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Oyster topped with uni, roe, and a quail egg
Among the highlights of Water Grill is an extensive raw bar; the Honeymoon Oyster comes topped with uni, mixed roe, and a quail egg.
Water Grill

The Hottest Restaurants in Denver Right Now, March 2022

From tapas and dim sum to chops and brisket

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Among the highlights of Water Grill is an extensive raw bar; the Honeymoon Oyster comes topped with uni, mixed roe, and a quail egg.
| Water Grill

With the hospitality industry slowly beginning to emerge from the myriad crises it’s faced over the past two years, there’s no better time for another edition of the Eater Denver Heatmap. Unlike the Eater 38, which is meant to serve as a guide to the best of the best, this roundup, updated monthly, aims to introduce readers to the best of the new: what’s popular, what’s promising, what’s poised for success in the weeks to come.

Included are noteworthy restaurants no older than six months, which is to say they all opened in September 2021 or later; not included are reopenings and branches of already existing local establishments — so here’s a shout-out to LeRoux and French 75 in the former case and the recently launched LoHi location of fried-chicken emporium The Post, sushi bar Ronin’s expansion to Lowry, and the second Billy’s Inn in Congress Park in the latter. And for more Denver dining intel, subscribe to Eater Denver’s newsletter.

Health experts consider dining out to be a high-risk activity for the unvaccinated; the latest data about the delta variant indicates that it may pose a low-to-moderate risk for the vaccinated, especially in areas with substantial transmission. The latest CDC guidance is here; find a COVID-19 vaccination site here.

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Note: Restaurants on this map are listed geographically.
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1. The Greenwich

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3258 Larimer St
Denver, CO 80205
(720) 868-5006
Visit Website

What fun this ode to its namesake New York neighborhood is. Decorated with works by late great street photographer Ricky Powell, among others, to capture the energy of the Village, it’s making a splash with a menu built on bold flavors — think pizza with Brussels sprouts, bacon marmalade, and Meyer lemon relish or extra-crispy thrice-cooked potatoes set atop ’nduja mayo — and a beverage list to match. Start with a cocktail like the gin-based Lime Out the Door with Green Chartreuse and almond milk, throw in a bottle of Tuscan pét nat or Argentine Chenin Blanc, and cap it all off with the real-deal cheesecake.

Roasted clams in broth with grilled bread
The Greenwich’s roasted littleneck clams in scape butter–lemon broth with grilled sourdough.
Ruth Tobias

2. Cantina Loca

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2890 Zuni St
Denver, CO 80211
(303) 284-6738
Visit Website

Last year, one of Denver’s best — and most unstoppable — chefs, Dana Rodriguez of Work & Class and Super Mega Bien, launched her own agave spirits label, Doña Loca. Now, those tequilas and mezcals have their own showcase in the form of this LoHi tavern, which serves up not only shots and cocktails but Mexican wines, locally made chicha morada and pulque, and sensational snacks to match: The cactus tempura, fried fish and barbacoa tacos, and bean sopes are all must-tries.

Five colorful cocktails
Many cocktails at Cantina Loca feature house tequila and mezcal brand Doña Loca.
Hi-Rez Photography

3. Three Saints Revival

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1801 Wewatta St
Denver, CO 80202
(720) 707-3500
Visit Website

Feverish, almost Dalí-esque decor sets the mood for Robert Thompson’s new pan-Mediterranean spot in the former Hearth & Dram space behind Union Station. With menus designed by veteran chefs John Broening and Yasmin Lozada-Hissom, it’s turning out a wide array of tapas — bay scallop crudo; pork belly a la plancha with saffron-pickled apples; cavatelli with sausage, white beans, and dark greens; fabulous flan — alongside fanciful cocktails laced with yogurt, dates, cardamom, and aquafaba. Meanwhile, wines from around the world whisk guests to Greece, Israel, and the south of Spain.

Family-style table setting with lots of dishes and drinks
A Three Saints Revival tablescape.
Three Saints Revival

4. Water Grill Denver

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1691 Market St
Denver, CO 80202
(303) 727-5711
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Fresh from Southern California, this downtown seafood spot is reeling ’em in with swanky, subtly nautical-themed decor; an exhibition kitchen lined with lobster and crab tanks; and an island bar where shellfish shuckers show off their skills to an appreciative audience. Start with a platter of their handiwork or the luscious PEI mussels garbanzo; follow it up with the charcoal-grilled spiny lobster or classic cioppino; and don’t doubt the caramel bread pudding for a second.

Lobster roll with fries
Water Grill’s lobster roll.
Water Grill

5. YumCha

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1520 16th St Mall
Denver, CO 80202
(720) 638-8179
Visit Website

In the old Cho77 space, Lon Symensma and his longtime colleague Michelle Xiao — they worked together at Buddakan in New York — have built a playful, color-splashed ode to dim sum parlors and noodle shops alike. Dumplings represent the heart of the menu, whether filled with carrots and shiitakes or General Tso’s–inspired chicken soup; other hits-in-the-making range from rice cakes with long beans in spicy pork gravy to apple-sesame ice cream buns.

Firecracker chicken bao at YumCha. Fried chicken bao

6. A5 Steakhouse

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1600 15th St
Denver, CO 80202
(303) 623-0534
Visit Website

Chef Max Mackissock is back, baby, this time with a steakhouse for today’s tastemakers. Against a vibrant backdrop that evokes 1970s-era fern bars, he and his team are turning out not only cuts of wagyu that are to beef what foie gras is to liver but all manner of must-tries in other categories. For starters, there’s crab salad on French toast and Ben Wolven’s fabulous oyster service; for sides, Japanese milk bread rolls and roasted cauliflower in mole blanco; to drink, a selection that shakes up the standard bourbon-and-Bordeaux formula with tropical rum cocktails and fun wines from, say, Lazio and the Loire Valley.

Wagyu burger with  butterkäse, griddled onions, pickles, and special sauce
The A5 wagyu burger with butterkäse, griddled onions, pickles, and special sauce.
Kayla Jones

7. Chez Maggy

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1616 Market St
Denver, CO 80202
(720) 794-9544
Visit Website

As the culinary centerpiece of the new Thompson hotel downtown, celeb chef Ludo Lefebvre’s first venture outside of Los Angeles is a classic French affair. Offered against a refined, high-ceilinged and earth-toned backdrop, the menu’s a compendium of bistro staples — escargots, steak frites, duck à la orange, profiteroles, and all — though occasional nods to the local landscape appear in the form of, say, a Denver omelette with ham and Gruyère and bison bourguignon.

Chicken paillard
Chicken paillard at Chez Maggy.
Marc Fiorito with Gamma Nine

8. Apple Blossom

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822 18th St
Denver, CO 80202
(303) 301-8999
Visit Website

With a crackerjack team that includes chef de cuisine Russ Fox, pastry chef Jodi Polson, and wine director/partner JP Taylor, Jr., sibling powerhouses Paul and Aileen Reilly are celebrating “the best of America’s seasons,” to use their tagline, at this Hyatt Centric Downtown venture morning, noon, and night. While strongly rooted in locally sourced, hyper-seasonal cuisine, the menu takes all manner of intriguing twists and turns, from gumbo starring duck-bourbon sausage and turmeric-pickled pumpkin to uni tonnarelli with pink peppercorns to unexpectedly elegant butter-basted tofu “steak” over polenta in blood-orange beurre blanc.

Chicken-fried duck livers with scallion ranch and hot sauce
Chicken-fried duck livers with scallion ranch and hot sauce at Apple Blossom.
Ruth Tobias

9. Plates by the Pound BBQ

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11601 E Montview Blvd
Aurora, CO 80010
(720) 697-0082
Visit Website

An instant Insta darling (not to mention a recipient of Kingsford Charcoal’s Preserve the Pit grant), Texas native Aaron Gonerway has the whole town coming out to his new Aurora smokehouse on Saturdays, where ribs, brisket, pulled pork, and homemade sausages are supplemented by rotating sides — including loaded potatoes and jalapeño-cheddar corn — and specials like turkey legs and banana pudding are selling out quicker than he can make them. To get the long end of the barbecue stick, then, show up at 11 a.m. sharp.

Mixed barbecue platter with all the trimmings
A mixed barbecue platter with all the trimmings at Plates by the Pound.
@chefsquire.eats

10. Street Feud

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5410 E Colfax Ave
Denver, CO 80220
(303) 388-3383
Visit Website

Graffiti, a vast collection of pop collectibles, and a box of cassette tapes that double as table signs set the kinetic tone for this East Colfax newcomer’s “mashup of the world’s street food.” Borrowing primarily from Asian, Mediterranean, and Latin cuisines, bowls, bao buns, tacos, wraps, and fries form the core of the menu, loaded with everything from braised lamb, curry aioli, and raita to chicken tinga, huitlacoche beans, and guacamole. Start with the kimchi quesadilla and wash it all down with horchata or a can of bubble tea.

Fries with peanut sauce, egg, and long beans
Street Feud’s Southeast Asian–inspired Luk Thung fries.
Ruth Tobias

11. Culinary Dropout

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4141 E 9th Ave
Denver, CO 80220
(720) 779-0190
Visit Website

Huge and high-energy, this new Fox Restaurants Concepts venue in the 9+CO development combines the trappings of a classic sports bar — check out the high-def televisions airing games around the island bar and the wild wall display of Converse high-tops — with the upscale-casual vibe of a contemporary American eatery. Comfort food is the key draw, be it pork-belly nachos, butternut-squash lasagna, or pan pizza, including an over-the-top brunchtime pie with sausage, bacon, egg, hash browns, and smoked-onion Alfredo sauce; the lengthy list of cocktails and craft beers is supplemented by 14 wines, all by the glass or bottle. (Next door, sibling Blanco Cocina + Cantina is proving equally popular with the neighborhood.)

Monkey bread in cast-iron pan
Culinary Dropout’s brunchtime monkey bread.
Ruth Tobias

12. Au Feu Brasserie

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81 S Pennsylvania St
Denver, CO 80209
(720) 339-2770
Visit Website

Inspired by the bistros of Montreal, what started as a stall in Zeppelin Station is now an intimate Wash Park stop in Denver’s French food gap. Lounge-like decor awash in subtle Art Deco accents serves as a handsome backdrop for such classics as poutine, coq au vin, and crème brûlée, paired with an all-French wine selection that emphasizes organic and biodynamic producers; the bar, meanwhile, concentrates on pre-Prohibition cocktails while pouring Cognac and Calvados for the brandy-curious.

Short rib bourguignon
Au Feu’s short rib bourguignon.
Ruth Tobias

13. Grange Hall

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6575 Greenwood Plaza Blvd
Greenwood Village, CO 80111
(720) 760-8247
Visit Website

Troy Guard’s new food hall is just what the suburbs ordered: a spacious and just-funky-enough gathering place where Guard’s own build-your-own bowl counter, Bubu, is joined by a chicken shack, a pizzeria, a gyros and burger vendor, a sushi bar, a hot dog joint, a Latin concept, and a German-inspired combination coffeehouse/ice cream shop. Adding to the good energy, there’s a full bar; an onsite brewery, Little Dry Creek; and brunch service complete with a DJ and Bloody Mary and waffle stations.

Coffee drink topped with ice cream and waffle chip
German-style coffee and scoop shop Eiskaffee is one of the stalls at Grange Hall.
Eiskaffee

1. The Greenwich

3258 Larimer St, Denver, CO 80205
Roasted clams in broth with grilled bread
The Greenwich’s roasted littleneck clams in scape butter–lemon broth with grilled sourdough.
Ruth Tobias

What fun this ode to its namesake New York neighborhood is. Decorated with works by late great street photographer Ricky Powell, among others, to capture the energy of the Village, it’s making a splash with a menu built on bold flavors — think pizza with Brussels sprouts, bacon marmalade, and Meyer lemon relish or extra-crispy thrice-cooked potatoes set atop ’nduja mayo — and a beverage list to match. Start with a cocktail like the gin-based Lime Out the Door with Green Chartreuse and almond milk, throw in a bottle of Tuscan pét nat or Argentine Chenin Blanc, and cap it all off with the real-deal cheesecake.

3258 Larimer St
Denver, CO 80205

2. Cantina Loca

2890 Zuni St, Denver, CO 80211
Five colorful cocktails
Many cocktails at Cantina Loca feature house tequila and mezcal brand Doña Loca.
Hi-Rez Photography

Last year, one of Denver’s best — and most unstoppable — chefs, Dana Rodriguez of Work & Class and Super Mega Bien, launched her own agave spirits label, Doña Loca. Now, those tequilas and mezcals have their own showcase in the form of this LoHi tavern, which serves up not only shots and cocktails but Mexican wines, locally made chicha morada and pulque, and sensational snacks to match: The cactus tempura, fried fish and barbacoa tacos, and bean sopes are all must-tries.

2890 Zuni St
Denver, CO 80211

3. Three Saints Revival

1801 Wewatta St, Denver, CO 80202
Family-style table setting with lots of dishes and drinks
A Three Saints Revival tablescape.
Three Saints Revival

Feverish, almost Dalí-esque decor sets the mood for Robert Thompson’s new pan-Mediterranean spot in the former Hearth & Dram space behind Union Station. With menus designed by veteran chefs John Broening and Yasmin Lozada-Hissom, it’s turning out a wide array of tapas — bay scallop crudo; pork belly a la plancha with saffron-pickled apples; cavatelli with sausage, white beans, and dark greens; fabulous flan — alongside fanciful cocktails laced with yogurt, dates, cardamom, and aquafaba. Meanwhile, wines from around the world whisk guests to Greece, Israel, and the south of Spain.

1801 Wewatta St
Denver, CO 80202

4. Water Grill Denver

1691 Market St, Denver, CO 80202
Lobster roll with fries
Water Grill’s lobster roll.
Water Grill

Fresh from Southern California, this downtown seafood spot is reeling ’em in with swanky, subtly nautical-themed decor; an exhibition kitchen lined with lobster and crab tanks; and an island bar where shellfish shuckers show off their skills to an appreciative audience. Start with a platter of their handiwork or the luscious PEI mussels garbanzo; follow it up with the charcoal-grilled spiny lobster or classic cioppino; and don’t doubt the caramel bread pudding for a second.

1691 Market St
Denver, CO 80202

5. YumCha

1520 16th St Mall, Denver, CO 80202
Firecracker chicken bao at YumCha. Fried chicken bao

In the old Cho77 space, Lon Symensma and his longtime colleague Michelle Xiao — they worked together at Buddakan in New York — have built a playful, color-splashed ode to dim sum parlors and noodle shops alike. Dumplings represent the heart of the menu, whether filled with carrots and shiitakes or General Tso’s–inspired chicken soup; other hits-in-the-making range from rice cakes with long beans in spicy pork gravy to apple-sesame ice cream buns.

1520 16th St Mall
Denver, CO 80202

6. A5 Steakhouse

1600 15th St, Denver, CO 80202
Wagyu burger with  butterkäse, griddled onions, pickles, and special sauce
The A5 wagyu burger with butterkäse, griddled onions, pickles, and special sauce.
Kayla Jones

Chef Max Mackissock is back, baby, this time with a steakhouse for today’s tastemakers. Against a vibrant backdrop that evokes 1970s-era fern bars, he and his team are turning out not only cuts of wagyu that are to beef what foie gras is to liver but all manner of must-tries in other categories. For starters, there’s crab salad on French toast and Ben Wolven’s fabulous oyster service; for sides, Japanese milk bread rolls and roasted cauliflower in mole blanco; to drink, a selection that shakes up the standard bourbon-and-Bordeaux formula with tropical rum cocktails and fun wines from, say, Lazio and the Loire Valley.

1600 15th St
Denver, CO 80202

7. Chez Maggy

1616 Market St, Denver, CO 80202
Chicken paillard
Chicken paillard at Chez Maggy.
Marc Fiorito with Gamma Nine

As the culinary centerpiece of the new Thompson hotel downtown, celeb chef Ludo Lefebvre’s first venture outside of Los Angeles is a classic French affair. Offered against a refined, high-ceilinged and earth-toned backdrop, the menu’s a compendium of bistro staples — escargots, steak frites, duck à la orange, profiteroles, and all — though occasional nods to the local landscape appear in the form of, say, a Denver omelette with ham and Gruyère and bison bourguignon.

1616 Market St
Denver, CO 80202

8. Apple Blossom

822 18th St, Denver, CO 80202
Chicken-fried duck livers with scallion ranch and hot sauce
Chicken-fried duck livers with scallion ranch and hot sauce at Apple Blossom.
Ruth Tobias

With a crackerjack team that includes chef de cuisine Russ Fox, pastry chef Jodi Polson, and wine director/partner JP Taylor, Jr., sibling powerhouses Paul and Aileen Reilly are celebrating “the best of America’s seasons,” to use their tagline, at this Hyatt Centric Downtown venture morning, noon, and night. While strongly rooted in locally sourced, hyper-seasonal cuisine, the menu takes all manner of intriguing twists and turns, from gumbo starring duck-bourbon sausage and turmeric-pickled pumpkin to uni tonnarelli with pink peppercorns to unexpectedly elegant butter-basted tofu “steak” over polenta in blood-orange beurre blanc.

822 18th St
Denver, CO 80202

9. Plates by the Pound BBQ

11601 E Montview Blvd, Aurora, CO 80010
Mixed barbecue platter with all the trimmings
A mixed barbecue platter with all the trimmings at Plates by the Pound.
@chefsquire.eats

An instant Insta darling (not to mention a recipient of Kingsford Charcoal’s Preserve the Pit grant), Texas native Aaron Gonerway has the whole town coming out to his new Aurora smokehouse on Saturdays, where ribs, brisket, pulled pork, and homemade sausages are supplemented by rotating sides — including loaded potatoes and jalapeño-cheddar corn — and specials like turkey legs and banana pudding are selling out quicker than he can make them. To get the long end of the barbecue stick, then, show up at 11 a.m. sharp.

11601 E Montview Blvd
Aurora, CO 80010

10. Street Feud

5410 E Colfax Ave, Denver, CO 80220
Fries with peanut sauce, egg, and long beans
Street Feud’s Southeast Asian–inspired Luk Thung fries.
Ruth Tobias

Graffiti, a vast collection of pop collectibles, and a box of cassette tapes that double as table signs set the kinetic tone for this East Colfax newcomer’s “mashup of the world’s street food.” Borrowing primarily from Asian, Mediterranean, and Latin cuisines, bowls, bao buns, tacos, wraps, and fries form the core of the menu, loaded with everything from braised lamb, curry aioli, and raita to chicken tinga, huitlacoche beans, and guacamole. Start with the kimchi quesadilla and wash it all down with horchata or a can of bubble tea.

5410 E Colfax Ave
Denver, CO 80220

11. Culinary Dropout

4141 E 9th Ave, Denver, CO 80220
Monkey bread in cast-iron pan
Culinary Dropout’s brunchtime monkey bread.
Ruth Tobias

Huge and high-energy, this new Fox Restaurants Concepts venue in the 9+CO development combines the trappings of a classic sports bar — check out the high-def televisions airing games around the island bar and the wild wall display of Converse high-tops — with the upscale-casual vibe of a contemporary American eatery. Comfort food is the key draw, be it pork-belly nachos, butternut-squash lasagna, or pan pizza, including an over-the-top brunchtime pie with sausage, bacon, egg, hash browns, and smoked-onion Alfredo sauce; the lengthy list of cocktails and craft beers is supplemented by 14 wines, all by the glass or bottle. (Next door, sibling Blanco Cocina + Cantina is proving equally popular with the neighborhood.)

4141 E 9th Ave
Denver, CO 80220

12. Au Feu Brasserie

81 S Pennsylvania St, Denver, CO 80209
Short rib bourguignon
Au Feu’s short rib bourguignon.
Ruth Tobias

Inspired by the bistros of Montreal, what started as a stall in Zeppelin Station is now an intimate Wash Park stop in Denver’s French food gap. Lounge-like decor awash in subtle Art Deco accents serves as a handsome backdrop for such classics as poutine, coq au vin, and crème brûlée, paired with an all-French wine selection that emphasizes organic and biodynamic producers; the bar, meanwhile, concentrates on pre-Prohibition cocktails while pouring Cognac and Calvados for the brandy-curious.

81 S Pennsylvania St
Denver, CO 80209

13. Grange Hall

6575 Greenwood Plaza Blvd, Greenwood Village, CO 80111
Coffee drink topped with ice cream and waffle chip
German-style coffee and scoop shop Eiskaffee is one of the stalls at Grange Hall.
Eiskaffee

Troy Guard’s new food hall is just what the suburbs ordered: a spacious and just-funky-enough gathering place where Guard’s own build-your-own bowl counter, Bubu, is joined by a chicken shack, a pizzeria, a gyros and burger vendor, a sushi bar, a hot dog joint, a Latin concept, and a German-inspired combination coffeehouse/ice cream shop. Adding to the good energy, there’s a full bar; an onsite brewery, Little Dry Creek; and brunch service complete with a DJ and Bloody Mary and waffle stations.

6575 Greenwood Plaza Blvd
Greenwood Village, CO 80111

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