Our Copyeditor’s Five Favorite Denver Restaurants Right Now
I love food. I think about it constantly. If I’m not reminiscing about an amazing meal I had recently, I’m looking forward to the next opportunity. Full disclosure: I lived in New Orleans for seven years, which means I have incredibly high (read: pretentious) standards when it comes to cuisine. I lived in Fort Collins for my first four years in Colorado, and with a few exceptions — shouts out to Tortilleria Las 4 Americas and Cafe de Bangkok — the culinary options left a lot to be desired. Since moving to Denver in August, I’ve been taking advantage of everything the big city has to offer my stomach.
Read on for the five best things I’ve had to eat in Denver (so far), with editorial comments from my boss and fellow aficionado of all things food-related, Eric:
The menu at this upscale neo-American restaurant changes constantly — it’s almost entirely different today than it was when I first ate there — but it’s hard to go wrong with any of the homemade pastas or their trademark dish, a savory smoked rabbit pecan pie. However, the item that stood out most to me was the barbecued octopus. I honestly can’t even remember the other elements of the dish, that’s how good the octopus was. Grilled to tender perfection, the meat was creamy and gorgeously textured with exceptional seasoning. I think there might have been some charred lemon on the plate for a contrast in flavors? Who knows, I basically blacked out when I had my first bite, that’s how good it was.
Note from Eric:
I consistently recommend The Bindery as one of the best restaurants in Denver. Visionary Chef Linda Hampsten Fox has created an airy, gorgeous room with food that is constantly surprising. The rabbit pie is definitely my fave dinner item, but don’t miss one of the most whimsical, affordable brunches in the city.
I’ve yet to visit the original Highlands location as the newer Washington Park space is much closer to my apartment, but I went to Uncle twice in a single week because I simply couldn’t stop thinking about their trademark soup bowl: the spicy chicken ramen. With a truly addicting spicy/sour sesame umami bomb broth that coats every inch of your mouth, tender chicken thigh, the crunch of bean sprouts, and the creaminess of a soft-boiled egg, this is genuinely the best bowl of ramen I’ve ever tasted (and I once spent a 10-hour layover in Tokyo stuffing my face, thank you very much). While the crispy fried mushroom appetizer was delicious and I’m sure the other ramen bowls and rice plates are also excellent, I can’t imagine why anyone would order anything else but the spicy chicken ramen. It’s so good. So good. Sooooo good.
Note from Eric:
Living and working in LoHi means Uncle is a staple for me. And Zach gets it exactly right - that spicy chicken ramen is a wonder (even with the dashi broth subbed for the sesame pork). Worth the wait every damn time.
I drive past this place on my way home from work every day and finally decided to stop in, and BOY am I glad I did. This tiny no-frills hole-in-the-wall joint on East Colfax technically also serves tacos but their true specialty is in the name: tortas, aka grilled Mexican sandwiches. I went with The Raul, which is filled with tender sliced and breaded steak, thick-cut bacon, and cheese — in addition to lettuce, tomato, onion, avocado, and mayo. At the chef’s recommendation I also added jalapeño jelly and serrano avocado sauce to the sandwich, which absolutely took it to the next level. The contrast of flavors and textures between the hot and salty meat, the cool mayo and avocado, the crunchy lettuce and onion, and the spicy sweetness of the jalapeño jelly made this one of the best sandwiches I’ve ever tasted. Did I mention that it’s absolutely enormous? I could only finish half and brought the rest home — and all for under $10. I’m drooling just thinking about going back.
Note from Eric:
Okay, okay! I’ve never been but now I need to visit.
I stumbled into this tucked-away space in Congress Park on a whim, only to learn that it’s one of the very best restaurants in the city. While all the small plates I ate were fantastic — including the mushroom orecchiette, the pickled apple salad, and the pomegranate-bison empanada — the true standout was a play on breakfast. The dish was sourdough ravioli filled with stone fruit jam and quail eggs, all floating in a pool of orange juice beurre blanc, topped off with crispy lardon and maple cereal pieces. I’ll say that louder for the people in back: BREAKFAST RAVIOLI. A perfect balance of sweet and savory, creamy and tart, mouth-melting and chewy. I begged them to keep it in their regular menu rotation and I take full credit for the fact that it has yet to be swapped out. You’re welcome, Denver!
Note from Eric:
Chef Jeff Osaka is a local treasure. From Osaka Ramen to Sushi-rama to this updated reboot of his well-loved 12 restaurant, the guy keeps Denver food lovers in awe.
Everything from this small French bakery in Hale is handmade and exquisite, but the simple customizable breakfast sandwiches are exceptional. First you pick your bread — go with a buttery and flaky croissant, obviously — and then a protein. I chose the house-cured sausage patty, which was far bigger than any I’ve ever seen on a breakfast sandwich. I then chose scrambled eggs instead of fried. While I know this is a controversial choice (and I’m typically a major dip-in-yolk proponent) I wanted the same egg flavor/texture throughout my sandwich with minimal mess. Then for additional toppings I chose gruyere cheese, mushroom pâté, and caramelized onions. Let me tell you, those rich onions were the kicker, and did an amazing job mellowing out the salty flavor combo from the sausage and eggs. The croissant was near-perfect, just the ideal balance of crispy to chewy that you want from your French pastry. Bon appetit indeed.
Note from Eric:
Oh, Zach. I can’t believe you didn’t go with the duck confit croissant sandwich. I dream about it some nights.
What are your favorite spots to eat in Denver? Fancy, fast casual, sketchy location, whatever. Let me know and I’ll be sure to stuff my face ASAP!
Zach Yanowitz is an aspiring knockoff Guy Fieri. He once appeared as a guest diner on an episode of Bravo’s Top Chef (the New Orleans season, the Halloween episode). He is literally always hungry.