After nearly a week of intensive reader voting, today we announce the winners of the eighth annual Eater Awards, celebrating the chefs and restaurants that made the largest impact on all 24 Eater cities over the past twelve months.
Here now are the places — from first concepts and over-the-top penthouses to hotel bars and entirely reimagined food districts — that have taken the Denver food world by storm in 2017. The competition was especially tight this year. In two categories (Restaurant and Chef) your votes nearly tied the winners. Thank you to everyone who voted last week, and congratulations to the winners of the readers’ choice and editors’ choice awards. Read on to learn more about this year’s best of the best.
Restaurant of the Year
Annette, Stanley Marketplace
When Annette opened earlier this year, it singlehandedly gave diners a reason to travel to Stanley Marketplace for a weeknight dinner, weekend brunch, or any special occasion, for that matter. The intimate dining room transports visitors from the buzz of the surrounding building, and, once inside, the fun really starts. At Annette, the operating word is thoughtful — from the staff, to the cocktails and coffee service, to chef Caroline Glover’s small and surprise-filled menu. On it, au gratin is back with a vengeance, and endive never tasted so complicated and so effortless. Go to Aurora for dinner, and then go back to the city wishing for another restaurant like it.
Restaurant of the Year Reader’s Choice Winner: Annette
Chef of the Year
Elise Wiggins, Cattivella
When chef Elise Wiggins left Panzano’s after 12 years and announced she was starting her own restaurant in her own neighborhood, diners listened. And when she opened Cattivella alongside heavy hitters in Stapleton’s Eastbridge development, a community began to gather around and inside it. At Cattivella, Wiggins offers an Italian menu all her own, and totally approachable. When she’s cooking in the open kitchen, the energy is palpable — the restaurant is packed with friends and fans, even on a mid-weeknight. In Wiggins’ Cattivella, a burgeoning East Denver community finds its perfect chef champion.
Chef of the Year Reader’s Choice Winner: Carrie Baird
Design of the Year
El Five, Edible Beats
Call it gauche, gaudy, or appropriated, but El Five wins big for being the design of the year that really runs with it. In a time of precious eateries and more and more elegant dining spaces, El Five takes a fresh approach in its irreverence — a design that might as well be laced with expletives. Vintage Egyptian movie posters are the easiest feature to spot on this fifth-floor, elevator-transported homage to “tapas de Gibraltar.” It’s a Mediterranean mix that Justin Cucci and his Edible Beats team (Linger, Root Down, Ophelia’s) have re-mastered. Sticking with a film theme, the sprawling affair at El Five would be best fit for a single-take tracking shot, one that slinks around the room like a leading lady and ends on a balcony with some of the best long views of a transforming Denver.
Design of the Year Reader’s Choice Winner: Emmerson
Food Neighborhood of the Year
LoHi, (Señor Bear, The Bindery, Bremen’s, The Family Jones, Marcella’s, and more)
It’s a bittersweet time for Denver’s beloved neighborhoods, where the operating word this year could very well be gentrification. From entirely new builds to renovated historic houses, each neighborhood has taken a distinct and nuanced approach to its growing development. Fitting that in Lower Highland (LoHi), less than a decade ago, Little Man built its first 28-foot cream can, and Generator started developing the Olinger mortuary building. And this year, the man behind those projects, Paul Tamburello, opened another collaborative and integrative business: The Family Jones Spirit House, which brings a distillery, tasting room, and restaurant to Osage Street. Just up a few blocks, the owners of Bar Dough and Highland Tap and Burger added their newest neighborhood staple this year (and one that nearly tied your votes for Restaurant and Chef of the Year): Señor Bear.
Food Neighborhood of the Year Reader’s Choice Winner: LoHi
Hotel Restaurant of the Year
Tavernetta, Kimpton Hotel Born, Union Station
Technically, the newest addition to Union Station and Kimpton’s Born is hotel-adjacent. Tavernetta’s partners Lachlan Mackinnon-Patterson, Bobby Stuckey, and Peter Hoglund brought their latest concept to Denver at the base of the Hotel Born building but operating as free agents. Regardless of the details, the result for travelers and locals alike is a near-transit restaurant that is anything but expected and downright category-disruptive. From the owners of Frasca Food & Wine, Tavernetta brings to Denver an approachable Italian cuisine with all the service and preparation now expected from one of the country’s best restaurants. A walk-in lounge and bar area provides easy noshing at lunch and happy hour; the walk-through kitchen provides the feeling of home amazingly in the middle of Lower Downtown Denver. And just like that, with this place in existence, restaurants in hotel buildings are once again formidable.
Hotel of the Year Reader’s Choice Winner: Corinne