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The Denver area welcomed a bounty of exciting new dining concepts in 2022, from elegant French eateries and crave-worthy bakeries to family-friendly Japanese joints to welcoming Italian bistros. But the growing list of temporary and permanently closed bars and restaurants is a reminder that local food businesses continue to battle labor shortages, skyrocketing operation costs, and tight profit margins—all issues that have been exacerbated by the ongoing global pandemic and record-breaking inflation.
As the year comes to an end, 5280 staffers and contributors celebrate some of their favorite openings and honor spots that have shuttered their doors this year—a reminder to support the independently owned business however you can.
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When my nine-year-old son heard that Sushi-Rama, the restaurant that sends colorful plates of sushi rolls spinning through the dining room via conveyor belt, was opening its fifth location in Broomfield’s Arista development near our house, he was excited—like a new pack of Pokemon cards level of excited. After many delays, it finally opened in December, and it did not disappoint his little avocado- and California roll–loving heart. “Best dinner ever,” he said repeatedly. For a restaurant that brings dinnertime peace for our family, his parents agree. —Allyson Reedy, contributor
Point Easy’s pistachio daiquiri opened my eyes to the brave new world of pistachio cocktails. (This is a thing, right? If it’s not, let’s make it one.) Paired with house-made pastas and creamy, Calabrian chile–drizzled burrata, this Whittier restaurant gave me one of my favorite meals of the year. —AR
I am smitten with the new coffee shop and bakery in Boulder Süti & Co. It’s taken over a sweet Victorian cottage a block off Pearl Street, and out front are wooden tables and chairs with white sheepskins draped over them. Inside are hygge-inducing displays of Scandinavian-style home goods and décor, a case of house-made Danish shortbreads, and plenty of cozy corners to hide away in while you sip your honey latte. —Gwen Gray, contributor
Lucina, from the team behind Create Cooking School in Stanley Marketplace, is a sweet addition to the Park Hill neighborhood. Whether you’re visiting for happy hour (when cocktails like the cucumber- and gin-infused What Would Lucina Drink are $10 or less!) or for paella night on Friday or Saturday, the restaurant and bar is a welcoming spot to share a spread of delicious ceviche, patatas bravas, and croquetas with friends. Don’t skip dessert: There’s always something special on the menu. I’m eyeing the Abeulita’s Xocolatl, cinnamon chocolate cake with Mexican cocoa and Mexican vanilla anglaise for my next visit. —PK
Tim and Lillian Lu are dishing a very special brand of French cuisine at Noisette. I love the friendly staff and the feel of the dining room, which is dressed in floral accents and a soft color palette of light pink, pistachio, and gold. Like the ambience, the menu is both elegant and approachable. Duck is a staple in my family (we eat it monthly), but I’ve never tasted a preparation as tasty as Noisette’s crispy skinned duck breast with foie gras and duck jus and confit potatoes. I can’t wait to find out what’s on the menu in 2023. —PK
I’m definitely digging a new restaurant in Roxborough Park called Sapore Prime Italian. Founding owners Daphnee Duplaix and Terrence Gibbons tapped chef Brent Turnipseede (formerly of Guard and Grace and American Elm) to create an interesting menu of Italian pasta dishes infused with Colorado ingredients. I was recently wowed by a dish featuring fried olives, local squash, burrata, a brown butter crumble, and a black garlic gastrique. And that was just the amuse bouche! It was a good sign for that night’s meal and others to come. —Adrian Miller, contributor
Luis Gutierrez and his brother Heriberto began working in Denver’s Italian restaurants 20 some years ago, starting as dishwashers. In November, the two debuted their own family restaurant: Cucina Bella, a pizza and pasta spot near the Lowry neighborhood. During a recent visit, I started with the garlic bread that’s served with a smooth, zesty pomodoro dunking sauce and then ordered one of Luis’ favorite dishes, a lemony chicken piccata served with salt-packed capers and over whipped potatoes. After a few bites of the peach bread pudding that’s topped with a crown of amaretto-mascarpone cream, I was texting my fellow dessert-obsessed friends photos and making plans to come back with them stat. —Brittany Anas, contributor
All the Bakeries
From Banh & Butter Bakery Cafe’s Vietnamese-meets-French creations in Aurora to Hearth’s awesome morning buns and scones in RiNo to Jeannot’s Patisserie & Bistro bringing near-perfect croissants to Lafayette, the Denver Metro area got a whole lot sweeter in 2022. —AR
I’m no vegan, but the lineup of simple, seasonal pies and pastas from Everyday Pizza makes me want to eat plant-based, well, every day. I love the fennel- and pink-peppercorn-dusted lion’s mane mushrooms, which are roasted to tender perfection. Visit for the new lunch menu to enjoy a pizza or pasta of your choice, plus salad and a glass of wine for $20. —Riane Menardi Morrison, digital strategy editor
Domo (Closed January 2022)
Domo off Osage Street was one of the most special restaurants in town. Gorgeous outdoor garden complete with a stream and lily pads? Check. A menu of hard-to-find eats like Japanese-style curry and a kaleidoscope of ever-changing sides? Yep, and it was all excellent. Domo’s food and unrivaled atmosphere are irreplaceable, and it will be deeply missed. —AR
Golden Europe (Closed May 2022)
Golden Europe closed its doors in late May after 27 years of serving German, Polish, and Czech fare off Wadsworth Boulevard in Arvada. Inside the cozy brick building bedecked with steins and furnished with wood paneling and lace curtains, customers sipped giant mugs of Paulaner Hefe-Weizen and feasted on platters of house-made sausages and spätzle. I miss the restaurant’s rib-sticking comfort—particularly the big-as-your-face schnitzel, which was served with a boat of velvety gravy—and I’m sure I’m not alone. —PK
Blue Ocean (Closed May 2022)
Anyone who stepped inside Blue Ocean—a no-frills eatery in the Denver Tech Center that specialized in Sichuan cuisine—likely encountered chef-owner Jack Ning. Once when I stopped to pick up takeout for lunch, he kindly recommended the stir-fried hand-pulled noodles, which I happily ordered. Then, he ran into the kitchen to prepare my meal. I left the restaurant with containers of the thick noodles stir-fried with slices of beef and orders of crispy duck and garlic-laced bok choy. I’m sad patrons won’t be able to taste Ning’s tasty noodles and experience his hospitable operation, which was truly one-of-a-kind. —PK
To the Wind Bistro (Closed May 2022)
One night, while going through a rough time, I met a friend at the chef’s counter at To the Wind Bistro and proceeded to cry through dinner. In that tiny space, there was no way the staff could pretend not to see me; what they did instead was show me tremendous compassion, discreetly making me feel protected in my little corner. While the food was highly memorable too—I still think fondly of one of the first dishes I ever had there, escargot empanadas, so good—I’ll never forget their grace under the pressure I surely caused them. Not that I couldn’t be more excited for the opening of Bo Porytko’s new restaurant in its place, but I’ll remain grateful to Royce Oliveira, Leanne Adamson, and their team for the way they put the humanity in hospitality. —Ruth Tobias, contributor
Freshcraft (Closed May 2022)
For Denver being such a craft beer mecca, it’s surprisingly difficult to find an interesting suds lineup in LoDo. Most places serve the same solid but predictable Colorado-born classics: Dale’s Pale Ale, Fat Tire, White Rascal, Coors Light. But since opening in 2011, Freshcraft—with its small curved bar, prominently positioned front and center of the long, narrow restaurant, as it should be—reliably stocked hard-to-find-on-tap local gems such as WeldWerks’ Juicy Bits and brought in exciting out-of-state (and even international) brews. I still remember walking in one day to discover a freshly tapped keg of Russian River’s Pliny the Elder, probably the most sought-after IPA in the world at the time. I’m sure I’m not the only beer nerd mourning—and looking for a new go-to brewpub downtown. Bonus points if it also replicates Freshcraft’s crispy, too-big-for-the-bun pork tenderloin sandwich. —Jessica LaRusso, 5280 managing editor
Green Russell (Closing December 31, 2022)
There is such a thing as a perfect cocktail joint, and to me, it’s the Green Russell. It has everything: the nondescript staircase leading to the underbelly of one of the city’s most iconic squares; the speakeasy-style entrance past a barbecue kitchen; the stone-lined interior so dimly lit, you throw out your hands to make sure you don’t fall. And then there’s the drinks, and the special touches, like the hand-chipped block of ice made fresh by the team and the dapper bartenders ready with recommendations bespoke to your preferences. To me, it was flawless. —RMM