It may be bitterly cold out there, but it’s nice and toasty inside the Eater Denver Heatmap. Unlike the Eater 38, which is meant to serve as a guide to the best of the best, this regularly updated roundup aims to introduce readers to the best of the new: what’s popular, what’s promising, and what’s poised for success in the weeks to come. Included here in geographical order are 14 noteworthy restaurants and cafes that all opened, or reopened after a long hiatus, within the past six months (no earlier than August 2022).Read More
The Hottest Restaurants in Denver Right Now, Winter 2023
Warming up with the Eater Denver Heatmap
Pollo Tico at Avanti Food and Beverage, Boulder
It’s not often a stall in a Boulder food hall warrants a slot on this map. But then again, it’s also not often that a stall in a Boulder food hall serves Costa Rican food — otherwise unheard of around here — prepared by a chef whose resume includes Eleven Madison Park, Café Boulud, and Top Chef. As the name suggests, roast chicken represents the heart of the menu, made all the more soulful by sides such as gallo pinto and yuca fries as well as an array of housemade salsas.
Already filling a similar all-day hangout niche in the Sunnyside neighborhood as its predecessor, Buchi, this spunky little cafe has launched with coffee, top-flight sandwiches, and easy-drinking adult beverages, which it serves from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Wednesday–Saturday and 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Sundays. Come on the early side for a cortado and BEC with hash browns on a Kaiser roll, a little later for beer or a Bloody and a lamb birria French dip — and whenever possible, get the griddled banana bread; it might prove to be the sleeper hit on the small menu (which will expand in the future).
Noisette Restaurant and Bakery
Elegant yet easeful, the pastel-hued dining room of this buzzy new French restaurant in LoHi sets the mood for what seriously talented husband-and-wife team Tim and Lillian Lu call cuisine bourgeoisie: Think escargot-stuffed potato fritters, Alsatian-inspired choucroute garnie, and classic tarte tropézienne, all paired with wines from the France-centric list. Think, too, about croissants, tarts, and macarons, because Noisette operates as a bakery by day.
El Chingon Bistro
Run by Lorenzo Nuñez and his nephew, classically trained chef David Lopez, this upscale-casual Mexican spot has been sorely missed since its closure in Berkeley last year. But as of January 3, it’s back in a big way, opening the doors to its new, larger LoHi location for happy hour and dinner. Expect a menu that, like its predecessor, mixes tradition with inventive touches (here’s hoping Lopez brings back his lump crab cakes with epazote-pepita salsa and serrano aioli).
From the owners of exceptional plant-based eatery Somebody People, this colorful, cool-as-could-be new Ballpark parlor is turning out vegan pizzas that showcase seasonal produce — from brussels sprouts to butternut squash — in highly creative combos enhanced by hemp cream, almond tzatziki, and the like. A handful of small plates and pastas follow suit (try the fried romano beans), while the bar concocts virgin as well as full-strength cocktails.
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Pirate Alley Boucherie
Fans of the much-missed Julep will recognize chef Kyle Foster’s savvy Southern stamp on the sandwiches (and a smattering of sides) at this luncheonette in LoDo’s Ice House building, where it shares a cute space with wife Katy Foster’s Stir Cooking School. It may be a po’ boy, but the roast beef debris is rich indeed with both gravy and remoulade as well as sweet potato and cabbage, while the grilled bologna puts its childhood counterpart to shame.
Having earned itself a loyal following as a ghost kitchen, this local pioneer in vegan Japanese food opened with a bang in November. Per the name, the cheerful little counter joint in Congress Park specializes in creative plant-based sushi — take the Dancing Green Roll featuring opo squash tempura and cilantro aioli, among other things — but it also serves up ramen, onigiri, and donburi with similar flair.
Asian noodle house meets cozy craft-cocktail den at this Capitol Hill spinoff of a popular Seattle spot. Reflecting Vietnamese, Thai, and Chinese influences, the smartly conceived menu ranges from squid larb to curry vermicelli with beef cheeks to lobster fried rice, while drinks like the Saigon Spritz with gin and jackfruit shrub jibe with the vibe.
Blue and green hues set the breezy tone at this newcomer from the Quality Branded group in Cherry Creek’s Clayton hotel; coastal Greek cuisine clinches it. Be it raw or wood-roasted, seafood centers the menu, but it’s supplemented by specialties like flaming kasseri and grilled lamb chops, while a handful of Greek varieties enhance the wine list.
Elaborating on the Kini’s theme, Quality Branded has also launched a hit in the form of this sultry Mediterranean lounge next door, where the wine list dares guests to explore, say, amphora-aged Aglianico del Vulture from Basilicata, Slovenian pét-nat, or even a “Mystery Grab” — that is, a bottle selected from a special case sight unseen. If that sounds like a party waiting to happen, rest assured that eats like caviar sliders, oysters on the half shell, elaborate dip towers, and meats and cheeses galore (plus a few larger plates) keep it going. (So, by the way, do cocktails at Cretans’ adjacent sibling, the Moroccan-inspired bar Chez Roc.)
Mister Oso Wash Park
A spinoff of ever-popular LoHi spot Señor Bear, the equally hot Mister Oso in RiNo now has an offshoot of its own in Wash Park. Sultry tropical vibe, check; festive modern Mexican menu, check (don’t sleep on the smoked-potato tacos); spicy mezcal margaritas and congelados del día, or daily changing frozen cocktails, check. As the Culinary Creative team behind the venture (and many others) keeps proving, don’t fix what ain’t broken — expand it.
For a neighborhood place with a fairly traditional menu, this Italian-American eatery in Lowry is operating at an unusually high level. Brothers Luis and Heriberto Gutierrez are industry veterans, and their experience is reflected in the love they’re getting for their fried calamari, chicken piccata, and peach bread pudding.
Next Level Burger
Located in the University neighborhood, the first Colorado link in this multistate vegan chain offers up a whole lot more than plant-based burgers to sway hardened carnivores, from “chicken” tenders to “fish” ‘n’ chips. But the burgers featuring mushroom-quinoa patties are the best place to start when it comes to joining the meatless movement, accompanied by loaded fries and soy- or coconut-based shakes.
Saucy's Southern BBQ & Cuisine
Building on the success of their food truck (and a THC-infused sauce brand), Khristian Matthews and Ki’erre Dawkins launched this brick-and-mortar slice of Southern comfort in the University neighborhood in October. Short but sweet, the menu hinges on ribs, wings, and hot links complemented by a handful of sides (including grilled teriyaki-parmesan corn) and occasional specials as announced on Instagram, such as red beans and rice.