Denver's 25 Best Restaurants 2016

From funky hot spots to neighborhood bistros, there's a restaurant in Denver to satisfy your every craving.

October 2016

RiNo’s Hop Alley radiates fun, from wild cocktails to tongue-numbing Chinese-inspired dishes. Photography by Aaron Colussi

11. Work & Class 

*Last year 6

It’s hard to believe Work & Class isn’t quite three years old. In that short time, the constantly jammed American-meets-Latin eatery has become an anchor for RiNo, a neighborhood that’s experiencing unprecedented growth. Work & Class’ come-and-get-it, all-are-welcome vibe and approachable food—cochinita pibil; roasted goat; blue corn empanadas—are well worth the inevitable wait (Work & Class doesn’t take reservations). If you can, sit at the four-seat chef’s counter for a view of the impossibly tiny kitchen and the impressive talent of chef-owner Dana Rodriguez. The restaurant may be young, but it’s already become a Denver staple. 2500 Larimer St., 303-292-0700

12. Oak at Fourteenth 

*Last year 11

Chef Steven Redzikowski

Wood-fired cooking has become so much a part of the dining vernacular that it’s easy to forget that Oak at Fourteenth (the big sister of Acorn, number five on this list) in Boulder was one of the first local spots to build a concept around live-fire cooking. Six years after it opened, chef and co-owner Steven Redzikowski still loads the logs into the flames and cooks with creative abandon. What might surprise diners, however, is that often the best way to experience Oak is through its lighter dishes: carrot and lemongrass soup served with a rice crisp; sweet-corn succotash; the ever-changing farmers’ salad; or the salted-just-right crudo. The execution of these delicate dishes in what could be a meat-heavy restaurant is one of Redzikowski’s most impressive accomplishments. 1400 Pearl St., Boulder, 303-444-3622

13. Fruition Restaurant 

*Last year 14

In February, Fruition Restaurant on Sixth Avenue will celebrate 10 years, and from day one, Fruition was so dialed in that it became an instant classic. Chef-owner Alex Seidel is one of the most thoughtful, realistic, and innovative chefs in the local market (his second restaurant, Mercantile Dining & Provision, landed at number four on this list). Assuming the role of chef and farmer—he owns Fruition Farms Dairy & Creamery in Larkspur—allows Seidel, not to mention his team, which is headed up by chef de cuisine Jonathan Kaiser, to truly connect the stories of the land to the plate. That affinity shows up in no small part on Fruition’s menu, which is both wildly creative (duck breast with pistachio olive oil cake) and reliably comforting (pasta carbonara with house-cured pork belly and broth made from the farm’s Cacio Pecora cheese). 1313 E. Sixth Ave., 303-831-1962

14. Guard and Grace 

*Last year 17

Guard and Grace is something of a high-wire act. While the restaurant caters to many types of diners—lunch-seeking downtowners, happy hour goers, couples celebrating special occasions, colleagues working business deals—it does so in a way that strays from the steak-house formula. Instead of being built just on meat and potatoes, Guard and Grace has a beautiful raw bar, cures its own charcuterie, and offers an impressive selection of fish set off by details such as Thai carrot purée or sweet soy butter. With nine eateries to his name, the fact that chef Troy Guard can run Guard and Grace as smoothly as he does is a true triumph. 1801 California St., 303-293-8500

15. Blackbelly Market 

*Last year 24

You can bet that at a restaurant such as Hosea Rosenberg’s Blackbelly Market in Boulder, the meat dishes will have a starring role. After all, the two-year-old eatery specializes in whole-animal butchery, while also dry-aging its meats, curing its own salumi, using bones for stock, and even making candles out of beef tallow. But the menu also shows a softer side of the chef. Posole is a nod to the Top Chef winner’s home state of New Mexico; fish comes dressed in sophisticated sauces like saffron beurre blanc; and local vegetables are prized and anchor their own dishes. Meanwhile, Rosenberg’s plans continue to unfold: In April, he opened a full-scale butcher shop next door to the restaurant. 1606 Conestoga St., Boulder, 303-247-1000