It’s only been in the last decade that Denver has popped up on the national radar as a real dining city. But however new the flourishing may be, there have always been great restaurants in the Mile High, spanning neighborhoods from the ever-teeming Ballpark to more quiet areas like Platt Park and Uptown. Whatever you’re looking for - whether it’s burger stands, roving dumpling carts, elegant tasting menus, or ingredients drawn straight from Colorado ranching and agriculture - we’ve got it all below. These are the 16 best restaurants in Denver.
Temaki Den is the new hand roll spot from the team behind one of Denver’s longest-held crown jewels, Sushi Den. Located in the center of The Source in RiNo - a food hall composed of several of the city’s other heavy hitters - this largely counter-service operation is slightly more casual than its predecessor. Sashimi, appetizers, a few rolls, and several sweets provide the bulk of the menu - with the beautifully arranged hand rolls being filled generously with ingredients like salmon skin, fatty tuna, wagyu, and daikon radish sprouts. This is somewhere you can see and be seen, although most people will probably be too busy looking at their food to notice you.
If Temaki Den is the young and flashy member of the family, Sushi Den has surely reached the status of a revered grandfather, having served top-tier fish for close to 40 years. Fish is flown in on a daily basis to this Platt Park sushi restaurant, with the owner’s own brother hand-selecting cuts from the Nagahama Fish Market on Kyushu Island in Japan and sending them to be served 24 hours later. This is one of the city’s great temples of all things refined, with the tableware and decorations all matching the quality of the fish. There isn’t a single item on the menu that’ll disappoint, but for the best experience, pick from the daily specials or go all out with the omakase.
Wherever and whenever Yuan Wonton pulls up, there is guaranteed to be a crowd. When the truck first opened, block-long lines would form as hungry dumpling-lovers waited patiently for the famous chili wontons and whatever else happened to be on the menu that day. Over the last year, the team moved its system to online, with website crashes and two to three minute sellouts likening the ordering process more to coveted shoe releases or acquiring impossible to get concert tickets. Recently, lines began forming again, a sure sign that nature is healing. The thumb-sized wontons, drenched in a particularly zesty house-made chili crisp tend to disappear so quickly after they’re opened, it would come as no surprise to find a to-go box of them on StockX or any other website where rarities get scalped at a massive premium.
El Taco de Mexico is an institution. You can tell by the cauldrons of green chili - so big that some of the ladies working the stoves have to use a step-ladder to stir it - that this is hallowed ground. This is the place to go for tacos stacked high with lengua, tripe, al pastor, and barbacoa. There are also tortas, tamales, soups, and hamburgers, and no matter what you order, the service is always super quick. The only real rule here is that everything should be paired with a massive glass of house-made horchata. Trust us.
Whatever it is that’s caused you to take the 45-minute drive up to Boulder, be it the hiking trails or promises of a place where the kombucha flows like wine, no trip is complete without a stop at Blackbelly. If you go early, stop by the deli counter for one of their great breakfast burritos. But head over in the evening for an experience that highlights produce and prime cuts from local farms, most of which aren’t much further away from the restaurant than Denver. Crispy pig ears sit comfortably next to fresh-flown oysters and an endless array of charcuterie aged right next door. While your server may not always be able to go full Portlandia and tell you the name of the chicken you’re eating, there’s also a good chance that if you catch them on the right night, they may be able to dig it up from somewhere.
After spending the better part of a year serving wood-fired pizzas and oysters, Bruto changed directions, opting to become a chef’s counter with two services per evening. The food itself also changed dramatically, as the chef transformed the place into a celebration of the food of Mexico, Texas, Colorado, Japan, and Korea. This is a special place built for special occasions, with dishes changing seasonally and really whenever else they feel like it. They also grow lots of things onsite, with hydroponic systems, pickling jars. and drying racks making great use of each piece of the carefully sourced ingredients. And the dishes do a great job of highlighting all those details with things like rotating augachiles, hearth bread with mole blanco and miso butter, and wagyu with wild mushroom and mole negro.
The front patio of Forget Me Not is often lined with massive crystal vats of large-format cocktails, glasses of organic wine, the occasional plate of caviar, and plenty of people looking very content with their current reality. Rumors of a lobster crunch wrap that occasionally joins the menu add to the allure here, with each day seeing slight adjustments to a menu that favors cheese and salumi boards, Spanish razor clams, and a colorful crudite laid out on ice-filled oyster platters. Despite being a little chic (did we mention the caviar?), this place never feels exclusive and is one of our favorites for spending a long night out in Denver.
Mister Oso’s squat green bungalow and vine-covered patio make it the closest thing you’ll find to an oasis in RiNo. It also doesn’t hurt that the food - tacos, cebiche, coconut rice, and varied salads - also has a habit of transporting us to a vacation mindset. The dishes recall memories of island taco stands, while plates arrive stacked high with buttermilk fried chicken, pastor with roasted cauliflower, and pork belly with tomato escabeche and poblano sweet and sour. The daily roster of frozen drinks is equally fun and always full of rum, mezcal, fresh fruit, and the occasional splash of fernet, just as it should be.
Served from a small window attached to a barely closet-sized kitchen in the corner of a City Park cocktail bar, Misfit Snackbar has quickly become an all-day hub for its almost psychedelic interpretations of dishes from across the globe. The menu is constantly changing, with plates like hamachi crudo being revamped with sweet pea and lemon curd, pickled fresnos, soy pickled ramps, and pistachio crumble. It only gets wilder from there - both in terms of titles and ingredients - with items like the ham wallet, lollipopped chicken, and the My F*cking Burger all displaying the same kind of subtle trippiness (and deliciousness).
While Aurora has its fair share of bustling Korean barbecue restaurants, none of them are quite as fun as Seoul Korean BBQ and Hot Pot. The plates here always seem to be just a little fuller than what we’re used to and each one always arrives just a little faster than anywhere else on the block. The servers seem to anticipate your desires a good five minutes before you yourself have thought of them, with an endless array of banchan always being swapped out before anyone at the table has taken the last bite. A little excess is expected here - especially in the form of endless stacks of thick-cut pork belly, jowl, and collar - but it’s also encouraged, and it’s only as you find yourself waddling to the car that you realize how full and happy you’ve become.
In the spring of 2021, Twansburger began showing up in various lots around town, generally as part of some established pop-up featuring a selection of other up-and-comers. And from the get-go, this place attracted a loyal following while opting to keep things super simple. Here you have two options: a single or a double. It’s best to go double, especially if you were lured from blocks away by the smell of perfectly-spiced patties wafting indiscriminately in all directions. Outside of that, your options are limited - burgers come with homemade pickles, diced white onion, shredded lettuce, American cheese, and house sauce. But that’s part of what makes the place so comforting, second only to all the smiling faces of those who surely finished their burger just a few steps from the register.
If your group tends to argue about the superior merits of breakfast burritos vs. scrambles, frittatas, or croissant sandwiches, Onefold in Uptown is a place to find all the best bits of a morning meal all on one table. You can opt for a congee - with chicken and duck broth, duck confit, poached eggs, scallions, and salted ginger - or grab a breakfast quesadilla or chilaquiles. Of course, there are mimosas, but for anyone who wants to veer away from the pre-noon classic, there’s bourbon-laced Vietnamese coffee, a Bloody Maria, and a selection of Dry Dock hard seltzers. And in what may be Denver’s most decadent treat, no visit is complete without an order of the bacon fried rice, with plenty of chili oil and duck fat fried eggs.
Pho 95 always seems to have a small wait, be it the depths of winter or a scorching mid-August day. And even though there are easily 15 other pho restaurants within jogging distance, this is the place to go in Little Saigon. The pho, especially the bowls overflowing with the spot’s real claim to fame - a fried-garlic heavy veggie broth - always arrives with heaping plates of basil, dandelion, limes, and beansprouts. Though for anyone not quite so soup-inclined, the menu also has beef short rib plates, noodle bowls, and crispy noodle options.
Googling “Open Sandwich Denver” will inevitably take you to a list of every available sandwich place that is not currently closed. And even offline, Open can also be hard to find in real life. It serves its sandwiches from the back of American Bonded, a dimly-lit cocktail bar known for its great and affordable drinks. The only real indication that Open is there is a small podium bearing its name. But find it you should, as the spot came up with the fun idea of reaching out to some of the city’s best chefs and having each one contribute a different sandwich to the menu. Everything is good, but The Lee - a Sichuan french dip with a ruby-red, tongue-numbing dipping sauce from Hop Alley’s Tommy Lee - is the one you should make a priority.
When a dim sum cart rolls by the tables of Super Mega Bien, you can expect small plates of lamb barbacoa, Brazilian shrimp sopas, fried plantains, and steamed buns with sweetened condensed milk to hit the table just as quickly as you can order them. Here you can eat spring rolls with sun-dried tomatoes and cheese between sips from a tall glass of cachaca, or opt for ceviche and Spanish croquettes alongside a hop-infused gin and tonic. There are also family-style dishes, like full racks of ribs coated in green chili and steaming lamb barbacoa that comes wrapped in banana leaf. Just make sure you order enough to share (or not).
If you’ve been planning on finally confessing some deep feelings to someone and need a white tablecloth to do it over, Restaurant Olivia is probably a good room for it. Especially if that certain someone likes quiet, candle-lit dining rooms complete with the kind of service that is usually reserved for visiting dignitaries. You can expect the homemade pasta to feature ingredients like black truffle, bay scallops, and Maine lobster. But even if you’re someone who enjoys eating their body weight in noodles alone, no visit here is complete without a plate of seared foie gras, which comes spread atop some pillowy banana bread and is served with a bacon and Madeira jus, and a legitimately transformative foie gras gelato. And as with everything else, the cocktails here (and even non-alcoholic drinks) are approachable, despite being made with teas, house infusions, and even foraged ingredients. There’s a Nutella Boulevardier and a Carrot Negroni, each of which works even better than it sounds.