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Beef Wellington
Beef Wellington is a staple at Mizuna.
Bonanno Concepts

20 Denver Restaurants That Have Stood the Test of Time

These old spots still got it

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Beef Wellington is a staple at Mizuna.
| Bonanno Concepts

In part due to the pandemic and its attendant labor and supply shortages, Denver’s seen its share of closures since this map last ran: The loss of institutions like Vesta, Racines, and The Breakfast King hit diners hard at a time when the need for places that feel like a home away from home is stronger than ever.

Luckily for them, though, many old doors remain open: Upscale or down, these 20 restaurants deliver on the same promises of comfort and contentment they made to their patrons when they opened more — in some cases way more — than 20 years ago. (Further outside of city limits, The Fort and Flagstaff House are still doing their thing with verve.)

Note: This map is not ranked but rather ordered geographically from north to south. Have other recommendations? Please leave them in the comments.

Health experts consider dining out to be a high-risk activity for the unvaccinated; it may pose a risk for the vaccinated, especially in areas with substantial COVID transmission. Please be aware of changing local rules, and check individual restaurant websites for any additional restrictions such as mask requirements. Find a local vaccination site here.

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Note: Restaurants on this map are listed geographically.
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My Brother's Bar

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If you’ve been here once, you’ve been a thousand times. That’s because the experience at this would-be hole-in-the-wall — divey vibe aside, it’s too famous to qualify as a true hole — never changes: The burgers are classic, the music is classical, the crowd is chill, and the service even chiller.

Mexico City Restaurant & Lounge

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This Ballpark cantina has been kicking it vieja escuela — yep, that’s “old-school” in Spanish — since 1962: Come for the fried tacos and red beer, stay for the fried tacos and red beer. (Or menudo and a marg. Or a combo platter and a cold Modelo. It’s all worth the inevitable wait for a table.)

Platter with taco, tostado, enchilada, rice, and beans Ruth Tobias

Jax Fish House & Oyster Bar - LoDo

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One of a handful of restaurants that helped transform LoDo into a destination when it launched in 1996, Jax is still a hopping neighborhood hub as well as a regional leader in sustainable sourcing. A full raw bar isn’t half of what it does so well: The seasonal menu integrates global influences to offer the likes of fried catfish with bacon-braised collards and hush puppies, spaghetti alle vongole, and grilled salmon with miso-roasted potatoes and charred Chinese broccoli in one fell swoop.

Big Red F

Sam's No. 3

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Here’s a greasy spoon for the ages: the kind of joint where locals and tourists alike cram in shoulder to shoulder to wash down smothered breakfast burritos and Greek omelets with bloody marys by day, then return come nightfall for burgers and beer, then do it all over again the next day — because some things never get old. (So to speak: while the current location of Sam’s No. 3 technically opened in 2003, the original, which stood on the same downtown block, dated back to 1927.)  

TripAdvisor

Bastien's Restaurant

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Googie architecture circa 1958, Rat Pack memorabilia, sugar steaks, oversized martinis, and all, this dim-lit, neon-edged throwback to the supper clubs of old still feels like a date-night secret — one that starts with soft breadsticks and ends with pie a la mode.

Ruth Tobias

Pete's Kitchen

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In 1988, the late great Pete Contos took over a 1940s-era diner on East Colfax, where Pete’s Kitchen still stands an icon of the genre. Snug vinyl booths, check; chrome stools along the counter, check; old photos lining the walls, check — and check above all for a menu that likely hasn’t changed one iota since the cooks began slinging gyros and souvlaki, patty melts and pork chops, beef chili and green chile all those years ago.

Mexican hamburger in green chile Ruth Tobias

Potager

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Established by Teri Rippeto in 1997, this Cap Hill farm-to-fork pioneer underwent new management in 2019, but it has stayed the hyperlocal, hyper-seasonal course it charted with aplomb. In winter, the kitchen might turn out a mélange of turnips, carrots, and citrus in poppyseed-ginger vinaigrette or corned-beef flatbread with mustard-infused mascarpone and pickled celery, followed in summer by fried green tomatoes with coppa vinaigrette and corn-crescenza ravioli; naturally, the wine list follows suit, celebrating sustainable production and minimal intervention.

 

Potager [official]

Buckhorn Exchange Restaurant

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Because, just once, everybody should visit a landmark established in 1893 to eat elk, bison, and bull testicles while making eye contact with the mounted heads of other elk, bison, and angry-looking bulls.

Charlie Brown's

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Housed in Capitol Hill’s historic Colburn Hotel — which is reputed to have been quite the Prohibition-era speakeasy — this onetime haunt of Kerouac and Ginsberg hasn’t lost a drop of its color. From the antique tchotchkes lining the bar to the singalongs around the piano to the covered patio where smoking’s still allowed, it’s a refreshing vestige of Denver’s grittier days — complete with two-for-one happy hours as well as potato skins and prime rib platters.

Island bar topped with antique bric-a-brac Ruth Tobias

El Taco De Mexico

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It opened in 1985, but as far as hardcore fans are concerned, the big bang happened and then there was this lemon-yellow taqueria. To this day it doles out smothered chile-relleno burritos and taco platters as reliably as the sun rising in the east. 

Three tacos with beans and rice Ruth Tobias

Denver’s dining scene owes a great deal to Frank Bonanno’s contemporary French flagship, which changed the game when it opened in 2001; it has served as a launching pad for dozens of chefs since and continues to shine in Cap Hill today. While the signature lobster mac and cheese and beef Wellington are always sure bets, seasonal creations like lump crab salad with brown butter aioli and truffle vinaigrette or bison étouffée with prawn hush puppies and Cajun slaw reveal the kitchen's knack for elegance with an edge.

Gnochetti with squash and truffles Ruth Tobias

Angelo’s Taverna

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At nearly 50 years old, this cozy Alamo Placito hangout is part shellfish shack, part red-sauce parlor, and all charm. Start with the chargrilled oysters; move on to pizza or pastas like the chile relleno ravioli; and never say no to a glass of limoncello.

Barolo Grill

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With a legendary wine cellar and a service team who — led by employee-turned-owner Ryan Fletter — knows it inside and out, this white-cloth Northern Italian destination has held its slot on the short list for special occasions since 1992. That’s thanks not least to longtime chef Darrel Truett, whose seasonal menu is a study in effortless luxury: lobster tajarin in shellfish crema with chile pangritata here, braised veal cheeks with root vegetable–farro hash and orange gremolata there, and truffles, truffles everywhere.

Barolo Grill

Columbine Steak House & Lounge

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If Denver’s cowtown days are over, no one told these guys. To walk into this midcentury roadside is to dine by its long-standing rules: Don’t ask for a wine list, don’t hog the jukebox in the bar, and order the porterhouse — anything smaller is not the same experience. 

Ruth Tobias

Cherry Cricket - Cherry Creek

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It’s weathered everything from ownership changes to a major fire, and still, the Cricket keeps on hopping as it has since 1945. A burger topped with peanut butter and grape jelly just wouldn’t be the same anywhere else (except, perhaps, at the newer Ballpark location). 

Classic cheeseburger with onion rings Cherry Cricket [official]

New Saigon Restaurant

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Always crushed but never rushed — perhaps because the menu’s so wide-ranging that most guests need half an hour just to figure out what to order — one of Denver’s oldest Vietnamese restaurants still happens to be one of its best. Pro tip: Start with a platter of wrap-your-own rice-paper rolls, and don’t shy away from frog’s legs or snails.

Ruth Tobias

The Saucy Noodle

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“If you don’t like garlic, go home”: That’s the motto of this Bonnie Brae joint, which has been doling out red-sauce comforts like meatballs, chicken parm, and stuffed shells Florentine in its equally red-checkered dining room since 1964.

Jennie Burke

Lincoln's Roadhouse

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In 1999, this cozy little slice of Cajun country opened in Platt Park to dish up crawfish tails and hush puppies, alligator po'boys and catfish platters, gumbo and jambalaya alongside legit Hurricanes and bottles of Abita Amber — and it all comes with a juicy side of the blues thanks to a live music lineup.

Alligator po’ boy Ruth Tobias

Sushi Den

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In 1984, brothers Toshi and Yasu Kizaki embarked on a mission to turn this landlocked city into a sanctuary of raw seafood in the Rockies — and nearly four decades later, they’re still going strong. No one does trout rolls or aburi toro better. 

Sushi Den

Piper Inn

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It’s a 50-plus-year-old biker bar that serves wontons and egg foo young as well as pitchers and wings (long story). The televisons are on, the pool tables are waiting, and anyone who can’t have fun here can’t have fun anywhere. 

Ruth Tobias

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My Brother's Bar

If you’ve been here once, you’ve been a thousand times. That’s because the experience at this would-be hole-in-the-wall — divey vibe aside, it’s too famous to qualify as a true hole — never changes: The burgers are classic, the music is classical, the crowd is chill, and the service even chiller.

Mexico City Restaurant & Lounge

Platter with taco, tostado, enchilada, rice, and beans Ruth Tobias

This Ballpark cantina has been kicking it vieja escuela — yep, that’s “old-school” in Spanish — since 1962: Come for the fried tacos and red beer, stay for the fried tacos and red beer. (Or menudo and a marg. Or a combo platter and a cold Modelo. It’s all worth the inevitable wait for a table.)

Platter with taco, tostado, enchilada, rice, and beans Ruth Tobias

Jax Fish House & Oyster Bar - LoDo

Big Red F

One of a handful of restaurants that helped transform LoDo into a destination when it launched in 1996, Jax is still a hopping neighborhood hub as well as a regional leader in sustainable sourcing. A full raw bar isn’t half of what it does so well: The seasonal menu integrates global influences to offer the likes of fried catfish with bacon-braised collards and hush puppies, spaghetti alle vongole, and grilled salmon with miso-roasted potatoes and charred Chinese broccoli in one fell swoop.

Big Red F

Sam's No. 3

TripAdvisor

Here’s a greasy spoon for the ages: the kind of joint where locals and tourists alike cram in shoulder to shoulder to wash down smothered breakfast burritos and Greek omelets with bloody marys by day, then return come nightfall for burgers and beer, then do it all over again the next day — because some things never get old. (So to speak: while the current location of Sam’s No. 3 technically opened in 2003, the original, which stood on the same downtown block, dated back to 1927.)  

TripAdvisor

Bastien's Restaurant

Ruth Tobias

Googie architecture circa 1958, Rat Pack memorabilia, sugar steaks, oversized martinis, and all, this dim-lit, neon-edged throwback to the supper clubs of old still feels like a date-night secret — one that starts with soft breadsticks and ends with pie a la mode.

Ruth Tobias

Pete's Kitchen

Mexican hamburger in green chile Ruth Tobias

In 1988, the late great Pete Contos took over a 1940s-era diner on East Colfax, where Pete’s Kitchen still stands an icon of the genre. Snug vinyl booths, check; chrome stools along the counter, check; old photos lining the walls, check — and check above all for a menu that likely hasn’t changed one iota since the cooks began slinging gyros and souvlaki, patty melts and pork chops, beef chili and green chile all those years ago.

Mexican hamburger in green chile Ruth Tobias

Potager

Potager [official]

Established by Teri Rippeto in 1997, this Cap Hill farm-to-fork pioneer underwent new management in 2019, but it has stayed the hyperlocal, hyper-seasonal course it charted with aplomb. In winter, the kitchen might turn out a mélange of turnips, carrots, and citrus in poppyseed-ginger vinaigrette or corned-beef flatbread with mustard-infused mascarpone and pickled celery, followed in summer by fried green tomatoes with coppa vinaigrette and corn-crescenza ravioli; naturally, the wine list follows suit, celebrating sustainable production and minimal intervention.

 

Potager [official]

Buckhorn Exchange Restaurant

Because, just once, everybody should visit a landmark established in 1893 to eat elk, bison, and bull testicles while making eye contact with the mounted heads of other elk, bison, and angry-looking bulls.

Charlie Brown's

Island bar topped with antique bric-a-brac Ruth Tobias

Housed in Capitol Hill’s historic Colburn Hotel — which is reputed to have been quite the Prohibition-era speakeasy — this onetime haunt of Kerouac and Ginsberg hasn’t lost a drop of its color. From the antique tchotchkes lining the bar to the singalongs around the piano to the covered patio where smoking’s still allowed, it’s a refreshing vestige of Denver’s grittier days — complete with two-for-one happy hours as well as potato skins and prime rib platters.

Island bar topped with antique bric-a-brac Ruth Tobias

El Taco De Mexico

Three tacos with beans and rice Ruth Tobias

It opened in 1985, but as far as hardcore fans are concerned, the big bang happened and then there was this lemon-yellow taqueria. To this day it doles out smothered chile-relleno burritos and taco platters as reliably as the sun rising in the east. 

Three tacos with beans and rice Ruth Tobias

Mizuna