The guests have arrived, and their belongings have taken up temporary residence in your home. Now where to take them out to dinner?
From DTC to Arvada, we’ve compiled some family- and visitor-friendly destinations that best represent Denver’s dining scene.
All 15 of these spots have room to sit, dine and relax. Some are just counter-service, while others have waiters who will stop to refill every sip in that water glass.
And whether your out-of-towners get very loud (read drunk) or are awfully difficult to please (so they’re visiting from the coasts?), these restaurants are sure to shut them up and impress them as well.
Of course, we jest. These restaurants are some of the best that Denver has to offer right now — and why not show it off?
Work & Class
River North (RiNo)
Chef Dana Rodriguez now has a pair of electric Denver restaurants worth visiting: Work & Class (which is housed inside a shipping container) and Super Mega Bien just across the street. But her flagship is still the local favorite with its cozy quarters and Sunday fried chicken dinners, among other delights. She specializes in “Latin (and) American food,” so watch for dishes like mezcal lamb chorizo sausage, roasted goat and “dirty” rice.
2500 Larimer St., Denver, workandclassdenver.com
Christopher Lin’s ode to Taiwanese cooking is the gift that keeps on giving in Denver, holiday season or otherwise. Chicken and shrimp wontons in chili oil (and with schmaltz), chong qing chicken with Sichuan peppercorn, braised pork rice and shacha barbecue spareribs — the menu’s highlights just never seem to stop. Come here with a group that likes to share, because you’ll want to try it all.
3421 E. Colfax Ave., Denver, qhousedenver.com
Uptown and Arvada
A revamped midcentury diner is home to this modern Americana experience, which has a location in Denver’s Uptown as well. But in Arvada, you can really settle in with the family for cheeseburgers, cheesesteaks, meatloaf and more. Don’t skip out on dessert — ice cream and pies are made in-house — and be sure to check out brunch, where lox and latkes and biscuits and gravy are stars.
523 E 17th Ave, Denver and 7355 Ralston Road, Arvada, steubens.com
This non-profit restaurant — run by immigrant and refugee women living in the surrounding neighborhoods of Globeville and Elyria-Swansea — has become a local (and national) darling for its weekday international lunch specials. Go Monday through Thursday for tacos and estofado and on Fridays for hummus, kisir and kebab Hindi.
3455 Ringsby Court, Denver, facebook.com/comalkitchen
The owners of this restaurant won a James Beard Award this year for outstanding service — as in, they beat competition around the country with their particular brand of hospitality. While the award was given for their Boulder restaurant, Frasca, this younger sibling in the heart of Denver is a must-stop for the hardest-to-please out-of-towners. They’ll feel like royalty eating Maine lobster tagliatelle and veal shank osso bucco with glasses of spumanti (that’s Italian bubbly) by their side. With Tavernetta, you’ll be killing two birds with one stone, because no visit to Denver is complete without a stop at Union Station.
1889 16th St., Denver, tavernetta.com
Platt Park and Park Hill
Alex Seidel’s sustainably sourced chicken shop on South Pearl Street should satisfy most everyone in a group and all ages with quarter-, half-, and whole rotisserie chicken entrees, plus side dishes, salads, sandwiches and desserts. There’s a kids menu, as well as “happy pots” for adults — comfortably sized cocktails from negronis to martinis — plus beer and wine. Plus, there’s another, brand-new location in Park Hill.
1300 S. Pearl St. and 4340 E. 8th Ave., Denver, chookchicken.com
Washington Park and Lower Highland (LoHi)
Tommy Lee’s ramen palace graduated to new neighborhood digs this year, with new menu offerings and a sleek dining hall vibe where everyone in a group can squeeze in for noodles and rice. Start with celery salad, move on to curries and spicy chicken soup bowls and finish with cold sesame noodles for fun. For a more intimate experience — as in, just a few diners in your party — try to snag a seat at the packed original location across town.
95 S. Pennsylvania St. and 2215 W. 32nd Ave., Denver, uncleramen.com
The newest Denver restaurant from James Beard Award-winner Jennifer Jasinski is this jewel-toned cubby tucked away at Union Station. It’s a good option for the visitors who are stopping off next on their travels in Spain, for example. But everyone should be content here with an oversized gin tonic in hand and some croquettes, pan con tomate or a jamón trio for tapas.
1701 Wynkoop St., Denver, ultreiadenver.com
Highland and RiNo
At its second Denver location in Highland, this hip pizza, prosecco and oyster shop spreads out into a pretty trattoria with ample bar, counter and dining room seating. You’ll order the first rounds of food and drink at the register, but don’t be surprised if you end up lingering at the table for a while over “messed up” negronis and mortadella pizzas. Don’t worry: There is follow-up table service (as opposed to the other Cart-Driver), so you’ll be set if someone in the group is missing a drink.
2239 W. 30th Ave. and 2500 Larimer St., Denver, cart-driver.com
While Denver has had a seemingly record stretch of French restaurant openings, this one on the south side of town is something special. It’s helmed by sisters Aminata and Rougui Dia — the latter a former chef at a Michelin-starred spot in Paris — who bring their French and Senegalese cooking backgrounds to this bakery and bistro. Brunch is popular with locals; find steak and eggs tartine and croque-madames. By night, there’s boeuf bourguignon and gniiri, a creamed cornmeal with vegetables, peanuts and black-eyed peas.
4901 S. Newport St., Denver, lefrenchdenver.com
For visitors staying around Stapleton, a trip to Elise Wiggins’ Cattivella is required. Mushroom and truffle pizzas, rabbit gnocchi and charbroiled oysters are some of the Colorado-Italian comforts. Wiggins also offers classes in the restaurant for signature dishes such as wild boar porchetta and tortellini alla bolognese if your family would rather cook, in public and at a restaurant, together.
10195 E. 29th Drive, Denver, cattivelladenver.com
A restaurant for the Aurora and Stapleton crowds that’s also worth a drive across town, Annette is hidden down a hallway at Stanley Marketplace (where there’s room to shop, run and play). Caroline Glover’s apartment-sized kitchen puts out homey, wood-charred fare. Be prepared to share any of the small plates, like charred endive with pomegranate and orange or grilled beef tongue and bone marrow toast. Or save room for the mains, like the whole fish, half chicken, or bone-in pork chop.
2501 Dallas St., Aurora, annettescratchtotable.com
Like many Denverites, Alon Shaya is a transplant, who came here by way of Israel, Philadelphia and New Orleans. So his influences at Safta are many, but the restaurant’s flavors are largely modern Israeli — from labneh (a spiced yogurt) and lutenitsa (pepper and tomato spread) to shakshouka with eggs, artichokes and cilantro-based zhoug. Of course, there’s the fresh-baked pita and hummus in five varieties, which are reasons enough to come.
3330 Brighton Blvd., Denver, eatwithsafta.com
Located inside Union Station, Mercantile is a bustling market, bakery and restaurant in one. It’s open all day, starting at 7 a.m. for breakfast, and going until 11 p.m. for weekend dinners. The restaurant’s own farm products from Fruition Farms an hour south in Larkspur are not to be missed, nor are the house cheeses, like sheepskyr and shepherd’s halo. They can be purchased by the ounce with salumi, crackers and jams.
1701 Wynkoop St., Denver, mercantiledenver.com
For the out-of-towners for which nothing else quite will do, there is Beckon. This 18-seat chef’s counter is the most unique dining experience in Denver right now. Emphasis on experience, and note that you’ll have to plan ahead: Reservations are available now for the new year. Get ready to settle in for the night, with a 2½-hour dinner, where your wealthy visiting companion (or anyone wanting to splurge) will be taken on a ride of eight courses, leaning Scandinavian in preparation, but often Colorado in source. Chef Duncan Holmes will hand the plates out himself, so you can ask all the questions, get all the stories and leave feeling like (and spending) a million bucks. Dinner without alcohol is $115 per person or $80 on Sunday nights.
2843 Larimer St., Denver, beckon-denver.com
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