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In the Mile High City, there’s never a bad 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.
The heavy-hitting Culinary Creative Group has enriched the Denver restaurant scene with several knockout concepts, from Cherry Creek’s Forget Me Not to multiple locations of Tap and Burger. Downtown’s A5—the group’s steakhouse, which debuted in November in the space previously occupied by Morin—is no exception. Led by executive chef-partner Max MacKissock, the restaurant offers a refreshing chophouse experience by offering a blend of classic and reimagined favorites in a delightfully funky bar and dining room furnished with artwork depicting likenesses of steers, plants, and neon lighting. As for what to order, start with MacKissock’s take on a crab cake—crab salad set on a thick slice of buttery French toast and topped with potato chips spiced with togarashi (Japanese chile pepper seasoning). Then turn your attention to the lineup of steaks, which features lesser-known cuts like striploin, bavette, and the Denver (our pick for its beautiful marbling). Get it with a couple of à la carte sauces such as the X.O. and chimichurri and the rib-sticking mac ’n’ cheese croquettes. Need we say more? 1600 15th St.
The hip-hop-powered interior of Merlin Vernier’s fast-casual eatery is a feast for the eyes, from the wall lined with vintage boomboxes to the colorful painting of Jay Fai (the first Bangkok food stall owner to earn a Michelin star) in the dining room. But the playful ambience is just a preamble for Street Feud’s lineup of globally inspired tacos, bowls, wraps, fries, and bao buns. The joint’s first brick-and-mortar landed on East Colfax in December after stints at Avanti Food and Beverage and Number 38. The 2 Shells, 1 Taco—tender chicken tinga, beans zinged with earthy huitlacoche (corn fungus), homemade cheese sauce, pickled onions, and cotija cheese snuggled between flour and crispy corn tortillas—is a must-order for Cheesy Gordita Crunch devotees. Or try the Luk Thung fries, crispy potatoes drizzled with peanut sauce and topped with spicy green beans, sliced boiled egg, and bean sprouts. The dish is inspired by an Indonesian noodle dish Vernier’s mother prepared for him as a child that’s also on the menu. Wash whatever you order down with a Purple Drank, a refresher made with lemonade and grape Kool-Aid. 5410 E. Colfax Ave.
Earlier this month, renowned French chef Ludo Lefebvre opened his first restaurant outside of Los Angeles: Chez Maggy, an upscale, 90-seat brasserie located inside the new Thompson Hotel on 16th Street. Lefebvre’s wife is from Denver, and the fine-dining spot’s name pays homage to her stepmother, who was killed by a drunk driver in 2019. With a menu that celebrates flavors of the Rocky Mountain region and Lefebvre’s homeland, expect classic French offerings with a Colorado twist. We like the luxurious bison tartare served atop a crispy potato chip; the butter-drenched local trout almondine with French beurre noisette; and the custardlike take on the classic Denver omelet—filled with ham and bell peppers and smothered with decadent cream sauce. 1616 Market St.
Since Dana Rodriguez and her team debuted Work & Class and Super Mega Bien in 2014 and 2017, respectively, the concepts have excelled at satisfying Denverites’ cravings for thoughtfully prepared Pan-Latin cuisine. However, no restaurant reflects Rodriguez’s culinary prowess and personality more than Cantina Loca, a spot she opened in LoHi’s Espadin building last month. The restaurant’s name is a nod to Rodriguez’s nickname, Loca, and is her dream come true: a taqueria representing Mexico City’s culture and food. The energetic space—which is decorated with a tree of lavender blossoms, a brightly lit central bar, and a whimsical, agave-leaf-centric mural by John Rumtum—invites diners to connect over plates of tacos, snacks, and drinks infused with Rodriguez’s line of agave spirits. Don’t miss the nopales fritos, cactus fried in a charcoal-darkened tempura batter; longaniza, house-made chorizo tacos with caramelized onion and salsa brava; and the tequila- and mango-forward Vincent Man-Gogh cocktail. 2890 Zuni St.
Silvia at Lost City
While Denver has no shortage of burrito bowls, Silvia Hernandez—a Comal Heritage Food Incubator graduate and 2021 CNN Champion for Change—dishes up some of the best in town at her first brick-and-mortar restaurant, Silvia, which opened inside Lost City last November. Hernandez, who grew up in Mexico City and also lived in Puerto Vallarta, brings her culinary heritage to the Metro via artisanal, build-your-own bowls stacked high with ingredients like grilled mushrooms, slow-cooked black beans, and zesty house-made guacamole. Our perfect bowl: tri-color quinoa topped with chile-roasted pork al pastor, calabacitas (roasted corn, zucchini, and red onion), fajita peppers, queso fresco, and curtido (pickled vegetables) drizzled with Hernandez’s fiery pineapple and arbol chile salsa. 3459 Ringsby Ct.
Nestled among South Broadway’s eclectic shops and eateries is one-month-old plant-based haven, Fellow Traveler. At this bar-forward restaurant, chef Ross Pullen (also behind the vegan barbecue spot JackBeQue) serves up vegetarian salads, sandwiches, and entrées, alongside a lineup of classic cocktails and house creations inspired by global destinations. Try the chile-kissed, crispy kung pao cauliflower along with a fresh, seasonal snow pea niçoise salad (topped with a vegan deviled “egg” and jackfruit crab cake). Pair your meal with a one-ounce neat pour from the Strange Cargo drink menu, which includes spirits you might find on your next international jaunt: We like the Arak, a sweet and pleasantly bitter anise-based Lebanese spirit, and the Blue Flower Baijiu, a subtly floral Chinese liquor made from sorghum. The space itself even feels like a respite for the weary traveler, with an inviting bar, cozy couch seating, and dining tables set among voyage-themed decor. 3487 S. Broadway, Englewood
Situated beside Pacific Ocean Marketplace in a bustling Aurora shopping center, fast-casual Porklet excels at producing renditions of katsu (fried cutlets encrusted in light, flaky panko breadcrumbs). Your choice of the pork (the Porklet) or chicken (the Chicklet) meal comes with two audibly crispy, immaculately breaded cutlets; a medley of sides, including miso soup, macaroni salad, pickles, and coleslaw; and a umami-rich dipping sauce. A Cheeselet, a cheese-stuffed fried pork cutlet, is also available. You can’t go wrong with any of them—but an order of the highly ’Grammable Volcano Fried Rice is a must. The mountain of fried rice is flecked with caramelized bacon or diced spam and corn; shrouded in a beautiful scrambled egg; and presented atop a pool of sweet-tangy brown sauce. The five-month-old Japanese-Korean fusion restaurant also offers a variety of rice cake appetizers, udon dishes, and wings that are worth a try. 12201 E. Mississippi Ave., Ste. 123B, Aurora
In mid-November, Gemini brought new life to Boulder’s 1115 Pearl Street, the previous home of Riffs Urban Fare, which closed in March 2020. The eatery is the result of the collaboration of two married couples: Catherine Neckes and Micheal Mehiel and Elizabeth Neckes (also Catherine’s twin sister) and Brian Pierce, Gemini’s chef. Pierce draws on his 10-year tenure at New York City restaurants such as Estela and time as a caterer and private chef in Aspen to curate a selection of charcuterie, hot and cold tapas, and entrées driven by Spanish traditions. Pair a glass of Grenche or the pickled pepper martini with the patatas bravas with garlic aïoli, croquetas de chorizo (chorizo and potato croquette), and beef and pork meatballs. Or if you’re craving something larger, the tortilla de papas, a Spanish omelet served with mixed greens, is a tasty choice for lunch or dinner. 1115 Pearl St., Boulder
When Third Culture Bakery closed its two Colorado locations in December, mochi doughnut lovers had to find other places to satisfy their cravings. Thankfully, two shops specializing in the rice flour treats now call the Denver area home: the first is Dochi, a Florida-based bakery that debuted a location in RiNo last May, and the second is Mochinut, a fast-growing chain from California with more than 20 locations across the U.S. This past fall, Mochinut turned on its fryers on Aurora’s South Havana Street, where you can get the crisp, toothsome doughnuts in a rotating selection of flavors like Churro, Strawberry Funnel, and Pistachio, alongside an array of boba teas and savory rice dogs. The latter are goodies on a stick filled with cheese, mashed potatoes, and/or hot dogs that are fried in a variety of crunchy rice flour coatings. The one blanketed in Hot Cheetos is a messy, finger-licking indulgence. 2222 S. Havana St., Unit A2, Aurora
What defines a stellar neighborhood bar in Denver right now? Look to beverage pros McLain Hedges and Mary Allison Wright’s’ Yacht Club, open since mid-December at 37th Avenue and Williams Street, for a prime example. The husband-and-wife team’s concept, which was at the Source in RiNo from 2014 to 2019, caters to admirers of laid-back dives, thoughtfully curated natural wines, and inventive craft cocktails. There, you can linger over beautifully presented offerings like refreshing, gin- and mint-forward Southside Swizzles and gently sweet banana daiquiris or knock back cans of $5 White Claw and $4 Coors Banquet. Complemented by a small-but-mighty assortment of hot dogs, ham rolls, and other bites and digs furnished with wood accents, coastal decor, and a disco ball, the vibe, bites, and sips at Yacht Club will make you wish you lived in the Cole neighborhood. 3701 N. Williams St.
Since opening ChoLon in 2010, chef and restaurateur Lon Symensma has been delighting Denverites with modern, Asian-fusion cuisine, and last November he opened YumCha, a new dumpling and noodle house located downtown in the former Cho77 location. To bring the menu of traditional and inventive dumplings to life, Symensma tapped ChoLon’s dim sum chef, Michelle Xiao, who hails from a Cantonese city near Hong Kong and has over 30 years of expertise. Together, they dish out steaming Shanghai-style xiaolongbao filled with pork and crab, Cantonese chicken dumplings, and a crispy, fried pork variety, among others. Also look for pan-Asian-inspired noodle dishes, including comforting miso-and-pork-belly-laced ramen and Wagyu beef chow fun with Chinese broccoli. 1520 16th St. Mall
Earlier this month, Colorado’s first Water Grill started slinging fresh fish, crustaceans, and other ocean dwellers in LoDo. On the menu: favorites like oysters, scallops, and octopus alongside harder-to-find specialties like Florida stone crab and red sea urchin. The West Coast–based restaurant with four locations in California and one in Las Vegas fills its tanks and raw bar with the freshest catches flown in daily from its own exclusive distribution company, King’s Seafood Company. For Denverites, that means access to seafood that, by dinner time, traveled only hours to reach their tables. Ask your server for a seasonal recommendation—right now, they’ll steer you toward the live California spiny lobster, which is available October to March—or choose among sustainable options like Marine Stewardship Council–certified Chilean sea bass with butternut squash gnocchi and sage brown butter sauce. 1691 Market St.
Since Lydie Lovett debuted Chicken Rebel as a food truck in 2017, her giant fried chicken stackers have earned a place in the Mile High City’s sandwich hall of fame. With the opening of Chicken Rebel’s second location in Westminster this month (the first is in Highland), fans in northern suburbs have easier access to Lovett’s decadent creations, including classics like the Rancher, layered with bacon, avocado, and buttermilk ranch, and Fancy Tots, taters laced with parmesan and lemon zest. But what we’re most excited for is the newest item on the fast-casual spot’s all-day breakfast menu: the Captain Crunch French Toast, a sandwich stuffed with cream cheese and strawberry; encrusted with crushed cereal; and fried to golden perfection. More bonuses: The Westminster store has a drive-thru and Lovett plans to open another location in Littleton in September. 10448 Town Center Dr., Westminster
Earlier this month, Cherry Creek’s bar count grew by one with the addition of Five Nines, a semi-hidden burlesque bar in the belly of the Clayton Members Club. To find it, look for the southeast-facing door marked with, well, five number nines, and enter into a dimly lit, velvet-bedecked watering hole where the friendly, vest-clad bartenders stir up classic cocktails and their own cheeky concoctions. Go for the Pornstar Martini (vodka, lime, passionfruit, and vanilla served with a floater of sparkling wine), or the Dragon’s Breath, a refreshing tiki-style drink made with rhum blanc, lime, coconut cream, yellow chartreuse, and mint. Every hour, turn your attention to the back stage (which is outfitted with sultry curtains that disguise a dancer’s pole) to see a short burlesque show by professionals from Hard Candy Dancers, a Denver-based aerial troupe and dance ensemble. The whole experience feels a little too risque for Cherry Creek—but that’s what makes it worth adding to your bar-hopping roster. 233 Clayton St.
In October, Paul and Aileen Reilly, the siblings behind Coperta and dearly departed Beast & Bottle, opened Apple Blossom in the Hyatt Centric Downtown Denver. As the all-day eatery’s culinary director, Paul works with chef de cuisine Russ Fox and pastry chef Jodi Polson to execute a roster of specialties spotlighting sustainably farmed meat and produce—which is paired with warm hospitality led by Aileen’s front of house expertise. Trace the seasons through specialties like tahini-dressing-kissed grilled winter squash with sesame candy or dig into heartier offerings such as chicken-fried duck livers with pickled scallion ranch and country-ham-studded fusilli alla vodka slicked with tomato cream. Save room for Polson’s excellent house-made cookies and ice creams (she’s also the talented artist behind the whimsical mural of the eponymous flower in the dining room). 866 18th St.