Price Key

Average amount spent on food at dinnertime, per person
$ – Less than $20
$$ – $21 to $30
$$$ – $31 to $40
$$$$ – $41 or more

A5 Steakhouse

Indulgence and value are a possibility at A5 Steakhouse. In fact, you can get a satisfying meal for two at two-year-old A5, chef Max MacKissock’s casual, tablecloth-less approach to the chophouse experience, for under $50 a person. Start with two appetizers: the beef tartare katsu sando and the honey-glazed chickpea fries infused with Calabrian chile and spring garlic. Then split a lower-priced (but still well-marbled and boldly flavored) cut of beef like the 10-ounce bavette, which comes with an umami-rich house sauce. Bolster your meal with a pair of nonmeaty sides that set themselves apart from those produced by neighboring steak-vending peers, such as double-blanched french fries and mac and cheese croquettes with sweet Nardello pepper jam. Adult beverages will certainly push you over the triple-digit mark, but even if you’re compelled to order your second (or third) draft martini or negroni—only $10 each during happy hour, daily from 3:30 to 5:30 p.m.—you can at least rest assured that your meal was worth every cent. $$$$, 1600 15th St., 303-623-0534

African Grill & Bar

Portrait of two people
Photo by Matt Nager

African Grill & Bar—Theodora and Sylvester Osei-Fordwuo’s 19-year-old mecca of Pan-African cuisine, which had locations in Aurora and Green Valley Ranch before finding a permanent home in Lakewood in 2021—has long impressed Denverites with its soups and stews starring ingredients like tender pieces of bone-in goat and silky cassava leaves. This year, however, we found particular joy in the warm hospitality of the laid-back, largely family-run joint replete with Afrocentric decor. “Everybody’s welcome through our door,” Theodora says. “Our goal is to make people exposed to our food and our culture.” Theodora and Sylvester and their three children, Nana, Maame, and Oheneba, are happy to guide customers through the 60-plus-item menu, although you can’t go wrong with the samosas or the “Denver’s best chicken,” two steamed-then-fried drumsticks seasoned with anise seed, fermented African locust bean, and peppery grains of Selim, accompanied by fried plantains or tomatoey jollof rice. Don’t worry about missing out on another item; save it for your inevitable next visit. $$, 955 S. Kipling Parkway, Lakewood, 303-985-4497


Everyone needs a go-to restaurant, a reliable locale for relishing in mouthwatering meals with companions of all stripes, from family members to co-workers to first dates. For many Denverites, that spot is seven-year-old Annette at Aurora’s Stanley Marketplace. There, chef-owner Caroline Glover has built a gathering place for happy hours with martinis and popcorn, catch-up sessions over juicy burgers and crunchy fries, and slow Sunday suppers of golden-skinned roast chicken—experiences heightened with fine-dining touches and ingredients sourced from Colorado farms and ranches. So whether your dining mates are little ones nibbling on the Parmesan-sprinkled butter cavatelli from the kids’ menu or out-of-towners splurging on the caviar service with Ruffles and onion cream, you know everyone will leave full and happy, especially if you order up a round of ice cream sandwiches for dessert. $$$, Stanley Marketplace, 2501 Dallas St., Aurora, 720-710-9975


For nine years, Hosea Rosenberg’s restaurant and meat market Blackbelly has been a Boulder staple for in-house, whole-animal butchery, providing locavore-friendly meats to lovers of dining in and eating at home alike. The closing of a Quiznos next door in 2021, though, allowed Blackbelly to expand its market this past March into a new space, which now stocks Haxtun-based Dutch Oven Smokehouse barbecue sauces, pickles from Denver’s Real Dill, house-baked breads, and other retail goods, in addition to Blackbelly’s tried-and-true meats, charcuterie, and cheeses. Take advantage of the newly extended operating hours to indulge in the spot’s breakfast and lunch options through the weekend. Our latest go-tos include the breakfast burrito filled with eggs, green chile, tater tots, cheese, and head butcher Kelly Kawachi’s choice of protein, and the banh mi, with roasted and smoked pork, assorted herbs and veggies, and spicy mayo inside a Vienna roll from nearby Breadworks. Take them to go or devour your selections in the sunny dining room. $$$, 1606 Conestoga St., Boulder, 303-247-1000


fussy dessert on glass dish
Photo by Matt Nager

Chef-owner Kelly Whitaker’s Brutø has evolved and matured in all the best ways since it entered the scene in late 2019. Three years ago, he transformed the Dairy Block venue, originally a daytime eatery slinging wood-fired bites, into an 18-seat tasting counter helmed by chef Michael Diaz de Leon, who gained a James Beard Foundation Award nomination for his culinary craftiness earlier this year. At Brutø’s oma-kase-style meals, diners are seated around the hearth-oven-centered kitchen, where the team uses sustainably sourced produce, seafood, and game to build edible works of art driven by Diaz de Leon’s Latin American roots as well as Japanese techniques and culinary traditions. For the ultimate experience, opt for the drink pairings, which, on one of the nights we visited, saw an ash margarita bring out the smoky notes of a bison tenderloin set atop mole negro congee with salsa macha and veal demi-glace. The thoughtful execution of each course will remind you that the LoDo spot is all grown up. $$$$, 1801 Blake St., 720-325-2195

Cantina Loca

Dana Rodriguez leaning against wall
Photo by Matt Nager; Mural by John Hastings @rumtum

At Cantina Loca, there are no cliff divers, arcades, or caves—features associated with Dana Rodriguez’s latest endeavor. Instead, the casual LoHi bar and restaurant specializes in the straightforward Mexican cuisine and well-made drinks that put the F-bomb-dropping chef on the map long before a table at Casa Bonita became the most coveted reservation in town. While you can also taste Rodriguez’s food at RiNo’s Work & Class and Super Mega Bien, we’ve become partial to nearly two-year-old Cantina Loca for epitomizing the Chihuahua, Mexico–born chef’s culinary range and fiery personality (after all, Loca is her nickname). Her prowess in the kitchen translates to a tempting roster of tacos (try the cabrito, slow-braised goat with avocado salsa) and shareable must-haves such as the molcajete: bone-in chicken, pork wing, and steak engulfed in a bubbling salsa verde with melty asadero cheese. A cocktail spiked with Doña Loca mezcal or tequila, Rodriguez’s line of agave spirits, should loosen up your crew enough to inspire some easy laughs. In short, Cantina Loca is a good time all around—without the sideshow. $$, 2890 Zuni St., 303-284-6738

Comal Heritage Food Incubator

After moving into a new, light-drenched indoor-outdoor space at RiNo Art Park this past July, Comal Heritage Food Incubator is bigger and better than ever. In addition to doubling its seating capacity for diners, the seven-year-old restaurant and culinary training program (part of Focus Points Family Resource Center, a nonprofit committed to supporting low-income families in the northeast Denver area) got an upgraded commercial kitchen and commissary space with refrigerated lockers, multiple deep fryers, and an expanded prep area. That means the food incubator’s participants—immigrant and refugee women from Syria, Venezuela, Mexico, and other countries who learn how to open and run successful food businesses by sharing the cuisines of their native lands with Denverites—have more opportunities to hone their skills. The expansion is also a boon for diners: In addition to serving lunch prepared by participants from Tuesday through Friday, Comal now offers breakfast from 8 to 10 a.m. and plans to add a full bar in the coming months. Until then, enjoy comforts such as chorizo and egg breakfast burritos; the plato caribe, lightly battered and fried fish accompanied by tostones (fried green plantains) and coleslaw; and pupusas spiced up with house-made hot sauce. $, 1950 35th St., 303-292-0770

Daughter Thai

Ounjit Hardacre knows she can’t dampen diners’ infatuations with pad thai, green curry, and other ubiquitous takeout staples. But the chef-owner of four-year-old Daughter Thai aims to at least expand their palates. With the help of business partner Dueanphen Rungrueang, Hardacre conjures up recipes based on specialties she craves from her homeland in western Thailand’s Kanchanaburi province and techniques she gleans from regular visits to the Land of Smiles. The results are revolving offerings that are difficult to find elsewhere in Denver, such as miang pla yang, a whole trout grilled in banana leaves and designed to be devoured in lettuce cups with a parade of accoutrements, including crunchy cashews, fried onions, and nam jim (a tangy-spicy dipping sauce of lime, fish sauce, and Thai chiles). Also look for inventive preparations of gyoza, such as the gin gyo—pork dumplings and egg noodles nestled in red curry—a nod to a trend that’s popping up all over Bangkok right now. The dishes play well with the restaurant’s tried-and-true favorites, such as larb and pineapple fried rice, which you won’t be able to get enough of. $$$, 1700 Platte St., Suite 140, 720-667-4652

Fox and the Hen

If there’s one Denver restaurant that’s making the case for breakfast being the most important meal of the day, it’s Fox and the Hen. In June, co-owners Michael Fox and Carrie Baird turned the griddle on at their playful morning joint where, among azure tiles, custom fox-and-hen-decorated wallpaper, and five shelves stocked with grab-your-own hot sauces, Baird delivers nostalgic diner-esque dishes laced with a sense of humor. Crowd-pleasers include the Lox and Cakes (sauerkraut pancakes crowned with brined salmon, cream cheese, everything spice, and herbs) and the Beat Bobby Flay-vos (Baird’s winning version of huevos rancheros with fiery chorizo and salsa verde from an episode of Food Network’s Beat Bobby Flay). A few homages to fast food, including the American-cheese-hollandaise-drizzled Le Big Mac Omelette, are evidence Baird and Fox don’t take themselves too seriously, yet the polished cooking techniques and balanced accompaniments prove that the self-proclaimed “egg cookery snobs” aren’t messing around, either. The combination of satire and savvy makes for early day eats that are breezy and delicious. $$, 2257 W. 32nd Ave., 303-862-6795

Frasca Food and Wine

Dining at Frasca Food and Wine is always a lesson in language: The eight-course tasting menu, driven by the flavors of Friuli-Venezia Giulia (a region of northeastern Italy), starts with assaggi, or a trio of artful “samplings,” before moving on to impossible consonant combinations such as the pljukanci di grano saraceno, a palm-rolled, penne-length buckwheat pasta dressed in delicately fishy glass eel and dandelion pesto. But perhaps the most important word for the fine-dining juggernaut is the name itself. Frasca, meaning “bough,” refers to tree branches that hang outside traditional farmhouses in Friuli to indicate that customers are welcome to come in for casual bites and local wine. While the Boulder restaurant serves anything but simple fare, more than ever before, executive chef Ian Palazzola (who rose to the position in April) has managed to whittle down its plates so that every component tastes purposeful. Yes, there are still touches of caviar and gold leaf here and there, but now the indulgences feel in line with the restaurant’s inspirational namesake. $$$$, 1738 Pearl St., Boulder, 303-442-6966

La Diabla Pozole y Mezcal

Mexico City native Jose Avila’s culinary chops at La Diabla (which earned him a James Beard Foundation nod earlier this year) are on full display whenever you decide to stop inside the plastic-chairs-casual spot. The three-year-old Ballpark pozoleria serves up hearty bowls of the classic Mexican soup every day, but the weekly specials make a strong case for planning your visit during specific times. Stop in on Tuesdays for $3 street-size versions of the restaurant’s 13 taco varieties, or for the best bargain, opt for the Wednesday special: two tortillas filled with pork al pastor freshly shaved off the spit and a house margarita for a scant $5. Thursday through Sunday, La Diabla cooks tasty brunch plates, including four different versions of chilaquiles, but if you can’t make it before 2 p.m., the happy hour immediately afterward is also worth a visit. From 2 to 6 p.m., try any number of La Diabla’s agave spirits through discounted cocktails and beer-and-shot combos, then splurge on a $5, roasted, boat-cut beef bone and split the unctuous marrow among a few chicharrón-dusted carnitas tacos for a true meat-lover’s delight. $, 2233 Larimer St., 720-827-4158

Lucina Eatery & Bar

Park Hill
Erasmo Casiano and Diego Coconati originally planned to serve pastas and Burrata at Lucina Eatery & Bar. “We were hesitant to open a Latin American restaurant,” Casiano says. “The first edition of Lucina was going to be more Italian, as it’s more approachable.” But encouragement from friends pushed the business partners to cook eats influenced by their own backgrounds instead. (Casiano’s parents are from Mexico and Bolivia, and Coconati’s childhood was rooted in Argentina and Puerto Rico.) Since Lucina debuted in Park Hill in March 2022, the duo has inspired diners to delve into the cultures of Latin America, Spain, and the Caribbean through an eclectic menu presented in a lively atmosphere. Popular items such as empanadas and mussels with chorizo are prepared with care, but to unlock the menu’s full potential, venture into less familiar territory. The bold flavors layered into dishes like the pollo a la brasa (chicken seasoned with earthy achiote and fragrant herbs) make us grateful Casiano and Coconati didn’t follow through with their original plans. $$$, 2245 Kearney St., 720-814-1053


You won’t find trendy caviar bumps, fussy foams, or other fine-dining frills on the menu at 15-month-old Marigold. But the charming establishment situated in the small town of Lyons achieves its own form of sophistication through chef Theo Adley’s simple presentations of well-harmonized flavors. The plate of thinly shaved speck and creamy Taleggio—adorned with nothing but a drizzle of olive oil—is the picture of European countryside dining and perfectly matches Marigold’s rustic, 38-seat dining room. We suggest ordering the crispy farinata (chickpea crêpe) finished with wine-soaked cheese and pink peppercorn, the hanger steak with smashed potatoes and rotating accompaniments, and any amaro-based cocktail to round out your meal. The drive out to Lyons may take more than an hour for Denverites, so let the quaint, farm-lined roads set the mood (and build your hunger) for the destination. $$$, 405 Main St., Lyons, 303-823-2333

Misfit Snackbar

City Park
Since opening in 2019, Misfit Snackbar has been a stalwart in a burgeoning dining scene on East Colfax Avenue that includes three-month-old modern Vietnamese palace Sắp Sửa, one-year-old diner-turned-cocktail-bar Tom’s Starlight, and Misfit chef-owner Bo Porytko’s second restaurant, six-month-old Molotov Kitschen & Cocktails. Despite Misfit’s tiny size (the concept and its roughly 200-square-foot kitchen are housed entirely within Middleman bar), Porytko and head chef Rico Carbajal, who was promoted to the position in May, continue to churn out flavors that are anything but diminutive. Swipe corn-pudding-filled tempura squash blossoms through herbaceous green goddess dressing or slice through the egg foo Benedict—an open-face shao bing (Chinese flatbread) layered with browned omelet eggs, red miso gravy, black bean chile crisp, and pickled Fresno chiles—for maximum gustatory impact. Fortunately, Misfit keeps sweet snackers’ palates in mind, too. Bites such as the nostalgia-inducing and saccharine-in-a-good-way Fruity Pebbles tres leches cake complement Middleman’s liquid end-of-dinner treats: Montucky and Sfumato amaro boilermakers, must-haves for any East Colfax Avenue crawl. $$, 3401 E. Colfax Ave., 303-353-4207

Noisette Restaurant & Bakery

steak and plate
Photo by Matt Nager

Upon entry to 2,800-square-foot Noisette, which opened off Tejon Street in August 2022, diners are transported to a dazzling Parisian oasis bedecked with white marble tables, pastel pink and baby blue chairs, and gold accents. Vintage images of flowers and felines and rows of mirrors hang on the cream-colored walls above amber banquettes, and petite vases hold delicate blossoms from Denver’s Rowdy Poppy. Chef-owners Tim and Lillian Lu are the husband-and-wife team behind the beauty, a vision brought to life with the help of local design firm LivStudio. The Lus—both alums of the French Culinary Institute in New York—extend the same attention to detail displayed in the ambience to the brasserie’s menu, which features comforting French cuisine upgraded with elegant touches. Expect custardy scrambled eggs showered in sliced truffles for brunch and Dover sole bathed in escargot butter and sliced grass-fed rib-eye with bordelaise sauce for dinner, all presented on floral-patterned plates that Lillian sourced from local antique stores. Très chic, indeed. $$$, 3254 Navajo St., 720-769-8103


When you ask foodie Front Rangers about their favorite dishes at Safta, the answers might be the cloudlike pita with velvety, soft-boiled-egg-topped hummus or the fluffy, emerald-tinted falafel. Or they might wax poetic about the modern Israeli restaurant’s crispy Persian rice bejeweled with cherries and sunflower seeds or the tender salmon with garlicky toum (Lebanon’s answer to aïoli). The consistent praise is a testament to chef-owner Alon Shaya’s knack for churning out reliably crave-worthy plates at the five-year-old mainstay inside the Source Hotel & Market Hall. If you don’t already have your most cherished plates picked out, you can create your own list by reserving a table for dinner and ordering whatever looks tasty from the large menu. Or you could opt for the brunch buffet, which is a curated smorgasbord of Shaya’s greatest hits, including the best latkes in town, a parade of dips, house-smoked salmon and whitefishes, roasted lamb shoulder, and a table of baked goods (don’t miss the apricot turmeric scones). $$$$, the Source Hotel & Market Hall, 3330 Brighton Blvd., 720-408-2444

Sắp Sửa

Congress Park
Three-month-old Sắp Sửa is an ode to the cross-cultural up­bringing of chef-owner Tuan “Ni” Nguyen, a California native born to immigrants from Vietnam. Ni and his wife, Anna (the eatery’s co-owner and pastry chef), work with a 12-person kitchen staff to craft nontraditional interpretations of the cuisine of Vietnam. The fruits of their labor—coconut-caramel-glazed hamachi collar, chrysanthemum salad with cane sugar vinaigrette, and smoke-tinged charred cabbage—are upscale versions of the Southeast Asian fare that are not only found infrequently in Denver but also reflect Ni’s roots. For example, the eggs scrambled with brown butter and fish sauce with trout roe is a gussied-up version of a dish that the first-generation American toted to school in his lunchbox but ate in secret for fear of being teased by his classmates. The Nguyens’ talent for honoring such stories through bright ingredients and well-honed techniques makes every bite feel special. And for some, it truly is. “We had a woman at the end of the bar cry because she ate rice and fish sauce from a porcelain dish,” Ni says. “That’s what we’ve always wanted for this restaurant: to represent Vietnamese food in a beautiful dining room and in a skilled setting.” $$$, 2550 E. Colfax Ave., 303-736-2303


The Mile High City is blessed with a bounty of Italian restaurants, from white-tablecloth stalwarts to casual red-sauce joints and everything in between. Nine-year-old Spuntino, however, is in a category all its own. At the Highland restaurant, you can get the usual eats—house-made focaccia, imported Burrata with seasonal embellishments, deep-fried arancini—but it’s the specialties injected with Indian flavors inspired by chef-owner Cindhura Reddy’s heritage that elevate Spuntino above its peers. Delectable examples include raviolini filled with creamy Robiola Bosina cheese and sweet medjool dates and local striped bass with harissa-roasted carrots. Reddy’s spice-laden dishes, matched with husband Elliot Strathmann’s deep selection of creative cocktails, thoughtfully sourced wines, and post-dinner-worthy amaros, have broadened the definition of Italian cuisine in Denver. That is a tasty feat we are certainly thankful for. $$$, 2639 W. 32nd Ave., 303-433-0949

Stone Cellar Bistro

Foie gras and cocktail on barn wood
Photo by Matt Nager

Instead of adding to the long list of farm-to-table venues in Denver and Boulder, hospitality veterans and friends Brandon Kerr and Jordan Alley decided to set up shop in Olde Town Arvada in summer 2022. “We were trying to bring more elevated cuisine to the area, where it didn’t seem like we’d be competing with anybody,” says Kerr, who met Alley cooking French fare at LoHi’s now-shuttered Z Cuisine. Their strategy paid off: Patrons fill Stone Cellar Bistro’s contemporary dining room to linger over beautifully composed plates built around the seasonal bounty of local purveyors. Start dinner with the audibly crispy, hot-honey-laced fried chicken or the foie gras parfait encased in lemon curd and adorned with basil, strawberries, and honey-roasted peanuts. Then move on to an entrée such as the roasted halibut, which is smothered in a lemony sauce with juicy confit tomatoes, cucumbers, and herbs. A friendly waitstaff (led by maître d’ and Fruition alum Jenne Harris) complements the polished lineup of food and drink, for which suburbanites and city dwellers are flocking to Arvada. $$$, 2605 Grandview Ave., Arvada, 720-630-7908

Sunday Vinyl

The turntables are almost as big of a draw as the pours at Sunday Vinyl. That means whether you’re lingering over a glass of French bubbles at the horseshoe-shaped marble bar or sharing a spread of oysters and wagyu beef tartare in a corner booth, you’ll likely find yourself welcoming a pause in the conversation to catch what’s humming through the speakers. The head-bobbing ambience, where anything from Alanis Morissette’s Jagged Little Pill to Nas’ Life Is Good could be spinning in full throwback glory, is courtesy of the three-and-a-half-year-old Union Station wine bar’s partnership with Vinyl Me, Please, the Denver-based record-of-the-month club, and Sunday Vinyl’s tunes-loving team. Lead sommelier Clara Klein, chef de cuisine David Zboray, and pastry chef Korinna Mahan have great taste in music, which is outshined only by their culinary talents, which particularly sing during events such as Wednesday flight nights. On those evenings, you can linger over selections of wine centered on a specific musical genre, artist, or album complemented by playful bites such as duck-liver-filled gougères (cheese puffs) and smoked-meringue-cloaked s’mores baked Alaska. $$$$, 1803 16th Street Mall, 720-738-1803

Tocabe, An American Indian Eatery

This year, Tocabe owners Ben Jacobs (a member of the Osage Nation) and Matthew Chandra gave us the chance to celebrate an occasion we usually mourn: the closing of a restaurant. When the pair converted the Greenwood Village location of their 15-year-old fast-casual eatery into a pilot fulfillment center for the business’ growing online marketplace for Native-produced bison and pantry goods, it felt like a win for everyone. What’s more, the production facility is helping Tocabe expand its direct-to-tribe, ready-to-eat meal program—currently delivering more than 1,100 meals monthly to the Spirit Lake Nation in North Dakota—to other tribal communities and bring the program to non-Native consumers later this year. Fortunately, for fans of the brand’s fast-casual renditions of Indigenous fare, the Sunnyside outpost still delivers favorites such as stuffed fry bread filled with annatto-marinated chicken from Englewood-based Red Bird Farms, stewed beans, and cheddar cheese, which comes drizzled with ancho chipotle sauce, sour cream, and your choice of house salsas. According to Jacobs, that restaurant isn’t going anywhere, giving us another reason to rejoice. $, 3536 W. 44th Ave., 720-524-8282

Tofu Story

top down on plate of crabs
Photo by Matt Nager

Korean chef-restaurateur J.W. Lee’s culinary empire under Seoul Hospitality Group spans 25 Asian concepts across the Denver metro area and Colorado Springs. But nine-month-old Tofu Story, a sleek, wood-accented spot on Aurora’s Havana Street, is the standout. “When I came to the United States, I saw [how American dining is] diversifying to all different kinds of cuisines,” Lee says. “I thought it might be a good chance to introduce Korean food to the American market.” Tofu Story’s unique draw is its in-house tofu program—the only one of its kind on the Front Range. We recommend making soondubu jjigae, spicy soft tofu stew served bubbling in a stone pot studded with pork belly, seafood, or other additions, the center of any meal you take here. Still, other rare-in-Denver dishes like ganjang-gejang (soy-sauce-marinated raw crab), gamja-jeon (a crispy yet chewy potato pancake), and individual-size, pressure-cooked rice (which turns extra creamy in a tableside vessel) show off the breadth of Korean cuisine in ways few other Colorado restaurants do. $$, 2060 S. Havana St., Aurora, 303-954-9372

Uchi Denver

Typically, high-end sushi restaurants aren’t an obvious choice for vegetarians. At five-year-old Uchi, though, the team makes sure meatless diners still have access to some of the best items on the menu. Take the handheld house salad: The bundle of greens, radishes, green onions, toasted rice, cashew pesto, and jalapeño-edamame purée is just as satisfying as any fish-filled hand roll. Seasonal mushrooms and an egg yolk beef up the kinoko nabe, a pilaflike rice dish presented in a clay pot, into a hearty, umami-rich entrée. For the ultimate plant-based indulgence, ask for the market-price, six-course vegetarian tasting menu—which is reworked every two months in a collaborative process across the kitchen and service staff led by chef de cuisine Andres Araujo—to minimize your dinnertime decision-making. All you have to do is select a beverage (try one of 30 available sake varieties) and you can enjoy a luxurious night out without having to become a pescatarian for the night. $$$$, 2500 Lawrence St., 303-444-1922


Highland and Speer
Pan-Asian menus suffer when chefs lack a handle on how to create harmony between ingredients and dishes from across the continent, but at Uncle, whose Highland and Wash Park locations opened in 2012 and 2019, respectively, chef-owner Tommy Lee showcases his mastery of East and Southeast Asian flavors. Case in point: The soft-shell crab buns unite Japanese panko-crusted crustaceans and cilantro-zinged nam prik (a type of Thai chile sauce) to mouthwatering effect. And despite primarily being a ramen shop, Uncle frequently triumphs without relying on its (delicious) shoyu and sesame broths. Try the Sichuan-style dan dan noodles, introduced this summer, which feature a tongue-tingling chile sauce, ground pork, Chinese broccoli, peanuts, scallions, and a poached egg. The sweat-inducing entrée is so satisfying that it warrants any errant stains on your T-shirt, a sign of good eats in any culture. $$, 2215 W. 32nd Ave., 303-433-3263; 95 S. Pennsylvania St., 720-638-1859

Urban Village Grill

Lone Tree
While chef Charles Mani’s Urban Village Grill has become synonymous with refined Indian dining in the Denver metro area over the past two years, his eye for innovation—combined with his predisposition to culinary ennui—means there’s always something new on the menu. If you’re there for happy hour, start your group off with the pani puri appetizer, which reimagines the Indian street food of potato-, chickpea-, and onion-filled dough balls by eschewing a traditionally communal bowl of flavored water for dipping and instead perching the crispy bites on shot glasses filled with a mixture infused with mint and tamarind. Or pick from the Indo-Chinese portion of the menu, which highlights the hybrid cuisine that developed when Chinese workers immigrated to eastern India in the late 18th century. Through dishes such as Chinese bhel, fried noodles tossed with onion, tomato, soy sauce, ketchup, and sambal, the chef introduces Denverites to flavors and traditions they won’t find at other Front Range restaurants. $$, 8505 Park Meadows Center Drive, Lone Tree, 720-536-8565


Every story that ends up in 5280 requires weeks and weeks, if not months, of work. But the 25 Best Restaurants feature requires year-round reporting and then several months of dedicated dining out by the magazine’s food team to select the finalists. This year, in that concentrated window leading up to press time, our dining editors visited roughly 70 restaurants, taking notes on things like taste, presentation, ambience, price, mission, service, culinary innovation, location, and diversity. The 25 here are their favorites, arranged alphabetically.


This article was originally published in 5280 October 2023.
Ethan Pan
Ethan Pan
Ethan Pan is 5280’s associate food editor, writing and editing for the print magazine and Follow his dining/cooking Instagram @ethans_pan.
Patricia Kaowthumrong
Patricia Kaowthumrong
Patricia joined the 5280 staff in July 2019 and is thrilled to oversee all of the magazine’s dining coverage. Follow her food reporting adventures on Instagram @whatispattyeating.