Denver is a famously casual town, but it’s still got an abundance of options when a birthday, anniversary, reunion, or career milestone calls for celebration. Bring on the Champagne and shellfish towers, the magnums and the filet mignon, the white cloths and the pampering; these 25 places, listed in geographical order from north to south, aim to do it right. Needless to say, reservations — in some cases prepaid ones — are highly recommended or required.Read More
Where to Celebrate Special Occasions in Denver
With outstanding tasting menus, steak dinners, trophy wines, and more, these spots were built for celebration
Frasca Food and Wine
After all the awards and the press and the hoopla surrounding it over the years, the fact remains that this Northern Italian institution in Boulder represents the quintessence of fine dining. The seasonal prix fixe tasting menus are swoonworthy, the wine list extraordinary, and the service as gracefully orchestrated as ever — from a first course of, say, amberjack crudo with yogurt, sea buckthorn, and kumquat to a dessert of profiteroles made new with sunchoke and truffles.
Tapas and chops share the spotlight at this suave Spanish-inspired steakhouse in Boulder. Guests graze on the seasonal likes of jamón de pata negra and tinned, grilled sardines with pickled sea fennel before getting down to business over 55-day dry-aged ribeye or a duo of bison tenderloin and brisket in black garlic–molasses jus. Gin and tonics and an all-Iberian selection of wines help to wash it all down. For those who spring for the prix fixe menu served on the rooftop, heated Alpenglobes blessed with views of the Flatirons await.
Located in a historic building on Flagstaff Mountain with sweeping views of Boulder, this longtime contemporary American destination changes its tasting menu frequently but never skimps on the luxuries, serving foie gras, lobster, and game like venison and pheasant. Accordingly, the enormous wine cellar is full of bottles to remember from vintages stretching back decades (yes, that includes Krug, Domaine de la Romanée-Conti, and Château d’Yquem).
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The Wolf's Tailor
As at sibling BRUTØ (see below), the tasting menu at this Sunnyside dynamo is at once cerebral and sensual. Presented in the modern, simply decorated dining room or in heated tents outside, every gorgeously composed dish involves a backstory of diverse influences and techniques both culinary and sustainability-oriented: Take bucatini made from house-milled heirloom flour and served with juniper salsa di noci; foraged, smoked porcini and king trumpet mushrooms; garlic honey; and mushroom shoyu as well as truffles, walnuts, and dill as just one recent example. The Wolf’s Tailor is one of Denver’s most forward-looking and impactful restaurants by far; prepare to be challenged (in a good way) as well as gratified.
Hummus and falafel aren’t typically the stuff of special occasions, but Alon Shaya’s versions prove they can be, especially when surrounded on a table by all the other winners at this Israeli/Eastern Mediterranean destination in The Source Hotel. Highlights include the salmon crudo with labneh, turmeric oil, and pistachio dukkah; seared foie gras with tzimmes and date vinegar; the signature pomegranate-braised lamb shank; and desserts like halvah semifreddo with Turkish coffee granita. Wines from Israel, Georgia, Armenia, and Lebanon add to the enchantment.
Designed to evoke “a Western pioneer’s Victorian homestead,” the quaintly appointed ground floor of LoHi’s Life House Hotel is home to this delightful surprise, which melds Italian and Latin influences as a nod to the neighborhood’s formative era with an emphasis on florals befitting the name. For the full experience, sample some Colorado mead — a specialty of the beverage list — alongside plates like black-truffle tart with celery root and lavender; croquetas de la patata with kohlrabi and marigold; and spiced orange-blossom mousse with butternut squash.
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The Fifth String
While grand seafood towers and the likes of 50-day dry-aged bone-in strip loin up the ante for extravagance, everything that Amos Watts — the talented chef/owner of this elegantly rustic contemporary American retreat in LoHi — puts on a plate showcases his knack for complex, sophisticated flavor combinations. Try the green-chile sausage–and–goat cheese ravioli in squash butter sauce with eggplant-tomatillo caponata or short rib atop a garlic-chive pancake with red-miso gyu-dare jus, charred snow peas, pickled ginger, and truffled tamari. Cocktails are equally smart.
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Though this LoHi treasure is also well suited to (relatively) casual date nights, the authentic warmth of its hospitality and the reliable excellence of its modern Italian cuisine — right down to one of the most passionately curated wine lists in town — ensure its suitability for entertaining VIP guests. Always start with the elk tartare and finish with housemade digestivi.
Between chef Duncan Holmes’ intricate, microseasonally driven tasting menus and director of experience Allison Anderson’s thoughtful beverage pairings and genuine approach to service, a night at this intimate RiNo chef’s counter — augmented by a heated patio — is nothing short of magical. From blankets for outdoor diners to take-home goodie bags, little amenities throughout the meal make a big impact.
Though casual by day, at night Linda Hampsten Fox’s contemporary American eatery in LoHi transforms into a twinkling sanctuary for sophisticated palates. Guests dine grandly on wildly inspired seasonal plates like cocoa nib–crusted pork belly with pickled hibiscus flowers, smoked beets, and candied pumpkin or duck breast–heirloom bean cassoulet with sausage, black salsify, onion jus, and burnt onion ash. On Thursdays, a weekly changing five-course tasting menu is also on offer.
There’s no better place to really paint the town red than this RiNo jazz and supper club. Against an Art Deco–inspired backdrop, the live music pops along with the corks from a sizeable selection of sparkling wines, which typically lead the way in wine pairings for the elaborate, seasonal three-course menu.
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The outlandishly spicy decor and glittering fifth-floor panoramas alone guarantee this LoHi Mediterranean lounge earns its spot on the map — but that’s not the whole story. Fanciful cocktails; a kaleidoscope of tapas like rabbit confit crujientes, yogurt-braised lamb shank with chickpea pancakes, and harissa eggplant fries supplemented by ornate paellas; and a crowd that’s dressed to kill all come together to create the perfect backdrop for a celebration.
Be it the most pristine slice of bluefin otoro, a decadent bite of foie gras with candied quinoa and fish caramel, or a beautifully composed plate of, say, Wagyu tataki with pine nut gremolata and burnt onion zu, Tyson Cole’s glittering Japanese go-to in RiNo is a jaw-dropper all the way. Wash everything down with a selection of ultra-premium sakes and Japanese whiskeys as well as fine sushi-pairing wines (emphasis being on bubbles and whites).
Glamour fills the air at Frasca Food and Wine’s Union Station sibling, from the fabulous Slim Aarons photographs on the walls to the sound of clinking glasses of Champagne and Barolo (yes, both are offered by the glass) to the seamless choreography of the waitstaff. The modern Italian menu completes the picture, of course, brimming with splendid gems like langoustines, pheasant, lobster, and veal. Capping it all off with a glass of fine grappa is only fitting.
This tiny chef’s counter inside Dairy Block aims to feed its guests mind, body, and soul. Combining global but Latin-centric ingredients and techniques with a low-waste ethos, it offers tasting menus with optional beverage pairings and a healthy side of education. The servers offer detailed insights into the inspiration and preparation behind each dish and glass to leave diners not just full, but fulfilled.
Though Caroline Glover’s Stanley Marketplace gem isn’t overtly fancy, it sparkles so brightly as to make any meal inherently special. Mix it up with delicacies like oysters and caviar followed by heartier signatures such as grilled beef tongue with marrow toast and the pork tenderloin with seasonal accoutrements. Spring for more than one bottle from the wonderfully geeky yet surprisingly affordable wine list (Crémant de Jura, perhaps, or a magnum of Listan Negro from the Canary Islands), and never say no to the ice cream sandwich.
Anything but stuffy, this LoDo hot spot makes steakhouse splurging fun again. Start with a rum cocktail instead of whiskey for a change, then dig into appetizers like pot-roast poutine with curry gravy or oyster chowder with spiced peanuts before going for the gusto of, say, a 30-ounce, bone-in New York strip accompanied by nuoc cham hollandaise.
An aura of refinement suffuses celeb chef Ludo Lefebvre’s entrée to the downtown dining scene in the Thompson Denver. The stage for an unabashedly French feast is set with escargot, foie gras tartines, trout almondine, that famous omelet optionally topped with caviar, crêpes Suzette, and more — paired, naturellement, with Champagne, Burgundy, and/or Bordeaux.
At nearly 20 years old, Jennifer Jasinski and Beth Gruitch’s Mediterranean flagship on Larimer Square still has it. No meal here is complete without the pork belly in curried garbanzo bean puree or the artichoke tortelloni — or both — but the kitchen is always up to colorful new tricks, from saffron fettuccine with duck sausage, caramelized eggplant, and goat cheese to spiced pumpkin cheesecake with orange-semolina crisps and hot buttered rum caramel. While the wine list bridges the Old and New World, Spanish bottlings aptly enjoy pride of place.
Guard and Grace
Chops are tops at Troy Guard’s downtown haunt for high rollers, but there’s much more to explore on a menu where longtime signatures include the oak-fired carrots, grilled octopus, and triple–chocolate chip cookies. The glassed-in wine cellar at the entrance welcomes enophiles to the evening ahead.
An OG on Denver’s fine-dining scene, Frank Bonanno’s French-inflected contemporary flagship in Cap Hill continues to shine as it turns out seasonal menus both à la carte and prix fixe. Try the pan-seared crab cake with curried creamed spinach and toasted almonds, a duo of coffee-rubbed boar tenderloin and braised bison short rib in stout demi-glace, and chai–sweet potato cake with sage chantilly. Caviar and foie gras make for sumptuous upgrades, along with a bottle from the France-centric cellar.
The warm, inviting contemporary American restaurant that put Alex Seidel on the map some 15 years ago is still going strong. Precise cooking is the hallmark of a kitchen that manages to weave in diverse influences without sacrificing accessibility — think veal sweetbreads alla piccata or yellowtail crudo with avocado and pickled kumquat; the same goes for a relatively concise yet thoughtful and immensely food-friendly wine list.
Though decades old, this Northern Italian establishment in Cherry Creek keeps its seasonal four-course tasting menu as fresh as ever, from pastas like tajarin with beer-braised rabbit to entrees like seared scallop with butternut-fennel farrotto and brown-butter seeds — any one of which can be topped with shaved truffles for a supplement. Wine pairings are also optional, but check out that bottle list first: Topping 100 pages, it’s rife with dozens upon dozens of Barbarescos, Brunellos, and of course Barolos, including many older vintages.
Romance is always in season at this low-lit Italian charmer in Wash Park. The menu is anchored by hand-crafted pastas such as truffled lobster spaghetti and French onion ravioli with Gruyère fondue and caramelized onion jus; splashy cocktails; and a high-flying wine list that ranges from Grand Cru Burgundy and decades-old Barolo to cool finds like English bubbly and Lagrein from Alto Adige. Extra special celebrations call for the five-course tasting.
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