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Whether you’re visiting Denver for a long weekend or sport a “native” sticker on your Subaru, there’s something special about heading to downtown Denver. Despite what cynical locals will tell you—and the seemingly endless construction on the iconic 16th Street Mall—the scene is alive and well, and the slew of longstanding eateries and eager newcomers is proof. Here, 30 of the best restaurants and bars to visit downtown, organized from morning coffee to late night bites.
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This all-day bakery and cafe is a convenient stop for a cup of joe, a quick lunch, or dessert between downtown activities. From the same family of eateries as Olive & Finch, the baked goods and lunch bites are every bit as delicious as Little Finch’s big sister.
Try this: Sweets are the draw here, so lean into that craving with a Café Cajeta: espresso, steamed milk, smoked sea salt, and cajeta (Mexican caramel) sauce. Pair it with a white-chocolate-dipped house-made Twinkie (coated on the bottom with rainbow sprinkles, of course) or a bacon-loaded cinnamon roll. 1490 16th Street Mall
This small, but mighty takeaway tea counter specializes in variations of traditional matcha hand whisked to order and delightful boba tea concoctions. Though the bare bones, industrial vibe may seem austere, the friendly tea mavens are always ready with a helpful recommendation. They craft your order with the highest quality ingredients sourced ethically to give 100 percent of the price paid for the tea leaves directly to farmers.
Try this: The Uji Matcha is crafted with milk of your choice (we like the grass-fed whole milk), ceremonial-grade matcha tea, and herbal jasmine tea for a sweet and earthy cup that’ll instantly become a favorite in your rotation. 1641 Market St., Suite 133
Whether for a quick cup of coffee or a lingering mimosa brunch with friends and business colleagues, crowds flock every day of the week to Onefold, a contemporary, light-filled eatery with Asian and Hawaiian influences, as evidenced by the myriad oversize portions of hangover-curing rice dishes.
Try this: While regulars swear by the bacon-studded fried rice, our heart goes out to the loco moco, a Hawaiian creation of two griddled hamburger patties and two fried eggs laid atop a bed of jasmine rice and drizzled with umami-rich mushroom gravy. 1420 E. 18th Ave.
This two-year-old day-to-night coffee bar welcomes in tourists and locals alike with its chic terrazzo-marble-topped bistro tables and thoughtful menu of caffeinated staples, as well as an evening menu that includes cocktails, Cabernet, and Cava.
Try this: Indulge in the Wild’s house specialties that are uncommon at other Denver coffee shops, such as the rich and silky Dalgona whipped coffee (java whipped into a light cream and poured over ice) or a refreshing and herbal matcha mint fizz. 1660 Wynkoop St., Suite 100
Brother-and-sister powerhouse Paul and Aileen Reilly sling expertly crafted farm-to-table fare at this seasonal restaurant inside the Hyatt Centric Downtown Denver. While all meals here offer something special, brunch has the best of all worlds, with modern American comforts such as walnut-crusted sticky buns, green-chile-loaded breakfast burritos, and buttermilk pancakes.
Try this: The vegan Nashville hot tofu scramble is a tongue-tingling affair loaded with nourishing Swiss chard and accompanied by adzuki bean chow chow (a pickled relish condiment). A side of fries makes it the stuff brunch dreams are made of. 822 18th St.
Whether you’re staying at the Thompson Denver or braving game-day traffic to sample celebrity chef Ludo Lefebvre’s Denver-inspired take on his native French cuisine, Chez Maggy should be on your brunching bucket list (and luckily, the restaurants offers it every day of the week). From parfaits graced with seasonal poached fruit to hanger steak frites, there’s a little something for everyone on the menu.
Try this: The French Denver omelet is a fusion of two classics, made magical under the expertise of a chef who has called both places “home.” With Parisian ham, bell peppers, and decadent Gruyère cheese, the only thing missing is an indulgent, cheesy crème sauce smothered over the top—and of course Lefebvre gives the people what they want. 1616 Market St.
In addition to its regular menu of stellar Mexican fare, this longstanding Denver restaurant serves special brunch items on Saturdays and Sundays that pair well with a tangy michelada or bloody mary. With cozy leather booths and an expansive bar, this is the place to enjoy a hearty meal without getting gussied up—a refreshing change from downtown’s ritzier offerings.
Try this: The breakfast fajitas arrive sizzling to your table loaded with grilled skirt steak, onions, bell peppers, and seasoned potatoes. What makes it breakfast? Two gooey eggs that you should let run over the hot plate before piling into your tortilla. 1801 Broadway
Kick your downtown brunch experience up a notch by adding live music to the affair at Ophelia’s, a Ballpark neighborhood staple that reopened last year after a pandemic-driven hiatus. Musical performances are included with your meal reservation on select weekend days, so settle in with bottomless mimosas ($19 to $25 depending on the flavor), and let the tunes take you over.
Try this: Executive chef Matt Summers ensures all palates feel welcome at Ophelia’s, with a menu spanning a turmeric-and-ricotta-filled blintz with apricot jam and sumac yogurt to wagyu smashburgers and Creole fried chicken over biscuits and gravy. You can’t go wrong. 1215 20th St.
This dreamscape-inspired eatery tucked behind Union Station offers a feast for the eyes in addition to a feast of Mediterranean flavors from both Europe and northern Africa. While waiting for your first tapas plate to arrive, let your gaze wander between the magenta ceiling, yellow-striped floor, and the enchanting oversize globe and cloud lights suspended above you.
Try this: Crispy falafel topped with pickled peppers pairs well with the house baba ganoush, a silky dip made with charred eggplants, tahini, and fresh mint. Add a hearty protein such as the shrimp and Spanish chorizo drizzled with lemon, garlic, and sherry butter, and round out your meal with the zesty patatas bravas: tender smashed potatoes set atop a bed of tangy sofrito and drizzled with house aïoli. 1801 Wewatta St.
If the munchies hit and only a dog will do, veer toward Biker Jim’s, a Denver favorite with an outpost in Coors Field and a new line of take-home wieners that you can find at local Safeways. With options for the tame and adventurous eater alike, expect temptations spanning ostrich, elk, wild boar, rattlesnake, and of course, the standard Angus beef.
Try this: For something different, try the chicken peach chipotle dog, piled with fresh fruit and hot chiles, or go for your game of choice and top with the crowd-pleasing Drunk Pirate topping lineup: Upslope lager mustard cream sauce; fried, pickled red onions; and local greens. 2148 Larimer St.
While technically not lunch, the afternoon tea service at the historic Brown Palace hotel is a Denver institution. The hotel celebrated its 130th anniversary last year, and it stays true to tradition while continuing to delight Denverites and visitors alike with handmade pastries, scones, and tea sandwiches served amidst the sounds of a grand piano resonating throughout the light-soaked atrium.
Try this: The $50 signature tea service includes tea of your choice (we like the bergamot-orange-scented Earl Grey variety) served alongside handmade scones, finger sandwiches, and classic tea pastries such as chocolate-dipped macaroons and mini fruit tarts. Add a glass of bubbles starting at an additional $5. 321 17th St.
Don’t pass over this humble spot tucked away amid the bustle of Blake Street. It’s been a local favorite for almost 20 years, and lunch here might just be one of the best deals downtown. Burritos will set you back less than $9 and most specialty entrées are under $15. House margs are a blissful $7 to $9, all day.
Try this: The crispy chile relleno filled with tender chicken and smothered in green chile is a great introduction to the Mile High City’s obsession with the spicy verde sauce, and it pairs well with a round of the zesty house guacamole or spicy salsa. 1530 Blake St.
Chef-owner Edwin Zoe crafts in-house ramen noodles at this cheery counter-serve spot on the 16th Street Mall. From decadent lobster ramen to fluffy roast duck bao buns, there are plenty of comforting carbs to go around. Also don’t miss Zoe’s other noodle house, Zoe Ma Ma, located near Union Station.
Try this: Though only the ramen is made in-house, the noodle dish we crave most is the sweet and savory yaki udon: thick, toothsome wheat flour strands stir fried with sliced steak, shiitake mushrooms, onions, bok choy, carrots, and scallions. 1350 16th Street Mall
This Union Station stalwart from the mind of chef-owner Alex Seidel invites downtown-goers to indulge in the bounty of the season, with fresh ingredients cooked to perfection seven days a week. While the items on the dinner menu are always delicious, lunch is a more casual, relaxing affair, and it’s easy to lose track of time in the sunshine-drenched, farmhouse-chic eatery.
Try this: While the lineup of sandwiches, salads, and bowls may seem beige compared to downtown’s showier menus, rest assured that each entrée is expertly prepared with seasonal produce and thoughtful accompaniments. We like the focaccia panzanella salad, prepared with house-made bread, delicata squash, burrata cheese, sage, and Saba vinegar. 1701 Wynkoop St., Suite 155
Fans of Korean fried chicken should plan a visit to Mono Mono, an eatery that reads like a local watering hole with its bar-height tables, indoor string lights, and plentiful TV screens, but brings traditional, impossibly crispy Korean fried chicken to Denver with no apologies. Expect chile-seasoned bird prepared to your liking, alongside crave-worthy sides like kimchi fries, spicy gochujang-drenched rice cakes, and bulgogi nachos.
Try this: Owner J.W. Lee fries his chicken with an Asian frying technique that renders out fat from the skin, creating a thin, crackly crust which is saliva-inducing on any of the bone-in poultry options: naked, dry rub, or signature saucy. Indecisive patrons: Look to the combo options. 1550 Blake St.
From restaurateur Lon Symensma and the team behind ChoLon comes a more casual, playful, and dumpling-forward little sister: Yumcha, helmed by Cantonese chef Michelle Xiao, a dumpling expert of more than 30 years. The space is small and intimate and can quickly get crowded on busy days, so arrive early or make a reservation to ensure your spot.
Try this: Don’t miss the fusion-inspired soup dumplings here, which include a tangy General Tso’s chicken variety as well as the same craveable French onion soup dumplings made famous at ChoLon. Round out your meal with a selection from the noodle menu and a side of crab and cheese rangoon purses. 1520 16th Street Mall
Happy Hour & Drinks
There’s nothing better than indulging in a great happy hour deal in refined digs, and Bistro LeRoux offers both to thirsty patrons every day but Monday. A charcuterie or cheese board and bottle of wine will set you back only $30, or opt for oysters and bubbles for the same price. Other bites are $10 and under, and it’s easy to get your fill on French fare such as pommes frites and foie gras.
Try this: Wagyu steak tartare is just $9, accompanied by smoked oyster aïoli, confit egg yolks, and cornichons, served atop a crunchy potato chip. Pair with a warm baguette and homemade butter for just $3 more. 1510 16th St.
If haunted pirate tiki bars with an LGBTQ+ twist are your thing, Hell or High Water should be your go-to watering hole. Tasteful male-anatomy-inspired decor is hidden amongst the skulls, crossbones, dinosaur busts, taxidermied fish, and other oddities—a welcome sensory overload that pairs well with island-inspired cocktails (monikered with cheeky, X-rated puns, of course).
Try this: We like the agave-based options, particularly the Pecker is Mightier Than the Sword: a mix of mezcal, Ancho Reyes chile liqueur, pineapple juice, and a jalapeño and lime garnish. 1526 Blake St.
If you spot a line snaking around the corner of Wazee and 17th streets around 3:30 p.m., you’ve found one of downtown’s best happy hours. Shellfish lovers flock here prior to the restaurant’s opening each day for the blessed 90 minutes when select oysters are $2 and drinks are under $10 each. The best seats in the house are at the raw bar, so join the queue early to grab a stool.
Try this: The proprietary CrackerJax oysters from the Rappahannock River Company are stellar, but let the experienced seafood mongers lead you toward a selection of their seasonal favorites to round out your platter. Pair with peel-and-eat shrimp and fries (also on the HH menu) to make it a meal. 1539 17th St.
The happy hour spot of choice for our downtown-based Eat & Drink team, Pony Up is all the best things about a bar wrapped up into a hip, comforting package that invites you to have just one more well past the time you promised yourself you’d be home. Exposed brick, low lighting, eclectic decor (moose heads, bicycles, and neon) add to the atmosphere.
Try this: The cocktails always hit, but the $10 beer and shot combo (we like tequila and Tecate) fit Pony Up’s low-key vibe just as well. Whatever you do, soak up the liquor with one of the half-dozen French dip options—which are some of the best in town—and the shatteringly crisp karaage fried chicken. 1808 Blake St.
Venture to the Dairy Block—the bar-, shop-, and restaurant-heavy stretch of Blake and 18th streets that includes the popular Milk Market food hall—for one of the best speakeasy experiences in town. Don’t bother making a reservation (they’re not accepted), but arrive in the early evening to snag a table in the subterranean, yet modern, Prohibition-inspired lair filled with nods to horse racing and bookie culture.
Try this: Upon arrival, you’ll be offered a deck of cards, each of which contains the recipe for a classic cocktail, organized by spirit and strength via the suit and number. You’ll likely find cocktails you’ve never tried, but we recommend old-timey sippers like the Chartreuse-forward Diamondback or the whiskey-driven Boulevardier. 1801 Blake St., Suite 10
Denver’s cowtown roots meet modern steakhouse fare at this hip, neon-illuminated eatery just a few blocks from Larimer Square. Look for shareable cuts such as Prime black Angus tenderloin, or a 40-ounce tomahawk ribeye from Otis, Colorado’s Lazy Acre Farm. Be sure to order your pick “chef Max style” to add grilled alliums and roasted bone marrow.
Try this: Aside from steak, don’t miss the beef tartare katsu sando: raw beef tenderloin and a soft boiled quail egg sandwiched between two fluffy slices of Japanese milk bread. The bacon and kimchi fried rice is also stellar. 1600 15th St.
James Beard-nominated chef Michael Diaz de Leon helms this chef’s counter experience under the umbrella of famed chef Kelly Whitaker’s restaurant group, Id Est. The tasting menu changes constantly, but expect a zero-waste experience with ingredients spanning grains, chiles, fermented vegetables, and corn milled on site.
Try this: An omakase-style meal is the only way to dine at this 15-seat counter, and reservations are required. Expect to be treated to a lineup of Latin- and global-inspired bites flame-cooked over oak in the restaurant’s hearth oven. 1801 Blake St.
Troy Guard’s modern steak house has been serving classic carnivore fare for nearly a decade in Denver’s central business district. Once you slide into one of the oversized circular booths lining the edges of the restaurant, the only thing you have to worry about is which meats you want delivered to your table: from an extensive raw bar to Colorado-sourced lamb, steak isn’t the only protein in high supply.
Try this: The oak-grilled octopus is a staple on the menu for a reason: the tender tentacles are accompanied by Spanish chorizo and a white bean and celery salad dressed with tangy sherry vinaigrette. And the steak flight (4 ounces each of USDA Prime, wagyu, and grass-fed filet mignon) is an absolute must. 1801 California St.
Owners Jennifer and Jake Linzinmeir serve a rotating menu of fresh handmade pastas and Italian classics at this cozy LoDo eatery with exposed brick and a Prohibition-style cellar where you can sip craft cocktails and absinthe. From smoked bone marrow served alongside kumquat Aperol vinaigrette to fennel sausage pizza, every dish is thoughtfully crafted to delight your taste buds.
Try this: Go for the Roman-inspired pasta amatriciana, a zesty red sauce dish made with roasted peppers, Italian sausage, rosemary, marjoram, and kale. End your meal with a slightly sweet olive oil cake layered with fresh berries and sorbet. 1520 Blake St.
Rioja’s chef Jen Jasinski won the James Beard Award for Best Southwest Chef in 2013 and was a semifinalist for Outstanding Chef in 2016—so you know the fine Mediterranean food found here is worth the hype. If you like white tablecloths, dine inside amid the rustic exposed brick and green velvet seats, or if people-watching is more your thing, opt for a patio spot on bustling Larimer Square, which has been a pedestrian-only zone since COVID-19 lockdowns ended two years ago.
Try this: Go for one of Jasinski’s handmade pastas, either as an appetizer or entrée (we like the artichoke tortelloni, filled with artichoke mousse and accompanied by white truffle broth and aged Manchego), and follow with one of the sustainably sourced proteins such as duck breast from New York’s Liberty Farms. 1431 Larimer St.
Dine on fine Italian food amidst some of the best hospitality in town—and one of the best wine lists as well—at this sleek and modern pasta hub with a bustling open kitchen in Union Station. From the same group as Boulder’s famous Frasca, this more approachable eatery boasts an affordable lunch and happy hour as well as seasonal rotating dinner entrées that bring the magic of Italy to the Rockies.
Try this: Start with a crisp endive salad dotted with Gorgonzola, olives, lemon, and pistachio before diving into handmade rigatoni with lamb ragu. You can’t go wrong with any secondi dish, but we like the Coniglio: milk-braised rabbit, morel mushrooms, and lentils drizzled with gremolata. 1889 16th Street Mall
Each dining area at this sprawling seafood house has its own vibe: from the Western-inspired main dining room to the blue, coastal-inspired back room to the bright and bustling raw bar, where you’ll find the day’s catch on display. The restaurant is owned and operated by King’s Seafood Company, which ships in fresh ocean dwellers daily from California and beyond.
Try this: Ask your server for seasonal recommendations and enjoy the best that North America’s oceans have to offer. Currently on the menu: wild-caught, soft-shell blue crabs from Maryland are at peak tenderness and served with watermelon and cucumber salad and a brown butter ginger-soy sauce. 1691 Market St.