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This eatery and its fare may be quintessentially Southern, but chef Preston Phillips’ food is anything but predictable. The Cherry Creek restaurant’s menu shifts from fried chicken and pancakes (yes, pancakes) at brunch to a refreshing asparagus vichyssoise and duck two ways in the evening. No matter the meal, the flavors are in-your-face big, the cocktails are stiff (try the Dr. Feelgood, a play on the old fashioned made with rye, brown sugar syrup, and blood orange bitters), and the staffers’ Southern drawls and hospitality are genuine. 300 Fillmore St., 720-749-4158
If there’s a movement in American cuisine at the moment, it’s a return to the past. And that’s exactly what Arcana, a five-month-old Boulder restaurant, is doing. The menu—via dishes such as grilled quail with wild rice and huckleberries and the garden bowl with Colorado-grown white quinoa—explores the roots of American cuisine (there are West African, South American, and Native American influences that will surprise and delight diners). Anyone familiar with Charleston-based superchef Sean Brock’s keep-it-regional ethos will feel right at home. 909 Walnut St., Boulder, 303-444-3885
Our recommendation for dining at Amira Bakery in University Hills? Come hungry, and bring a big group so you can build your own “meze” (appetizer) spread. Start with the stuffed grape leaves, served warm with a yogurt cucumber sauce; the silky baba ghanoush; and the “labneh” plate (a thick Lebanese yogurt sprinkled with olive oil and mint and served with pita). Then dig into a few “manakeesh” (flatbread pies)—don’t miss the simple olive oil and za’atar version or the spectacular spinach, feta, onion, and lemon combo. Over-ordering is inevitable at Amira Bakery—and that’s part of the fun. 4101 E. Evans Ave., Unit B, 303-756-7700
Increasingly, coffeeshops are designed to be all-day hangouts: pour-overs and baked goods in the a.m.; dinner plates and cocktails in the p.m. (For a prime example, see Black Eye Coffee CapHill.) Huckleberry Roasters’ Larimer location—now called Port Side—is the latest spot to make the shift to coffeeshop-restaurant hybrid. Drop by in the morning for the Duke sandwich with egg, pulled pork, cheddar, pickles, and arugula on a potato bun, and then come again in the evening for pork and veal bratwurst with grain mustard and pickles. Bonus: a recently acquired liquor license. 2500 Larimer St., Suite 103, 720-638-3559