clock menu more-arrow no yes
Shutterstock

Filed under:

An Eater's Guide to Denver

Unofficial, highly opinionated information about the Mile High City

Gone are the days of Rocky Mountain oysters. Here to stay is Colorado lamb, the Palisade peach, and ever-flowing, high-quality beer. From the latest chef-driven concepts to up-and-coming neighborhoods, this guide will lead you to the true essence of Denver dining.

Welcome to the Land of New American Everything

From a not-so-secret beer scene to fantastic craft spirits and a booming roster of restaurants that take influences from the far reaches of the globe, there's a little bit of everything in the Mile High City. Despite its reputation as boundary breaker on the U.S. scene, diners here will be hard-pressed to find a white tablecloth restaurant with a snooty attitude. In Denver, one can eat incredibly well across many cuisines, but there's almost none of the stuffiness found in great dining cities like New York and Los Angeles.

Denver and its surrounding satellite cities are often referred to as "The Napa Valley of Beer." To truly understand the alcohol scene here, order a sour at TRVE in the Baker neighborhood, and visit the tasting room at spirits palace Leopold Bros (5285 Joliet Street). For the best in Mexican fare around, head to El Taco de Mexico, and order the chile relleno burrito, always smothered. And don't miss the new-generation, food halls: Denver Central Market, Union Station, Stanley Marketplace, The Source, Zeppelin Station, Avanti, Denver Milk Market, and Broadway Market, among others, with more on the way.

Where to Start on Eater Denver's Best Maps

There are maps for just about everything at Eater Denver, sharing specialized intel on the top places and things to eat and drink in the Denver area. We selected the top few points on our most popular maps to help time-starved eaters prioritize which spots to visit.

The Denver Central Market should be high on any visitor’s bucket list
Denver Central Market

Hot Restaurants: The newest additions to this list of hot spots include Gattara and Daughter Thai Kitchen & Bar.

Essential Restaurants: If you need to narrow down the Essential 38, head to Annette for the hottest new American cuisine, to Frasca Food and Wine for a stunning Italian dinner, and to two-decades-old Potager for an authentic farm-to-table experience. Feeling like regional Chinese in a funky environment? Run straightaway to Hop Alley.

Bars: Check out Williams & Graham, a now-essential and highly awarded speakeasy led by barman Sean Kenyon and B&GC, an ever-so-secret spot in Cherry Creek where even getting a reservation is an adventure. Looking for the hot new spots? Start with Death & Co’s Suite 6A at the Ramble Hotel or Lady Jane in LoHi.

Pizza: Wood-fired pies take a casual yet precise approach at Cart Driver in RiNo (Prosecco on tap with your pizza works, too); White Pie, which will take you back to New Haven; and Pizzeria Locale, from the Frasca Food & Wine team in Boulder, if you find yourself in that area.

Ice Cream: If you don't plan an ice cream crawl, hit up Little Man’s original cream can for the full experience, Sweet Action for unique flavors and a nice vegan selection, and Sweet Cow (there are multiple locations) for a neighborhood favorite.

Coffee: The coffee roasting game and the artisan coffee scene are great particularly at places like Crema, where the breakfast sandwiches also are delicious, and Huckleberry, with its music-forward getaway in the Highlands.

Beer: When it comes to essential breweries, Black Shirt Brewing is a gem in the RiNo neighborhood, Avery rocks in Boulder, and New Belgium is a large shrine to sours just a short drive up the road in Fort Collins.

Denver Food 'Hoods to Know

Ever-growing and evolving, these parts of the city are the ones that every self-proclaimed food person has got to know well — complete with what to eat and drink in each.

RiNo:

Hipsters, artists, and tech-world workers young and old, flock to this formerly industrial neighborhood that has grown tremendously in popularity the last few years. Drinks across the street at Bar Fausto won't disappoint and neither will conveyor-belt rolls at Sushi Rama, live jazz at Nocturne, or a late-night burger at the Meadowlark Kitchen. This neighborhood has one of the highest concentrations of breweries in the city, so take advantage and visit Ratio Beerworks and Our Mutual Friend Brewing. For the newest hot spots here, head to Call for breakfast, the Source Hotel for dinner, and the Ramble for drinks.

Little Man Ice Cream
Corner Stone Apartments

LoHi:

Views from fifth-floor tapas joint El Five are unbeatable across the city; down the street, the salads and pastas at Bar Dough make this eatery one of the hottest ones in the city, along with next-door trendy ramen haunt Uncle, and nearby pan-Latin party Señor Bear. Some of the best fried chicken in town can be enjoyed from Low Country Kitchen’s rooftop, and Old Major is a good bet for top-notch meat and charcuterie. At food hall Avanti F&B, new stalls Bistro Georgette and the Rotary are recent favorites, and down the street, the Bindery is a great bet for brunch or dinner. Slightly off the beaten path, Spuntino is a sweet stop for comforting Italian food and homemade amaro.

Larimer Square
Courtesy of Visit Denver

LoDo:

Before there was LoHi and RiNo, there was Lower Downtown, nicknamed LoDo, which re-emerged in recent years as a hub for dining and drinking. Two areas concentrate a large amount of what any food-crazed person should consider visiting: Larimer Square, where local classics like Rioja and Osteria Marco operate; and the transit hub Union Station, where visitors can dine at the James Beard Awarded Mercantile Dining & Provisions, enjoy a fireside spritz and cicchetti from Tavernetta, or grab a gin tonic and tapas from Ultreia. Another highlight of the neighborhood is ChoLon, a pan-Asian restaurant that serves both lunch and dinner.

Steuben's Uptown
Steuben's

Uptown:

One of Denver's most walkable neighborhoods, Uptown is a hot spot for dining and drinking mostly along 17th Avenue. Ten-year-old new American diner Steuben's and its sister ping-pong hall and Asian eatery Ace offer fun casual experiences with a high-energy vibe, while new American Beast + Bottle is a must for an intimate dinner or brunch, and its sister restaurant Coperta is equally tasty for southern Italian. Nearby Olive and Finch is a beloved local stop for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and baked goods.

Cattivella
Chef Elise Wiggins tops a wood-fired pizza at Cattivella
Ryan Dearth/Eater

Aurora and Stapleton:

Neighboring hoods that are simultaneously worlds apart and moving ever closer, Stapleton and Aurora are two of the most exciting places to dine right now around Denver. From former airport to brownfield and developed community, Stapleton now offers dining destinations such as the breathtaking Concourse Restaurant Moderne and Cattivella. Just down the street, at the entrance to Aurora, Stanley Marketplace is drawing diners from around the city with food options from beloved local empanadas to the best new restaurant in the area. Head farther into this neighborhood and there are more sneak spots to be discovered.

Denver Glossary of Terms

Wynkoop brewed a beer with bull testicles at one point. For real.
Wynkoop Brewing Co

The Denver Omelet:

This is nothing you should go out of your way to eat, but if you're curious, it is an omelet filled with diced ham, onions, and green bell peppers.

Edibles:

Pot-laced candy, brownies, and other food items courtesy of the (almost) everything-goes marijuana laws in the state. Buy at Life Flower Dispensary or LivWell.

Rocky Mountain Oysters:

Also nothing you "must" eat while visiting Colorado, this is a dish made of testicles that come from bull, pig or sheep. If you are dying to try, go to the iconic Buckhorn Exchange.

Big Red F:

Among the most transformative restaurant groups in the region with lasting power and a sterling reputation, this mini-empire run by chef turned restaurateur Dave Query includes Jax Fish House (several locations), but also spots like Lola, Centro, and the Post Chicken and Beer now open around Denver.

Frasca:

Frasca Food & Wine is a prized destination within Colorado. This upscale Boulder dining room is what we mean when we talk about class without pretense. In fact, a thoughtful staff is what most sets this Northern Italian bolthole apart from many others. That, and the Friulano wine and cuisine that take niche to an entirely new level.

The Kizaki brothers:

Owners of Sushi Den, Izakaya Den, and OTOTO, Toshi and Yasu Kizaki are among the most respected restaurateurs in the city for their commitment to the highest quality sushi. Over more than three decades, they have built a stellar reputation and offered Denverites traditional and creative fish preparations in an environment that always continues to improve.

Reservations to Make in Advance

Mercantile Dining & Provision, Annette, Tavernetta, Corrida, Beckon, Safta, Suite 6A

<span data-author="3635139">Beckon</span>
The 17-seat chef’s counter at Beckon restaurant
Adam Larkey/Eater

Get in Touch

Have questions not answered here? Want to send in a tip or a complaint or just say hello? Here are some ways to get in touch with the Eater Denver staff:

Union Station Farmers Market
Ashton Ray Hansen

Eater Guides

Where to Dine and Drink at Denver International Airport (DEN)

COVID-19

Colorado Restaurants Can Resume Dine-In Services Starting Wednesday, May 27

Denver Restaurant Openings

Look Inside Edgewater’s New Mural-Filled Food Hall With an Industrial Feel

Sign up for the newsletter Sign up for the Eater Denver newsletter

The freshest news from the local food world