Dining in Denver: Morning, Noon, and Night

Where to go, and what to eat, in the Mile-High City, 24-7.

March 2009


The Classic
Barolo Grill

3030 E. Sixth Ave., 303-393-1040
True Italian hospitality makes an evening at Barolo feel like dinner at a dear friend's house. Owner Blair Taylor's commitment to the experience extends to hand-carrying sacred white truffles from Alba and importing wines from his favorite Italian vintners. Chef Brian Laird furthers the love by creating traditional northern Italian dishes such as beef short ribs with caramelized cipollini. After Barolo's reserve tasting of balsamicos, you'll never want to go home.

The good neighbor
Table 6

609 Corona St., 303-831-8800
Dinner at this neighborhood bistro makes for a perfect night out. The tiny dining room buzzes with diners trading stories, clinking wine glasses, and scooping up bites of chef Scott Parker's food. The dishes here are executed with finesse, but we appreciate that the restaurant doesn't take itself too seriously. We love Parker's riff on the Philly cheese steak (an appetizer of tiny homemade buns stuffed with aged provolone, beef, and Sriracha aïoli) or his ode to the McDonald's apple pie (a hand-held, fried pear pie, served with a milk shake). In between, we often opt for whatever vegetarian dish is on the menu, knowing it will not only delight but also transcend any expectations.

The artisan
Luca D'Italia

711 Grant St., 303-832-6600
If Mario Batali were to dine in Denver, he might very well choose Luca D'Italia for its authentic, artisanal bent. Char-grilled bread with house-made burrata and garden-fresh tomatoes, fresh-cured charcuterie, and decadent lobster ravioli with mascarpone alfredo all exhibit a dedication to the season's best ingredients—a trait that is inherent in the food of the greatest Italian chefs.

The Don't Miss
Frasca Food and Wine

1738 Pearl St., Boulder, 303-442-6966
Frasca stars as one of America's top tables not just because of chef and co-owner Lachlan Mackinnon-Patterson's award-winning Friulian cuisine, but also because the staff understands the soul of this sophisticated restaurant. Master sommelier and co-owner Bobby Stuckey's service is a lesson in perfection as he draws each diner into an evening of brilliant, understated cuisine (think crispy pork belly with farro-bacon applesauce and veal ravioli with mushrooms, brown butter, and thyme) and exquisitely matched wines. Warmth and intelligence make Frasca an unparalleled evening destination.

The Francophile
Z Cuisine Bistrot & Parisian Wine Bar

2239 W. 30th Ave., 303-477-1111
When Z Cuisine runs out of a daily special, the hostess draws a line through its description on the chalkboard. This happens all night long, and we recommend getting there early, lest you experience a menu that's mostly crossed out. But as frustrating as it may be that the legendary cassoulet is sold out again, it's also part of this little bistro's charm. Chef-owner Patrick Dupays cooks as he would in France—small quantities from the freshest available ingredients—and when dishes are 86'd, well, there's always tomorrow. The menu is ever-changing, but we're smitten with the mussels with fennel, potato, garlic, and saffron, paired with a crusty baguette and a reasonably priced bottle of Côtes du Rhône.

The Oasis

5410 E. Colfax Ave., 303-388-8429
An evening spent at Solera, a luminous escape on Colfax Avenue, is one that recharges and comforts. It could be the saffron-yellow walls (painted to invoke the warmth of the goddess of the sun, for which the restaurant is named), the welcoming and well-versed waitstaff, or simply chef-owner Goose Sorensen's New American cuisine. His inspired dishes—a salad with Bellwether Farms cheese, tomato crostini, Marcona almonds, and Rioja-sherry vinaigrette, or the applewood-smoked duck with gnocchi, grilled shitakes, and a bacon-apple ragôut—are a study in technique and flavor. Sorensen cooks with an intuitive balance of luxury and comfort that results in meals that are upscale but never aloof.

The Find

30 S. Broadway, 303-722-1550
This jewel box of a restaurant (reservations are a must)feels like a discovery every time we visit. And though the menu has remained largely the same since 2004, the dishes—especially the Mediterranean-flavored pan-roasted halibut—still manage to taste fresh and inspired. We like that chef Dylan Moore isn't wedded to one single cuisine—the menu offers Thai, French, and Spanish influences—and yet he manages to make every bite feel cohesive and modern.

The Newcomer
Root Down

1600 W. 33rd Ave., 303-993-4200
Anyone who has gazed at the unusual view of downtown from Root Down's dining room knows the restaurant is putting its own spin on the local dining scene. The experience begins with the space—owner and chef Justin Cucci refabbed a 1950s service station and did it up in the style of midcentury modern and NYC cool—and lingers with executive chef Ryan Leinonen's memorable menu. Dishes predominantly star seasonal produce, with some of the best examples being the smoked portobello, leek, and mascarpone wontons and the organic carrot and red curry soup. This exciting take on food feels healthy, tastes clean, and is altogether inspiring. Don't miss the veggie-focused desserts.

The perfectionist
Fruition Restaurant

1313 E. Sixth Ave., 303-831-1962
No wonder Fruition is bathing in national recognition: Alex Seidel's New American cooking is so technically perfect, his attention to detail is so precise, his flavors so clean, it's hard to find a meal with more finesse in this city. Coupled with Paul Attardi's grace as a maître d' and his staff's polished service, this pint-sized venture is brimming with success. From New Zealand sea bass with caramelized salsify and potato gnocchi to Riesling-poached pear salad and creamy butterscotch pudding, dinner is punctuated with style, comfort, and satisfaction.

The Splurge

225 E. Seventh Ave., 303-832-4778
Mizuna is a small restaurant with a monumental vision: source the best of all possible ingredients to create the most exquisite dishes in town. Frank Bonanno's flagship kitchen doubles as a culinary think tank, with chefs challenging their own preconceptions as they bring clean, sophisticated dishes to the New American menu. The result is intelligent cuisine such as foie gras with plum tarte Tatin, veal Wellington with truffled demi-glace, and our forever favorite, the decadent lobster macaroni and cheese.