Denver has a quickly evolving food scene that is becoming a favorite spot for chef-driven and farm-to-table restaurants. It also has a good selection of ethnic restaurants, gourmet burger places, and comfortable diners.

Here’s our favorites:

1. Rioja

Rioja

Rioja restaurant offers Mediterranean-inspired cuisine with a southwestern twist. A high emphasize is placed on sourcing ingredients locally and in season. The vibe is classy and elegant, but still sexy and fun. Chef and Owner Jennifer Jasinski was mentored by Wolfgang Puck before opening Rioja in 2004, and she was named by the James Beard Foundation as the Best Chef Southwest for 2013.

• Rioja “Picnic”, a trio of Artisan Meats, Warm Pine Nut Crusted Goat Cheese, Italian Mountain Gorgonzola, Marinated Olives, Truffled Fennel Salad, Orange Confit, Almonds.
• Fresh Bacon – Cardamom Spiced Kurobuta Pork Belly, Madras Curry Scented Garbanzo Bean Purée.
• Colorado Lamb – Red Wine Braised Lamb Shoulder, Grilled Lamb Loin, Grilled Eggplant and Red Jewel Yams, Pecorino Fiore di Sardo, Colorado Pears.
• Braised Wagyu Beef Shortrib with Horseradish–Sour Cream Tortelli, Sherry-braised Cipollini Onions, Mustard Greens, Toasted Sourdough Emulsion.

Rioja features an extensive wine list and wonderful desserts. They also serve a weekend brunch. Make reservations – read more here (Photo by Dan Lurie)

2. Snooze

Snooze

Snooze doesn’t require you to have to think much in the morning, which is the way a breakfast should be. They are known for their awesome pancakes and other inspired breakfast classics made from scratch using fresh local and organic ingredients. If you can get out of bed and make your way to their restaurant, a serious, creatively-made breakfast awaits.

• Pineapple Upside Down Pancakes – Buttermilk Pancakes with Caramelized Pineapple Chunks, Housemade Vanilla Crème Anglaise and Cinnamon Butter.
• Ham Benedict III – Signature English Muffin topped with Shaved Hickory Smoked Ham, Poached Niman Ranch Cage Free Eggs and Smoked Cheddar Hollandaise.
• OMG! French Toast – Fresh Brioche stuffed with Mascarpone and topped with Vanilla Creme, Salted Caramel, Agave-soaked Strawberries and Toasted Coconut.

For those wanting an early morning pick-up, Snooze has mimosas, bloody marys, beer, and cocktails. Indecisive diners will enjoy the Pancake Flight with a choice of 3 pancakes. Snooze has a few locations in the Denver area, including a new one at Union Station. Check their web site for details. They get busy, so there may be a wait – read more here (Photo by Steve Bott)

3. Steuben’s Food Service

Steuben's Food Service

Steuben’s Food Service is a higher-end diner serving classic American cuisine and pre-Prohibition cocktails. The food may be only comfort food, but the ingredients and preparation are more upscale than the average diner. The prices reflect the better quality of food. Grab a seat in a booth or at the chrome bar and order-up.

• Gravy Fries.
• Maine Lobster Roll and Fries.
• Fried Chicken with Mashed Potatoes, Biscuit, and Gravy.
• Late Night Lucky Seven Happy Hour – Cheeseburger, Fries and choice of PBR, Olympia or Coors.
• Milk flight for kids.

Steuben’s has been featured on the Food Network‘s Diners, Drive-Ins & Dives for their Lobster Roll, Roasted Chicken and Hand-Cut Fries. Also: (1) they have an awesome brunch, (2) they have a food truck, and (3) they also own Denver’s acclaimed Vespa Dipping Grillread more here (Photo by Sam Howzit)

4. Root Down

Root Down

As the name suggests, the food at Root Down is farm-to-table, organic, natural, and local when possible. Effort is made to connect the ingredients to the food and engage the diners with the dining experience and other diners. Root Down features an open kitchen design, a retro bar, and lots of outdoor seating. There’s a bit of a hipster vibe, but the service is friendly. There are many vegetarian, gluten-free and vegan items listed on the menu. The restaurant even uses wind for power, and recycled materials were used in the renovation of the building.

• Sweet Potato Fries with Curry-Lime Yogurt.
• Colorado Lamb Sliders with Ground Lamb, Aged White Cheddar, Harissa Aioli, Arugula, Sweet Potato Fries and Mint-Garlic Yogurt.
• Roasted 3 Chili Chicken with Lemon Crème Fraîche, Green Chili Grit Cake and Carrot-Cucumber-Spinach Salad.
• 56 Hour Beef Short Ribs with Polenta, Crispy Sunchokes, Swiss Chard, Smoked Shiitake Mushrooms, and Horseradish Gremolata.

Root Down has excellent cocktails for enjoying at the bar or on the patio. Their brunch is popular for the Bottomless Blood Orange Mimosas and Eggs Benedict – read more here (Photo by Monika Clarke)

5. Fruition Restaurant

Fruition Restaurant

Fruition Restaurant never-disappoints as a cozy and classy destination for seasonal fare in Denver. Food and Wine voted Chef Alex Seidel a “Best New Chef” in 2007, and Fruition was named one of the “Top 10 New Restaurants” in the country by Gayot in the same year. With lots of the food here coming from Fruition Farms, Chef Alex Seidel brings local sourcing at a new level.

• Potato-Wrapped Oysters Rockefeller with Parmesan-Leek Emulsion, Bacon Lardons, Baby Spinach.
Pasta Carbonara with House-Cured Pork Belly, Hand-Made Cavatelli, Six Minute Egg, and Cacio Pecora Broth.
Salmon Creek Farms Roasted Pork Tenderloin with Butternut Squash and Spiced Quince Ragoût, Savory Quinoa Granola, Apple Brown Butter.
Roasted Chicken Cassoulet with House Made Chicken Sausage, Foraged Mushrooms, Confit Chicken, Braised Cannellini Bean Jus.
Lemon Meringue Pie with Graham Cracker Crust and Fresh Blueberry Compote.

Fruition Restaurant stays busy, so make a reservation – read more here (Photo by Jules Morgan)

6. Biker Jim’s Gourmet Dogs

Biker Jims Gourmet Dogs

Biker Jim’s Gourmet Dogs raises the bar for hot dogs to an unprecedented level. Biker Jim is Jim Pittenger, a biker and former repo man. After a trip to Alaska in 2005, he decided to start bringing in reindeer sausages from Alaska and serving them from a food cart in downtown Denver on the 16th Street Mall. The venture was successful, and he has since expanded to selling other exotic dogs and then opened a brick and mortar location.

Go in, pick a dog, then pick a topping. Choose from a worthy selection of microbrews.

• Elk Jalapeno Cheddar Dog with Coca-Cola-soaked Grilled Onions and a swizzle of Cream Cheese.
Wild Boar Brat with Harissa Roasted Cactus, Malaysian Jam, Scallions, Cilantro and Onions.
Alaskan Reindeer Dog with Pintos, Diced Jalapenos, Tomatoes, Onions, Yellow Mustard and Mayo.
Charred Tahini Cauliflower.
Chipotle Brownie Ice Cream Sandwich.

Biker Jim has two restaurants (Downtown and Highlands Ranch), a few food carts, and a food truck – read more here (Photo by Jing)

7. Linger

Linger

Linger offers global street foods meant to be shared in a lively space that was once a historic mortuary. The body of Buffalo Bill supposedly spent six months in the mortuary in 1917.

Linger opened in 2011 by chef/owner Justin Cucci, who also runs Root Down. When he bought the space in the historic Olinger Mortuary, he kept the neon sign and blocked out the first letter in “Olinger” to come up with the name. “Mortuaries” was also changed to the more upbeat “eatuaries.” The restaurant continues to capitalize on the building’s past by incorporating other macabre touches into the fabric of the decor, such as using church pews for some seating, using stainless steel medical chart holders for the wine list, and serving water from formaldehyde bottles. Photos from the funeral-centric movie Harold and Maude decorate the walls.

• African Roasted Tomato & Peanut Soup with Coconut Milk, Berbere Spice, Ginger, and Cilantro.
• Wagyu Sliders with Peppered Bacon, Aged Cheddar, Curried Sour Cream, Sweet Potato Waffle Fries, and Chipotle Ketchup.
• Sweet Potato Waffle Fries with Chipotle Ketchup.
• Mongolian BBQ Duck with Scallions and Miso Pickled Cucumbers.
• Honey-Sriracha Duck Wings with Salted Cucumber & Togarashi Ranch.

The roomy, open space sports a wall of windows frames a stunning view of downtown, and a spiral staircase leads to the bar upstairs – and a rooftop bar. The cocktails are great, there’s a good list of beers, and the enticing menu is divided up by parts of the world – read more here (Photo by Robin Zebrowski)

8. Euclid Hall Bar and Kitchen

Euclid Hall Bar and Kitchen

Euclid Hall Bar and Kitchen is an upscale tavern offering innovative pub fare accompanied a carefully curated selection of craft beers and cocktails. The eclectic menu includes housemade sausages, po’ boys, poutine and schnitzels. In homage to Euclid, the father of Geometry, the menu is divided into categories such as Algebra, Trigonometry, and Calculus, which designate the complexity of the beer.

Euclid Hall Bar and Kitchen is located in an historic 1883 building that has previously housed Masons, the legendary Soapy Smith’s bar, and a brothel that was rumored to cater to government employees. The building has two levels, and the top floor offer good views of the open kitchen below and the Rocky Mountains out the windows.

• Carnitas Papas Fritas with Tomatillo Green Chile, Cheddar Curds and Goat Cheese, Cilantro, Chile Lime Fries.
Chicken and Waffles – crispy Chicken Mousseline and Confit “Nuggets”, Sourdough Waffle, Black Pepper Béchamel, Maple Gastrique.
Oyster Po’Boy with Potato Bread, Bacon Aioli, Jorel€™s hot Sauce, Cucumber, Red Onion.
Pad Thai Pig Ears with Tamarind Chili Sauce, Scallion, Peanut, Egg, Sprouts, Mint, Cilantro.

Euclid Hall Bar and Kitchen is owned by Jennifer Jasinski and Beth Gruitch, who also own Rioja and Bistro Vendome – read more here (Photo by Adam Bruderer)

9. Sushi Den

Sushi Den

While Sushi Den may seem out of place in land-locked Denver, the restaurant was recently named “On the Short List of the Best Sushi Restaurants in the Country” by the New York Times. The restaurant opened in 1984 and has become a Denver institution in the 30 years since it opened. Their fresh, sustainable fish are flown in daily from Japan. Master chef Toshi Kizaki runs the restaurant while his brother oversees sourcing the fish in Japan. The vibe at Sushi Den is modern and sleek, and the people-watching is very good.

• Miso Black Cod.
• Jalapeno Sashimi.
• Tuna Firecracker Roll.

Toshi Kizaki also owns Izakaya Den in Denver, which specializes in small Japanese tapas-like plates that are meant for sharing, plus lots of sake – read more here (Photo by LWYang)

10. El Taco de Mexico

El Taco de Mexico

El Taco De Mexico is an authentic, family-owned taqueria that has been a favorite of Denverites since opening in 1985. The tiny place is a bit of a dive, made the food is made with care and is genuine, with flavors seemingly direct from Mexico City. The Chile Relleno Burrito is a thing of legend among locals looking for late-night sustenance. People swear by the spicy salsa.

• Breakfast Burrito – Rice, Beans, Eggs with the choice of Chorizo, Ham, Bacon, or Potato, all smothered with Green Chile.
• Beef Steak Tacos with Salsa, Onion, Cilantro and served with with Rice and Beans.
• Chile Relleno Burrito smothered with Green Chile with Rice and Beans.
• Menudo with Tortillas and served with Oregano, Chile Pepper, and Lemon.
• Tamale with with Salsa, Onion, Cilantro and served with with Rice and Beans.

Look for the small yellow building. A long menu that is predominantly in Spanish looms above a long counter. Seating is on a stool at the counter, in one of the booths, or outside on the patio. The service can be a bit surly, but that should be seen as part of the experience. El Taco does not serve alcohol. Breakfast is served all day – read more here (Photo by Joshua Heller)

11. The Kitchen

The Kitchen

The Kitchen is a “community bistro” where people could gather together in a friendly atmosphere and share great food. The restaurant opened in 2004 and was a pioneer in the movement to buy seasonal products from local farmers. The vibe is super-casual and relaxed, and dinner at The Kitchen is more of an experience than a meal. Upstairs is a community bar that is the perfect place to enjoy a drink and conversation. In 2011, The Kitchen Next Door opened as a community pub next door to the restaurant. On weekday afternoons, the restaurant hosts a Community Hour with small plates dishes.

Kimbal Musk and Hugo Matheson are the people behind The Kitchen’s slowly emerging food empire. Kimbal’s brother is Elon Musk of PayPal and Tesla Motors fame. Together, they made lots of money when they sold an earlier company, Zip2, in 1999 – read more here (Photo by Lauren Polinsky)

12. Panzano

Panzano

Panzano Chef Elise Wiggins knows her authentic Italian cuisine – her restaurant was awarded AAA Four Diamond award in 2011. The restaurant is located in the Hotel Monaco and is often named as one of the best restaurants in Denver. The food is contemporary Northern Italian with a Colorado twist of using local, sustainable ingredients. The warm setting employs terracotta tiles to invoke the mood of Renaissance Florence.

• Crespelle ai Funghi – Hazel Dell Mushroom Stuffed Crepes, Fonduta Sauce and White Truffle Oil.
• Cavolini di Bruxelles – Fried Brussels Sprouts tossed with Apple Cider Reduction, Pistachios, Rosemary Salt and Sliced Green Apple.
• Caesar Griglia – Grilled Hearts of Romaine, Anchovies, Garlic, Parmesan.
• Tagliatelle with House-cured Pancetta, Grana Padano, and Cracked Black Pepper topped with a Fried Egg.
• Capesante – Pan-seared Sea Scallops over Truffled Cauliflower Puree finished with Anchovy Butter, Red Peppers and Bacon.

Panzano serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and the have a fun and long happy hour in the roomy bar on weekdays. In additional to the wonderful food, Panzano is a leader among restaurants in their focus on composting and recycling. Much of their beers and wines offered are organic and produced locally, and their takeout containers are made from sugarcane – read more here (Photo by Timothy Vollmer)

13. Bistro Vendome

Bistro Vendome

Bistro Vendome brings Paris to Larimer Square in this romantic and refined French bistro. Sit at a candle-lit table inside, or outside on the wonderful courtyard patio. Jennifer Jasinski, who also is the chef behind Rioja and Euclid Hall Bar & Kitchen, offers classic French fare with her usual emphasis on local and seasonal ingredients. The chef is Dana Rodriguez, who came to America from Mexico and began as a dishwasher at a hotel restaurant before rising through the ranks to her current position.

• Moules – Mussels, Garlic, Herbs, White Wine, Grilled Sourdough Baguette.
Crêpes Vendôme with Roasted Chicken, Roma Tomato, Olives, Herbs and topped with a Fried Egg, Béarnaise, Fried Capers.
Steak Frites with either Béarnaise, Green Peppercorn Sauce, or Port Reduction.
Poulet Rôti aux Herbes – Herb Roasted Half Chicken, Cauliflower Gratin, Mâche Salad, Chicken Jus.
Truite à l’Oseille – Pan-seared Idaho Trout, Butter-poached Red Bliss Potatoes, Haricot Vert, Mushrooms, Sorrel Poulette Sauce.

Bistro Vendome is located downtown in Larimer Square named after Place Vendome, a renowned historic square in Paris – read more here (Photo by LWYang)

14. ChoLon Bistro

ChoLon Bistro

ChoLon Bistro is a sleek LoDo hotspot specializing is Asian specialties using French cooking techniques. The small plates invite sampling and sharing.

Chef and owner Lon Symensma came to Denver with a lofty pedigree. He worked at Spice Market, Jean Georges, and Buddakan in New York, Jean Georges Shanghai, and Michelin-starred restaurants in both France and Spain. He fell in love with Asian cuisine after spending a year travelling through southern China, Thailand, Malaysia, and Vietnam. In fact, his restaurant is named after ChoLon Market, the largest Chinese-influenced market in Saigon.

• Soup Dumplings, Sweet Onion, Gruyere.
• Pork Belly Buns, Sesame-Honey Glaze, Pickles.
• Kaya Toast, Coconut Jam, Egg Cloud.
• Diver Scallops, Vegetable “Pad Thai,” Cashew Gremolata.
• Bacon “Fried Rice” Carbonara, Orzo, Sweet Peas, Parmigiano Reggiano.

The space is modern and polished, with high ceilings and an open kitchen that rightly puts the focus on the food. Try to secure a seat at the chef’s counter to witness the working of the chefs in the open kitchen – read more here (Photo by stu_spivack)

15. Acorn

Acorn

Acorn offers New American, contemporary, small plate dishes in a cavernous 1880’s foundry in the River North (RiNo) district of Denver. The restaurant is located at The Source, which was reclaimed and transformed into a marketplace occupied by galleries, artisan food markets, and a lively mix of bars and restaurants. The formerly industrial space features concrete floors, garage doors, and graffiti-painted brick walls, but the space is warmed by a good use of woods and lighting. In addition to the lofty main dining room, there’s a bar and a mezzanine area that overlooks the open kitchen.

Chef/Owner Steven Redzikowski and Beverage Director/Owner Bryan Dayton opened Acorn in 2013 after having success with their acclaimed OAK at fourteenth in Boulder (Oak => Acorn). The heart of the ever-changing menu revolves around the oak-fired oven and grill. They foods are creative, yet approachable, and they are meant to be shared. The cocktail are ingredient-driven, and there is a well-curated selection of small-batch beers and wines – read more here (Photo by whatleydude)

16. Z Cuisine

Z Cuisine

Z Cuisine Bistrot brings old world French charm – along with food and wine – to Denver’s ultra-hip LoHi neighborhood. Z Cuisine actually consists of a French Bistro with a Parisian-style absinthe and wine bar – À Côté – next door. Both can be found on a hilltop tucked into a brick building behind wrought iron gates. Inside, the dim lighting and intimate tabletops are perfect for long conversations and whiling away the afternoon or evening. Old posters, a chalkboard wine menu, and chandeliers provide a shabby/chic decor. The place is perfect for a romantic date. The menu is classic French without the pretension and, like a true French bistro, succeeds at blending the gourmet with the simple. There’s ample use of local ingredients, and daily ‘Farm to Fork’ specials are listed on the chalkboard.

À Côté exudes French ambiance and excels in French wines and absinthe drinks, plus food. The vibe is a bit more casual and lively compared to Z Cuisine. Z Cuisine does not take reservations – read more here (Photo by Laurel Barickman)

17. New Saigon

New Saigon

New Saigon is a no-frills establishment that has supplied Denverites with steamed bowls of pho and other Vietnamese foods for over 30 years. The menu is extensive – with over 200 items listed. Everything being good and fresh, and service is quick and efficient. It is often crowded.

The restaurant is owned and operated by Thai Nyugen and his wife Ha Pham, who is also the chef. Together, they fled their country in 1981 to escape the Communist takeover. Armed with no money and no destination, they somehow ended up in Denver after a long journey as part of a resettlement program. They got jobs in the kitchen at New Saigon and ended up buying the restaurant a couple of years later.

• Cua Lot Chien Bo – Deep-fried Soft Shell Crabs topped with Onion Rings and Garlic Butter Sauce, served with Fresh Vegetables.
• Hot And Sour Soup.
• Goi Thap Cam – Lotus Root, Shrimp, Pork, Squid, Snail, Thinly-sliced Pork Ears, Carrots and Diakon Salad tossed with Signature Fish Sauce Dressing.
• Hu Tiu Tom Thit – Shrimp, Pork with Rice Noodles Soup.

Nguyen and Pham sold New Saigon in early 2015, but they still retain ownership of the New Saigon Bakery and Deli located next door, which opened in 2012 and is operated by two of Nguyen’s five daughters. The popular spot serves banh mi sandwiches and pastries – read more here (Photo by stu_spivack)

18. Cherry Cricket

Cherry Cricket

Cherry Cricket opened in 1945, and ever since it has been a favorite stop for everyone from truckers to sports fans to business tycoons. The place started as a bar in the living room of the owner, and garbage truck drivers heading to and from the dump next door were the primarily clientele. Much has changed in 70 years – the former dump is now a posh shopping mall, but the Cherry Cricket has long served burgers that exceeds expectation. In addition to the top-notch burgers, there also a giant selection of beer, a nice patio, and a friendly vibe.

Diners at Cherry Cricket build their own burgers from an extensive list of cheeses and toppings. There’s nine cheeses from which to choose, included Smoked Cheddar and Cream Cheese. Toppings range from standard to adventurous and include Green Chiles, Egg, Gilled Pineapple, Guacamole, Corned Beef, Peanut Butter, and Raspberry Jam. Cherry Cricket gets crowded, but the food makes the wait worthwhile – read more here (Photo by Marc Hughes)

19. Little Man Ice Cream

Little Man Ice Cream

Little Man Ice Cream – you’ll know you’re there when you see the giant milk jug looming below the neon “linger” sign – and when you see the crowd of people enjoying ice cream. The milk jug is twenty-eight foot tall and 14,000 lbs., and it doesn’t hold milk – it is the ice cream stand. Owner Paul Tamburello built the structure after being inspired by vintage Coney Island hot dog-shaped stands, and it has become a fixture in the LoHi neighborhood.

Little Man makes small-batch ice cream, vegan ice cream and sorbet using locally sourced ingredients. What really stands out here are the inventive flavors – they often change and range from Bhakti Chai to Milk Stout Chip and Salted Caramel PB Cup.

• Ice Cream Flavors include – Bhakti Chai, French Toast, Banana Chip, Fluffernutter, Oatmeal Cookie, and Salted Oreo.
• Sorbet Flavors include – Green Tea Lime, Mint Mojito, Pineapple Basil, Pomegranate Chia Seed, and Cantaloupe Salsa.
• Toppings include –  handmade Strawberry Sauce, Blueberry Sauce and Pineapple Sauce, or, for the more adventurous, Potato Chips.

Little Man often hosts events such as bike-in movies, live music, and local food vendors – read more here (Photo by vxla)

20. Pho 95 Noodle House and Grill

Pho 95

Pho 95 Noodle House and Grill located in a shopping strip with lots of other pho shops nearby. Look for the one with the line out of the door.

Pho 95 is a family-run business that takes pride in serving excellent hot, steaming bowls of pho, plus other traditional Vietnamese dishes. It’s consistently named as one of Denver’s best Vietnamese restaurants, and a large part of the reason is the fresh and high-quality ingredients they use. Traditional pho consists of a beef broth with thin slices of beef and rice noodles added, plus items such as fresh basil, beansprouts, jalapenos, lime juice, and Siracha or Hoisin sauce. Vegetarian options are available.

• Spring Rolls with Shrimp and Pork – Shrimp, Pork, Rice Noodles, Lettuce, and Herbs wrapped in Rice Paper and served with Peanut or Fish Sauce.
• Tai Chin – Rare Steak and Well-Done Brisket Noodle Soup.
• Bun Dac Biet – Combo Bowl with Grilled Beef, Pork, Chicken, Shrimp and Eggrolls on top of Vermicelli Noodles with Veggies and Herbs.

Feeling really hungry? Consider reserving a seat at the Pho-King Challenge table, where you’ll be served 2 lbs. of noodles, 2 lbs. of meat, 200 oz. of broth, and a plate of vegetables. Eat it all and you receive your Pho-King meal for free, a Pho-King t-shirt, and your picture on the wall as Pho-King winner of the month. Lose and you receive a Pink Pho-King loser t-shirt and a bill for $34.99 – read more here (Photo by Bytemarks)

21. Lola

Lola

Lola restaurant may as close as one can get to the beaches of Mexico in the whole state of Colorado. This favorite of the LoHi neighborhood is a perfect place for a happy hour margarita on the patio, guacamole prepared tableside, or wine and oysters at the bar. The vibe is hip and upscale gourmet Mexican., and a rotating menu keeps things fresh in the decade-old restaurant. With a bar that boasts a staggering 200 different tequilas from which to choose, there’s reason Lola has been named one of the Top 5 places to drink tequila in the country by Food & Wine.

• Shrimp Ceviche with de Arbol Aioli, Cherry Tomatoes, Melon Salsa.
• Roasted Butternut Squash Queso Fundido with Housemade Chorizo, Goat Cheese, Toasted Pepita Pipian, Black Bean Fry Bread.
• Lobster Tostada – Vanilla Poached Lobster, Cilantro, Grapefruit, Squash Escabeche, Smoked Avocado Aioli.
• Carne Asada – Grilled Hanger Steak, Mole Colorado, Sherry Grilled Onions.

Lola has a weekend brunch, an acclaimed happy hour every day, and live music on Sundays – read more here (Photo by Craig Dugas)

22. Elway’s

Elway's

Many famous athletes have tried to leverage their fame into owning a restaurant, and few have succeeded. Elway’s is a very good steakhouse. In fact, the restaurant has been named one of the “Top 10 Steakhouses in the US” by Gayot. The steaks at Elway’s are USDA Prime and Hand-Cut, and the Bone-in Rib-Eye is the popular choice. The atmosphere is classic steakhouse, with dark woods, white tablecloths, and dim lighting.

• Lamb Chop Fondue – Lamb Chops, Green Chile Cheese Fondue, Chimayo Tortillas, Roasted Sweet Potatoes.
Porterhouse – 28 oz. U.S.D.A. Prime Steak and Cake – Add a Crabcake and Grain Mustard Butter to any Steak.

Elway’s currently has four locations, including one at the Ritz Carlton downtown, one in Vail, and one at the Denver International Airport – read more here (Photo by Jeffrey Beall)

23. Vesta Dipping Grill

Vesta Dipping Grill

Vesta Dipping Grill is the old dog in the Denver restaurant scene, but it still manages to hold its own against the younger competition. Excellent, inventive food choices and a romantic, alluring space keep it vibrant and more than relevant. Vesta’s progressive, global menu is centered around a dazzling array of house-made dipping sauces. Choose an entree – usually grilled, and then choose the accompanying sauce. Accompanying the food menu is a lively bar scene with an elevated cocktail menu, plus a doting staff.

Josh Wolkon opened Vesta Dipping Grill in Denver’s LoDo neighborhood over 15 years ago – back when the area wasn’t the destination it is today. Wolkon enjoyed working the front of the house and interacting with patrons, and when he hired Matt Selby as chef after a year, the menu and concept began to come to fruition. The stylish place has been popular ever since – it’s a great place for a romantic date or to enjoy happy hour – read more here (Photo by Ted Major)

24. Sam’s No. 3

Sam's No. 3

Sam’s No. 3 is a local favorite for their breakfast burrito smothered in green chili, but it’s also a dependable choice for any time of day. The key to Sam’s success is simple – serve good food, have a clean restaurant, and make people happy. The encyclopedic menu is 16 pages long and the choices range from American to Greek to Mexican. They’re known for lots of awesome things: Kickin’ Pork Green Chili, Loaded Bloody Mary, giant Breakfast Burritos (21 choices), Burgers (15 choices), and delectable Milkshakes. Breakfast is served all day, and there’s a full coffee and espresso bar.

• Loaded Bloody Mary
• Kitchen Sink Skillet – Onions, Bell Peppers, Tomato, Mushroom, Ham, Bacon, Sausage, and Gyro topped with Melted Cheddar and smothered with Kickin’ Pork Green Chili.
• Greek Burrito – Diced Gyro Meat, Red Onion, Tomato and Feta Cheese.
• “Poppa’s Big As A House” Burrito – Six Eggs with Ham, Bacon, Sausage, Gyro, Onion, Bell Pepper, Tomato, Mushroom, Cheddar, Swiss, Jack, and American Cheese.
• Kickin’ Pork Green Chili – Scratch-made daily. Served with Flour or Corn Tortilla.

Sam’s has numerous locations in Denver and the surrounding area – read more here (Photo by Kate Ter Haar)

25. Frasca Food and Wine

Frasca Food and Wine

Frasca Food and Wine offers high-end northern Italian dining in a intimate, warm restaurant in Boulder. The restaurant is directly inspired by the staff’s passion for the culture and cuisine of Friuli-Venezia Giulia, Italy. The menu at Frasca changes with the seasons. On Mondays, Frasca offers a 4-course Tasting Menu with optional wine pairings.

Chef Lachlan MacKinnon-Patterson has been named Best Chef Southwest by the James Beard Foundation, and Master Sommelier Bobby Stuckey won the James Beard Award for Outstanding Wine Program. For years, they have taken their staff on annual eating and drinking trips to Friuli, Italy. The staff’s knowledge of food, plus a meticulous attention to detail and exquisite service, means diners are in for a memorable and sublime dining experience. The restaurant has often been called the best in Colorado – read more here (Photo by Dave Dugdale)

26. Osteria Marco

Osteria Marco

Osteria Marco serves up hand-crafted artisan pizza in a warm and convivial basement setting in Larimer Square. In addition to the excellent pizzas, they offer house-cured meats, house-pickled and preserved late-season produce, and house-made cheeses. The pizzas are reasonably priced, and there is an excellent wine list and cocktail menu to accompany the food.

• Housemade Wine-Cured Pork Loin.
• Fig and Arugula Pizza with Black Mission Figs, Crispy Prosciutto, Goat Cheese, and Truffle-Honey.
• Artisan Pizza with Goat Cheese, Olives, Roasted Red Pepper, Chili, and Fresh Oregano.
• Lamb Meatballs with Creamy Polenta, Capra Ricotta, and Smoked Tomato Brodo.
• Butterscotch Bread Pudding.

Frank Bonanno is the man behind the pizzeria, and he opened the restaurant in 2007 as a more casual counterpart to his Luca d’Italia restaurant. To find Osteria Marco, head to Luca d’Italia, look for the sign with the flying pig, then head downstairs. They do have patio seating available for warm weather al fresco dining. On Sunday nights, Osteria Marco offers up Slow-Roasted Suckling Pig – read more here (Photo by Jing)

Featured photo by Sheila Sund. All photos CC-BY-2.0.

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