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Savory rabbit pie with mustard gelato
The Bindery’s smoked rabbit–pecan pie with mustard gelato.
Lucy Beaugard

The 38 Essential Restaurants in Denver

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

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The Bindery’s smoked rabbit–pecan pie with mustard gelato.
| Lucy Beaugard

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, in short, mean that a restaurant isn’t still important and won’t return in the future.

Note, too, that while the map (which is ordered 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 vendors (so here’s a shoutout to stars in that category like Pho King Rapidos, Yuan Wonton, and Little Arthur’s Hoagies). It also does not include bars, which have their own map, as do bakeries. And finally, it doesn’t include restaurants that are currently on the Eater Denver Heatmap, which can be viewed here.

Don’t see your favorite restaurant? Nominate it for inclusion here. And for all the latest dining intel, subscribe to Eater Denver’s newsletter.

The latest CDC guidance for vaccinated diners during the COVID-19 outbreak is here; dining out still carries risks for unvaccinated diners and workers. 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.

1. Frasca Food and Wine

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1738 Pearl St
Boulder, CO 80302
(303) 442-6966
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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 include game such as antelope and venison; unusual pastas such as balanzoni or tajarin; luxuries like foie gras and truffles; and unexpected juxtapositions — buddha’s hand citron and marigold, cocoa husk and sweet potato — 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

2. Basta

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3601 Arapahoe Ave
Boulder, CO 80303
(303) 997-8775
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After a hiatus, Kelly Whitaker’s wood-fired flagship is once again lighting the logs. Though it still slings pies, what started as a pizzeria first and foremost has evolved over the years to reflect Whitaker’s passion for milling heirloom grains, fermentation and other forms of preservation, and other processes (see The Wolf’s Tailor below); today the menu centers on such thoughtful fare as semolina gnocco with lamb shoulder and almond aillade and short rib with burnt onion, sesame, and horseradish. It’s all paired with one of the smartest beverage selections around, starting with traditional-method bubbly from Piedmont and ending with a cocktail like the Corrected Carajillo, combining grappa, Licor 43, and espresso.

Clam pizza
Basta’s clam pizza.
Ruth Tobias

3. The Wolf's Tailor

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4058 Tejon St
Denver, CO 80211
(720) 456-6705
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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 Italian and Asian cuisines, it’s ultimately grounded in technique more than any one tradition, relying on a binchotan grill, a wood-fired oven, 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 a more Latin focus, try downtown sibling BRUTØ.)

Piada bread with spread
Piada is a staple at The Wolf’s Tailor.
Lucy Beaugard/Eater Denver

4. Comal Heritage Food Incubator

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3455 Ringsby Ct #105
Denver, CO 80216
(303) 292-0770
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Doubling as a business incubator and training kitchen for immigrants and refugees, this beloved RiNo lunch counter is currently run by women from Mexico and Venezuela — which means the frequently rotating menu abounds with such vibrant stuff as puerco en salsa verde; res encebollado (steak and onions with rice and black beans); and the potato, milk, cheese and egg soup called pisca Andina (there are always at least a couple of vegetarian options). Handmade tortillas, flan, and Jarritos make it a meal.

Plate of griddled tacos with salsa and lime wedges
Griddled tacos at Comal.
Ruth Tobias

5. Safta Restaurant

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3330 Brighton Blvd #201
Denver, CO 80216
(720) 408-2444
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Among a handful of chefs to achieve national recognition for turning modern Israeli cuisine into a phenomenon is New Orleans’ Alon Shaya, who brought Safta (meaning “grandmother” in Hebrew) to The Source Hotel in RiNo in 2018. The wood-fired pita accompanied by multiple choices of hummus and an array of salatim, or small plates, such as baba ghanoush and whipped feta with mint are the best places to start, but there’s always something new to explore — including spiced potatoes with walnuts and piquillo peppers, whole striped bass Moroccan-style, and a brunch buffet featuring items like pastrami hash, apricot-turmeric scones, and more.

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

6. Bellota

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The Source, 3350 Brighton Blvd Suite 150
Denver, CO 80216
(720) 542-3721
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Upscale Mexican fare doesn’t get better than at this spot in The Source, where Monterrey native Manny Barella turns out not only unusually mouthwatering tacos (don’t miss the costra de ribeye or the trumpet mushroom al pastor) but also sumptuous regional specialties like the pumpkin-seed spread called sikil pak; pork chops in mole verde; and brunchtime treats such as molletes. Every last salsa is special.

Esquites in cast iron pot
Esquites at Bellota.
Bellota

7. Brasserie Brixton

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3701 N Williams St
Denver, CO 80205
(720) 617-7911
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It may be an homage to the brasseries of Paris and Montreal, but this Cole hit has a keenly progressive vision all its own. European and Asian influences mingle as blood sausage fills wontons in tamari vinaigrette, miso bagna cauda graces asparagus along with anchovies and pine nuts, and pistachio-crusted salmon comes in garam masala–spiced beurre blanc. Meanwhile, the wine list goes to show just how far Denver’s evolved in a short time: The likes of pét nat, orange wine, and bottlings from lesser-known regions like the Canary Islands and British Columbia were nowhere to be seen just a few years ago.

Roasted mushrooms with cipollini in mustard hollandaise
Roasted mushrooms with cipollini in mustard hollandaise, topped with a sous vide egg, at Brasserie Brixton.
Ruth Tobias

8. Hop Alley

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3500 Larimer St
Denver, CO 80205
(720) 379-8340
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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 chilies, Beijing duck roll, and bone marrow–fried rice, abundant seasonal and daily specials keep regulars coming back — whether for clams with fermented black beans and mustard greens, sweet-and-sour parsnips topped with crispy noodles, or turnip cake with shrimp and sausage in black garlic sauce. 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

9. Dio Mio — Handmade Pasta

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3264 Larimer St
Denver, CO 80205
(303) 562-1965
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Though it’s a counter-service operation in a small, no-frills RiNo space, Spencer White and Alex Figura’s wildly popular pasta shop has proven itself far more vital to the neighborhood than any mere fast-casual joint could ever be (in fact, it has earned itself a sibling in the form of Redeemer Pizza a few blocks away). The compact menu over-delivers on intrigue for its size: While spaghetti and meatballs or cacio e pepe are always a soothing option, it’s seasonal creations like mortadella-filled agnolotti with gouda, pearl onions, and dill or squid-ink tortelli stuffed with shrimp mousse in mushroom pho broth, not to mention bold starters such as black butter–marinated artichoke hearts in olive sauce, that have earned Dio Mio its stripes. (The beverage list is equally stylish.)

Black butter–marinated artichoke hearts in olive sauce with oranges and croutons
Black butter–marinated artichoke hearts in olive sauce with oranges and croutons at Dio Mio.
Ruth Tobias

10. The Blazing Chicken Shack II

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5560 E 33rd Ave
Denver, CO 80207
(720) 596-4501
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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

11. Señor Bear

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3301 Tejon St
Denver, CO 80211
(720) 572-5997
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The success of the Culinary Creative group’s pan-Latin spot in LoHi is such that it spawned a RiNo offshoot, Mister Oso (get it?), in late 2019 while retaining its own mojo. Seasonal crudos and ceviches are a staple, as are the broccoli–oyster mushroom saltado, meats from the grill, and the Taco Bell–inspired Gordo Crunch offered at happy hour; as for cocktails, ever-changing congelados (frozen drinks) make for a cool change of pace from margaritas and Palomas.

Avocado toast with cactus salsa
Brunchtime avocado toast comes with cactus salsa at Señor Bear.
Kayla Jones

12. Spuntino

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2639 W 32nd Ave
Denver, CO 80211
(303) 433-0949
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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

13. Beckon

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2843 Larimer St
Denver, CO 80205
(303) 749-0020
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Run by Frasca alums Duncan Holmes and Allison Anderson, this tiny reservation-only chef’s counter set in an old RiNo bungalow makes magic before guests’ very eyes, combining beautifully plated, market-driven multicourse 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.

Seasonal dish at Beckon in Denver, CO Jonnie Sirotek | Hello Paper Laundry

14. The Bindery

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1817 Central St
Denver, CO 80211
(303) 993-2364
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As inexhaustible as she is imaginative, Linda Hampsten Fox has been a ray of light in the darkness of the pandemic, proving that her eclectic market, bakery-cafe, and restaurant is indispensable to not only LoHi but Denver as a whole. 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 avocado toast with beet hummus and pistachio za’atar and by night in creations ranging from smoked rabbit–pecan pie with mustard gelato to octopus aguachile with hearts of palm and shishitos.

Heirloom carrot ravioli
Heirloom carrot ravioli is a recurring springtime special at the Bindery.
Ruth Tobias

15. El Five

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2930 Umatilla St Unit #500
Denver, CO 80211
(303) 524-9193
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The Edible Beats group is behind some of Denver’s most original dining experiences (see Linger, Root Down, Vital Root, and the currently closed Ophelia’s Electric Soapbox); this penthouse-level playground for pan-Mediterranean tapas is no exception. Eye-popping decor meets unmatched views of the downtown skyline and mountains to create an elaborate backdrop for such nibbles as butternut-feta bourekas and yogurt-braised lamb shank in chickpea pancakes with zhoug, as well as a few different types of paella. The bar rises to the occasion with colorful cocktails like the pineapple-mint Collins and apricot frosé.

Harissa eggplant fries
El Five’s harissa eggplant fries.
Ruth Tobias

16. Dimestore Delibar

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1575 Boulder St Unit A
Denver, CO 80211

To call this LoHi hang a sandwich shop is to underestimate its specialty: Called “dimerolls,” they start with thin slices of focaccia that put a whole new twist on the wrap genre, stuffed with smoked chicken salad, Swiss, and arugula or meatloaf in hoisin sauce, provolone, fried potatoes, and jalapeño slaw, among other things. And that’s not to overlook the rest of the eclectic menu, including the likes of beet-and-burrata salad with pistachios in kumquat vinaigrette or fava bean hummus accompanied by delectable fresh pita. Cocktails laced with house shrubs and tinctures seal the deal.

Chicken salad focaccia wrap Ruth Tobias

17. Work & Class

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2500 Larimer St
Denver, CO 80205
(303) 292-0700
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Dana Rodriguez is even more on fire than usual right now, what with the launch of Cantina Loca — featuring her own agave spirits brand, Doña Loca — and the news that she will spearhead the kitchen at the soon-to-reopen legend Casa Bonita. But all that just serves as a reminder of the significance of her and her partners’ beloved RiNo flagship. Drawing inspiration from both Mexican and Midwestern traditions to deliver a mix of hearty meats and vibrant accompaniments — cochinita pibil, wine–braised short rib, and rotisserie chicken here; blue-corn empanadas, dirty rice, and key lime pie there — it’s got more character than most restaurants combined. (Granted, its next door sibling, the pan-Latin Super Mega Bien, is no slouch in that department either.)

Salad with tempura broccoli, avocado, asparagus, and preserved lemon vinaigrette
Work & Class’ signature Massive Attack salad with tempura broccoli, avocado, asparagus, and more.
Jennifer Olson

18. Uchi Denver

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2500 Lawrence St
Denver, CO 80205
(303) 444-1922
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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 it opened in 2018, executing not only sashimi and sushi from scrupulously sourced fish but also a wide array of original creations both cooked and raw: olive oil–drizzled flounder with candied quinoa, say, or yellowtail collar with pickled kabocha and grilled radicchio. 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–omelet roll garnished with dots of beer mustard and yolk custard.

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

19. Biker Jim's Gourmet Dogs

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2148 Larimer St
Denver, CO 80205
(720) 746-9355
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Built on a fleet of carts that still dot the city, Jim Pittenger’s iconic Ballpark sausage parlor draws the hot dog–gobbling hordes with a selection of some 13 links, each more startling than the last: elk, boar, ostrich, rattlesnake-rabbit. Equally offbeat topping combos like the Desert (featuring harissa-roasted cactus and curry jam) and the International (cheddar, caramelized apples, and wasabi aioli) make for a memorable meal.

Greek-inspired hot dog with feta and cucumber relish
Biker Jim’s often serves up specials, like this Greek-inspired dog, in addition to its core offerings.
Ruth Tobias

20. Mercantile Dining and Provision

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1701 Wynkoop St #155
Denver, CO 80202
(720) 460-3733
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With the return of breakfast service, Alex Seidel’s Union Station fixture is finally emerging from the pandemic in full force — and that’s a very good thing. Start the day here with Turkish eggs or a roasted-apple Dutch Baby; take a leisurely lunch over Wagyu pastrami sandwiches or spaghetti tricked out with squid ink and XO-infused amatriciana; or make a date night of it while trading bites of mussel escabeche tartine or pappardelle in duck ragù with chili oil and pine nuts. Ace sommeliers are on hand for pairing recommendations.

Watermelon gazpacho Ruth Tobias

21. Ultreia

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1701 Wynkoop St #125
Denver, CO 80202
(303) 534-1970
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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 artichoke-farro salad with shishito crema, not to mention frequent 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 cinnamon and star anise or elderflower and rose water on the other.

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

22. Tavernetta

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1889 16th St
Denver, CO 80202
(720) 605-1889
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While Frasca Food and Wine in Boulder (see above) may well be Colorado’s most famous restaurant, its Denver sibling is every inch as notable. Set on the Union Station platform in full view of the trains, the sleekly designed restaurant and lounge takes a broader regional approach to Italian cuisine than its famed Friuli-focused sibling, proffering a seasonal menu that might find venison-stracchino agnolotti next to halibut with clams, turnips, and spinach in scallop crema; 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

23. Annette

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2501 Dallas St #108
Aurora, CO 80010
(720) 710-9975
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It’s no surprise that chef Caroline Glover hasn’t let stardom go to her head: After all, her renown is predicated on the down-to-earth, heartfelt approach to both cooking and hospitality she takes at Annette. Located in Aurora’s Stanley Marketplace, Eater Denver’s 2017 restaurant of the year remains as relevant as ever, thanks not only to her talent but also to her advocacy for health- and justice-related causes in the industry and the community at large — ensuring that everybody who comes here feels well cared for as they tuck into signatures like egg-salad toast or pork schnitzel and seasonal dishes such as spring onion gratin with taleggio; moules frites with green garlic, fennel, and absinthe; and ice cream sandwiches in ever-changing flavors (think salted buckwheat, white chocolate chip, and cinnamon). Knockout cocktails and a boutique wine list enhance the feel-good experience.

Chicken-liver pâté with grilled bread Ruth Tobias

24. Coperta

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400 E 20th Ave
Denver, CO 80205
(720) 749-4666
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Though it focuses on the bottom half of the Boot, this Italian fixture in Uptown is no red-sauce joint. Amid mainstays like cacio e pepe and eggplant parmigiana, the menu’s seasonal offerings often have the potential to become classics in their own right, be it malloreddus (Sardinian-style gnocchi) with fennel seeds, escarole, walnuts, and black truffle or sausage-stuffed quail with mustard greens and rhubarb. Start with the spuzzulia, an intricate sort of antipasti platter, and ask for recommendations from the delightful wine list, dedicated exclusively to Italy’s central and southern regions.

Fried calamari with lemon, marinara sauce, and a glass of rosé
Classic calamari fritti at Coperta.
Ruth Tobias

25. Onefold

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1139, 1420 E 18th Ave
Denver, CO 80218
(303) 954-0877
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Making its own flour tortillas and frying its eggs and potatoes in duck fat, this tiny daytime cafe in Uptown has built a cult following on the strength of its breakfast tacos, congee with duck confit, and fried rice with Chinese sausage as well as sometime specials like loco moco and pozole, all paired with iced Vietnamese coffee or old-school Screwdrivers. 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. (No wonder it now has a second location at Union Station.)

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

26. Q House

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3421 E Colfax Ave
Denver, CO 80206
(720) 729-8887
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At this cozy but upbeat Bluebird District sensation, chef-owner Christopher Lin draws on his Taiwanese roots to create a repertoire of dishes that seem familiar at a glance but taste wholly original: Take the barbecued spare ribs, fried and coated in a sauce that make for next-level finger-licking, or the unexpectedly addictive fingerlings and cauliflower tossed with black-bean vinaigrette. And the cocktails are just as kicky as the food, infused with lemongrass or sesame oil and garnished with bonito or shiso leaf.

Duck lo mein with chilies
Duck lo mein at Q House.
Ruth Tobias

27. Misfit Snack Bar at Middleman

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3401 E Colfax Ave
Denver, CO 80206
(303) 353-4207
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Though it operates within a bar, Misfit has its own separate identity — and what a unique identity it is. Chef Bo Porytko is simply one of Denver’s most wildly inventive chefs, and it shows in an ever-changing menu that might boast split pea–and–ham falafel and a whole gochujang-buttermilk-marinated, tempura-fried head of broccoli one night, Jamaican-inspired beef pot pie and fried egg–topped rutabaga latkes with potlikker hollandaise the next. There’s nothing quite like it in town.

Kielbasa terrine with Ukrainian salads, beet horseradish, pickled mustard seeds, and rye crisps
Misfit’s kielbasa terrine with Ukrainian salads, beet horseradish, pickled mustard seeds, and rye crisps.
Ruth Tobias

28. El Taco De Mexico

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714 Santa Fe Dr
Denver, CO 80204
(303) 623-3926
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In 2020, this little yellow taqueria in Lincoln Park received a James Beard America’s Classics Award — an honor that’s been more than earned over the decades by a crew dedicated to serving up not only quintessential tacos but also some of the best green chile–smothered burritos in town (among many other Mexican mainstays optimally paired with horchata or agua fresca). If any place is a rite of passage for Denver diners, El Tac is.

Carne asada tacos with rice and beans
Tacos de carne asada at El Taco de Mexico.
Ruth Tobias

29. Barolo Grill

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3030 E 6th Ave
Denver, CO 80206
(303) 393-1040
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While an avatar of fine dining — white tablecloths, book-length wine list, prix fixe pricing, and all — this Northern Italian destination in Cherry Creek is hardly old school: Longtime chef Darrel Truett keeps the tasting menu fresh and engaging through seasonal creations like roasted pheasant salad with toma cheese, sundried tomatoes, and walnuts or spaghetti in wild boar ragu with peas and orange gremolata. A la carte dining is an option on weekdays, while shaved truffles are an option always.

Vitello tonnato
A seasonal dish of vitello tonnato at Barolo Grill
Ruth Tobias

30. Fortune Wok to Table

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2817 E 3rd Ave e
Denver, CO 80206
(303) 321-7788
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The downstairs dining room is small and simply decorated, the menu even smaller and simpler — but the flavors and textures are huge at this Chinese surprise in Cherry Creek. Come with a tight-knit group and get a little of everything — Shanghainese-style noodles with duck, fried rice with shrimp, incredible steamed or pan-fried dumplings with beef or pork — plus the occasional seasonal dish like tenderloin and peppers. (Then ask about private dining for a larger group upstairs for a singular tasting experience.)

Shanghainese-style noodles with duck
Fortune’s noodles come with duck (pictured), beef, shrimp, or veggies.
Ruth Tobias

31. Farmhouse Thai Eatery

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98 Wadsworth Blvd #117
Lakewood, CO 80226
(303) 237-2475
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This family-run sleeper hit in a suburban strip mall showcases the clear, bright fragrances and flavors of Thai cooking with verve. While all the standard curries and stir fries are there for the asking, the menu is built for branching out, with a fabulous selection of seasonal dishes otherwise hard to find around here: the leaf-wrapped bites of toasted coconut, peanut, shallot, ginger, and lime called miang kum, for instance, or khao kha moo, a pork-leg stew spiced with star anise, cumin, and more.

Miang kum
Miang kum at Farmhouse Thai.
Ruth Tobias

32. Restaurant Olivia

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290 S Downing St
Denver, CO 80209
(303) 999-0395
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Run by three seasoned Mizuna alumni, this Italian date-night spot in Wash Park opened just a few weeks before the city went into lockdown, but it pulled through with the class and grace that also emanate from its small dining room and its seasonal menus. Handmade pastas take special pride of place here, and the wine list was naturally built to showcase them — but no meal is complete without at least one drink from the bar, be it an Old Fashioned infused with cranberry and black walnut or a Boulevardier made tropical with banana, pineapple, and coconut.

Seared foie gras with banana bread, bacon-Madeira jus, and foie gelato
Olivia’s seared foie gras with banana bread, bacon-Madeira jus, and foie gelato.
Joni Schrantz

33. Savory Vietnam Restaurant

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2200 W Alameda Ave #44
Denver, CO 80223
(303) 975-2399
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The menu at this veritable Vietnamese banquet hall (it used to house dim sum parlor King’s Land) is long, covering everything from rice paper wraps and noodle bowls to fire pots and seafood dishes of all kinds — each more satisfying than the last. So skip the pho and go for curried snails, squid sauteed with lemongrass in fermented shrimp paste, or spare ribs caramelized in fish sauce.

Squid in spicy shrimp paste Ruth Tobias

34. El Borrego Negro at Re:Vision

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3800 Morrison Rd
Denver, CO 80219
(720) 465-9605
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This barbacoa purveyor is a rare gem in Denver, and not only for its Sunday pop-up status. From 9 a.m. until he sells out at RISE Westwood (check Instagram for details), chef Jose Avila serves up orders of the tender meat, sourced from his own herd of sheep and cooked overnight in a pit, with homemade consomé and tortillas, onions, cilantro, salsas, limes, and even a quart of horchata for a feast of epic proportions. Sometimes ximbó, or chicken barbacoa, is available as well. (Avila is also the mastermind behind La Diabla Pozole y Mezcal, currently gracing the Denver heatmap.)

35. African Grill and Bar

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955 S Kipling Pkwy
Lakewood, CO 80226
(303) 985-4497
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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 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

36. Somebody People

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1165 S Broadway #104
Denver, CO 80210
(720) 502-5681
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One of Denver’s only vegan restaurants also happens to be one of its coolest. All 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 fried rice with cucumber and kohlrabi or any number of fresh pastas such as creste di gallo with ramps, pistachios, and basil. The same could be said for cocktails featuring all manner of botanicals; 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.

A photo of the grilled romaine, oyster mushrooms and a funghetto pasta with bolognese at Somebody People.
Pasta is a mainstay at Somebody People.
Jonathan Phillips/Eater

37. Sushi Den

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1487 Pearl St
Denver, CO 80210
(303) 777-0826
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At nearly 40 years old, this venerable sushi bar could have rested on its laurels long ago — but the Kizaki brothers are as tireless as they are meticulous about sourcing and service, and so Old Pearl Street’s number-one destination is as thronged with enthusiasts today as it was when it opened in 1984. While the staples sparkle, the place to play is the specials list, which might feature baby octopus and threadfin bream flown in from Japan one day, Mexican uni and Tasmanian trout the next.

A mix of sushi rolls Ruth Tobias

38. Thank Sool Pocha

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2222 S Havana St unit e
Aurora, CO 80014
(720) 485-3682
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K-pubs are a growing category in Aurora, and Thank Sool Pocha is a sterling example, not to mention a blast: Come for the kimchi pancakes and the Korean fried chicken, stay for the tteokbokki with blood sausage or fried dumplings, the postwar concoction that is Army stew, and the corn cheese (which is exactly what it sounds like). Then wash it all down with banana makgeolli or red-vinegar soju.

Rice cake stew with fried dumplings
Rice cake stew with fried dumplings at Thank Sool Pocha.
Ruth Tobias

1. Frasca Food and Wine

1738 Pearl St, Boulder, CO 80302
Lumache with tomatoes, olives, and herbs
Handmade pastas are a Frasca staple.
Ruth Tobias

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 include game such as antelope and venison; unusual pastas such as balanzoni or tajarin; luxuries like foie gras and truffles; and unexpected juxtapositions — buddha’s hand citron and marigold, cocoa husk and sweet potato — while pairings are curated by some of the best in the business.

1738 Pearl St
Boulder, CO 80302

2. Basta

3601 Arapahoe Ave, Boulder, CO 80303
Clam pizza
Basta’s clam pizza.
Ruth Tobias

After a hiatus, Kelly Whitaker’s wood-fired flagship is once again lighting the logs. Though it still slings pies, what started as a pizzeria first and foremost has evolved over the years to reflect Whitaker’s passion for milling heirloom grains, fermentation and other forms of preservation, and other processes (see The Wolf’s Tailor below); today the menu centers on such thoughtful fare as semolina gnocco with lamb shoulder and almond aillade and short rib with burnt onion, sesame, and horseradish. It’s all paired with one of the smartest beverage selections around, starting with traditional-method bubbly from Piedmont and ending with a cocktail like the Corrected Carajillo, combining grappa, Licor 43, and espresso.

3601 Arapahoe Ave
Boulder, CO 80303

3. The Wolf's Tailor

4058 Tejon St, Denver, CO 80211
Piada bread with spread
Piada is a staple at The Wolf’s Tailor.
Lucy Beaugard/Eater Denver

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 Italian and Asian cuisines, it’s ultimately grounded in technique more than any one tradition, relying on a binchotan grill, a wood-fired oven, 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 a more Latin focus, try downtown sibling BRUTØ.)

4058 Tejon St
Denver, CO 80211

4. Comal Heritage Food Incubator

3455 Ringsby Ct #105, Denver, CO 80216