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Herring with juiced herbs and grated horseradish at Molotov Kitschen + Cocktails
Herring with juiced herbs and grated horseradish at Molotov Kitschen + Cocktails.
Ruth Tobias

The 38 Essential Restaurants in Denver

Here’s what’s elevating the Mile High City dining scene right now

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Herring with juiced herbs and grated horseradish at Molotov Kitschen + Cocktails.
| Ruth Tobias

Welcome to the Eater 38, a seasonally updated guide to restaurants that represent the growth and ingenuity of Denver’s culinary community. Since its launch in 2012, this map has traced the city’s evolution from what many outsiders dismissed as a cowtown to an ever-growing, prismatic dining destination that has earned a place in the national conversation for its youthful energy and freewheeling creativity.

Any given update, then, is designed to reflect what’s defining and redefining the scene now. Spanning a variety of cuisine types, price points, and neighborhoods, it centers on the cornerstones of the landscape — hence the word “essential” — while highlighting more recent arrivals that are extending Denver’s horizons. The fact that it can’t include every place fitting those descriptions is the nature of the beast; removal from the Eater 38 doesn’t mean that a restaurant isn’t still important and won’t return in the future.

Note, too, that while the map — which is organized geographically from north to south — may include the occasional Boulder establishment as well as food trucks and pop-ups with fixed addresses, it does not include mobile or pop-up vendors (so here’s a shoutout to stars in that category like Mukja and Little Arthur’s Hoagies). It also does not include bars, which have their own map, as do bakeries. And typically, it doesn’t include restaurants that are currently on the Eater Denver Heatmap, although there are some exceptions in this edition. For all the latest dining intel, subscribe to Eater Denver’s newsletter.

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Eater maps are curated by editors and aim to reflect a diversity of neighborhoods, cuisines, and prices. Learn more about our editorial process. If you buy something or book a reservation from an Eater link, Vox Media may earn a commission. See our ethics policy.

Frasca Food and Wine

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Renowned equally for its intricate Friulian cuisine, a wine program created by partner and master sommelier Bobby Stuckey, and above-and-beyond service, this longtime Boulder destination creates the kind of experiences that make many a Coloradan’s bucket list. Multicourse tasting menus abound in seasonal intricacies that might at any given time include game such as rabbit and quail; unusual pastas such as balanzoni or cjalsons; luxuries like foie gras and truffles; and unexpected juxtapositions — braised oxtail and bitter chocolate, hakurei turnip and huckleberry — while pairings are curated by some of the best in the business.

Lumache with tomatoes, olives, and herbs
Handmade pastas are a Frasca staple.
Ruth Tobias

Blackbelly

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Attached to an artisan butcher shop and deli, Hosea Rosenberg’s ten-year-old contemporary American restaurant somehow just keeps getting better. The meat of the matter here is, well, meat itself, be it a charcuterie board, the signature steak tartare, or a market cut of lamb, pork, or beef. But the kitchen treats seasonal produce with equal respect: Take, for example, charred Mokum carrots with carrot-top salsa verde and ricotta salata or yellow jelly potatoes with pickled ramp aioli and black garlic vinaigrette. By day, the breakfast burritos have earned themselves a cult following — and the textbook Reuben deserves to.

Housemade charcuterie at Blackbelly
Housemade charcuterie is a staple at Blackbelly.
Ruth Tobias

Woody's Wings N Things

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Though this Westminster sleeper hit does indeed serve wings — try them with lemongrass sauce — it’s the “things” that those in the know really flock here for: Page after page, the enormous menu entices with specialties from Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam, Thailand, and China, including seafood fried lort, chicken nam soot, duck larb, beef loc lac, and more. Come with a big group to sample a little bit of everything.

Crispy whole fish with tamarind sauce at Woody’s Wings N Things
Crispy whole fish with tamarind sauce at Woody’s Wings N Things.
Ruth Tobias

Tocabe, An American Indian Eatery

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Co-owner Ben Jacobs, a member of the Osage Nation, opened this fast-casual showcase of indigenous ingredients and recipes in 2008, and it’s been a Berkeley neighborhood fixture ever since. Fry bread, Indian tacos, and bowls based on native grains like wild rice and wheatberries form the core of a menu that’s as soulful as it is stick-to-your-ribs (speaking of which, the menu also features richly seasoned bison ribs that are not to be missed).

Tocabe’s Indian taco with bison
Tocabe’s Indian taco with bison.
Rachel Greiman

The Ginger Pig

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A loving homage to the family that hosted her as an exchange student in China, this spin-off of chef-owner Natascha Hess’s popular pan-Asian food truck (which now has a sibling in Boulder) also reflects her extensive travels across the continent and penchant for mash-ups. At any given time, the menu might boast Korean-, Japanese-, or Chinese-style fried chicken; a Thai take on crispy tofu in peanut sauce or a Vietnamese spin on watermelon salad; and Instagrammable dishes like Korean-inspired hot dogs battered in cornflakes or Hong Kong–style French toast with coconut jam. To complement it all are cocktails flavored with Thai chiles, yuzu, matcha powder, and lemongrass; a tidy selection of beers, wine, and sake rounds out the bar menu.

Sichuan spicy eggplant at The Ginger Pig
Sichuan spicy eggplant at The Ginger Pig.
Ruth Tobias

The Wolf's Tailor

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Simply put, the Wolf’s Tailor is one of the most unusual and ambitious restaurants in Denver. But explaining the concept further is not so simple. Loosely mixing global cuisines with local influences, it’s ultimately grounded in technique more than any one tradition, relying on a binchotan grill, a wood-fired oven, a fermentation program, and donabes (clay pots) as well as house-milled heritage grains and produce from the garden for its constantly changing multicourse tasting menus. (For an equally intricate, intimate, and unforgettable experience with more Latin focus, try downtown sibling Brutø.)

The Wolf’s Tailor interior
The Wolf’s Tailor interior.
Lucy Beaugard/Eater

Part coffeehouse, part sandwich shop, part day-drinkers’ delight, this Sunnyside smash hit is above all more than the sum of its parts. Bangers like the Boujee (scrambled egg, whipped herbed feta, arugula, muhammara, za’atar on focaccia), the Ham + Cheese (pork belly, sharp cheddar, creamy collard greens, apple, and pickled mustard seeds on marble rye), and the mixed bag of fries make fast regulars of first-timers, who return again and again to hang out on the patio over, say, green chile Bloodies or Kool-Aid margaritas. Here’s a slice of neighborhood life.

The Bougee sandwich and mixed fries at Bodega
The Bougee sandwich and mixed fries at Bodega.
Lauren DeFilippo

Kiké’s Red Tacos

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Rich, heady with spices, and alternatively crisp, soft, and dripping with juice in all the right places, the birria tacos that captured the zeitgeist when Kiké’s launched as a food truck in 2020 are now on glorious display at its fast-casual brick-and-mortar in Sunnyside. The expanded menu includes quesadillas, tortas, burritos and more, backed by an agave-centric cocktail list ranging from tamarind margaritas to spiked horchata.

Tacos, elote, chips and guac, and a torta at Kiké’s
Tacos, elote, chips and guac, and a torta at Kiké’s.
Ruth Tobias

The shining star of the Source Hotel in RiNo is a showcase for chef Alon Shaya’s brand of modern Israeli cuisine. No meal here would be complete without an order of the wood-fired pita with hummus and an array of salatim, or small plates such as baba ghanoush and whipped feta with fig vinegar; from there, go for the duck matzo ball soup, the crispy eggplant layered with tomato and herbed goat cheese, and the pomegranate-braised lamb shank — signature dishes all.

Pita and hummus topped with lamb
Safta’s famous pita bread and hummus with lamb ragù.
Lucy Beaugard/Eater Denver

Hop Alley

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Tommy Lee’s enduring RiNo favorite puts an exuberant modern spin on regional Chinese staples in an equally high-energy dining room. While all first-timers (if there are any left) should try the Chongqing-style fried chicken with chiles, Beijing duck roll, and bone marrow–fried rice, abundant seasonal and daily specials keep regulars coming back — whether for black-pepper scallops with country ham and yu choy, garlicky wok-tossed pea tendrils and sour mustard greens, or mung bean jelly noodles with Badger Flame beets and celtuce in black-vinegar dressing. The bar team is more than up to the pairing challenge the menu presents, known as they are for cocktails infused with Asian ingredients as well as a geeky selection of wines and ciders.

Chongqing-style fried chicken with chilies and scallions
Hop Alley’s signature la zi ji.
Adam Bove

The Blazing Chicken Shack II

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No frills but all heart, this little soul food joint in Park Hill serves up pure comfort in the form of smothered pork chops, fried catfish, gumbo, the hot wings implied by the name, and more — including trimmings like black-eyed peas, collard greens with smoked turkey, and peach cobbler. Come and get it.

Pig-ear sandwich with fried okra
Blazing Chicken Shack II’s pig-ear sandwich with fried okra.
Ruth Tobias

Noisette Restaurant & Bakery

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At once chic and slyly quaint, the dining room of Tim and Lillian Lu’s LoHi sensation sets the tone for a seasonal French menu that’s likewise sophisticated and soothing by turns — from bouillabaisse with langoustines and eel to roast chicken stuffed with forbidden rice and maitake mushrooms atop creamed leeks to Dover sole for two with truffled shrimp butter, mushroom duxelles, Savoy spinach, and pommes puree. Dessert is de rigueur, as are croissants and cannelés from the adjoining daytime bakery.

Steamed ocean trout in beurre blanc with kale and sorrel.
Steamed ocean trout in beurre blanc with kale and sorrel.
Ruth Tobias

Spuntino

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Spuntino is a special place. Chef Cindhura Reddy’s cooking is at once polished and deeply soulful, as revealed by her modern Italian menu subtly strewn with Indian influences: elk tartare with toasted masala aioli and ajwain seed crisps here, aglio e olio with garlic pickle there (and whatever the pasta dish featuring goat may be, get it). Her husband Elliot Strathmann, meanwhile, oversees one of the city’s most exciting beverage programs, painstakingly sourcing uncommon wines from small producers while making his own amari and liqueurs. And the couple’s passion for cuisine extends to their — and their dedicated staff’s — warm and genuine approach to hospitality.

Noodles with sausage, pistachios, and herbs
Handmade pasta with sausage, pistachios, and herbs at Spuntino.
Ruth Tobias

Run by Frasca alums Duncan Holmes and Allison Anderson, this tiny reservation-only chef’s counter in an old RiNo bungalow makes magic before guests’ very eyes, combining beautifully plated, market-driven tasting menus with consummate hospitality for fine dining experiences that are more than the sum of their parts. Expect to be pampered and plied with luxuries, whether inside or out on the picture-perfect patio, over the course of two-plus hours.

Duncan Holmes is executive chef/partner at Beckon
Duncan Holmes is executive chef/partner at Beckon.
Jonnie Sirotek | Hello Paper Laundry

The Bindery

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If this LoHi bakery, cafe, and restaurant emanates eclectic energy from sunup to long past sundown, it’s all thanks to chef-owner Linda Hampsten Fox, as inexhaustible as she is imaginative. Influences as diverse as Italy, Israel, and Mexico reflect her globe-spanning career prior to settling here; they’re revealed by day in dishes like uova alla flamenca with chorizo and grits or duck hash with sweet potato, edamame, and squash and by night in seasonal creations ranging from rabbit cannelloni with poblanos, cheddar, and mustard to cocoa nib–crusted pork belly with pumpkin, smoked beet, and hibiscus.

Swordfish and calamari over couscous with black olives, capers, and pine nuts
A seasonal dish of swordfish and calamari over couscous with black olives, capers, and pine nuts at The Bindery.
Ruth Tobias

Uchi Denver

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Denver lucked out when highly acclaimed chef-restaurateur Tyson Cole chose RiNo as the site for his first branch of Uchi outside of Texas. The modern Japanese destination has lived up the hype surrounding it since its 2018 opening, executing not only sashimi and sushi from scrupulously sourced fish but also a wide array of original creations both cooked and raw: bluefin loin crudo in blood-orange zu with pomelo and ginger, say, or lobster in miso butter with bok choy kimchi. The seafood-averse will be no less wowed by the kinoko nabe (a rice dish with mushrooms) or the ham and eggs, a pork belly roll garnished with yolk custard and beer mustard.

Yellowtail sashimi in ponzu
Tyson Cole’s famous hama chili: yellowtail in ponzu with Thai chile and orange.
Ruth Tobias

Point Easy

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Sophistication meets ease at this date-night magnet in the Whittier neighborhood. Take comfort in the likes of mushrooms on toast with Marsala, cream, and thyme or roast chicken with gnocchi Parisienne and pine-nut romesco paired with a glass of wine from the smartly curated by-the-glass list; take a chance on hakurei turnips with vadouvan butter and onion ash or swordfish piccata with umami mayo alongside a cocktail featuring raiciilla, mushroom rum, and saffron. There’s no going wrong either way.

Tuna crudo in tomato water with green coriander and Fresno chiles at Point Easy
Tuna crudo in tomato water with green coriander and Fresno chiles at Point Easy.
Ruth Tobias

La Diabla Pozole y Mezcal

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Jose Avila is single-handedly changing the Mexican-food game in Denver: Not only does he run El Borrego Negro — a Sunday-only pop-up for real-deal barbacoa — but in 2021 he also opened the city’s first pozolería to instant buzz, making the stew as he does with house-nixtamalized hominy in a variety of broths based on pork from his own herd. In a dimly lit, cantina-like setting, diners can also find guisados featuring ingredients like bone marrow, chayote squash, and even pork chop served on tacos, pambazos, and more alongside equally tempting tequila and mezcal cocktails.

La Diabla’s pozole rojo
La Diabla’s pozole rojo.
Ruth Tobias

Ultreia

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Jennifer Jasinski and Beth Gruitch’s Union Station homage to Spanish and Portuguese cuisine is nothing if not a stone-cold stunner. The wraparound mural and terrazzo flooring in the two-story dining room, the colorfully tiled tabletops and fountain on the patio — it all sets the stage for tapas as classic as pan con tomate and as modern as octopus a la plancha with ancho-butternut nage, romesco brussels sprouts, and jalapeño oil, not to mention occasional paella parties and brunch service featuring dishes like olive oil pancakes with dried apricots and almonds. The bar chimes in with an all-Iberian wine list on the one hand, inventive G&Ts infused with turmeric and elderflower or grapefruit and cinnamon on on the other.

Basque-style pintxos, or finger foods secured with toothpicks
An array of pintxos at Ultreia.
Ryan Dearth

Tavernetta

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While Frasca Food and Wine in Boulder (see above) may well be Colorado’s most famous dining destination, its Denver sibling is every inch as notable. Set on the Union Station platform in full view of the trains, the sleek restaurant and lounge takes a broader regional approach to Italian cuisine than its Friuli-focused sibling, proffering a seasonal menu that might find bay scallop crudo with preserved citrus, Calabrian chiles, and salsify next to gnocchi with speck, smoked ricotta, and pecans next to duck breast with sunchokes, chanterelles, persimmon, and chestnuts; the splurge-worthy wine list naturally follows suit. And the service, of course, is as polished as the tableware.

Ravioli with spring ingredients
Handmade pasta is core to Tavernetta’s culinary program.
Ryan Dearth/Eater Denver

Annette

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Chef Caroline Glover hasn’t let stardom go to her head: After all, her renown — cemented by a 2022 James Beard Award for best chef, Mountain region — is predicated on the down-to-earth, heartfelt approach to both cooking and hospitality she takes at Annette, located in Aurora’s Stanley Marketplace. Guests feel well cared for as they tuck into signatures like grilled beef tongue and marrow toast or roast chicken with bitter greens and PX sherry vinegar alongside seasonal dishes such as roasted maitakes and kohlrabi with sunflower hummus and chickpea fritters; grouper cheek bouillabaisse; and ice cream sandwiches in ever-changing flavors (think ginger molasses and bay leaf). Knockout cocktails and a boutique wine list enhance the feel-good experience.

Chicken-liver pâté with grilled bread Ruth Tobias

Jax Fish House & Oyster Bar

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A pioneer in LoDo in the 1990s — back when the neighborhood was just beginning to emerge from a long economic downturn — this seafood spot has evolved (and expanded) with the times while remaining true to the indie spirit it opened with. On the classic side is raw bar fare along with crab cakes, chowder, caviar service, and more; on the seasonal side, there might be seared sea scallops with grilled fennel, charred rapini, kohlrabi puree, and agrumato oil or lobster maltagliati in sage brown butter with whipped ricotta and beech mushrooms. All of it will be sustainably sourced, too, thanks to the longtime efforts of executive chef Sheila Lucero.

Seafood chowder at Jax
Seafood chowder at Jax.
Ruth Tobias

A5 Steakhouse

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What separates this steakhouse from the pack is a sense of playfulness that speaks to the moment. Against a backdrop that defies genre stereotypes in lively shades of green, the kitchen likewise upends expectations through the diversity of its influences, deftly supplementing those exquisite cuts of beef with, say, Mexican-style bay shrimp cocktail, maitake-porcini poutine, wok-tossed broccolini in miso bagna cauda, and bacon-and-kimchi fried rice. The bar, meanwhile, gets into the groove with a focus on rums rather than whiskeys. A rocking happy hour seals the deal.

Denver steak with a variety of sauces
A5’s Denver steak with a variety of sauces.
Eric Donzella

Lucina Eatery & Bar

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It’s a nightly fiesta in here, thanks not least to a pan-Latin menu that’s tailor-made for sharing with friends, including dishes like mofongo with pork belly chicharrón, plantain mash, and habanero crema; duck confit mole accompanied by fresh tortillas; and an ever-changing weekends-only paella. But the vibe also points to the colorful, come-as-you-are culture cultivated by partners Erasmo Casiano, Diego Coconati, and Michelle Nguyen, whose bar plays its part in the party too as it whips up kicky cocktails like the Arroz Con Leche with blanco tequila, corn liqueur, rice milk, vanilla, and cinnamon.

Mofongo with pork belly at Lucina
Mofongo with pork belly at Lucina.
Ruth Tobias

Onefold

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Making its own flour tortillas and frying its eggs and potatoes in duck fat, this tiny daytime cafe in Uptown (with a second location at Union Station) has built a cult following on the strength of its signature breakfast tacos, congee with duck confit, fried rice with Chinese sausage, and loco moco — all ideally paired with iced Vietnamese coffee or an old-school tequila sunrise. If that sounds like an unusual mix of influences, well, it is, and Onefold is all the better for it — not to mention all the more popular.

Breakfast tacos with eggs, mozzarella, and hash browns
Onefold’s breakfast tacos.
Ruth Tobias

Molotov Kitschen + Cocktails

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The words “Eastern European food” and “sexy” rarely appear in the same sentence, but this snug East Colfax charmer may change that. Even the humblest and heartiest of ingredients — cabbage and beets, bulgur and spelt — get the gourmet treatment from endlessly creative chef-owner Bo Porytko and his team, who transform them into refined dishes like veal short-rib piroshki in foie gras veloute and monkfish paprikash that pair perfectly with horilka-based cocktails and wines from, say, Slovenia and Serbia. Book seats at their counter for the ultimate intimate experience.

Cherry borscht with duck dumplings
Borscht is a signature at Molotov—but it isn’t grandma’s recipe.
Ruth Tobias

Urban Burma

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Located in the food court of Aurora refugee community center Mango House, this Burmese stall run by Siri and Martin Tan has built a large and loyal fan base on the strength of hearty, homey noodles and curries like the weh da nah with pork, potatoes, and pickled mango, as well as such intriguing stuff as pae paratha — a sort of flatbread rolled up with yellow peas and fried onions — and the funky, crunchy tea leaf salad (the latter being just one of many items that are vegan and/or gluten-free).

Burmese noodle dish with broth
Nan gyi dok at Urban Burma.
Mark Antonation

sắp sửa

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The light, bright flavors of Vietnam shine at Ni and Anna Nguyen’s white-hot East Colfax spot, where dishes like cold vermicelli in crab broth with tomato, peanuts, lime; hamachi collar laced with coconut caramel alongside steamed rice; and charred cabbage with anchovy breadcrumbs and egg yolk have gained an instantly loyal following. Irreverent cocktails like the Gin-erational Trauma flavored with lemongrass and yuzu complete the vibrant picture.

Rice porridge with mushrooms, lap xuong, and egg at sắp sửa
Rice porridge with mushrooms, lap xuong, and egg at sắp sửa.
Casey Wilson

Potager

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Long before farm-to-table dining entered the mainstream, this Cap Hill gem practiced it. Since 1997, in fact, the kitchen has been building its menu around locally sourced ingredients to yield such microseasonal stunners as Maine halibut with cured asparagus, pea-shoot pistou, and spring flowers; beets and preserved mussels with fennel-seed butter, pickled shallots, and caper gremolata; and the famous wintertime cassoulet. To pair with it all, the exceedingly thoughtful wine list focuses on off-the-beaten-path bottles from sustainable producers around the world (Colorado included).

POTAGER
Potager’s dining room.
Adam Larkey

Fruition Restaurant

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At 16-plus years old, Alex Seidel’s cozy contemporary American flagship is operating at the top of its game. Refinement and precision are chef Jarred Russell’s hallmarks, yielding microseasonal creations such as bison carpaccio with preserved fennel and crispy sunchoke; kohlrabi salad with sauce gribiche and bottarga; and veal sweetbreads scallopini with melted leeks and crushed caper jus. Make that meal a celebration with bubbles to start and brandy to finish.

A seasonal dish of fettuccine alla chitarra with tomato-braised octopus and ’nduja at Fruition
A seasonal dish of fettuccine alla chitarra with tomato-braised octopus and ’nduja at Fruition.
Ruth Tobias

Barolo Grill

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Though an avatar of fine dining — white tablecloths, candlelight, 100-plus-page wine list, and all — this Northern Italian destination in Cherry Creek is hardly old school: Longtime chef Darrel Truett keeps the menu fresh and engaging through seasonal creations like chilled foie gras terrine with puff pastry, apricot mostarda, and Marsala gélee or lobster risotto with saffron crema and gold leaf. While most guests opt for the four-course degustazione, a la carte grazing at the bar on a lower-key weeknight is a treat.

Deconstructed tiramisù at Barolo Grill
Deconstructed tiramisù at Barolo Grill.
Ruth Tobias

La Calle Taqueria Y Carnitas

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This cheery little stop on West Alameda sits at the top of Denver’s taqueria heap. Numerous taco options include an array of delicious off-cuts like cueritos (pig skin) and cabeza (beef cheek) as well as electrifying salsas — tomatillo, avocado, and habañero among them. On those rare occasions when regulars aren’t in the mood for tacos, they might go for spot-on menudo or birria de chivo, a savory goat stew.

Tacos with lime and salsas
An array of tacos at La Calle.
Ruth Tobias

African Grill and Bar

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Walk in a first-timer, walk out a family member: That’s what a meal at African Grill and Bar feels like. Owners Theo and Sylvester Osei-Fordwuo emanate endless warmth while also cooking up a storm to showcase the diversity of regional African cuisine. For newcomers, fufu or red red with goat or oxtail are great places to start, cooled by the fresh ginger drink; regulars, meanwhile, tend to work their way through the menu until they’ve tried every last stew and staple starch.

African melon seed–spinach stew with lamb and  fermented cornmeal dough
Egusi, or melon seed–spinach stew, with lamb and kenkey (a fermented cornmeal staple) at African Grill and Bar.
Ruth Tobias

Somebody People

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One of Denver’s only vegan restaurants also happens to be one of its coolest. Done up in fresh hues of turquoise, pink, and lemon yellow, it turns out an array of seasonal dishes that look simple on paper but prove satisfyingly complex on the plate, be it celery salad with dates and smoked almond or creste de gallo in mushroom ragu with grilled chicory. The same could be said for full- and zero-proof cocktails featuring all manner of nifty stuff, from Douglas fir brandy to spiced pumpkin; the wine list, meanwhile, naturally emphasizes small biodynamic and organic producers. Opt for a multicourse tasting Tuesday through Saturday, then come back for the completely different, and surprisingly affordable, five-course Sunday supper.