The warm-weather season has arrived in Colorado and the longer days and plentiful sunshine is beckoning patrons to gather at bars and restaurants across the Front Range. With oodles of fresh culinary concepts arriving over the past few months, food-and-drink-loving Denverites have even more venues to choose from for sipping and feasting. Here, 17 new spots to check out this spring and summer and beyond.

The Green Room

A dimly lit interior with wine bottles on shelves.
The Green Room. Photo by Ethan Pan

Aquila Cellars is undeniably cool. The Paonia-based winery and farm uses responsible land management practices to grow its grapes and minimally processes its ferments, so the wines, often foot-treaded and left unfiltered, tend to burst with yeasty, funky flavors and a high acid content. If you’re a fan of kombucha or sour beers, they’re right up your alley, and now Denverites can enjoy an Aquila tasting experience without traveling all the way to the Western Slope. The Green Room, which Aquila began pouring at late last month, sits in the heart of RiNo atop the Banshee House, whose music you can hear from the diminutive second-floor space. Altogether, it makes for a charming environment that’ll make you feel part of a certain oenophilic in-crowd. The Green Room will also be opening bottles from other wineries, such as Margins Wine, another low-intervention producer based in California, if you want to dive even deeper into Aquila’s vein of winemaking. (Due to being above an event venue, the Green Room recommended checking its Instagram for potential closures.) 2715 Larimer St. —EP

Peko Peko

Temaki at Peko Peko.
Temaki at Peko Peko. Photo by Patricia Kaowthumrong

Customers always used to ask for ramen at Darren Chang and Travis Masar’s Taiwanese food stall, Pig and Tiger, inside Boulder’s Avanti Food and Beverage. As of this week, Peko Peko, a Japanese-inspired concept led by executive chef Scott Wilson that replaced Pig and Tiger, is answering those requests. (Don’t worry: Chang and Masar’s Taiwanese concept will hopefully reopen as a brick-and-mortar in Denver later this year.) At Peko Peko—slang for “I’m hungry” in Japanese—start with a couple temaki: hand rolls filled with rice and proteins such as miso-butter-lacquered snow crab or smoked salmon and citrus-kissed cream cheese. Then dig into a bowl of tonyu ramen: stretchy noodles, roasted mushrooms, bamboo shoots, and bean sprouts nestled in a vegan, slow-simmered dashi broth that’s fortified with soy milk. Or get the pork belly donburi, a rice bowl topped with braised protein, microgreens, and house-made pickles. For an extra punch, ask for sides of house-made chile crisp and fermented black garlic. 1401 Pearl St. —PK

Dân Dã

A clay pot with brown stewed fish.
The catfish filet clay pot at Dân Dã. Photo by Ethan Pan

The Nguyens might be the most influential family in Denver’s Vietnamese food scene: Among the parents and their five daughters, they own and operate New Saigon Bakery, Bánh and Butter Bakery Café, and right next door as of April, Dân Dã. Sister An, whose first solo venture was the recently closed Athmar Park fixture, Savory Vietnam, spearheads this East Colfax restaurant as its chef and owner. Here, she makes the case for Vietnamese cuisine as essential comfort food, with a menu that spans common offerings, like bowls of pho and vermicelli noodle salads, and many lesser-known Vietnamese dishes. Case in point: The sweet-and-salty clay pot braises feature proteins like catfish or head-on shrimp stewed in a caramel sauce, which is delicious spooned over rice. The Dân Dã Tower is another standout item; you’ll find DIY summer rolls at many Vietnamese joints, but this order easily serves three or four people with premium fillings like deep-fried soft shell crab, pork skewers, and shrimp pork egg rolls. 9945 E. Colfax Ave., Aurora —EP

Rolling Pin Pizza

Pies at Rolling Pin Pizza
Pies at Rolling Pin Pizza. Photo by Patricia Kaowthumrong

Restaurateur Kevin Morrison has traded tacos for pizza. In April, he debuted Rolling Pin Pizza in the space that previously housed the original location of Tacos Tequila Whiskey, which served its last marg in February (there are still locations in Highland and Denver International Airport). The dough for Rolling Pin Pizza’s “Midwest tavern-style” pies are made with Ceresota flour (popular with pizzerias in Chicago) and cold-fermented for 72 to 96 hours to yield an airy, cracker-thin crust that’s still sturdy enough for copious toppings. Complement the pizza of your choice (we like the Veg with black olives, green pepper, roasted cremini mushrooms, and red onion) with an array of small plates such as mini lamb meatballs on a bed of Greek yogurt and feta or white anchovies with freshly baked focaccia. Round out your meal with a dirty Colfax martini (only $12), a carafe of house wine, or a shot of boozy house-made limoncello. 1514 York St. —PK

ChoLon and Gusto

The Amalfi at Gusto
The Amalfi at Gusto. Photo by Patricia Kaowthumrong

In March, chef Lon Symensma expanded his restaurant empire to Sloan’s Lake, where he opened the third location of ChoLon and a fresh Italian concept named Gusto in the Lakehouse Residences. That means diners can enjoy signature French onion soup dumplings, crispy chicken spring rolls, and other tried-and-true bites at ChoLon or pop into the adjacent space to dig into an elevated lineup of antipasti, pastas, and Neapolitan pizza inspired by Symensma’s travels across Italy. Don’t miss the crave-worthy Amalfi Pie, bejeweled with thinly sliced preserved lemon, Calabrian chile, pecorino cheese, and ricotta, and the creamy cacio e pepe, made with bucatini and smoked pecorino. Bonus: Gusto serves lunch, when the menu includes a small selection of hearty sandwiches, such as Justin’s Panini with mortadella, salumi, giardiniera, and mozzarella. 1691 N. Raleigh St. —PK


Assorted dishes from Denver Korean restaurant Baekga.
The baekban special at Baekga. Photo by Ethan Pan

There’s a robust scene of Korean restaurants on the Front Range, but with many such eateries localized to Aurora, multiple pockets of Denver proper lack a go-to spot for delicious kimchi-infused fare. Last month, Sean Baek solved that problem for the Lowry Field neighborhood with the opening of Baekga, the brick-and-mortar version of his former ghost kitchen. The traditional Korean fare here is simultaneously fresh and hearty and comes in sizable portions. For example, the baekban lunch specials, all priced around $25, might not seem like a deal at first. But the trays, which come packed with your central protein, a bowl of rice, a light soup, and five banchan, can easily stretch to two meals. We also recommend the beautifully crispy spring onion pancake, one of Baek’s specialties. 200 Quebec St., Building 600, Unit 115 —EP

Other Dog

A loaded hot dog in a paper boat.
Other Dog’s loaded potato dog. Photo by Ethan Pan

For years, the Easy Vegan has been a favorite for inventive plant-based fare at farmers’ markets, other pop-ups, and its food truck. But when co-founders Alexi Mandolini and Taylor Herbert won the Great Food Truck Race on Food Network last year, it was inevitable that Easy Vegan would pursue greater prospects. Other Dog is the start of that. Currently based at Town Hall Collaborative in Baker, the pop-up concept debuted in April and specializes in topping-loaded vegan hot dogs and Italian ice—a more streamlined menu than Easy Vegan, for sure, but equally as delicious. We enjoy the loaded potato dog with Sriracha aïoli, Japanese barbecue sauce, mini potato chips, and scallions, but renditions of Chicago and chili dogs are also on the docket. If you can’t make it to Town Hall Collaborative, Other Dog is also selling alongside Easy Vegan at the City Park and South Pearl Street farmers’ markets, too. 525 Santa Fe Drive —EP

Pancho & Jane

Pancho and Jane tacos
A platter of tacos at Pancho & Jane. Photo by Patricia Kaowthumrong

An outlaw-themed bar and eatery has landed in Golden. One-week-old Pancho & Jane serves inventive, Colorado-inspired spins on contemporary Mexican favorites from food and beverage director Ben Shapiro and his team (also behind the Eddy Hotel and Taproom). The bright space is furnished with Western-themed decor, such as playful likenesses of cowgirls and cowboys and Dolly Parton memorabilia, and has a spacious wraparound patio. Snag a table in the sunshine to share a platter of tacos, which are made with heirloom red corn tortillas sourced from James Beard Award–winning Yoli Tortilleria. Favorites include the chorizo y papas (local chorizo, fried potatoes, pickled onions, tomatillo-chipotle aïoli, and crumbled Hot Cheetos) and the suadero (confit beef belly, Outlaw sauce, avocado aïoli, and queso fresco) variations. Wet your whistle with a draft marg or paloma and indulge in the churro funnel cake for your grand finale. 16500 S. Golden Road, Golden —PK

Die Die Must Try

The interior of Die Die Must Try.
The interior of Die Die Must Try. Photo by Patricia Kaowthumrong

Die Die Must Try is a Singaporean-inspired oasis in the heart of Cherry Creek North. The drink shop’s name—Singaporean English slang for “something so good you have to try it”—is a tribute to the Chow family’s experience living in Singapore for 24 years, before they relocated to Colorado and opened Die Die Must Try this past November. Through their tight menu of Singapore-style drinks, bubble teas, fruit slushes, and snacks, the Chows hope to introduce Denverites to new items they themselves enjoyed in Asia. Diners can peruse shelves stocked with a small selection of packaged snacks, vintage clothing, and other items (a nod to Singapore’s vast retail districts) and sip on beverages such as iced Milo, a chocolate malt beverage that’s popular in Asia; kopi, potent robusta coffee served with butter and sweetened condensed milk; and a Singapore fruit tea made with green tea and calamansi and soursop juices. Be sure to say hello to Debbie Chow, the family’s patriarch and beloved “Boba Grandma” who is often slinging drinks behind the counter. 250 Steele St. —PK

Corsica Wine Bar

The Corsica Martini at Corsica Wine Bar
The Corsica Martini at Corsica Wine Bar. Photo by Patricia Kaowthumrong

The masterminds behind Barcelona Wine Bar know their small plates, even beyond Spanish tapas. The evidence is next door at one-month-old Corsica, the team’s newest concept. The restaurant’s menu of rustic small plates, entrées, and desserts—crafted by culinary director Patrick Connolly and executive chef Kelly Patton—is a love letter to Corsica, a Mediterranean island whose culture and cuisine have Italian and French influences. Pair a Corsica martini, a gin-forward sipper presented with customizable accoutrements, or one of the more than 30 wines available by the glass with a feast of ultra-tender meatballs nestled in sweet-tangy tomato sauce, white beans simmered in a basil-zinged Parmesan broth, and the gently charred beef brochettes with green peppercorn sauce. Great news for night owls: The restaurant is open until midnight Sunday through Wednesday and until 1 a.m. Thursday through Saturday. 2801 Walnut St., Suite 100 —PK

The Colorado Club

The revolving door of restaurants—the Sophomore, Ash’Kara, Pepper the Noshery, Pastavino, Juanita’s—at 1043 Pearl Street in Boulder should stop with the Colorado Club and its delightful selection of flatbreads, sandos, and apps. The latest concept from Bryan Dayton of Corrida and Oak at Fourteenth fame is decidedly approachable with its saloon vibe and 10 flat-screens playing sports, and it fills a void on Pearl Street with its array of $20 entrées. Still, there’s enough sophistication to elevate each dish above your standard bar fare, such as a fried chicken sandwich dressed with a punchy green chile ranch and fried broccoli drizzled in an apple cider gastrique. Also fun: Dayton plans to kick off weekly live music and drink specials like Honky-tonk Wednesdays and Coyote Ugly Fridays at the Colorado Club later this summer. 1043 Pearl St., Boulder —MH

Sawa Mediterranean Restaurant & Buffet

We can’t resist a buffet and the one at Sawa is unlike any other on the Front Range. Sara Hamid, a dietician turned chef and caterer, transformed a former Choice Market in Platt Park into this casual eatery. Inside, she tells the story of her journey from her native Sudan to Denver through an array of Mediterranean and Sudanese dishes presented via a buffet spread and an à la carte menu. We recommend going for the all-you-can-eat option ($25) to try a little of everything, from Hamid’s silky hummus and beef kofta to peanut-layered baklava and creamy rice pudding. Sawa also employs more than a dozen other immigrant and refugee women from Syria, Lebanon, Morocco, Pakistan, Mexico, and other countries. Some of them also cook their family recipes to serve at the restaurant so you can taste the flavors of the world at one delicious destination. 1737 E. Evans Ave. —PK

Lucy Coffee House

A close-up of a small coffee with honey cake in the background.
Lucy Coffee House’s Ethiopian macchiato. Photo by Ethan Pan

In January, Mickias Alamirew and Mehret Worku debuted Lucy Coffee House in Aurora. The community space celebrates their home country, Ethiopia, where not only coffee originates, but potentially humanity at large (per the 3.2 million-year-old human ancestor unearthed in the country 50 years ago named, you guessed it, Lucy). At this airy, light-wood-accented cafe, your morning brew is sourced from Yirgacheffe, an important coffee growing district in southern Ethiopia. You can order any of the classic espresso formats, plus regular drip coffee, but we especially enjoy indulging in the cinnamon-infused Ethiopian macchiato, which pairs well with the coffee house’s selection of pastries, such as turnovers, croissants, and slices of honey cake. Savory breakfast items are also available, ranging from a simple veggie scramble to chechebsa (pieces of injera flatbread cooked in spiced butter). 14048 E. Mississippi Ave., Aurora —EP

The Goldfinch

Despite having a South Broadway address, you won’t find this chic cocktail bar right off the bustling thoroughfare, which is precisely part of its appeal. Tucked in the back of a parking lot, the Goldfinch’s arched entryway leads guests into a playful yet sophisticated space that’s been serving up not just stellar cocktails but an impressive menu of globally-inspired shareables in a speakeasy-style space since March. Whether you opt to slip into a chartreuse stool at the glowing bar, settle into a leather sofa beside the DJ booth, or enjoy the summer sunshine on the patio sans traffic noise, don’t skimp on the apps. From crispy Korean pancakes to Raclette-coated potatoes and brisket made for Instagram-worthy cheese pulls, owner Iain Chisholm’s menu touches on dishes from Asia, the Mediterranean, and more. Of course, you’ll want to wash your smorgasbord down with one of the Goldfinch’s signature cocktails; we’d recommend the Lady Chatterly, a botanical gin-based beverage with hints of hibiscus, grapefruit, bubbles, and citrus—aka the perfect summer sipper. 1842 S. Broadway, Unit 103 —JG

Pinche Pollo

Grilled chicken and assorted accompaniments on a plate.
A half chicken order at Pinche Pollo. Photo by Ethan Pan

“Pinche” may be a bad word in Spanish, but Pinche Pollo is, well, really effing good. Owners Jose Arreola and Brenda Veleta opened the fast-casual, family-operated restaurant in an Aurora strip mall last October, and while there are other items on the menu—think: budget-friendly picks like four barbacoa tacos for $13 or five chicken flautas for $11—the secret-recipe grilled chicken should be the first thing you try. Depending on your hunger level, go for a quarter or half chicken, which comes with charred scallions and jalapeño, rice and beans, fresh corn tortillas, pickled red onions, and two salsas (an extra-hot red and a milder green version). We like to wash it all down with an agua fresca, especially the homemade horchata, which is creamier and more potently spiced with cinnamon than the premade versions of the drink you’ll find at many other Mexican restaurants. 12158 E. Mississippi Ave., Aurora —EP

La Forêt

Sliced meat on a plate with surrounding sides.
La Forêt’s stag au poivre. Photo by Ethan Pan

Housed in the aspen-adorned space which formerly was Beatrice & Woodsley, La Forêt on South Broadway takes advantage of its predecessor’s decor to create a sylvan wonderland to enjoy elevated cocktails and updated French classics. The three-month-old eatery doesn’t take reservations and can fill up quickly, so we recommend heading in early. Luckily, from 4 to 5 p.m., La Forêt holds a pastis hour, which not only lets you try the intense anise-flavored spirit traditionally enjoyed before dinner in parts of France, but also discounted small plates, such as escargot infused with Champagne and hazelnut-Chartreuse butter and charred artichoke halves served with a creamy remoulade. The à la carte dinner menu highlights rarer proteins fit for the forest vibe, like elk, boar, and rabbit, which you can pair with sides like butter-drenched pomme purée or a smoky medley of green beans, mushrooms, and red pepper. 38 S. Broadway —EP

Ethan Pan
Ethan Pan
Ethan Pan is 5280’s associate food editor, writing and editing for the print magazine and Follow his dining/cooking Instagram @ethans_pan.
Jessica Giles
Jessica Giles
Jessica is a senior associate editor on 5280's digital team.
Maren Horjus
Maren Horjus
Maren is 5280’s digital director.
Patricia Kaowthumrong
Patricia Kaowthumrong
Patricia joined the 5280 staff in July 2019 and is thrilled to oversee all of the magazine’s dining coverage. Follow her food reporting adventures on Instagram @whatispattyeating.