Colorado Earns Its First Michelin Stars—Here’s Where

Five Colorado restaurants earned a Michelin Star, four earned a green star, and nine earned a Bib Gourmand designation.

The Wolf's Tailor plate

The Wolf’s Tailor earned one Michelin star and one green star.

Courtesy of The Wolf’s Tailor

The Michelin Guide, owned by the French tire company, has long been seen as the world’s authority on fine dining. Over its 123-year history, it’s been awarding the best restaurants in the world with its highly coveted Michelin stars.

Since coming to the United States in 2005, the company has anointed only a handful of destinations with its awards, including New York, California, Washington D.C., Chicago, and Florida. And now it has come to Colorado for the first time.

On September 12, Michelin announced which Colorado restaurants had earned Michelin stars, as well as Green stars and Bib Gourmand awards (more on that later). Here’s what you need to know.

Bosq was the only restaurant in Aspen to earn a Michelin star.

Bosq was the only restaurant in Aspen to earn a Michelin star.

Courtesy of Bosq

Which Colorado restaurants earned Michelin stars?

Five restaurants in Colorado, including three in Denver, one in Boulder, and one in Apsen, were given a star during Michelin’s first year in the Centennial State. Those include:

  • Beckon, a contemporary restaurant in Denver that features a multicourse tasting menu that rotates quarterly
  • Bosq, a contemporary spot in Aspen that focuses on seasonally inspired tasting menus with ingredients that were foraged, fermented, and from local farms
  • Bruto, a Mexican spot in Denver with a multi-course, omakase-style tasting menu
  • Frasca Food and Wine, an Italian eatery in Boulder that offers both a la carte and tasting menus
  • The Wolf’s Tailor, a contemporary dining experience in Denver, with a multicourse menu that draws influence from Nordic, Italian, and East Asian cuisine

Each of the new entries to the Michelin guide earned one star. According to Michelin’s star system, one star is worth a stop, two stars are worth a detour, and three stars are worth a journey. Both Bruto and The Wolf’s Tailor are run by chef Kelly Whitaker (as is Basta and Hey Kiddo, which won other awards).
Michelin shared a few notes from its anonymous inspectors (who visit the eateries multiple times throughout the year and decide on awardees as a group) about why these five restaurants earned their stars.

For example, of The Wolf’s Tailor, one inspector’s note read, “Although the menu shifts throughout the year to explore different themes, diners will find a common thread in cooking that highlights ingredients while displaying technical precision and harmonious flavors, with fermentation a frequent motif.” Of Bosq, an inspector said, “The menu format allows diners to customize their own tasting of four or more courses. From handpicked spruce tips to butter from locally sourced cooperative dairy cows, this is a concept that pays attention to details—even ingredients from farther afield, like lobster from New England, gets a hit of local flavor from being grilled over juniper wood.”

Across the United States, there are now just 226 Michelin-starred restaurants—a number that is fewer than the number of starting players in the NBA or the number of living Tony winners, Denver mayor Mike Johnston noted during the announcement event.

“This award means that you are one of the best restaurants in the city, in the state, in your country, and in the world,” said Gwendal Poullennec, international director of The Michelin Guides, at the event.

Blackbelly Market in Boulder earned a Green star. It's chef, Kelly Kawachi was also honored with the Michelin Young Chef Award.

Blackbelly Market in Boulder earned a Green star. It’s chef, Kelly Kawachi was also honored with the Michelin Young Chef Award.

Courtesy of Blackbelly Market

Colorado’s other Michelin awards

Four dining destinations were also recognized with a Green star, a new category created in 2020 to recognize restaurants with commitments to sustainable and environmentally friendly practices.

Blackbelly Market in Boulder earned a Green star due to its “full utilization of every ingredient and animal, most of which are butchered in-house; sourcing from local ranches and farms that apply natural practices to everything they cultivate; and herbs and flowers for plates grown on property,” according to Michelin. Bramble & Hare, another Boulder-area restaurant earned a Green star thanks to its “organic farm with 70 acres growing more than 250 varieties of vegetables, herbs, and grain … and 360 acres of pasture for raising heritage sheep and pigs,” per Michelin. Bruto and Wolf’s Tailor also earned Green stars along with their one Michelin star.

There are now just 21 eateries across North America with the Green-star distinction. Of the 17 that aren’t in Colorado, 15 are in California, a state that held its Michelin ceremony in July.

“It’s quite an impressive feat for a debut selection to include so many Michelin Green Stars. Our famously anonymous inspectors were wowed by these restaurants’ high-quality, local ingredients, sourced seasonally and sustainably. It’s a very exciting time for the culinary community here, and we feel the momentum growing,” Poullennec said.

Additionally, Caroline Clark of The Wolf’s Tailor received the Michelin Exceptional Cocktails Award, Ryan Fletter and Erin Lindstone of Barolo Grill in Denver took home the Michelin Sommelier Award, Sergei Kiefel of Frasca Food and Wine was recognized with the Michelin Outstanding Service Award, and Kelly Kawachi of Blackbelly Market was honored with the Michelin Young Chef Award.

The Michelin Guide Inspectors identified nine restaurants to award the Bib Gourmand designation, which recognizes eateries for great food at a great value: AJ’s Pit Bar-B-Q, Ash’Kara, Basta, The Ginger Pig, Glo Noodle House, Hop Alley, La Diabla Pozole y Mezcal, Mister Oso, and Tavernetta. All of the Bib Gourmand eateries are in Denver, with the exception of Basta, which is in Boulder.

Another 30 restaurants were recognized in the Recommended category (which means the eatery impressed the Michelin inspectors, but not enough to earn a star), including:

  • A5 Steakhouse (Denver)
  • Barolo (Denver)
  • Blackbelly Market (Boulder)
  • Bramble & Hare (Boulder)
  • Dio Mio (Denver)
  • Dushanbe Tea House (Boulder)
  • Element 47 (Aspen)
  • Fruition (Denver)
  • Guard and Grace (Denver)
  • Hey Kiddo (Denver)
  • Marco’s Coal Fired (Denver)
  • Mawa’s Kitchen (Aspen)
  • Mercantile Dining and Provision (Denver)
  • Mirabelle (Beaver Creek)
  • Noisette (Denver)
  • Oak at Fourteenth (Boulder)
  • Olivia (Denver)
  • Osaki’s (Vail)
  • Potager (Denver)
  • Prospect (Aspen)
  • Q House (Denver)
  • Safta (Denver)
  • Santo (Boulder)
  • Smok (Denver)
  • Splendido at the Chateau (Beaver Creek)
  • Stella’s Cucina (Boulder)
  • Sweet Basil (Vail)
  • Temaki Den (Denver)
  • Wyld (Beaver Creek)
  • Zoe Ma Ma (Boulder)

During the event announcing the awards, Timothy Wolfe, director of the Colorado Tourism Office, told the crowd that the Michelin Guide Colorado marks a turning point not just for chefs and restaurants but for the entire state.
“It shows the rich diversity of our culinary traditions and celebrates our commitment to sustainability and farm-to-table dining,” Wolfe said. “As we stand on the cusp of this momentous occasion, we acknowledge that the world will now know what we have cherished for so long: that Colorado has culinary excellence. And we can’t wait to share it with everybody.”

While the announcement is indeed exciting, especially for the restaurants and their respective cities that earned recognition, it wasn’t without drama. Only restaurants in Denver, Boulder, Aspen, Vail, Snowmass, and Beaver Creek (the last four of which also operate some of the most expensive ski resorts in the country) were considered. Communities like Colorado Springs (the second-largest city in the state) and Aurora (a community next to Denver that is known for its diversity and award-winning restaurant scene) weren’t considered. According to the New York Times, four tourism boards in Colorado paid Michelin between $70,000 and $100,000 to be considered in the guide; Aurora and Colorado Springs declined to pay to play. It remains to be seen whether other destinations within Colorado will be considered for the Michelin guide next year.

Bailey Berg is a freelance travel writer and editor, who covers breaking news, trends, tips, transportation, sustainability, the outdoors, and more. She was formerly the associate travel news editor at AFAR. Her work can also be found in the New York Times, the Washington Post, National Geographic, Condé Nast Traveler, Travel + Leisure, the Points Guy, Atlas Obscura, Vice, Thrillist, Men’s Journal, Architectural Digest, Forbes, Lonely Planet, and beyond.
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