Dining in Denver

For the first time ever, we rank the top 25 restaurants in the region. Plus: Denver's best chefs and dining trends.

March 2010

1. Frasca

Before Frasca opened in 2004, few local diners had heard of Friuli, Italy. Now, thanks to chef Lachlan Mackinnon-Patterson's flawless northern Italian cuisine, this little-known region is more than just a point of conversation between foodies—it's a small obsession. In drawing inspiration from the area's dedication to seasonal dining and its farming culture, Mackinnon-Patterson cultivated a menu that honors sustainability. His expertise comes through in perfectly executed dishes such as ravioli filled with house-made ricotta and a farm-fresh egg. His simple, elegant dishes arrive against a backdrop of polished service—servers whisk in and out, gracefully replenishing water glasses, presenting new dishes, and removing finished ones as if it were an impeccably choreographed dance. The crowning detail is master sommelier Bobby Stuckey's vast, unpretentious wine knowledge, which further elevates every bite, every sip, and every moment. 1738 Pearl St., Boulder, 303-442-6966, www.frascafoodandwine.com

2. Mizuna

Governor's Park
Frank Bonanno's flagship restaurant still retains its seamless elegance nine years after opening its doors. In this tiny kitchen, ingredients are carefully sourced, technique is unparalleled, and flavors are as rich and warm as the dining room's creamy yellow walls. The result is an elegant evening that's made even more so with bites of French-influenced cuisine like pan-roasted ostrich loin and chestnut bread pudding or stuffed jumbo prawns with house-cured chorizo and potato stew. 225 E. Seventh Ave., 303-832-4778, www.mizunadenver.com

3. Fruition

Alamo Placita
For such an unconventional space—a skinny dining room with an unexceptional view of Sixth Avenue, and no bar—Fruition functions like a much larger restaurant. Chef and co-owner Alex Seidel has garnered national attention for his seasonal menu and his dedication to pristine ingredients. (Last year he bought a 10-acre farm in Larkspur where he raises chickens, goats, sheep, and produce.) And although the American menu reflects the fruit of Seidel's labors (try any dish with wild arugula), the farm-to-table experience has simply honed his already razor-sharp focus as a chef. 1313 E. Sixth Ave., 303-831-1962, www.fruitionrestaurant.com

4. Luca d'Italia

Governor's Park
Inside Luca's chocolate-brown walls, white tablecloths appear extra crisp and a window into the kitchen offers a behind-the-scenes glimpse of the action. The setting serves as a metaphor for chef-owner Frank Bonanno's cooking: sophisticated, luminous, and accessible. The restaurant is an ode to Bonanno's Italian roots, and the affable waitstaff helps guide you through the many courses, with appropriate wine pairings. If there's a dish not to miss, it's the decadent and rustic braised veal tortelloni. 711 Grant St., 303-832-6600, www.lucadenver. com

5. Opus

If Opus, chef Michael Long's fine-dining restaurant, were located downtown, everyone would know it by name. Instead, this seven-year-old spot in Old Town Littleton is only semidiscovered. Those who have tasted dishes such as the dazzling sea scallops with pancetta and cranberry Brussels sprouts, however, know Long's genius. He is a master of juxtaposition—pairing sweet with spicy, crunchy with creamy—in a way that always amplifies the main ingredient. 2575 W. Main St., Littleton, 303-703-6787, www.opusdine.com