1. Neighborhood Hangout
American Elm | 4132 W 38th Ave, West Highland
The craft cocktails and elevated fare at four-month-old American Elm aren’t meant to intimidate you. Just the opposite: Thanks to reasonable prices, friendly staff, and the warmth of owner Bob Reiter, who cruises the floor regularly to check in with his guests, the West Highland restaurant (in the Way Back’s former space) makes you feel like a regular. Chef Brent Turnipseede’s imaginative, seasonal bistro menu enlivens the familiar, with steak frites rendered as a tender rib-eye cap steak with bone marrow butter, fries, and an arugula salad. There are more casual bites, too, such as lollipop chicken wings and three-cheese artichoke dip. All of it pairs nicely with a $5 happy hour old fashioned or Pimm’s Cup (4 to 6 p.m. on weekdays). On dry winter evenings, get even comfier under a warm blanket on the patio beneath the graceful boughs of the ancient tree that gave the restaurant its name.
2. Dine-In Fish Market
Big Mac and Little Lu’s | 2851 W 120th Ave, Westminster
When Miami native Paul Brock relocated his family to Colorado in 2011, his daughters, MacKenzie (Big Mac) and Delaney (Little Lu), complained about the lack of fresh seafood. So, in 2012, Dad did something about it by opening a fish market, which has evolved into West 120th Avenue’s Big Mac and Little Lu’s restaurant and seafood counter. Brock drives to DIA several times each week to collect fish sourced from friends in the Bahamas and the Florida Keys. Mahi mahi, snapper, conch, and other Atlantic creatures—along with mussels, clams, and shrimp from places such as Massachusetts and Oregon—star in tacos, po’boys, pastas, and more. (You can also take home the marine bounty to cook yourself.) Complete with island decor and rum cocktails, it’s a beachy retreat in our landlocked paradise.
3. Triple Threat
The team behind Littleton-based Carboy Winery and Angelo’s Taverna have brought new life—well, three new lives—to the space at Seventh and Logan streets that housed Govnr’s Park Tavern for the past four decades. As of September, it’s a bright, spacious Carboy taproom where you can nosh on charcuterie boards and sip the winery’s draft offerings. It’s also a retail shop where 750-milliliter bottles and one-liter carboys can be carried out for $45 or less (for inspiration, you can taste any five wines for $12). And it’s Logan Street, a relaxed, perpetually buzzing Mediterranean-inspired restaurant where chef Rebecca Weitzman cooks seafood, meats, flatbreads, and veggies in a wood-fired oven. Her rich lamb cannelloni with fontina fonduta is an early favorite, but the prices mean we’ll return to sample more: Nothing on the dinner menu costs more than $25.