23. Rioja

Last year 16

Eleven years after opening, Rioja is still Larimer Square’s crown jewel. And this year, Jennifer Jasinski and Beth Gruitch’s restaurant got a major facelift. The combination of luxe textured walls, crushed green velvet, and warm, creamy colors—plus the ever-packed tables—define Rioja as a hot spot. For the most sure-fire dishes, look to Jasinski’s classics: the artichoke tortellini, the pork belly, and any dish with lamb. These tempting combinations speak of the restaurant’s roots in the Mediterranean region, where Jasinski found her culinary inspiration. 1431 Larimer St., 303-820-2282, riojadenver.com

Order this: fresh bacon with cardamom and curried garbanzo bean purée