The Local newsletter is your free, daily guide to life in Colorado. For locals, by locals. Sign up today!
The last round of new restaurants and bars in Denver this year not only confirmed certain trends but also brought foodies pleasant surprises. Cocktail lounges have continued to pop up all over the Mile High City, and new Chinese joints continue to satisfy dumpling-hungry diners. But the recent debut of Denver’s only Chilean food business shows that the dining scene is by no means stagnating. Here, 14 new restaurants and bars in Denver you should check out now.
The only spot in Colorado where you can find Chilean food is at the Cachai food truck in an unassuming liquor store parking lot off of Alameda Avenue in Baker. Opened this past September, cousins Mayra Chacon and Valentin Julio launched the spot after moving to the Centennial State from Chile and realizing Denverites were seriously missing out on the unique South American cuisine. There, you’ll catch Julio serving street food classics like chorrillanas, fries loaded with toppings like beef, chicken, or sausage, and churrascos, hamburger buns stuffed with either beef, chicken, or pork and topped with condiments like tomato, avocado, and green beans. First-timers should try the completo tomate-mayo, a hot dog loaded with finely diced tomatoes and mayonnaise, or the churrasco cachai, slices of beef in a bun topped with caramelized onions, bacon, cheese, and drizzled with barbecue sauce. 167 W. Alameda Ave. —Barbara O’Neil
The first thing you’ll notice at Call Me Pearl, a new cocktail lounge inside the Rally Hotel on McGregor Square, is its massive chandelier, whose hundreds of circular lights mimic the bar’s lustrous namesake. The drink menu, which includes three variations on the martini, is as timeless as a pearl necklace. We enjoyed the Smoking Jacket the most—a hint of Laphroaig Scotch whisky lends it a pleasantly peaty aroma—but those looking for a sweeter drink will like the pink-hued Sally’s Rose Garden, which is made with vodka and maraschino liqueur. Pair your beverage with some shareable bites from the sea: oysters on the half shell, or maybe garlic-chile shrimp with toasted coconut and spicy crab salad on crispy rice cakes. If you’re really trying to have a whale of a time, there’s a market-price caviar service with crème fraîche and house-fried potato chips. 1600 20th St. —EP
Le French is, not surprisingly, a French restaurant. But the upscale eatery, whose second location opened in Hale’s 9+CO development in September, is noteworthy among its brasserie brethren for its Senegalese influence, which reflects the heritage of founders Aminata and Rougui Dia. The two sisters transferred most of the menu from their DTC location over to the new outpost, so you’ll be able to order plenty of French classics. Options like bouillabaisse, French onion soup, and escargot with parsley-garlic butter are available for lunch and dinner. But don’t miss dishes like the poutine poulet yassa, which swaps the brown gravy typically ladled over the Québécois fries dish for chicken braised in a classic Senegalese sauce of lemons and onions, or the West African pastels, tuna-stuffed hand pies that are fried until crispy and served with a tomato-onion chutney. 846 Albion St. —EP
Denverites have gained another haven for French cuisine with the arrival of Jacques in LoHi. Co-owners Simon Rochez, William Steck, and Nicholas Dalton serve tried-and-true staples such as steak frites and French onion soup, as well as fresh renditions of bistro fare. (Dalton, one of the culinary pros behind Cole’s Brasserie Brixton, is also Jacques’ executive chef.) Complement a selection of plates such as the bruléed bone marrow with toast and the miso-roasted cabbage with something from the potato section of the menu. The pavé, layers of thinly sliced potatoes drizzled with caviar-studded beurre blanc sauce, is a decadent treat. 3200 Tejon St. —Patricia Kaowthumrong
At the nearly two-month-old Maine Shack on Boulder’s Pearl Street, diners can feast on a lineup of dishes loaded with wild-caught lobster sourced from Stonington, Maine, as well as other New England specialties. The fast-casual eatery, whose original outpost is located in LoHi, is the brainchild of Drew Ryan, who collaborated with stars of the show Maine Cabin Masters to design the sea-shack-inspired interior. Indulge in a lobster BLT, indulgent lobster mac and cheese, or one of the seven lobster rolls (try the Fancy with celery, cucumber, Bibb lettuce, and herbs). There are also tasty options for landlubbers, including a stacked roast beef sandwich and juicy smashburger. 2010 16th St., Boulder —PK
This past November, Kenneth Wan and Doris Yuen opened MAKfam, a fast-casual brick-and-mortar spot in Baker that grew out of the husband-and-wife duo’s former Avanti stall, Meta Asian Kitchen. Wan and Yuen have preserved some of the former’s fun, munchable eats, such as the chicken-chive Chinatown dumplings and the chicken wings dusted in mouth-numbing mala seasoning. But we’ve especially enjoyed the new restaurant’s focus on its larger-format plates. Old favorites such as the shrimp fried rice with XO sauce and the beef stir-fried noodles are now tossed over a traditional wok setup, where high flames impart a smoky flavor that enhances the dishes’ umami-forward taste. The salt and pepper chicken rice, topped with a lacy fried egg, is also a standout. 39 W. First Ave. —EP
Moonflower Coffee debuted as a mobile java cart in April after baristas Sam Salomon and Jason Haygarth relocated to Denver from Southern California. They brought something new to Denver’s saturated coffee market, offering lavender-sage matcha lattes, honey chais, and house-made syrups in flavors like ube and black sesame mocha, inspired by Salomon’s Filipino heritage, in addition to expected espresso drinks (made with Servant Coffee). In October, they moved into a permanent space, taking over a former gas station on West Colfax Avenue. Inside, exposed-brick walls, thrifted furniture, and mismatched lamps set the stage for a cozy workspace and lounge. Outside, a collection of rotating food trucks—and, soon, a bar cart—complete the Full Tank Food Park, the latest project from Danny Newman of My Brother’s Bar and Mercury Cafe. The expertly crafted drinks and friendly staff are enough reasons to welcome Moonflower to the neighborhood. But did we mention that they don’t charge extra for nondairy milk and allow pups inside? 4200 W. Colfax Ave. —Daliah Singer
Rarely does a restaurant attempt to open multiple locations in the span of a few months, but that appears to be the trajectory for Nana’s Dim Sum & Dumplings. The first location, in LoHi, debuted in October, which was soon followed by a Boulder opening this month. In 2024, the team hopes to establish outposts in Aurora and downtown Denver, too. It’s an ambitious timeline, but the original location has already seen great success: General manager Michelle Saporito says that essentially every night since opening has been a full house. The LoHi eatery, replete with red lighting and house music, is edgier than the typical dim sum restaurant, but the homemade Chinese-style dumplings are as comforting as you’d want them to be. The bite-size “thumblings,” which resemble pan-fried pork buns, are also worth a try, as well as the chicken and corn potstickers. 3316 Tejon St.; 1125 13th St., Boulder —EP
After closing during the first half of 2023 for remodeling, Now Pho reopened in June with a facelift and a streamlined menu, which is focused on specialty Vietnamese soups perfect for the cold months ahead. Spice heads should go for the bun bo hue, which (beyond packing the heat) differs from pho with its thicker noodles and combination of meats. The standard version at Now Pho comes with thinly sliced rare beef, beef shank, pork hock, Vietnamese ham, and pork blood, but you can also order deluxe versions that add oxtail or an entire beef rib on top of that. Lighter options like the seafood noodle soup are also delicious. If you’re really craving pho, though, the casual eatery offers the option of having it served in a hot stone bowl, so regardless of your craving, you likely can try something new. 1195 S. Federal Blvd. —EP
Sean Huggard of Blue Island Oyster Bar designed his newest venture, Oliver’s Italian, to impress diners from the moment they walk in. The frosted glass of the storefront obscures the verdant, high-ceilinged space behind it, which is decorated with plenty of plants and chandeliers, the latter of which look like dandelion puffs. The menu at the two-month-old Greenwood Village eatery is also a breath of fresh air. Try a flatbreadlike, Roman-style pinsa; traditionalists should go for the classic Margherita combo of mozzarella, red sauce, and basil, but we especially like the mortadella-pistachio version. Either way, a white Negroni with Malfy gin, Luxardo Bitter Bianco, and bergamot liqueur is a refreshing way to wash it down. 4950 S. Yosemite St., Greenwood Village —EP
Walking through Meow Wolf’s mind-boggling Convergence Station can make you thirsty. Well, now there’s a way to tipple—and grab a bite along the way—without even stepping out of the building. The graffitied floors and eclectic light fixtures of this cocktail bar (or executive travel lounge, per Convergence Station lore) give the elegant space something of an edge, and the cocktails, some of which are named after important story elements in the exhibition, similarly offer a range of vibes. If you want a drink as colorful as the environs, go for the Ariel’s Sting, made with vodka, blue curaçao, melon liqueur, lime, ginger beer, and a habanero tincture. Or, opt for the subtler Numinita, a bourbon drink scented with lemon, yuzu, pandan, and toasted sesame oil. Shareable charcuterie boards and flatbreads round out your visit before you venture back to Earth. Meow Wolf Denver, 1338 First St. —EP
Six-month-old Sonny’s Mediterranean might only offer counter service, but chef David Schloss—who before opening the Highland restaurant with his fiancée, Lena Young, worked at RiNo’s Safta—delivers his fresh Greek and Levantine dishes with a refined hand. The hummus is properly smooth, the tzatziki is zippy and bright, and an order of either with some vegetable crudités will pair well with your entrée, which should be a pita sandwich. We like the #3, which comes with harissa aïoli, french fries, feta, and a bevy of vegetables; for your protein, you can pick between house-roasted chicken and half herb-flecked falafel, or you can go half-half. If that’s not enough flavor, you can choose another sauce to drizzle on top, such as zhoug (a Yemeni sauce of serranos, cilantro, parsley, orange zest, and spices) or a vinegary basil chimichurri. 2622 W. 32nd Ave. —EP
After the Lazy Dog shuttered in 2019, downtown Boulder’s Pearl Street had a sports bar–size hole. In September, the Sophomore filled that—and did so with a much more appealing menu. Tucked on the corner of Pearl and 11th Streets, the Sophomore serves up an array of $5 sliders that range from typical (The Boulder: beef burger, cheddar cheese, burnt red onion, smoked bacon jam, and ketchup on a brioche bun) to creative (A Ph.D in Pork: pulled pork and bacon on a fried mac-and-cheese “bun”) to globally inspired (The Sushi Roll: sesame-crusted tuna, slaw, fried rice noodles, and Asian aïoli on a bao bun). Sports bar staples like wings, fries, and tots round out the menu. You won’t find Coors Light on tap, but Avery’s Stampede Lager is a good, sessionable game-day option. And you’ll want to stop by on game day: With 10 giant flatscreens, there’s no bad seating. 1043 Pearl St., Boulder —Maren Horjus
Chef Lydie Lovett (of Chicken Rebel fame) is making waves outside of the poultry game with two-month-old Wilde, a breakfast and lunch eatery inspired by the fresh flavors and easy energy of coastal California. The San Diego native transformed the LoHi location of her onetime chicken sandwich shop (which still operates an outpost in Westminster) into a sunny, turquoise-accented restaurant where customers can sit back and surf through a menu of fruity cocktails and filling entrées. We recommend going for a light and bubbly drink—the grapefruit-infused Afternoon Delight is a solid option with plenty of Prosecco—to complement a heavier brunch item, such as the crab cake Benedict on a buttermilk biscuit, or the Baja breakfast burrito that, per San Diego tradition, comes packed with carne asada and guacamole. 3618 Tejon St. —EP