As is the tradition at Eater, our closeout of the year is a survey of friends, industry types, and bloggers. This year, we asked the group eight questions running the gamut from restaurant standbys, which we covered already, to biggest restaurant grievances. All will be answered by the time we turn off the lights at the end of the 2016. Responses are related in no particular order; all are cut, pasted, and (mostly) unedited herein. Readers, please do add your survey answers in the comments.
Q: What were the top restaurant newcomers of 2016?
Denise Mickelsen, 5280 Magazine food editor
I was most excited about Ohana Island Kitchen (new to their digs, anyway), Avelina, Matsuhisa, Sushi Ronin, and Coperta.
Brittany Werges, 303 Magazine managing editor
Although it technically opened in December 2015, I would be remiss if I didn't mention Hop Alley. I spent the better half of 2016 learning about traditional Chinese cuisine from my significant other (who's Chinese and an amazing cook) so I was really curious to see how it would fair. Luckily, the food was killer. They managed to retain traditional styles and flavors while introducing something new. Aside from that Coperta really impressed me. I think it was the first time I had pasta in Denver that really did remind me of Rome. So simple but absolutely exquisite— it tasted like magic on a plate.
Rebecca Gart, Colorado Homes & Lifestyles food editor
Boulder's Arcana has a stylish, lounge-y dining room with an elevated menu and exquisite bread; Although I highly dislike the name, I can't stop hearing praise for Mister Tuna and its truly memorable fare; After years of pining for a food hall of our own, we finally have Denver Central Market in Denver, with 11 local purveyors, including bread, meats, fish, produce, cheese and much more; Finally, Kevin Morrison's new eatery, Fish N Beer, is truly unique, from its oak-burning grill for seafood (OYSTERS!) to the 16 beers on tap. I've also heard acclaim for River and Woods, although I haven't been yet.
Adam Larkey, Eater Denver photographer
Departure (and B&GC), Avelina, Mister Tuna, Matsuhisa
Andra Zeppelin, Eater Denver editor
It is a tie for me for the number one spot between Avelina and Departure. They are entirely different and yet both outstanding in their own right. Chef Broening's commitment to simplicity and laser-sharp precision in balancing flavors, combined with the dessert program created by chef Yasmin Lozada-Hissom makes Avelina a winner. The creativity and originality of the dishes at Departure plus the top-notch service and fun cocktail program had me going to Cherry Creek more times than I imagined I would. There are two areas that made great strides for Denver: Sushi and bars. Matsuhisa, Sushi Ronin, and more recently Mizu Izakaya have raised the bar for our sushi scene. On the bar side, B&GC, Retrograde, The Way Back, and Hudson Hill are great additions to the cocktail scene.
Laura Shunk, Westword contributor
Avelina. Coperta would make this list for me for its cacio e pepe alone. I think Hop Alley's popularity says incredible things about what can happen in Denver dining, and what eaters are ready to embrace. I love all of The Denver Central Market, but I'm especially into Vero (those pizzas) and Culture (that hamhocker sandwich).
Gigi Sukin, Eater Contributor, CoBiz editor
Definitely Coperta, Torchy's, The Denver Central Market, Matsuhisa
Justin De La Rosa, Denver Post contributor
I feel like I'm just going to name every restaurant that opened this year, but I'll try to keep a short list. Coperta, Hop Alley (as it opened so late in 2015), Denver Central Market, Mister Tuna, Departure, The Way Back, and (the return of) Rosenberg's.
Lori Midson, Denver Life Magazine Food Editor
Despite a few mishaps during my review meals, Avelina, for me, was hands-down the best new restaurant this year. Major props to chefs John Broening and Yasmin Lozada-Hissom for gracing Denver (yet again) with a beautifully fashioned restaurant that feeds your soul and makes your spirits soar. It's not a perfect restaurant, but it comes close enough to excellence that an evening here is one of the most gratifying and pleasurable dining experiences you can have in the city. Honorable mentions to the super-fun Fish N Beer; The Denver Central Market for its wide breadth of dining options; Sushi Ronin for its pristinely fresh fish and gorgeous plating; and The Way Back for its ambitious food and dazzling cocktails.
Rachel Greiman, Eater contributor and photographer
I loved everything I tried at Coperta and I will order their spicy chicken without fail every time I go there. I'm also loving all the marketplaces and the new spots that rotate in and out (rest in peace Poco Torteria). But the restaurant that I obsess over is Departure. Their entire menu is absolutely stellar and it's one that I'm constantly thinking about.
Callie Sumlin, 5280 Magazine assistant food editor
The Denver Central Market has been such a beautiful addition to the dining scene. The 11-vendor market has something for every taste and every time of day.
Grace Boyle, Eater Denver contributor
Departure, Hop Alley, and The Denver Central Market
Josh Dinar, DiningOut publisher
I'm going to stick to the under-represented Boulder scene here. We loved Wild Standard through all of its changes, and love where it landed. The Rayback is the coolest, and most overdue, concept to come to town in years. And it feels a little dirty to self promote, but River and Woods, which Daniel Asher and I opened this fall in the old John's house, has definitely been a regular destination for me, sometimes even to actually eat.
Amanda Faison, freelance writer, former 5280 Magazine editor
It's not a restaurant per se, but The Denver Central Market brings a much-needed facet to the Denver scene, and specifically to RiNo. The space can be utilized so many ways—meet for coffee, order ice cream, pick up pastries and bread, hang out at the bar, select meat and fish, indulge in chocolate, grab a pizza, shop for groceries, browse cheeses and cured meats, devour meatball sandwiches—that it's quickly become indispensable.
Lauren Rapp, Westword contributor
I think Sushi Ronin is a wonderful addition to LoHi, and I'm really crushing on Dio Mio. Also, it doesn't really count as a restaurant, but I'm mildly obsessed with Denver Central Market.
Rebecca Treon, DiningOut editor
Avelina, Mister Tuna, Departure, Comal, 12 at Madison, Que Bueno Suerte, and Coperta, but my favorite was Post Oak Hall.