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Blooming gardens, humming patios, and bustling farmers’ markets are signaling the official start to summer in the Mile High City—and there’s no better time to savor something fresh. We have plenty of ideas for you, thanks to the arrival of many exciting new restaurants and bars over the past few months in Denver and beyond. Here, 12 spots you should check out this season.
Fried chicken is a big deal in South Korea. Case in point: As of 2019, the country had more than 87,000 fried chicken restaurants (in comparison, there are only over 38,000 McDonald’s worldwide). In March, one of South Korea’s popular bird-slinging chains—BB.Q Chicken—expanded to the Centennial State, opening its first location on South Havana Street in Aurora with plans to launch outposts in Capital Hill and Lone Tree this summer. Alex Lee, who owns the forthcoming Denver location and helps manage the Aurora one, says the secrets to fast-casual restaurant’s flavorful, juicy-crunchy wings include sauces imported from South Korea and a 20-minute run in a tumbler that coats the chicken with a flour dredge. You can also get boneless wings and pieces of whole bird, which are all tossed in your choice of 13 sauces. Our favorite varieties are the Soy Garlic, sauce-free Golden Original, and black-pepper-kissed Gangnam Style with a side of fried rice. 2495 S. Havana St., Unit H
Since 2012, chef Blaine Baggao has satisfied Denverites’ appetites for Mexican-Filipino fare with his Adobo food truck and outposts at RiNo’s First Draft Taproom & Kitchen and the Hellofood cafe at the Meow Wolf experience. As of April, fans can also get Baggao’s best bites—including crispy lumpia, slow-smoked carnitas, and green-chile-smothered everything, from fries to burgers—at his first standalone brick-and-mortar on Federal Boulevard. Baggao hopes the expansive location, which has a stage and plenty of seating, will become a community gathering place, especially once the Adobo XO’s liquor license is approved. We recommend stopping in for breakfast burrito or a bowl loaded with juicy, garlicky chicken adobo, a recipe inspired by Baggao’s grandmother, and a scoop of his velvety ube ice cream. 3109 Federal Blvd.
Glo Noodle House
Three-month-old Glo brings fresh energy to the West Highland restaurant scene with a menu of skewers, raw plates, ramen, and cocktails; paper-lantern-adorned space; and sprawling patio. Husband-and-wife team Chris Teigland and Ariana Pope—veterans of Balistreri Vineyards and Boulder’s Blackbelly—are the masterminds behind the concept, which is named after Teigland’s late mother, Gloria, who encouraged him to pursue his love for Asian cooking. Peruse the small-plate lineup for shatteringly crisp karaage with chile glaze and yuzu aïoli; juicy soy-kissed chicken thigh skewers; and serrano-pepper-zinged hamachi crudo. Then dig into a bowl of ramen; standout options include the bright lemon chicken shio or the spicy brothless kimchi bolognese mazemen with ground pork and beef. Take note of Glo’s beautiful dishware, much of which was made by local ceramicist John Domenico, the grandson of Balistreri Vineyards owner John Balistreri. 4450 W. 38th Ave., #130
Austria native Jan Kratzer honed his yeasty skills at the Bindery and Mizuna before setting up shop in late 2021 at LoDough in the Dairy Block, where he crafts breads and pastries for nearby restaurants and retail sale. At the petite bakery—which he launched eight months ago with restaurateur Frank Bonnano—patrons can pick up loaves of Kratzer’s nutty, subtly tangy sourdough, which is produced with local, organic rye flour, and goodies such as hazelnut crowns (a pastry he grew up eating in Austria) and Danishes with lemony cream cheese and seasonal fruits (the strawberry rhubarb is available now). The chia-seed-studded banana bread and bourekas, savory puffs filled with mashed potato and onion, are also delicious. The bakery is open Friday–Sunday; pre-order your loaves and treats in advance to make sure you get some before they sell out. 1800 Wazee St., Suite 100
Situated in a shopping center anchored by Sprouts and Big Lots in Westminster, Sunflower Thai serves a solid roster of takeout staples, from wok-charred pad kee mao (drunken noodles) to fiery green curry. But we’re drawn to the three-month-old restaurant’s selection of Issan specialities, which hail from Thailand’s northeast region. Opt for the Issan sausage, house-made links stuffed with tangy, coarsely ground pork sausage and served with ginger, Thai chiles, and peanuts; or the larb, your choice of ground chicken, pork, or beef dressed with a punchy lime dressing, shallots, and mint leaves. Also try the kao soi, chicken and egg noodles in a rich golden curry crowned with crunchy noodles, green onions, and cilantro. 4880 W. 120th Ave., Ste. 200, Westminster
Bánh & Butter Bakery Café
Thoa Nguyen—the daughter of Thai Nguyen and Ha Pham, the founders of the legendary New Saigon restaurant and the eponymous adjacent bakery and deli—is carrying on her family’s culinary legacy with a contemporary twist at Bánh & Butter. At the light-drenched, plant-adorned bakery and cafe on East Colfax in Aurora, Thoa and her team craft a rotating selection of exquisite pastries influenced by French traditions and vibrant Asian flavors and Vietnamese coffee and milk tea drinks. Swing by for tarts loaded with custard and fresh fruit; Instagram-worthy cupcakes in flavors like ube, Thai tea, and mocha; and banh mi and croissant sandwiches. Pair your selections (we’re guessing you won’t be able to settle on just one) with a potent cà phê trung, Vietnamese egg coffee capped with a layer of custardlike cream. 9935 E. Colfax, Aurora
Lucina Eatery & Bar
Two-month-old Lucina Eatery & Bar in Park Hill is an ode to all matriarchs, including two in particular: co-owners Erasmo Casiano and Diego Coconati’s mothers, Lucina and Ester. Casiano, who was raised by a Mexican mother and Bolivian father, and Coconati, a native of Argentina who grew up in Puerto Rico, based the menu on dishes they ate growing up eating and still cook at home today (the pair are also behind Stanley Marketplace’s Create Cooking School). The results are comforting specialties such as crispy potato and Manchego cheese croquetas; white fish and shrimp ceviche tossed in an agua chile sauce; and fragrant paella with mussels and chorizo. Paired with a killer cocktail program rife with options like the gin- and cucumber-forward What Would Lucina Drink and warm hospitality led by partner Michelle Nguyen, Lucina has a welcoming ambience we think any mama would approve of. 2245 Kearney St., Ste. 101
Sky Bar and Factory Fashion Champagne Bar
Bar hopping inside Stanley Marketplace is better than ever with the addition of two new cocktail destinations in the last three months. Both projects are owned by entrepreneur Skye Barker Maa, and the drink programs were conceived by Mary Allison Wright and McLain Hedges of Yacht Club fame. Here’s what we love about both.
Factory Fashion, which opened in April, operates as a sewing studio and education center during the day and chic Champagne bar after 5 p.m., serving bubbles-forward drinks like the Fashion Thyme cocktail (made with gin, blackberry, thyme, and lemon). Funds from the bar support the studio’s efforts, including a popular Drag Tween-Teen series where kids learn to sew outfits and care for wigs. And on select weekends, the bar transforms into an immersive party venue (past events have been inspired by the worlds of James Bond, Moulin Rouge, and disco), fueled by actors, musicians, and set designers from Maa’s other arts programs.
Across the marketplace, Sky Bar—an intimate, rooftop-level lounge that debuted last month—offers travel-themed drinks and stellar views of the Rockies (pro tip: arrive in time to watch the sunset). We recommend setting sail with the aquatic-blue Hawaii with vodka, rum, pineapple, green tea, and clarified milk punch; or the cognac-forward, Biscoff-cookie-topped Paris. While the bar only has 28 seats, the cozy, vintage-airport-lounge-themed furnishings (think: big leather chairs and posters of ’60s-era flight attendants) make it the perfect escape. 2501 Dallas St., Aurora
When the Thompson Denver began welcoming guests this past February, Denver’s food scene was abuzz with news of its celebrity-chef-owned restaurant, Chez Maggy. But there’s another, lesser-known reason for foodies to flock to the Market Street lodge: Reynard Social, an upscale, indoor/outdoor cocktail bar on the hotel’s sixth floor serving après-ski-inspired cocktails and elevated small bites. Enjoy floor-to-ceiling views of downtown within an interior thoughtfully decorated with modern-mountain-lodge-style decor: leather couches, fireplaces, and potted evergreen plants. Settle in and order the Mountain Blanket with Irish whiskey, rye, amaro, sweet vermouth, and balsamic vinegar or a Full Send nonalcoholic sipper with notes of mint, coconut cream, and lime. For bites, don’t miss the rib-sticking wild mushroom fondue, or the honey-orange-glazed, house-cured pork belly. 1616 Market St.
Denver’s foxy mamas and closet disco queens can now down grasshoppers and Harvey Wallbangers in the fab, funky digs of LoHi’s three-month-old underground cocktail lounge, Groovy Bar, located in the basement of the Post Chicken & Beer’s new LoHi location. Furnished to look like it’s your Saturday Night Fever-loving grandpa’s dream lair, the bar is decked with ’70s memorabilia, vintage wallpaper, and photos of bell-bottom-clad youths (and, of course, Technicolor lights and a disco ball). Besides a solid lineup of rotating beers and over 15 wines by the glass, the Groovy Cocktails (hand-crafted creations) and Grandpa’s Basement Drinks (old-school bangers) shouldn’t be missed. Try the Dear John, a mix of Law’s Whiskey rye, campari, orange liqueur, and maple syrup, or opt for an I’m The Dude, Man—a take on a white Russian. Pair your drink with one of grandpa’s favorite munchies, like cheese and crackers or berry cheesecake, and boogie your way through the night. 1575 Boulder St.
Fuel & Iron
Speaking of themed bars, escapists looking for a taste of Pueblo (the city 100 miles to the south) can sample drinks and dishes inspired by the region’s famous green chiles at LoDo’s new Fuel & Iron Bar, which opened in April in the old Brass Tacks location. Choose a cocktail on tap (we like the Puebloma, made with house green-chile-infused tequila), and try the fiery house green chile, either on its own or smothered over cheese-curd-crested poutine or a pair of open-face slopper burger sliders. The bar was brought to life by Denver developers (and Pueblo fanatics) Nathan Stern and Zach Cytryn, who are also opening Pueblo’s first food hall this fall. Both Fuel & Iron projects pay homage to the city’s industrial past, and though they’ve come under fire for cultural appropriation, Stern and Cytryn say they plan to give back to the community and invest in its future. 1526 Blake St.
Want more? Check out the best new Denver restaurants of 2021.