The Local newsletter is your free, daily guide to life in Colorado. For locals, by locals. Sign up today!
Thoughtful ingredient sourcing means different things to different chefs—organic, grass-fed, small-batch, local. For Osage Nation member Ben Jacobs and Matt Chandra, who opened fast-casual Tocabe in Berkeley almost nine years ago, it’s also about heritage. In addition to regional Rock River Ranches bison, Jacobs and Chandra venture across borders for indigenous foods that reflect Native American traditions. Minnesota’s Red Lake Nation Foods supplies the wild rice that anchors Tocabe’s “posu” (Osage for rice) bowl, or you can swap in organic quinoa and Ramona Farms wheat berries, grown on the Gila River Indian Reservation in Arizona. Luckily, given Tocabe’s two locations and food truck (find it at Civic Center Eats on Tuesdays this summer), you don’t have to travel far to enjoy them. 3536 W. 44th Ave., 720-524-8282; 8181 E. Arapahoe Road, Greenwood Village, 720-485-6738
Your first clue that Sunnyside’s six-month-old El Jefe isn’t your average Mexican joint: the casual yet polished dining room, with well-spaced tables and exposed-brick walls. Then you discover the tang of fresh lime juice in the stellar $6 house margarita. But what cracks the case wide open is, well, just about every dish coming out of the kitchen. The folks behind Lucky Pie Pizza and Tap House aren’t cutting corners with their new concept: making tortillas from scratch, buying local, using seasonal produce, and butchering pigs in-house. These efforts translate to some seriously bueno food, including brisket enchiladas (cough up $2 to add a fried egg on top) and umami-bomb organic mushroom tacos with pepita crema and walnuts. We could eat fresh, flavorful fare like this every day—case closed. 2450 W. 44th Ave., 720-389-7615
If struggling to find your way into a dimly lit, subterranean speakeasy for $15 cocktails isn’t your thing, a trip to Poka Lola Social Club is in order. The four-month-old watering hole is refreshingly visible the moment you walk into the Maven Hotel’s lobby in LoDo’s new Dairy Block. Soft, mint-green banquettes and black-and-white floor tiles set a cheery vibe. And the bartenders, led by former Larimer Beer Hall beverage director Nate Maston, are hospitable, not insufferable. Best of all? Every cocktail is $10 or less. Taking inspiration from old-time soda fountains, the team crafts its own phosphates, citrates, and lactarts—all souring agents popular during the soda jerk era—for whimsical beverages like the whipped-cream-topped Negroni soda (Campari, sweet vermouth, orange cream citrate, juniper soda). Pro tip: When hunger strikes, ask for the secret-menu Coney Island–style chili cheese fries. The Maven, 1850 Wazee St., 720-460-2725