When it comes to game-night dining, you’ve got a couple options. Circle the concourse at Ball Arena until a concession grabs your attention. Or get downtown a little early for the full-on dinner-and-a-show experience. The benefit of the latter? You don’t have FOMO when the crowd is cheering because the Joker just threw down a nasty dunk, but you missed it because you were waiting for neon cheese to be ladled over your chips.
The Denver Nuggets are back, squaring off against the San Antonio Spurs at 7 p.m. on Friday, October 22 during the home opener at Ball Arena. While the stadium sits on its own island off of Speer Boulevard, there are some stellar restaurants within the half-mile radius or so. If you’re looking to grab a bite to eat before tip-off, here are some great options.
A French-inspired restaurant, Coohills serves seasonal comforts in a sexy space and is just steps away from the stadium. Slather hot-from-the-oven bread in truffle butter and save a piece to dunk in the creamy leek soup. The concise menu currently includes dishes like chicken fricassée, veggie-loaded fettuccine, and market fish with a cornbread crust. Like other restaurants, labor shortages have caused Coohills to have irregular hours, but it plans to open before Nuggets and Avs games. 1400 Wewatta St.
For a taste of Bourbon Street in downtown Denver, head to Nola Jane, a pretty purple spot that serves Big Easy hits like catfish po’boys, fried okra, gumbo, and crawfish étouffée over dirty rice. The New Orleans-meets-Denver bar makes its French 75 with local Family Jones gin and is open late so you can grab a post-game bite (and boozy hurricane), too. 1435 Market St.
Conjure up some competition with a game of bocce ball while chowing down on brats and sipping beer in this German-inspired outpost. Rhein Haus is a handsome and spacious two-story Market Street bar that serves ginormous pretzels with gourmand-approved sauces (think: horseradish cream cheese, cheddar fondue, honey mustard, etc.), plus schnitzel and spätzle. It’s connected to Wally’s Wisconsin Tavern, which slings old fashioneds, cheese curds, wings, and more. 1415 Market St.
Tivoli Brewing Co. Tap House
A next-door neighbor to Ball Arena, Tivoli is a historic brewery that got its start brewing “Buck Beer” for gold miners in Denver’s early days. Today this brick complex on the Auraria campus has 52 beers on tap and is a convenient spot to grab a burger and brew before heading into the stadium. Bad Daddy’s Burger Bar provides the taproom grub, serving an abbreviated-but-tasty menu of green chile tater tots, amber ale queso, and, of course, burgers. 900 Auraria Pkwy., Suite 240
Taking the light rail to the game? Make a reservation that syncs up with your train schedule so you can head straight to Citizen Rail inside Hotel Born. The cozy restaurant has an open, wood-fired grill and butchers its meats in-house. Treat yourself to dishes like coal-simmered mussels, a colorful vegetable charcuterie board, dry-aged steaks, and more. Get a front-row seat of the action in the kitchen at the chef’s counter. 1899 16th St.
A continuation of the iconic Cherry Creek eatery, Cherry Cricket’s restaurant in the Ballpark neighborhood is a jovial spot for pre-game burgers and beer (or a milkshake). You can build your own burger with a deep list of toppings. Or, go for one of the Denver Burger Battle winners like the 720 Jammin’ Poblano Burger with pimento cheese, panko-crusted poblano pepper, pork belly, and a cherry pepper raspberry sauce sandwiched between a brioche bun. 2220 Blake St.
Degree Metropolitan Food & Drink
For a salad, wings, or burger, duck into Degree Metropolitan Food & Drink, which is located in SpringHill Suites by Marriott Denver Downtown. A hidden gem, this restaurant doubles as a learning lab for hospitality, tourism, and events students from Metropolitan State University. A favorite order here is the pressed turkey sandwich on sourdough with basil pesto, Swiss, roasted red peppers, and house giardiniera that can be paired with tomato soup. Game days can get a little busy, but you can book a reservation in advance over the phone. 1190 Auraria Pkwy.