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It’s actually happening. People are emerging from their home cocoons, life is (kind of) returning to normal, and new restaurants are once again firing up their burners and opening their doors. From Denver’s first pozole-focused eatery to a French bistro in Westminster to a little New York City gyro spot with a huge following, the restaurants debuting in and around Denver are diverse in their offerings and ready to serve. Here, 12 new restaurants to get on your dining radar.
It’s about time pozole got its turn in the spotlight. The traditional Mexican soup of hominy, pork, and chiles, so often a supporting character on Mexican restaurant menus, is the star at the new La Diabla Pozole y Mezcal. Chef Jose Avila created Denver’s first pozole-centric eatery as an ode to the pozolerias he ate at growing up in Mexico City. At La Diabla, Avila simmers the red pozole with which we’re most familiar, as well as white and green versions of the soup. Chase it with a pour of a mezcal or tequila from the restaurant’s well-curated list. 2233 Larimer St.
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Neapolitan pies, handmade pastas, and other Italian-inspired fare is on the menu at Benzina, a spot housed in a refurbished muffler shop (“benzina” means gasoline in Italian) on East Colfax. The venture, equipped with a mid-century modern ambiance and a sprawling patio, is the first solo project from Brad Anderson, who is also behind Chopper’s Sports Grill and other concepts. Our picks from the current menu include the asparagus with potato salad, truffle, and shaved miso egg; saffron risotto arancini; and fluffy crusted clam pizza with Calabrian chile oil. 4839 E. Colfax Ave.
Five Points just gained a slick new hangout, thanks to the arrival of Mood. Beats. Potions. (MBP). The restaurant, which opened June 11 in the former Dunbar Kitchen & Taphouse Space, is the newest concept from Pure Hospitality—the culinary sector of the FlyFisher Group behind Coffee at the Point, Spangalang, and Mimosas. There, chef Corey Smith, who also helms the kitchen at Mimosas, serves upscale twists on Creole- and French-inspired cuisine in a space equipped with a cocktail lounge and expansive patio. Pair cocktails such as the cognac-and-gin-infused Welton 75 with the likes of shrimp and andouille gumbo, blacked red snapper, and sweet-tea-brined fried chicken. 2944 Welton St.
For more than 25 years, Carmine’s on Penn has been a favorite for family-style Italian. Now, the Ballpark neighborhood is getting in on the noodly action with Carmine’s sequel location opening in McGregor Square. The 3,500-square-foot restaurant has plenty of room for pasta lovers both inside and on its 40-person patio. And because physical menus are so pre-pandemic, Carmine’s on McGregor Square will have servers coaching diners on their dinner options, from portion size to whether they should go chicken or veal on the parmigiana. 1951 Wazee St.
The Halal Guys is a New York City institution. What started as a simple food cart run by three men from Egypt looking to feed hungry Muslim cab drivers, has grown into an international phenomenon, with more than 80 locations across five countries. Finally, Colorado gets a taste of the gyros, falafel, and chicken that put the Halal Guys on the map. 14535 E. Alameda Ave., Aurora
You pretty much get the gist of Mississippi Boy Catfish & Ribs by the descriptive name. But besides the namesake proteins, Mississippi Boy also smokes oxtail, burgers, brisket, turkey, and hot links. And there’s non-meat too, like the sides of mac and cheese, your momma’s potato salad, and wet sweet coleslaw. But Mississippi Boy’s Catfish, Ribs, Oxtail, Burgers, Brisket, Turkey, Hot Links, Mac & Cheese, Potato Salad, & Coleslaw is a mouthful, and you need that mouth for all the barbecue eating. 5544 33rd Ave.
With Mono Mono Korean Fried Chicken, owner JW Lee (Menya Noodle Bar, Seoul Korean BBQ and Hot Pot and Seoul Mandoo in Aurora, and others) hopes to introduce Denverites to Korean drinking culture. At Mono Mono, patrons can nibble on shareable dishes traditionally enjoyed with beer, soju, and other alcoholic beverages: soy-garlic Korean fried chicken wings, gochujang-glazed rice cakes, cheese-pull-worthy buttered corn with mozzarella served in a sizzling skillet, and other flavor-packed goodness. Bonus: During happy hour (3–5 p.m., Monday–Friday), the restaurant offers $5 sake bombs. 1550 Blake St.
Denver has fallen hard for Detroit-style pizza—for proof just check out the wait at Blue Pan on a weekend night—so it makes sense that Detroit-style pizza chain Jet’s is tripling down on Colorado. A Littleton and Lakewood Jet’s recently opened, and Denver will be getting its own on Colorado Boulevard later this summer. Besides the rectangular deep dish Motor City pie, Jet’s makes New York–style, hand-tossed, and thin-crust versions, so it’s pretty much a one-stop shop for all your pizza needs. 98 Wadsworth Blvd., Lakewood; 7735 W. Long Dr., Littleton; 2306 S. Colorado Blvd. (coming soon)
A day-to-night French bistro has landed in Westminster. Famille inside the Origin Hotel became the first restaurant to open in the city’s developing downtown area in March, says Clancy Noailles, the spot’s food and beverage manager. The restaurant serves breakfast and brunch daily, a rare find in the ’burbs, and offers a menu of Colorado-inspired bistro classics come suppertime. We’re big fans of the pain perdu and Centennial State beef steak frites, but don’t pass up a drink from the roving bar cart stocked with Champagne, ingredients for martinis, and more—the only one of its kind in the Denver metro. 8875 Westminster Blvd., Westminster
Bubu at Granite Tower
Bubu, Troy Guard’s build-your-own-bowl lunch-centric fast-casual, just opened its third location, this one in the lobby of downtown’s Granite Tower. The concept is all about mixing up healthy, fresh ingredients like local greens, seasonal veggies, organic tofu, and sushi-grade fish—the kind of lunches Guard grew up eating in Hawaii. If creating your own combo is too much pressure, there’s a menu of signature bowls, like the OG Colorado with roasted carrots, quinoa, green chili, avocado, and pumpkin seeds, to provide inspiration. 1099 18th St.
Denver has oodles of places to grab top-notch banh mi sandwiches, and Little Bakery House is no exception. At the joint near University of Denver, owner and Vietnam native Tom Xu—who worked at his family’s business, the now-closed King’s Land Seafood Restaurant for nearly 20 years—is slinging crusty house-baked French baguettes stuffed with a variety of fillings. Try the fried chicken cutlet iteration or the classic cold cut version (ham and steamed pork roll)—both of which come with the perfect ratio of pickled radish and carrots, cilantro, jalapeño, and crunchy cucumber. 2439 South University Blvd.
Lil’ Coffea Shop
Little India is branching out into the caffeine business. The restaurant and bar took over a former Starbucks adjacent to its location on 6th Avenue and Grant Street for a new venture: Lil’ Coffea Shop. The spot, which launches in early July, will offer coffee sourced from Denver’s Huckleberry Roasters and teas from the Darjeeling region of Indian (including Little India’s famous chai) along with pastries and sandwiches from Olive and Finch. Owner Simeran Baidwan says Little India also plans to open a fourth location in the Central Park Town Center in mid-August or early September—a move he hopes will allow his employees, many of whom are immigrants, to secure more shifts. Lil’ Coffea Shop, 330 E. 6th Ave. (coming soon)
Bonus: Grüvi, the maker of nonalcoholic craft beer and wine opened its first alcohol-free tasting lounge on South Pearl Street, where you can sip the brand’s Blood Orange IPA, Bubbly Rosé, mimosas, and other 0 percent libations in a bohemian-inspired lounge. 1455 S. Pearl St.
Six-year-old Onefold debuted a second location near Union Station in July, giving Denverites a fresh reason to roll out of bed early. In the sun-soaked, cheerful space, diners can feast on favorites from the beloved breakfast and lunch eatery’s menu, which is inspired by owners Terese and Mark Nery’s Chinese and Filipino roots, respectively. Our picks include the hangover-curing congee, rice porridge flecked with shredded duck confit, scallions, and salted ginger; the perfectly griddled brioche French toast with fresh berries; and the bacon fried rice, an indulgent stir-fried masterpiece loaded with Tenderbelly bacon and topped with two fried duck eggs. 1919 19th St. (or visit the original location at 1420 E. 18th Ave.)
Blanco Cocina & Cantina
This spot from Phoenix-based Fox Restaurant Concepts (also behind True Food Kitchen, North Italia, and others) brings a menu of Sonoran-inspired Mexican food infused with contemporary flair to the 9+CO development at 9th Avenue and Colorado Boulevard. Inside the sprawling dining room—which opened this week—guests can settle into a platter of sizzling carne asada fajitas or a “Cheese Crisp,” an open-face quesadilla coated in a layer of charred, melted cheese and studded with toppings like tender short rib machaca (beef that’s been pounded, dried, and shredded), caramelized onions, and guacamole. Both are delicious paired with one of the signature margaritas; we’re partial to the Serrano-chile-enriched Spicy Skinny. If you’re hankering for an after-dinner hangout, venture next door to Culinary Dropout, another new concept from Fox serving Detroit-style pizza, build-your-own charcuterie platters, and elevated riffs on American comfort food in a party-friendly, sports bar atmosphere. 4177 E. 9th Ave
Tikka and Grill
While Tikka and Grill offers popular North Indian staples like tikka masala and saag paneer, the cozy, four-month-old restaurant also serves a bevy of must-try, lesser-known Indian and Nepalese specialities. Start with the tender, tandoori-roasted chicken malai kebabs, then go for the spicy, fresh-coconut-infused madras curry, ideal for sopping up with soft garlic naan. Other standouts on the extensive menu include momo soup, chicken- or veggie-stuffed dumplings swimming in a piquant tomato broth; “chili,” your choice of vegetable or meat doused in a thick, hot chile sauce (try it with the garlicky potatoes or mushrooms); and saffron-scented lamb biryani, basmati rice cooked with pieces of protein and finished with dates and nuts. 1300 S. Broadway
The Greenwich in RiNo is restaurateur Delores Tronco’s love letter to the namesake New York City neighborhood she once called home. Tronco, a co-founder of Work & Class, left Denver in 2017 to pursue opportunities in the Big Apple but returned to Colorado when the pandemic forced her restaurant to close. With the Greenwich—which debuted in late September—she conjures up an inviting, urban ambiance via leather booths, a contrast of dark and light tones, and an impressive collection of New York City–inspired artwork (look for pieces by late legendary street photographer and Tronco’s friend Ricky Powell). The menu sports the culinary stylings of the Greenwich’s executive chef Justin Freeman, a Brooklyn transplant. Highlights include pizzas with fluffy, perfectly blistered crusts (courtesy of Freeman’s 10-year-old sourdough starter); lemon-kissed, roasted littleneck clams; and chicory salad dressed with tangy lemon-anchovy vinaigrette. And don’t sleep on dessert; the basque cheesecake is divine. 3258 Larimer St.
Cabrón Carbón Taqueria & Galería
The ambiance is just as big of a draw as the mouthwatering tacos at the fast-casual, month-old Cabrón Carbón, the newest restaurant from Fidel Robles, owner of Cilantro, and husband-and-wife team Camelia Robles (Fidel’s cousin) and Francisco Cuevas, who are also behind La Machaca de mi Amá and El Coco Pirata. Patrons entering the space are greeted by exposed brick walls decorated with colorful black-light-lit paintings by artists from Playa del Carmen and Guadalajara (also check out the murals in the bathrooms by local artist A.Michel Velázquez Rosas of Velart Denver Co); a bar stocked with tequilas and mezcals; and two big flatscreen TVs showing the taqueria’s menu. You can’t go wrong with any of the tacos (the chile-sauce-slicked barbacoa and griddled-to-a-crisp quesabirria are our favorites), but don’t overlook the papa asada—a grilled, halved potato brimming with melty cheese and your choice of meat. Complement your meal with a marg made with fresh fruit juice or a toasted-marshmallow-garnished horchata agua fresca. 1043 N. Broadway
TSR at American Bonded
It’s all about the sauces at TSR (This Shit Rules), the pop-up that replaced Open (now at Goosetown Tavern) at RiNo’s American Bonded last month. There, chefs Forrest Bayne and Austin Hume—the buddies behind pandemic-born sauce company Chimichurri Bros.— are slinging street-food-inspired bites enhanced with flavor-packed accoutrements. Opt for the Kim “Cheese” Steak, bulgogi shaved ribeye, KREAM Kimchi, gochujang, and cheese whiz, or the Hatch Burger, a masterpiece featuring a burger patty adorned with bacon jam, Hatch green chile, pimento cheese, roasted garlic mayo, and butter lettuce. The fried pickle spears and duck confit also, well, rule. 2706 Larimer St.
Plates By the Pound BBQ
Aaron Gonerway’s journey to owning a restaurant began in 2020 when his wife Sherrita told him it was time to start selling his barbecue. That’s why the blossoming pitmaster began offering platters of ribs, brisket, pulled pork, beef kielbasa sausages, and home-style sides for sale from his home. The popularity of his backyard fare led Gonerway to earn a fellowship from the KingsFord Preserve the Pit program, which also gave him a grant to get a brick-and-mortar off the ground. In mid-September, he opened a takeout-only storefront in Aurora, where, on Saturdays only, he cooks delicious smoked meats and sides like beans with smoked turkey and creamy potato salad inspired by his Texas upbringing. Get there between 10:30 and 10:40 a.m. at the latest to beat the crowds (he usually sells out by 1:30 p.m.). Those who don’t make it in time can also taste Gonerway’s talent at TrashHawk Tavern on Wednesday evenings, when he serves pulled pork sandwiches, rib dinners, and other stellar pub grub. 11601 E. Montview Blvd., Aurora; 1539 S. Broadway
Housed in a former C.B. & Potts building, Troy Guard’s two-month-old food hall has something for everyone—from fiery chicken to poke bowls to comforting, bread-heavy pizza slices. While smaller than many Denver-area food halls, Grange packs in the flavor with a mix of Guard’s original concepts (Rado Burger, Bubu, and Crazy Love Pizza), and newcomers like California-based Crack Shack and the first brick-and-mortar outpost of Denver’s popular food truck Uptown & Humboldt. Also new, Little Dry Creek Brewery (named after the water source that feeds the hall) pours original brews and signature cocktails. Our picks: Grab a Firebird (hot chicken sandwich) and Grange Fries from Crack Shack, and pair them with a “Mile HI-PA” or a refreshing, whisky-based yuzu highball from the bar. 6575 Greenwood Plaza Blvd., Greenwood Village
Drop your worries at the door at one-month-old La Bouche, which offers an anytime Parisian escape in Uptown. Husband-and-wife owners Alexis and Alexandra Tréton opened La Bouche in late September after moving to Denver from the suburbs of their native Paris in late 2020. The duo fell in love with the city (and the sunshine, they say), but when they arrived, they couldn’t find a spot for the leisurely glass of wine and great charcuterie like they enjoyed in France. So La Bouche (which translates to “the mouth”) was born as a way to bridge the gap, melding the laid back vibe of a French café with Colorado’s own unique culture—evident in the modern, bright white-and-black interior and sunny patio. The Trétons say they want La Bouche to be a place where people from both cultures can talk, forget about their phones, and enjoy each other’s company over a slow-sipped glass of wine. Don’t miss the daily happy hour, when carafes and glasses are discounted. 1100 E. 17th. Ave.
Prost Highlands Ranch
Despite popular opinion, the southern suburbs are ripe with foodie fun, and in the past year, new fixtures Pindustry and Grange Hall have given us destinations to venture south for. Now there’s one more. In October, Denver darling Prost Brewing Co., opened a sprawling campus in Highlands Ranch, complete with a larger-than-life beer bar, a fire-pit-laden patio with yard games and a stage, and a walk-up food window dishing out sausages, sandwiches, and shareables like soft pretzels and a German-style charcuterie board. The new location also features cocktails, seltzers, and wine on draft—we like the Naughty German, a European-style paloma with tequila, grapefruit, lime, Bärenjäger (honey liqueur), and cinnamon. 53 Centennial Blvd., Highlands Ranch
Taking over Lea Jane’s former stall at Highland’s Avanti Food & Beverage is Vaca Gordo—a barbecue-meets-Tex-Mex fusion spot serving slow-smoked brisket tacos, al pastor pulled-pork Frito pies, and jalapeño cheddar sausage tostadas. Chefs Steve Redzikowski of Oak at Fourteenth and Bill Espiricueta of Smōk and Bellota have been friends for years and teamed up on this new project to share their mutual love of barbecue and zesty American-Mexican food with guests. Diners can choose their own adventure by selecting a base (tortillas, rice and beans, tostadas, and salad are all fair game), and top with a slow-smoked protein of their choice. After gorging yourself on ’cue, finish with a four-piece order of warm churros served with dulce de leche. Avanti Food & Beverage, 3200 N. Pecos St.
Urban Village Grill
Six months after chef Charles Mani’s beloved restaurant Urban Village closed due to difficulties related to the pandemic, Mani has opened a new iteration of the fine-dining Indian spot: Urban Village Grill in Park Meadows Mall in Lone Tree. To the delight of fans of the New York–trained chef, this expanded eatery features Mani’s signature dishes: crispy kale salad, sweet-and-tangy fried cauliflower, and “Not Your Mother’s” butter chicken—all elevated versions of traditional Indian cuisine. New for guests is an outdoor dining experience with tabletop grills that allow diners to cook their own chef-marinated chicken, shrimp, lamb, and beef without leaving the comfort of their seats. Urban Village Grill also features single-serving cheesecakes and mousses that are as decadent (and delicious) as they are lovely. 8505 Park Meadows Center Dr., Ste. 2184, Lone Tree