With so many standout dining destinations packed into a single square mile, downtown Denver is no place for a brown-bag lunch. Just outside those office doors awaits a little bit of everything: If time is of the essence, fast-casual spots like Onefold fill the bill, while client meetings might call for a bottle of wine at Tavernetta or a filet at Guard and Grace.Read More
18 Downtown Lunch Options for Every Occasion
From the downhome to the upmarket
Where else in Denver can you find barbacoa tacos, duck fried rice, and burgers all on the same menu? That’s a trick question, because the answer doesn’t matter — this daytime-only charmer does eclecticism best, guaranteed (and in much more spacious digs than its Uptown location).
Three Saints Revival
Copious eye candy is on the menu at this wildly decorated Mediterranean spot in the Hotel Indigo, so it’s bound to disarm even the most jaded out-of-town guest at a glance. And speaking of sweet things: While small plates, salads, and sandwiches of all kinds are the main event here, be sure to save room for the delectable dessert called coconut tocinillo del cielo.
Mercantile Dining & Provision
Though lunch at chef Alex Seidel’s contemporary Union Station destination is a more casual affair than dinner, it’s every bit as carefully executed, so by all means bring clients to share a little of everything — starting with the top-notch charcuterie and cheese board, continuing on through sandwiches like the Wagyu pastrami or perhaps fusilli with pesto and pickled chard stems, and finishing with sweets from sister bakery füdmill. Seating at the bar in the midst of the action, meanwhile, makes for a charming daytime date.
Inside one of the most dazzling dining rooms in town or out on the colorful patio overlooking the comings and goings around Union Station, this Iberian-inspired “gastroteka” from the powerhouse team of Jennifer Jasinski and Beth Gruitch is sure to captivate colleagues from the get-go. The food only seals the deal: Graze on an array of tapas both classic (pan con tomate) and creative (chicken-liver mousse with pistachio dukkah, pickled mustard seeds, and cherries); split a sandwich like the superb fried trout with Basque chile aioli and curtido on a potato bun; and/or splurge on at least one imported tin of seafood, be it Portuguese sardines or Spanish squid in its own ink.
See and be seen at this highly acclaimed — and ultra-stylish — Italian restaurant in Union Station from the Frasca Hospitality Group, where the two-course, weekday-only prix fixe ($35) includes soup or salad along with entrees such as porchetta on ciabatta with smoked ricotta and rapini or grilled prawns with escarole and fennel in citrus vinaigrette. Desserts like the signature tiramisù are a la carte but no less warranted for that (as is a primo glass of wine or two).
Stoic & Genuine
This Union Station stunner is an oceanic oasis at the edge of the Rockies, right down to the wraparound octopus mural. Led by Jennifer Jasinski, the kitchen runs on a parallel track: classic coastal comforts such as lobster rolls, shrimp po'boys, and fish and chips on the one hand, refined seasonal dishes like scallop bruschetta and octopus “mortadella” in candied lemon vinaigrette on the other.
Though it also offers à la carte dining, the ever-changing four-course tasting menu ($55) presented during weekend-only lunch service at Kelly Whitaker’s chef’s counter in Dairy Block is the way to go for an intimate, memorable, and educational as well as epicurean experience. Building it around grains, fermentation, and chiles, Michael Diaz de Leon turns everything from tacos and huaraches to crudos and pastas — not to mention the signature piada bread — into intricate works of art that have to be seen, tasted, and appreciated.
Water Grill Denver
An extensive raw bar; saltwater tanks filled with lobster and crab; the charcoal-grilled catch of the day; stews ranging from clam chowder to cioppino; composed plates like pan-roasted halibut cheeks in brown butter–lemon sauce — the list goes on. Sheer seafood variety is what this California transplant has to offer during its just-launched lunch service.
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Lon Symensma’s swanky LoDo flagship impresses with impeccable service and creative Southeast Asian-influenced fare, including the now-iconic kaya toast and French onion soup dumplings as well as smoked tamarind–glazed spare ribs with green papaya salad and Indonesian-style fried rice with pork belly and heirloom tomatoes. (For a more casual take on the same cuisine, ChoLon sibling YumCha just around the corner dishes up seven or eight different types of dumplings at any given time along with kicky twists on old-school favorites such as crispy pig’s ear pad Thai and Wagyu beef and broccoli chow fun.)
Splitting the difference between Tex-Mex (fajitas, chimichangas) and Colo-Mex (thick green chile, burrito-like “Mexican hamburgers”), this Larimer Street joint is as busy as it is beloved for big portions, hard-to-beat prices, and the premium it puts on pure comfort, from the frozen margaritas onward.
At celeb chef Ludo Lefebvre’s French retreat in the Thompson Denver, brunch isn’t just for weekends anymore: Smoked salmon tartines and avocado croque monsieurs await side by side with onion soup gratinée and moules frites, and midday mimosas go down as easy as glasses of Chablis and Beaujolais.
Pasta, pizza, and panini, per favore: Frank Bonanno’s subterranean Italian joint beneath Larimer Square presents all three with pizzazz, from signature dishes like wild mushroom fusilli and eggplant parm on ciabatta to seasonal ones like the fig-and-gorgonzola pie. Do as the Romans (or at least the regulars here) do and start with the lemon-grilled artichoke.
Brother-and-sister team Paul and Aileen Reilly were pioneers in the local farm-to-table movement, and they continue to carry its torch at Apple Blossom, located in the Hyatt Centric Downtown Denver. While the burger’s a banger, as are the hand-cut fries with beet ketchup, the kitchen also excels at more elegant fare, like burrata with corn, maitakes, and maple-buttermilk cornbread or the signature gumbo with duck-bourbon sausage, Carolina broken rice, and pickled kohlrabi.
Guard and Grace
Tuesday through Thursday, Troy Guard’s glitzy modern steakhouse is the midday hub for high rollers. Chops are tops, but there’s also a serious raw bar selection, along with more daytime-casual fare. The oak-grilled octopus is a favorite, as are the hefty bacon cheeseburger and the triple chocolate-chip cookies.
Sam's No. 3 Downtown
For a crowd with mixed tastes, there’s nothing better than a classic diner. This one fills the bill with a colossal menu offering everything from all-day breakfast (think pecan waffles, corned beef hash and eggs, and bison skillets) to Greek and Mexican eats (think souvlaki, burritos, and souvlaki-stuffed burritos) to burgers, chili dogs, fish and chips, and so on. Wash it all down with loaded Bloodies or monster milkshakes.
Mint Indian Restaurant and Lounge
The downtown crowd has come to rely on this Indian kitchen’s ample lunch buffet, but if it’s a quiet day at the office, there’s some time to order off the regular menu. A wide variety of regional curries spans the subcontinent, while uncommon specialties include pani puri and chicken Shahjahani; Mint is also strong on vegetarian dishes like the baigare baigan (eggplant in tamarind gravy) and mushroom mutter.
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Liang's Thai Food
The wait at this stall on the 16th Street Mall can last as long as the lunch hour itself, but anyone in line will swear up and down that the cooked-to-order noodles, curries, and stir-fries are worth every minute. Word to the uninitiated: Medium feels hot.
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Spam musubi, loco moco, lilikoi ribs, macaroni salad, and all, this tiny 16th Street Mall kiosk delivers a taste of the islands to landlocked downtown, making for a lunchtime luau in the good old cubicle.