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Each year, when 5280’s dining team sends me its list of the best 25 restaurants in Denver, I play a little game. Scanning the feature, I see how many of the eateries I’ve been to, hoping my percentage is higher than the previous year. In 2022, I congratulated myself for having been to 80 percent of the spots on the list. This year, I’ve only been to 56 percent of the dining rooms that food editor Patricia Kaowthumrong and assistant food editor Ethan Pan worked so diligently to select.
Although I do hate to lose to myself, the prospect of planning culinary outings to 11 new-to-me restaurants is what makes reading this annual roundup so exciting. It’s also a reminder of how diffuse the local dining scene has become in recent years. No longer are the most talked-about, most acclaimed foodie destinations located in downtown Denver or Cherry Creek or Boulder. Instead, I’ll be making reservations in Aurora, Lone Tree, Arvada, and Lyons. The diverse portfolio is a testament to the hard work so many entrepreneurs have put into both opening new restaurants and reinventing menus that keep Denverites returning to long-standing businesses again and again. This year’s list is also proof that while Kaowthumrong and Pan break bread at the region’s trendiest grills, lunchrooms, and cafes, they also seek out deliciousness in less obvious places. The result is a roster of restaurants that celebrates culinary traditions that stretch from Vietnam to Italy to India to West Africa to the Osage Nation.
So, I ask you this: What’s your number? To find out, see this month’s “25 Best Restaurants.” Then pull out your calendar: My guess is you’re going to need to mark off at least 10 dates to be able to savor all the well-crafted cocktails, inventive appetizers, creative entrées, and to-die-for desserts that you haven’t yet experienced. To that, I say bon appétit!
Patricia Kaowthumrong & Ethan Pan
Food editor and assistant food editor
While most features that land in 5280 take weeks and weeks of work, our annual rundown of best restaurants is a year-round process. Patricia Kaowthumrong and Ethan Pan dine out month after month and also specifically dined at more than 70 restaurants across the metro area before narrowing down the list to a final 25. “We assembled this roster with close regard for culinary innovation, mission, price, and diversity, among other factors,” Kaowthumrong says. In 2023, the dining duo are eager to recommend eateries in Lakewood and Arvada for the first time, something Kaowthumrong says is “further proof that the best restaurants don’t have to be located in Denver proper.” Kaowthumrong and Pan are both thrilled that this year’s list further represents the cuisines of the city as a whole and excited about the future of dining in metro Denver. “I’ve lived here my whole life,” Kaowthumrong says, “and am blown away by how much the food scene has grown, particularly in the past few years. It’s a delicious time to live on the Front Range.”