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

16. Pizzeria Locale Boulder 

*17 in 2012

Many people associate Pizzeria Locale with the fast-casual concept that launched in Denver three years ago (and has since expanded to Kansas City, Missouri, and Cincinnati). But Pizzeria Locale Boulder is a different entity entirely. Yes, both are pizzerias, and yes, Frasca Food and Wine’s Bobby Stuckey and Lachlan Mackinnon-Patterson own both—but the Boulder outpost is so differentthat the fact that it shares a name with its fast-casual brethren might confuse diners. Yes, wood-fired pizzas are made in the Neapolitan style, combining the best of local and imported ingredients. But what secures our vote are the salads, small plates, and out-of-this-world wine list that pulls from the Frasca well next door in terms of bottles and knowledge—a privilege the staff rightly exploits. Same goes for the seasoned kitchen, which turns out fresh and creative dishes we could eat for the rest of time. 1730 Pearl St., Boulder, 303-442-3003

17. To The Wind Bistro 

*Last year 9

When you first discover To The Wind Bistro on East Colfax Avenue, you’ll probably realize you’ve driven by it dozens of times and never noticed it. That suits husband-and-wife team Royce Oliveira and Leanne Adamson just fine because even for regulars, the 16-seat restaurant feels like a well-kept secret. If you can, sit at one of the four bar stools and watch as Oliveira and his team craft cornmeal waffles with roasted pork shoulder (the restaurant’s signature dish); foie gras torchon with a peanut butter madeleine; or a to-die-for savory clafoutis—all from the confines of the smallest professional kitchen you’ve likely ever seen. 3333 E. Colfax Ave., 303-316-3333

18. Sushi Den 

*Last year 8

For more than three decades, brothers Toshi and Yasu Kizaki have defined sushi in Denver, and their close ties to Japanese fish markets ensure that the Platt Park staple offers varieties of seafood rarely found elsewhere in town. To best experience the Kizaki magic, request a seat at the sushi bar. This will likely mean a longer wait, but the rewards of one-on-one service, coupled with watching the sushi chefs’ knife skills, are worth it. Insist on your favorites, but don’t miss the “aburi hotate” (two pieces of lightly seared scallops). It’s so good, you’ll want to order another round. 1487 S. Pearl St., 303-777-0826

19. The Populist 

*Last year 5

We have much to thank the Populist for, including galvanizing the restaurant scene that has come to define the RiNo neighborhood. Before Noah Price, Jonathan Power, and Cliff White took a chance on the building at the corner of 32nd and Larimer streets, Crema Coffee House (also owned by the three) and Hutch & Spoon were virtual islands in a sea of warehouses. Now, four years later, the restaurant that built its foundation on the idea of communal dining has seen the local community grow up around it. Come for the 5 to 7 p.m. happy hour and continue on with dishes such as the crepelike farinata with summer squash and miso-glazed eggplant medallions. With dishes topping out at $25, the final bill is frequently a pleasant surprise. 3163 Larimer St., 720-432-3163

20. Stoic & Genuine 

*Last year 16

At Stoic & Genuine, aqua-colored glass-blown Japanese fishing lures glow behind the host stand, the raw bar twinkles with an icy light, and a painting of a giant octopus sprawls over a wall. The jewel-box space draws you in, as does the promise of ice-cold oysters and pristine seafood. Start with a round of perfectly shucked bivalves and a granita cocktail (flavors change, but the cucumber tarragon and rosé are our favorites), then move to the umami-forward broccoli and avocado salad and the ever-creative hamachi crudo. Next, it’s time to choose from a menu that unfolds in many directions: sardines, peel-n-eats, a seafood tower, whole roasted haddock, surf and turf. In the short two-plus years since Stoic & Genuine opened, the trio of Beth Gruitch, Jennifer Jasinski, and Jorel Pierce has created a platform for exquisite seafood in Denver. Union Station, 1701 Wynkoop St., 303-640-3474