities. Parading a multitude of tastes, Denver’s avalanche of food halls, many of which serve as incubators for passionate chefs with small, innovative concepts, are popping up all over the city giving locals and tourists alike lively, communal and cosmopolitan gathering places that foster conversation and feed our souls. This cheat sheet of food halls covers a dozen marketplaces to eat your heart out in (and close to) Denver.
Denver Milk Market
Frank Bonanno—the prolific chef and restaurateur behind Mizuna, French 75, Osteria Marco, Green Russell and a slew of other restaurant concepts — offers his fashionable version of the food hall with this 16-venue repertoire of restaurants and bars spanning a large swatch of square footage in the Ballpark neighborhood’s historic Dairy Block. The all-local kitchens, operated exclusively by Bonanno’s restaurant group, Bonanno Concepts, proffer eats and drinks to satisfy every culinary itch: wood-fired artisanal pizzas; crisp-fried chicken; specialty salads; handcrafted pastas; jolts of caffeine coupled with breakfast pastries; burgers and sandwiches; shakes, fresh-spun ice cream and gelato; eggs Benedicts and Belgian waffles; poke bowls; lobster rolls and fish tacos; burrito bowls and carnitas plates. The stalls are anchored by three drinking emporiums, including Stranded Pilgrim, a gorgeous craft-beer bar. On Sunday mornings, things get rambunctiously fun during drag bingo brunch.
Avanti Food & Beverage
Residing in Denver's Lower Highland (LoHi) neighborhood, Avanti Food & Beverage, a dynamically diverse food hall holding court in a former printing plant, shelters a collection of self-contained shipping containers, each of which is a mini restaurant. Diners can choose from a world-spanning variety of cuisines—everything from Venezuelan arepas to chicken-and-chive dumplings—and enjoy their lunch or dinner in the communal first-floor dining area, or on the riveting rooftop deck bedecked with modern lounge furniture and enthralling views of the downtown Denver skyline. Along with its restaurants, Avanti lays claim to two bars, including one on the altitude-high terrace.
Denver Union Station
At Denver Union Station, The Mile High City’s main transportation hub, morning train travelers hit up Pig Train Coffee Co. for a caffeine thunderbolt and Snooze for the profoundly delicious pineapple upside-down pancakes. Locals and tourists alike huddle at Stoic & Genuine to indulge in sensational seafood and fish creations that rival its coastal counterparts, while the foods of Spain and Portugal shine at Ultreia, a snug, sunlit gastroteka that takes diners on a culinary sojourn through Iberia—a journey that’s enriched by a terrific bar program that dives into Basque ciders, fortified wines, sherry, port and gin tonics, by which they’re known in Spain. Mercantile Dining & Provision, a lovely New American restaurant, sells hand-crafted jams, spreads and pickled vegetables, along with sandwiches and terrific cheeses. Book a dinner reservation at the chef’s counter to fawn over chef Alex Seidel’s beef tartare, bucatini or burger. For a more casual dining experience, head to Next Door American Eatery, a community pub. If you’re lusting for libations, flash back to the golden years at The Cooper Lounge, an elegant mezzanine hideaway overlooking the 100-year-old great hall, or commune in the historic ticketing office that’s now the Terminal Bar, a convivial watering hole that pours craft beers, cocktails and wine.
Milepost Zero at McGregor Square
One of the city’s newest food halls, Milepost Zero gets major points not just for bringing a solid lineup of excellent foodstuffs to baseball crowds, but also for its enviable Ballpark location just a bat’s swing from Coors Field, home to the Colorado Rockies. A mecca of gathering places, including 28,000 square feet of al fresco plaza space, Milepost Zero — its name a nod to the city’s early railway days when Milepost 0 was the center of where Denver’s train tracks began — is already a home run for the food-obsessed. There are currently seven restaurant concepts, including Tiny Giant Sushi and Little Chingones from award-winning chef and restaurateur Troy Guard; Atomic Chicken (think chicken every which way); Buona, which serves jumbo hot dogs and elevated Italian beef sandwiches; Field Greens, a salad-and-smoothie spot; Tora Poke + Noodle House, a playground of innovative, Japanese-inspired poke bowls and noodle dishes from acclaimed chef Jesus Silva; and Pulpo Creamery, an ice cream shop. Loading the bases is the Milepost Zero Bar, which trumpets a self-serve tap wall flowing with craft cocktails, wine, hard seltzers, cider and beer.
The River North Art District (RiNo) is arguably the city’s most dynamic neighborhood, thanks in large part to urban developers Mickey and Kyle Zeppelin, a father-and-son team who, in 2013, opened The Source, a pioneering epicenter for food pilgrims, the cocktail contingent and craft beer geeks. The sprawling two-market complex populates an industrialized ironworks building that’s a multi-purpose village of culinary hotspots: Grabowski’s Pizzeria; Bellota, an upscale Mexican restaurant steeped in beautifully prepared south-of-the-border street foods; Safta, James Beard award-winning chef Alon Shaya’s homage to unassailable Israeli cuisine; smōk, whose superlative barbecue scents the heavens with mega doses of smoky puffs; Melted, a cool dessert bar whose crowning glory is the Thai ice cream sandwich made with milk buns; and The Woods, a restaurant and rooftop bar that dispenses liquid gold from New Belgium Brewery, which brews its beers onsite and hosts private events inside its ground level brewhouse.
The Denver Central Market
River North Art District (RiNo) locals are spoiled rotten by the terrific combination of culinary concepts at this high-spirited food-and-drink emporium grandstanding eleven ace vendors, including Vero Italian, Culture Meat & Cheese, Tammen’s Fish Market and Temper Chocolate and Confections. If you crave caffeine, swing by Crema Bodega for a pick-me-up cappuccino, and when the clock rings in cocktail hour, snag a seat at the bar at Curio for a boozy Manhattan, negroni or boulevardier. The 14,000-square-foot space also highlights brilliantly graffitied outdoor picnic tables painted by local artists. If you’re flying in or out of Denver International Airport, look for the Market’s second (and smaller) outpost on the A Concourse.
This industrialized, cutting-edge food hall in the River North Art District (RiNo) is a hipster hangout with an eclectic vibe and a top-notch roster of traders selling a noteworthy repertoire of global foodstuffs, including pudgy empanadas and bulging arepas from La Rola Urban Columbian Food; beef short rib panang curry, crowned with a fried egg, from Thai-Kun; Filipino wonderments like fried chicken Adobo from Soy Pinoy; and excellent handmade street tacos from Nixtamos. The mezzanine houses KoKo Ni Supper Club, an intimate, 14-seat American-style izakaya and saloon from celebrity chef Paul Qui, whose ticketed omakase dinners showcase local ingredients and sustainable seafood procured from thoughtful purveyors. For cocktails and craft beers, swoop into the bar. If it’s entertainment you seek, you’ll find plenty of new and retro arcade games to test your competitive spirit.
Aurora’s Stanley Marketplace already boasts a beautifully browsable cluster of independent boutiques, bookstores, markets, breweries and wine-and-spirit shops scattered across its vast expanse, all of which is surrounded by alluring food temptations. Grazers feast on charcuterie boards at Mondo Market, coffee connoisseurs get their caffeine injections from Logan House Coffee, those with a sweet tooth savor the gorgeous bonbons and candy bars from Miette et Chocolat, morning types break for the unassailable breakfast bagel sandwiches at Rosenberg’s, and date-night couples book a coveted table at Annette, chef/owner Caroline Glover’s petite nirvana of season-intensive culinary excellence. If you just want a beer, the 37 pour-your-own tap handles at Stanley Beer Hall should suffice.
Junction Food & Drink
From ramen and sushi to charcuterie and chicken shawarma, there’s plenty to ponder at this south Denver food hall housing 10 local and national proprietors offering one-stop eating in a spacious and modern setting at the junction of Colorado Boulevard and Interstate 25. Hit up Lazo for savory empanadas, Shawarma Shack for irresistible falafel and Sojourners for gelato, pastries and desserts. No trip to this urban food hall would be complete without sipping a spirit-forward cocktail from the Junction Bar, and independent of whether you see your glass as half empty or half full, Wednesdays at Junction Food & Drink are for both: All bottles of wine are half off, and charcuterie-and-cheese boards (the ideal wine pairing) from Mr. Miners are reduced by two bucks.
Edgewater Public Market
A dilapidated strip mall, a long-vacant supermarket, a sketchy liquor store. Now, thanks to Edgewater Public Market, it's a show-stopping destination for terrific shopping, drinking, eating and special events, including outdoor movies and festivals. Coffee, arepas, gyros, wood-fired pizza, ramen, crepes, empanadas, lobster rolls, ice cream, burgers, tacos and some of the most notable and craveable Ethiopian food in the city pepper the market hall’s landscape, which gets a boost from the sun-smooched rooftop bar graced with an airstream trailer slinging beer, potent cocktails and hard seltzers. You can fault the magnificent views overlooking nearby Sloan’s Lake and, just beyond, the Denver skyline, for ditching the work-related Zoom meeting.
Unless you’re seeking sustenance near the Denver Tech Center, Grange Hall is a bit off the beaten path. But if that’s where you find yourself, then this eating-and-drinking emporium from one of Denver’s most prized kitchen magicians should be on your radar. A venture from chef/restaurateur Troy Guard, whose vast collection of restaurants zigzags across Colorado — including spots in a few other food halls — Grange Hall occupies a former C.B. & Potts in Greenwood Village, its 13,000-square-foot hallowed halls stocked with nine restaurants and a brewery. Line up at Bubu for its healthy build-your-own bowls, Crazy Love Pizza for the spicy scampi pie, Crack Shack for fried-chicken sandwiches and salaciously decadent cheese wiz-and-Hatch-chile-smothered fries, and Uptown & Humboldt for falafel and lamb gyros. Little Dry Creek Brewery (named for the water source that feeds the hall) pours excellent beers and signature cocktails. Brunch is served on weekends, and local bands and musicians jam on Friday and Saturday nights in the dining hall.
Aurora’s diverse landscape is embodied by this endearing shopping center and food hall for refugees and asylees who pour their hearts and souls into the foods that beautifully illustrate the culinary traditions of their homelands. It has the vibe of community and pure passion, lined with aromatic stalls like Urban Burma, whose standout samosas and brilliant rice noodle dishes make you want to bow in grace. Stop by Odaa Ethiopian for lovely vegetarian platters and juicy lamb tibs, Jasmine Syrian Food for the faultless hummus and chicken shawarma, Rocky Mountain Sudanese for crisp, donut-shaped falafel that sing with profound spices, Nepali Mountain Kitchen for the mixed vegetable curry or Kathmandu-style vegetable dumplings floating in a soup lashed with sesame, and Golden Sky Asian Food for real-deal pad Thai, bargain sushi rolls, seafood-studded teriyaki rice bowls and yoki udon with shrimp. This is a wonderful place to see — and taste — the world without the trials and tribulations of travel.
Denver Milk Market is pictured above.