Twenty Over $30
3030 E. Sixth Ave., 303-393-1040
Rarely in Denver will you find service that matches that of the Barolo Grill. The waitstaff's expertise comes from annual trips to Italy: Owner Blair Taylor takes his employees (all of them, right down to the dishwasher) to northern Italy once a year to discover the cuisine firsthand. You'll taste that dedication in chef Brian Laird's cooking and hear it in the waitstaff's knowledge and understanding of the menu and wine list.
Best Bites The braised duck- ling with kalamata olives is a must-try; it's the only dish that's never been taken off the menu since Barolo opened in 1992.
Sip Tip When ordering off the impressive wine list, focus on Taylor and sommelier Ryan Fletter's page of favorites.
Hot Seat Tables on the upper landing offer the dining room's best people-watching.
1424-H Larimer St., 303-825-3232
Bistro Vendôme's tiny tables, dishtowel napkins, and chef Jennifer Jasinski's fresh French cuisine whisk us straight to Paris. In keeping with the theme, we pair the complimentary crusty baguette with a charcuterie board piled high with cured meats and pâté, olives, capers, and dollops of horseradish and Dijon spreads. Afterward, we dine on dishes such as pan-seared scallops with wilted spinach, sweet potato and caramelized onion hash, celeriac remoulade, and black truffles. As we sip our wine and wait for dessert, we luxuriate over the cluttered table, the remnants of an excellent meal, and the fleeting sense of being in France.
Best Bite Molasses-glazed duck leg confit, lentils, braised cabbage, cider beurre blanc, grilled apple-golden raisin relish
Hot Seat Sit by the tall plate-glass windows, or out on the patio in warm weather.
Insider Tip Dine on a Tuesday for special wine flightsthat's three wines for $10.
The Capital Grille
1450 Larimer St., 303-539-2500
The steak-house concept was practically born in Denver, and subsequently we're particularly discerning when it comes to eating beef. The Capital Grille has never let us down. In fact, each time we dine we're only more impressed. Ordering a dry-aged porterhouse or the steak au poivre leaves us drumming our fingers on the table in anticipationthat is, until our spinach salad with warm bacon dressing arrives. The excellent service always makes us feel like we're the only diners, and we're charmed with the attention to detail that includes expensive-looking steak knives and the choice of black or white napkin (so as not to leave lint on your black pants).
Best Bites The 22-ounce porcini-rubbed Delmonico bone-in steak, grilled and drizzled with aged balsamic vinegar.
Hot Tip When dining in the bar, seek out the far corner table and ask for Kathlene.
Cool Cocktail Order a Stoli Doley, pineapple-infused Stoli vodka shaken over ice.
210 Franklin St., Niwot, 303-652-0777
Colterra, chef Bradford Heap's first solo venture, is set in the heart of Colorado's organic farmland just outside of Boulder. Here, the James Beard Foundation nominee draws upon the traditions of southern France and northern Italy, where the freshest produce grows right out the back door. Whether it's Colorado peaches or Heap's own golden beets, just-picked flavor highlights every dish.
Best Bites Lasster Farms "Beef Master" grass-fed flank steak with balsamic roasted local onion and crisp polenta
Hot Seat In warmer months, dine on Colterra's romantic tree-lined patio.
When To Go Try the Sunday supper, a three-course prix-fixe dinner (paired with or without wine) that's inspired by the season.
30 S. Broadway, 303-722-1550
Reservations are a must at this trendy Broadway restaurant, but if you're lucky (or you dine after 8 p.m.) you'll find a seat at the bar. Slide up to the copper top and find yourself eye-to-eye with executive chef-owner Dylan Moore as he turns out plate after creative plate. Order a glass of wine from the list of interesting boutiques, as well as the roasted chicken or pumpkin ravioli stuffed with goat cheese, drizzled with sage brown butter, and topped with toasted garlic, Asiago, and pine nuts.
Best Bites Masa-fried oyster shooters served on pho spoons and decked with salsa fresca, smoked jalapeño aïoli, cilantro, and lime
Date Night Before dashing off to an indie flick at the Mayan, make a meal out of Deluxe's small plates.
Trivia Tidbit Chef Dylan Moore used to cook at Stars restaurant in San Franciscohence his command of California cuisine.
2413 W. 32nd Ave., 303-477-4141
We look to Duo, the darling of Highland, when we're in the mood for inspired, cozy eats and comfortable conversation. The loftlike spaceexposed brick walls, floor-to-ceiling windows, and creaky hardwood floorslends itself to lingering, especially when a plate of executive chef John Broening's salt cod fritters arrive. Served with a tangy citrus aïoli, this appetizer is a primer for the rest of the menu: interesting and delightful.
Best Bites Flatiron steak topped with cipollini-bacon ragout and served with celery root-potato gratin and wilted greens
Good Morning We can't think of a better way to start our Sunday than a cup of strong coffee and a serving of Duo's challah French toast.
Sweet Spot Pastry chef Yasmin Lozada-Hissom's desserts alone are worth a visit. Given the chance, order the sticky toffee pudding with warm rum sauce.
Frasca Food and Wine
1738 Pearl St., Boulder, 303-442-6966
Chef Lachlan Mackinnon-Patterson's sophisticated Friulian cuisine has catapulted Boulder into the national spotlight, but the unparalleled service, lead by master sommelier Bobby Stuckey, can claim equal credit for the restaurant's phenomenal success. Food and service are so perfectly matched they can both be described as fluid and flawlessand addictive; we know couples who dine at Frasca at least once a week.
Best Bites Hand-cut Cinderella pumpkin agnolotti with toasted pumpkin seed and cranberry sauce
Hot Tip If Bobby Stuckey has the day off, ask for Rose or Matthew for extra-warm, attentive service.
Wine Note Request a glass of the Tocai Friulano, a delightful Italian vintage that stands up to Frasca's cuisine.
1313 E. Sixth Ave., 303-831-1962
Chef Alex Seidel redefines American comfort food in his wildly successful Alamo Placita neighborhood restaurant. Seidel perfects each dish by breaking down familiar recipes (such as homey chicken soup) and reinventing them. The result is finely tuned cuisine that pairs perfectly with maitre d' Paul Attardi's polished service.
Best Bites Pasta carbonara with house-cured pork belly, handmade cavatelli, six-minute egg, and Parmesan broth
When To Go Visit on weekdays, later in the evening, so you can chat with Seidel and Attardi.
Hot Tip To jump-start the conservation with Attardi, ask him about serving Jackie Kennedy.
1039 Pearl St., Boulder, 303-544-5973
Chef-owner Hugo Matheson's classical New American cuisine captures the simplest, most flavorful nuances of the season. Cooking with thoughtful restraint, he turns out straightforward dishes, such as grilled flatbread with fresh burrata cheese and anchovies, that are never overdone. Matheson couples his farm-to-table philosophy with eco-friendly practices that are at the heart and soul of this kitchen's fine cuisine.
Best Bites Dutch pancake with chocolate and hazelnuts
Hot Seat Take a seat at the north end of the barthe better to chat with the friendly bartenders and avoid the front-door drafts.
Home Cookin' Ask for the tomato soup or sticky toffee pudding recipe and they'll be happy to oblige.
1739 Pearl St., Boulder, 303-442-7233
Sleek and sexy, L'Atelier feels like Boulder's best-kept secret. This elegant hideaway dishes up unforgettable modern interpretations of classical French cuisine (think escargot in anchovy garlic butter on potato foam). As the name implies, L'Atelier is truly an artist's studio, and chef Radek Cerny creates dazzling contrasts and artistic presentations.
Best Bites Sweetbreads in sugarcane sauce
Hot Seat Choose one of L'Atelier's plush booths for privacy and elbow room.
Best Servers Both Paul and Ari have encyclopedic knowledge of food and wine; their unpretentious, intelligent service is a pleasure.
711 Grant St., 303-832-6600
This Frank Bonanno restaurant is a celebration of the Italian food he grew up withpastas come in small-plate portions, meals begin with house-cured salumi, and the emphasis is on fresh and simple. Dishes here are on the front edge of the curve. Take Bonanno's appetizer of grilled octopus with coco bean and smoky guanciale saladit's been served at Luca for years, but only now are similar dishes showing up on menus around the country.
Best Bites House-made ricotta tortellini with spicy sausage, garlic, and San Marzano tomatoes
Wine Notes Ask sommelier Noel Martin to pair wines with your meal, and he'll deftly navigate the ever-changing listand you won't be disappointed.
Artisan Eats Wish you could enjoy Luca's house-made mozzarella, ricotta, and burrata cheeses at home? With a little guidance you cansign up for chef Bonanno's next cheese-making course.
225 E. Seventh Ave., 303-832-4778
Thanks to the sophistication and imagination that characterize Mizuna's contemporary American dishes, this is one of Denver's favorite evenings out. Chef Frank Bonanno's menu features luxurious ingredients and intelligent touches of whimsy that are beautifully balanced across every plate. From the legendary lobster mac 'n' cheese to a succulent sole with black truffle duxelles, each course is a symphony of flavor.
Best Bites Oven-roasted veal chop with confit potatoes, chanterelle mushrooms, and veal daube
Hot Seat Tuck into the back dining room crammed with Mizuna's collection of wine and cookbooks.
Inside Tip Parties of 20 to 55 guests can buy out the entire restaurant to enjoy a magnificent meal catered exclusively for them.
2575 W. Main St., Littleton, 303-703-6787
Cozy and elegant, Opus Restaurant lends an air of sophistication to Old Town Littleton. Surrounded by earth tones and a blazing fire, diners reap the benefits of executive chef Michael Long's boundless enthusiasm in his ever-changing New American menu. Long uses lavish ingredientscaviar, Champagne, trufflesto create food that is decadent, well balanced, and fun.
Best Bites Champagne-butter roasted Alaskan salmon
Best Server Ask for Rachel; she's attentive, thoughtful, and well-versed in the menu.
Best Aside Plan time before or after your meal to meander among the shops of charming Old Town Littleton.
1109 Ogden St., 303-832-5788
For years, Potager chef Teri Rippeto's commitment to gathering the freshest seasonal products has helped us recognize the glories of fine cuisine. Using these pristine ingredients, Rippeto creates soulful dishes such as wood-fired lobster with mole and a hearty cassoulet that takes two days to prepare.
Best Bite The decadent chocolate pudding
Hot Seat For the most elbow room, request a table near Potager's floor-to-ceiling window by the brick wall.
When To Go Reservations aren't accepted; arrive at 5:30 p.m. when doors open.
Restaurant Kevin Taylor
1106 14th St., 303-820-2600
When the evening calls for perfection, Restaurant Kevin Taylor's New American cuisine does not disappoint. Wines pair precisely with dishes such as butter-poached lobster or foie gras with carrot-cake French toast. Gracious service weaves the evening together flawlessly and turns every meal into a special occasion.
Best Bite Chilled Maine lobster salad with pineapple, fennel, avocado, and green curry dressing
Hot Seat for Kids Ask to be seated at the banquettes on the south wall, where well-behaved kids have room to stretch out.
Dining Perks The stunning amuse bouche and a gratis box of petit fours bookend dinner.
1431 Larimer St., 303-820-2282
Chef Jennifer Jasinski's ambitious Mediterranean menu overflows with craveable dishes such as artichoke tortelloni and braised veal cheek. With friendly, professional servers, a trendy location in Larimer Square, excellent wine, and a welcoming vibe, Rioja satisfies every craving.
Best Bites Lamb chorizo pizza with roasted poblano pesto, mozzarella and fontina, Roma tomatoes, and queso fresco
Hot Seat Settle in at the chef's counter at the back of the main room for an up-close-and-personal view of chef Jasinski's talented team.
Cool Cocktails Check out the sidecars, Negronis, and pomeginger cocktails.
5410 E. Colfax Ave., 303-388-8429
Chef-owner Goose Sorensen's restaurant is proof that Colfax Avenue is a study of opposites: The oft-grimy street has moments of luster, the brightest of which is Solera. We love this restaurantnamed after the mistress of the sunfor its golden walls, the warm waitstaff, and the radiant American menu touched with global influences.
Best Bites The cioppino, a rustic fennel-tomato broth soup with fresh fish, mussels, and potatoes
Date Night Sit at the bar, sip on a glass of white, and nibble the spicy Thai-style calamari.
Insider Tip Dine when morel mushrooms are in season and taste some of Sorensen's most inspired eats.
1487 S. Pearl St., 303-777-0826
This South Pearl Street hot spot jumps every day of the weekand for good reason. The fish is Denver's freshest, thanks in part to the owners' brother, who lives in Japan and shops the fish market at 4 a.m. daily. He promptly ships off his selections, and hours later it's served up on your plate. Whether you favor California rolls or sea urchin, the talent behind the sushi bar will create a meal that suits.
Best Bites The jalapeño-laced new-style sashimi made with yellowtail and yuzu-soy
Inside Tip Dine Monday through Saturday for the widest range of fresh catch.
Cheap Eats Check out happy hour for two-for-one hot sake and the $10 happy platter with six pieces of sushi and a tuna hand roll.
Table 6 609 Corona St., 303-831-8800
We love this neighborhood bistro for the cozy details like hanging chalkboard menus, a gleaming open kitchen, and the homey exposed brick walls. We also love tucking into executive chef Scott Parker's twist on American eatsMarcona almond tater tots, heirloom fried green tomatoes, and lamb Reuben slidersand tapping into sommelier-owner Aaron Forman's expertise.
Best Bites Sweet-potato ravioli with orange brown butter, orange, shallot, and parsley salad
Home Cookin' Grab recipes off the website for dishes such as bouillabaisse sandwiches.
Old Reliable While most restaurants are closed on Monday nights, Table 6 dishes up dinner daily.
2267 Kearney St., 303-388-0299
Neighborhood restaurants often effervesce with a chummy vibe that says "Sit down, have a beer and a burger, and tell us about your day." While Tables, an intimate 10-table bistro in the Park Hill neighborhood, offers this casual feel, it also offers a bang-up gourmet menu. Rather than settling for pub grub, dine on chef and co-owner Amy Vitale's fresh take on American dishes and a delightful wine list.
Best Bites New York strip with blue-cheese mashers, black pepper-Zinfandel demi, and charred red onions
When To Go Tables are often available Tuesday or Wednesday nights.
Sweet Spot The decadent s'mores dessert fills two bellies with gooey marshmallows.