This fall, chefs and restaurateurs enlivened Denver’s culinary landscape with oodles of fresh venues and expanded or reincarnated concepts. Whether you’re seeking a spot to share wine and tapas with friends, grab a comforting sandwich for lunch, or dig into a bowl of ramen, there’s an eatery on our list that will satisfy your appetite. Here, 15 spots you should pop by this season (and beyond).

This is a snapshot of the best new restaurants in Denver, updated quarterly. See a running list of the best new restaurants and bars of 2022 here. See the best new restaurants of 2021 here.

Bodega Denver 

Denver Bodega
The Double Bodega Burger at Bodega Denver. Photo by Patricia Kaowthumrong

Bodega Denver, a three-month-old daytime eatery in Sunnyside, is the brainchild of north Denver native Cliff Blauvelt. Before debuting the small 35-seat joint, Blauvelt worked as culinary director at Tap & Burger and is also a veteran of Steuben’s. He brings his culinary expertise and love for stacked sandwiches to Bodega, a colorful joint with a hip-hop-powered soundtrack where he dishes a lineup of elevated breakfast and lunch fare. Go for the juicy Double Bodega Burger loaded with two stacked patties, melty American and cheddar jack cheeses, and grilled onions, or the Chili Crisp Fried Chicken Sandwich, a crispy chicken thigh patty layered with gailan (Chinese broccoli) slaw and pickled daikon radish. Don’t miss the Mixed Bag of Fries, a medley of four different types of fried potatoes served with a tangy fry sauce. 2651 W. 38th Ave.  —Patricia Kaowthumrong

Cretans 

This fall, the dining concepts at the Clayton Members Club & Hotel received a makeover, courtesy of New York City–based Quality Branded, whose concepts include Cherry Creek’s Quality Italian and award-winning bars such as Zou Zou’s. Their new additions to the Clayton include: Cretans, a Mediterranean wine bar; Kini’s, which serves cuisine inspired by the Greek isles (see below); and Chez Roc, a zebra-wallpaper-adorned, Moroccan-themed piano lounge. A deep wine and cocktail list with more than 30 wines by the glass and pour-over martinis is the draw at Cretans, which also has a roster of thoughtfully curated snacks. Go for a round of spicy pepperoncini martinis and a tower of dips accompanied by crudité and flatbread, or treat yourself to a glass of Italian skin-contact wine and a Osetra caviar slider. 233 Clayton St. —PK

Kini’s 

kini's
A spread at Kini’s. Photo courtesy of Kini’s

Kini’s, named after the relaxed coastal beach village on Greece’s Syros Island, serves upscale takes on classic Greek island dishes, including wood-oven-roasted fish (an homage to its coastal namesake). The buzzy spot has a semi-open kitchen and a 16-seat bar with an impressive greenery installation. Pair a refreshing Sumac Spritz with a Spanakopita Manti, a hybrid of traditional spanakopita and a spinach samosa, and Kini’s Meatballs with date molasses and yogurt, which give the dish the perfect balance of sweet and salty flavors. Any of the five signature dips are excellent, including the apricot-jam-sweetened whipped goat cheese, but for something heartier, order the wood-fired Ora King Salmon, a smoky, tender fish that’s large enough for two. 233 Clayton St. —Helen Xu

La Mai Thai Kitchen

La Mai Thai
The pad kra pao with pork belly, thick chunks of protein stir-fried with basil, onion, and bell pepper at La Mai Thai Kitchen. Photo by Patricia Kaowthumrong

Owner Orrapan Botthaisong (also a partner at Daughter Thai Kitchen and Bar) looked to her roots to create the blueprint for La Mai Thai Kitchen. The petite Edgewater eatery is named after her mother, La Mai, and the menu features a small selection of her favorite Thai specialties. Dig into the crispy chicken wings tossed in a sweet chili sauce, made with her grandma’s recipe, or the pad kra pao with pork belly, thick chunks of protein stir-fried with basil, onion, and bell pepper and accompanied by rice and a fried egg. The khao soi, a rich coconut curry soup with egg noodles served in northern Thailand, is also a comforting treat. Botthaisong is also waiting for approval on her liquor license, so patrons can look forward to a full bar, including a selection of hand-crafted cocktails, at the restaurant soon. 2001 Sheridan Blvd., Unit C, Edgewater —PK

Tom’s Starlight

In September, Tom’s Diner, the beloved 24-hour joint that slung burgers, shakes, and other rib-sticking fare from 1999 to 2020, received a second life as Tom’s Starlight. The retro cocktail lounge—which is situated in a building on the National Register of Historic Places that dates back to 1967—is the concoction of owner Tom Messina. For the concept’s facelift, Messina added a sprawling outdoor space with patio furniture, fountains, and Astroturf and a wood-paneled bar and lounge decked out with purple, green, and orange accents. While the decor has old-school cocktail lounge vibes, the food and drink offerings are mostly modern with options such as cheese charcuterie boards and fried chicken thigh sandwiches with pecan-date coleslaw to pair with drinks such as the cucumber-apple-vodka-forward Bend & Snap or cilantro-tequila infused Green Thumb. For a throwback, look for Stupid Questions, a charge for unapproved queries from the old diner’s menu. 601 E. Colfax Ave. —PK

Wellness Sushi

Wellness sushi
Classic onigiri with plant-based Spam at Wellness Sushi. Photo by Patricia Kaowthumrong

Plant-based eaters, rejoice: This month, Wellness Sushi—Denver’s first vegan sushi and Japanese restaurant—celebrated its grand opening on East Colfax. The fast-casual spot, which previously operated as a ghost kitchen in Aurora, presents rolls, onigiri, donburi (rice bowls), and ramen that are made with meat and fish alternatives so flavorful and satisfying that you won’t miss the real thing. Our favorite order is the classic onigiri, a sandwich-size seaweed-wrapped rice ball stuffed with umami-packed vegan tamago (a Japanese rolled omelet) and caramelized OmniPork Spam (made with soybeans, wheat, beets, and coconut oil). But the rolls, composed of everything from king mushroom tempura to eggplant eel to sun-dried tomato cheese, are also worth a try. 2504 E. Colfax Ave. —PK

Dragonfly Noodle

Dragonfly Noodle
The Yaki Udon stir fry at Dragonfly Noodle. Photo by Patricia Kaowthumrong

LoDo gained a sweet lunch and dinner venue, thanks to the arrival of Dragonfly Noodle. In October, Zoe Ma Ma’s Edwin Zoe opened the fast-casual concept’s second location on 16th Street Mall (the first is in Boulder). Zoe’s abbreviated selection of Pacific Rim dishes are influenced by culinary traditions in countries across Asia, including Vietnam, Singapore, and Japan. Slurp-friendly offerings include the tonkotsu ramen with cherrywood-smoked pork belly, black garlic oil, and Zoe’s house-made noodles, and the yaki udon, soft and springy wheat noodles imported from Japan stir fried with sliced steak and a medley of veggies. 1350 16th St. Mall —PK

Pato’s Tacos

patos
Pato’s Tacos. Photo by Patricia Kaowthumrong

At eight-month-old Pato’s Tacos, Mexico City native Patricio “Pato” Penalosa offers a small but mighty roster of tacos and sides. With the help of business partner and chef Rene Gonzalez, Penalosa adapted the concept to align with Mexican street food vendors, who typically only serve a few dishes and sides. Since there are only a handful of tables in the petite eatery, the limited number of offerings also help the duo ensure that patrons receive their food quickly, also a trademark of taco stands in Mexico. Visit during taco Tuesday, when you can get three tacos and a drink for $15. Top tortilla toppers include tender cochinita pibil (slow-simmered pork stew made with more than 12 ingredients, including achiote peppers, garlic, and onion) and the Pato’s Especial (fresh guac and chicharron). 5038 E. Colfax Ave. —PK

La Rola Colombian Kitchen

Formerly located in Zeppelin Station, this Colombian restaurant set up shop in the south suburbs this fall and now serves an expanded menu of Latin specialties. The empanadas (your choice of four fillings) are exceptional, but we also like the arepa (a corn-based flat bread) with chorizo and plantains or digging into a plate of comforting arroz con pollo, yellow-hued rice and chicken served with fried sweet plantain, yuca, and criolla potatoes.. Don’t miss other Colombian staples such as the millionaire (small) or billionaire (large) hot dog, each topped with a bevy of accouterments, including shredded chicken, ham, bacon, onions, crushed potato chips, pineapple sauce, and a quail egg. 5350 S. Santa Fe Dr., Unit C, Littleton —Riane Menardi Morrison 

Pollo Tico

A spread from Pollo Tico. Photo courtesy of Hayley Edmisten

In early November, Costa Rican native and Top Chef season 18 cheftestant Byron Gomez brought Pollo Tico (‘Tico’ is the nickname Costa Ricans call themselves) to Avanti Boulder. The menu features arroz con pollo, chicken patacon (the Costa Rican term for tostone), hearts of palm salad, and distinctly Costa Rican extras like Lizano sauce and Imperial beer. That chicken with rice is likely to be a menu favorite, with its shredded rotisserie chicken flavored with Lizano sauce, the vegetable-based condiment that’s on every Costa Rican table. The savory, mildly acidic sauce looks like a darker hot sauce, but without the fire power. Gomez also uses Lizano on the chicken sandwich, along with pickled red onion and chimichurri sauce. Tropical fruits like tamarind, pineapple, and plantains pop up in salads, sauces, and slaws, but you’ll definitely want to order a side of the maduros, sweet plantains drizzled with natilla (similar to sour cream) and topped with herbs and pickled red onion. Avanti Food and Beverage, 1401 Pearl St., Boulder —Allyson Reedy

Pirate Alley Boucherie

A photo of a Cubano from Pirate Alley. Photo courtesy of Pirate Alley
A Cubano from Pirate Alley. Photo courtesy of Pirate Alley

Chef-owner Kyle Foster—formerly the owner of Julep and the chef at Colt & Gray—originally opened Pirate Alley as a pop-up sandwich shop in 2019. But the lineup of po’ boys, subs, and melts was so popular that he opened a permanent location out of the Ice House downtown this past September. You can’t go wrong with any of the seasonally inspired creations, but we’re partial to the New Orleans-style barbecue shrimp dip, filled with tender shellfish, celery slaw, and a barbecue-sauce-tinged butter sauce, a nod to Foster’s Southern upbringing. (Pirate Alley is named for the famous pedestrian area of the same name in New Orleans). When the 2,850-square-foot space isn’t slinging sammies from 10:30 a.m. to 2 p.m., it doubles as a private event space that also partners with Stir Cooking School, owned and operated by Foster’s wife, Katy. 1801 Wynkoop St., Ste. A-175 —RMM

Derecho

A photo of various small plates at Derecho. Photo by Riane Menardi Morrison
Small plates at Derecho. Photo by Riane Menardi Morrison

Three-month-old Derecho, a new tapas bar situated in a light and airy space directly above Cherry Creek’s Machete Tequila + Tacos, serves small plates spanning hummus, piquillo  pepper rellenos, and burrata brought to life by chef Kevin Marquet. Helmed by the same team—co-owners John “Wally” Wallrath and Dan Ohlson—the spot’s imaginative cocktails and fresh fare (there’s no deep fryer in the facility) are satisfying fuel for a shopping trip in the retail district. Start with a round of tangy, marinated gigante beans served atop crisp baguette slices and Find Your Drishti cocktails, spirit-forward sippers of Reposado tequila, fresh lemon simple syrup, orange bitters, and Fresno pepper. For dinner, don’t miss the shareable polenta with braised Colorado lamb, seasoned with garlic, Parmesan cheese, and mojo verde sauce. 2817 E. Third Ave. —RMM

The Hungry Goat Scratch Kitchen and Wine Bar

Nearby Morrison offers a mountain-town experience within easy reach of the city center, with its charming main street, foothill views, and access to hiking and activities at Red Rocks. While there are plenty of places to grab a drink, those looking for more filling fare should stop at the Hungry Goat, a scratch kitchen that opened this summer. Located in a refurbished house, there’s ample seating in the light-soaked dining room and plant-bedecked patio, which features cozy globe lights and a bubbling waterfall. Dinner will set you back around $20 to $30 per entrée, but the thick-cut, handmade Bolognese pappardelle, tossed with plum tomato sauce that’s studded with bits of ground beef and pork, is a spend-worthy comfort. Also don’t miss the impossibly crisp and delicate calamari, which is served with Italian pepper slices and a sweet-hot chili dipping sauce. Wash it down with a refreshing pear-fig martini or Aperol apricot spritz. 102 Market St., Morrison —RMM

The Lazy Greyhound

A photo of a cocktail at the Lazy Greyhound. Photo by Riane Menardi Morrison
A cocktail at the Lazy Greyhound. Photo by Riane Menardi Morrison

Owners Kristin and Jason Ungate, along with their namesake pooch, Guybrush, opened the Lazy Greyhound on downtown Littleton’s Main Street in spring 2022. The low-ceilinged space is furnished with inviting leather couches and delightfully on-theme hound artwork; there’s even a good boy depicted in stained glass form above the bar. The fun extends to the drink menu, which is divided into Old Dogs and New Tricks sections (classic cocktails and original creations, respectively). We like the mellow and strong Eternal Harvest, a concoction of corn-infused bourbon, Nixta Licor de Elote (a corn liqueur), and angostura bitters, or the fall favorite Rumkin, with rich flavors of Flor de Cana seven-year rum, pumpkin spice, and Borghetti coffee liqueur. Or try the bar’s house drink,  a “lazy” take on the classic greyhound made with sloe gin (a variety made with tart sloe berries) and grapefruit shrub. 2570 W. Main St., Littleton —RMM

The Rouge Wine Bar & Patio

Bob Koontz, the owner of Greenwood Village’s Pindustry, originally wanted to use space next door to his sprawling barcade as a banquet area. But he turned it into a wine bar instead after hearing from customers, who desired a quieter, more upscale place to relax and take a break from enjoying the live music, bowling lanes, and arcade games at Pindustry. In October, he debuted the Rougea 1920s-themed bar in a sleek,  space adorned with sapphire blue accents and string lights—as a response to their feedback. The menu has 50 wines by the glass and 200 bottles sourced from boutique growers from across the world, which pairs well with the lineup of small and shareable plates influenced by global flavors. Look for specialties such as the spaghetti squash pasta with grilled pomodoro sauce and shaved pecorino or the hamachi sashimi with ponzu, chile, and toasted sesame oil. 7939 E. Arapahoe Road, Suite 190, Greenwood Village —HX

Allyson Reedy
Allyson Reedy
Allyson Reedy is a freelance writer and ice cream fanatic living in Broomfield.
Patricia Kaowthumrong
Patricia Kaowthumrong
Patricia joined the 5280 staff in July 2019 and is thrilled to be overseeing all of 5280 Magazine’s dining coverage. Follow her food reporting adventures on Instagram @whatispattyeating.
Riane Menardi Morrison
Riane Menardi Morrison
Riane is 5280's digital strategy editor and writes food and culture content. Follow her at @riane__eats.