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While it’s true that Denver is landlocked, the sea’s bounty makes a remarkably strong showing at restaurant tables across the city, and Denver chefs are obsessed with responsible sourcing, sustainability, fishery management and reeling in fresh-caught specimens that are flown in daily, often because of partnerships and connections with the nation’s best seafood suppliers. 

From longstanding oyster bars to new coastal seafood sanctuaries, Denver’s fish houses are a real catch, in particular, the following restaurants that serve oceanic creatures that don’t have to fish for compliments. By the way, this list doesn’t include sushi. For the city’s best sushi spots, sail on over to our international restaurant guide to Denver.

Jax Fish House

Founder Dave Query ignited Denver’s seafood scene with the opening of this oceanic restaurant and oyster bar in Lower Downtown that has since spawned offshoots across Colorado and beyond. From its rambunctiously energetic vibe, offset by a subtle nautical theme, to its fiercely seasonal menu of sustainable seafood sourced from passionate purveyors, it’s a fan favorite for slurping pristine oysters, although the rest of the menu—crab legs, lobster, clam chowder, charred Spanish octopus and Alaskan halibut—is every bit as crowd-pleasing, as are the spirit-forward cocktails and compelling wines and craft beers.

Stoic & Genuine

Denver collides with the Coasts at Stoic & Genuine, where seafood guru and head chef Patrick McCready is captain of his domain, unleashing hauls of flawlessly fresh oysters on the half shell and raw bar classics in the shell. Binge on the seafood “tower of power” and then do a deep dive into Alaskan king crab legs, Maine lobster, caviar and main dishes like cedar-baked salmon paired with a trio of artichoke preparations, seared halibut with sugar snap peas and buttermilk ricotta and the deeply satisfying paella moderna. Residing inside Union Station, the knockout space—all up-to-the-moment razzle-dazzle and maritime splash—is offset by a hypnotizing cocktail program and lavish granita bar that spotlights shaved ice, an enlivening garnish that appears in cocktails and atop oysters.

Ocean Prime

Polished, indulgent and ornamented with elegant accents, this Larimer Square seafood eatery and self-described “modern supper club” is part of a Midwest chain from Ohio restaurateur Cameron Mitchell, who’s renowned for his diverse repertoire of restaurants. Here, amid a gorgeous entry with a sweeping staircase, a bustling bar scene and handsome wood-and-brick walls laddered with wines, experienced servers deliver the whole ocean spectrum: oysters on the half shell, whole Maine lobsters, crab cocktails, king crab legs and slabs of fish that zigzag from blackened Colorado bass and lemon-kissed swordfish to sesame-soy-glazed tuna and sea scallops married with Parmesan risotto. If you’re sharing a night out with a group, book the upstairs glass-enclosed room that harbors table 50. It seats eight, and the views overlooking Larimer Square—especially when the windows are open—are Instagram-worthy.

Guard and Grace

Downtown Denver is symbolic of steakhouses, but Guard and Grace isn't your typical shrine to steer. There’s the bravado of wood-fired grills, charcuterie plates and, like any great steakhouse worth its salt, a wave of seafood and fish experiences that rival its meaty counterparts: exemplary oysters, Maryland crab cakes, grilled Scottish salmon with shaved rhubarb, and the ambrosial smoke-scented octopus paired with a white bean and celery salad, Spanish chorizo and a roasted red pepper sauce. It’s a win, too, for its exhilarating wine syllabus that stretches far and deep, swanky surrounds that favor a feminine touch and a voyeuristic chef’s counter that overlooks the industrious kitchen and glistening raw bar skimmed with impeccably fresh oysters. 

Hi Tide

This excellent ode to poke bowls (and other fish stunners) is the brainchild of Celeste Pfeiffer, a former personal chef who combines Asian influences and Hawaiian inspiration on her menu at Hi Tide, a contemporary, cool and cosmopolitan hangout in the River North Art District (RiNo). Her signature poke bowls, stocked with sushi-grade yellowtail, salmon or ahi tuna, vegetables, chiles and Japanese seasonings, are habit-forming, but it’s her Thai green curry bowl with seared salmon and Korean-style yellowtail bowl that transform the ritual into a bona fide obsession. The latter, zested with orange peel, flavor-bombed with tart Chinese black vinegar and embellished with avocado, house-pickled jalapeños, crisped garlic, cilantro and a refreshing cucumber relish with just a hint of sweetness, is the thing of food daydreams.

Mr. Peralta Mariscos

Ceviche, raw fish or seafood marinated in fresh citrus juices, slashed with fresh chiles and cilantro and potent with raw onions, is easily one of the best culinary gifts the States inherited from Mexico. And at Mr. Peralta Mariscos, a stuccoed corner plot in Sunnyside, the ceviches are arguably Denver’s finest. The convivial dining room, humming with patrons slurping obscenely huge platters of ceviche and equally large seafood cocktail goblets plunged with shrimp floating in a tomato broth, pulsates with Mexican music. The cooks in the open kitchen add to the clamor, the thwack of their knives an indication that you’re about to embark on a delicious feast. The long syllabus of ceviches is offset by several chile-intensive aguachiles spiked with lime, shrimp dishes served every which way, seafood tacos and soups and molcajetes pointing skyward with crab legs, fried fish filets, clams and shrimp ribboned with strips of bacon. 


Tammen’s Fish Market, one of multiple tenants residing inside the Denver Central Market, a superb food hall in RiNo, doubles as a full-service fish counter and counter-service restaurant that turns out a swell of sea-centric dishes: po’boys, vibrant ceviches, fresh oysters, clam chowder and fried smelts. With its casual surrounds, community bar that serves beer, wine and cocktails, and clam and mussel shells that grin from the impressive display case, it’s a terrific spot for lunch, dinner or a grab-and-go fresh fish and seafood jaunt that allows you to experiment with cooking your own specimens at home.


To travel through the dishes that define Cafe Brazil, a sensationally charming South American restaurant from Mauricio Zorrilla and Tony and Marla Zarlenga, is to drift into a land of gypsy chiles and vibrant spices, fresh herbs and sweet plantains, passion fruit and prawns, swollen scallops and bacalhau, all beautifully harmonized in heartfelt ways that explain why the Berkeley neighborhood restaurant has such a loyal following. Against a backdrop of color and whimsy, high energy and contagious laughter, shots of rum and caipirinhas, diners socialize over plates of seafood Copacabana, a medley of shrimp and scallops in a lush coconut milk sauce and the moqueca de peixe, an irresistible stew stained sunset with dende oil and liberally enhanced with scallops, shrimp and Portuguese bacalhau.  


In any neighborhood inked with upscale boutiques, swanky bars and martini-leaning residents, a sleek seafood shrine is never far away. And so it goes for Blue Island Oyster Bar and Seafood, a sophisticated dock-to-dish restaurant in tony Cherry Creek that struts a ritzy seafaring motif flanked by a centerpiece bar that pours stiff martinis and bubbles, the requisite libation to match with the restaurant’s proprietary East Coast oysters. You could spend all of your clams on the bivalves, but then you’d miss the creamy New England clam chowder—and that would be a travesty. The daily happy hour, which runs from 2 to 6 p.m., is a real catch.


Chef and owner Kevin Morrison of Tacos, Tequila, Whiskey offers a fresh syllabus of sea creatures at his diminutive River North Art District (RiNo) restaurant that’s usually packed like a can of sardines with diners drawn to the beer-friendly, fish-intensive menu. A triumphant wood-grilled whole Colorado bass is a state ballad bathed in butter and sidekicked with roasted Brussels sprouts and Israeli couscous, while the king salmon filet with gnocchi, kale and crimini mushrooms is caressed with a cream sauce of butter and garlic. Oysters, mussels, peel-and-eat shrimp poached in Old Bay broth and terrific smelt fries round out the culinary roster, which pairs well with the rotating craft-beer lineup favoring Colorado breweries. 

By Lori Midson