Best Places to Eat and Drink in Denver
Denver is no country bumpkin when it comes to food and drink. You’ll find chefs setting national trends, restaurants and breweries in renovated spaces, and even an Asian eatery where you play ping-pong between meals. Come to the mountains!
321 17th St, Denver, CO 80202, USA
The tradition of afternoon tea is refreshingly alive and well at Denver’s Brown Palace Hotel. The atrium lobby of this 1892 Italian Renaissance Revival hotel is alone worth a visit: The soaring stained-glass ceiling, the ornate metal rails along the balconies, and the grand staircase make quite the impression. Formal tea service is accompanied by live harp or piano music. The ritual, complete with a range of teas to choose from, as well as scones, finger sandwiches, and imported Devonshire cream, will have you raising a pinkie to tradition. Reservations are recommended, especially around the holiday season.
837 E 17th Ave, Denver, CO 80203, USA
Watercourse Foods calls itself Denver’s original vegan restaurant. After Dan Landes first opened Watercourse Foods in 1998, the menu slowly evolved from straight vegetarian to full vegan by 2014. Over the years it has become a gathering place for a community of those interested in healthy foods and lifestyles—not just for those with a plant-based palate, but also for those with dietary restrictions that make eating out tricky. The bright Uptown restaurant is open from 7 a.m. all day and is especially popular for breakfast (not least of all for the design-it-yourself scrambled tofu skillet hash with a panoply of fillings and sauces). In the evening, creative cocktails—and mocktails—made with local ingredients are served alongside street tacos, curries, mac and cheese, and nachos loaded with tempeh chorizo, avocado, refried beans, and pico de gallo.
1701 Wynkoop Street, Denver
From its location in Denver’s Union Station, Mercantile Dining & Provision makes delicious and nutritious meals accessible to commuters and travelers passing through. This is the second eatery by Alex Seidel, a committed restaurateur who purchased a farm east of Denver to better understand the journey food takes from field to plate. The on-site market offers artisan-made provisions from spices and pickled beets to jams and jellies to coffee and potato chips. In the dining room, chef and partner Matt Vawter serves dinners so good you may miss your train—the spicy mussels (served in a tomato-butter broth perfect for mopping up with bread to console yourself after the shellfish and fennel sausage are gone), the housemade pastas, or the rotating selection of fire-roasted meat and fish entrees, can make the most fastidious traveler lose track of time.
1313 E 6th Ave, Denver, CO 80218, USA
Chef Alex Seidel is more than a chef, he is the farmer of most of the fresh food being served. On his 10-acre farm, he tends to herbs, fruits, vegetables, flowers, pigs and bees. With the addition of sheep in 2010, he created Colorado‘s first Artisanal Sheep Dairy and Creamery. The Carbonara, which is the only item consistently on the menu, is infused with his delicious cheese. The cavatelli pasta is also topped with crispy pork belly and a poached egg for you to crack and mix into the meal. The rest of the rustic menu rotates seasonally and is a favorite among foodies.
5245 Raleigh St, Denver, CO 80212, USA
The truth is, there’s a chance that there won’t be any bread to buy when you visit the Raleigh Street Bakery’s operation (a garage behind the baker’s house). That’s because the bakery sells bread shares to locals that they use to score a fresh loaf or two of artisanal bread every week. But because there may be an extra loaf of this extraordinary bread for sale, you should make a point of trying. Two pickup locations around town operate at different hours on different days. The Monday-late-afternoon bread-pickup spot, Call to Arms Brewing Company, offers the consolation of fine local craft beer if the bread’s all gone. You can also try the Union Station Farmers’ Market on Saturdays between 9 a.m. and 2 p.m.
2620 16th St, Denver, CO 80211, USA
It’s easy to find Little Man Ice Cream: Just check around for the 28-foot-tall milk can. This iconic landmark is not just about head-turning looks, it’s about serving the freshest ice cream. Located across the river from Denver’s LoDo neighborhood, Little Man Ice Cream is definitely worth the stroll across the footbridge. The rotating menu includes classic flavors as well as some pretty interesting variations like French Toast and Purple Cow.
1701 Wynkoop St, Denver, CO 80202, USA
Even if you don’t have a train to catch, you’ll want to make time to explore all of the dining options at Denver’s Union Station. This Beaux-Arts landmark, completed in 1914, underwent a complete renovation in 2014, and now it not only serves as a modern transit hub, but houses a hotel, shops, and nearly a dozen restaurants and bars as well. Eateries include fresh seafood, oysters, and a granita bar at Stoic & Genuine; seasonally inspired comfort food at the sit-down eatery within Mercantile Dining & Provision; and locally sourced casual fare at Next Door. Pick up breakfast at Snooze, get caffeinated at Pigtrain Coffee Co., and for lunch or a quick dinner, stop by the Acme Delicatessen (and don’t forget Milkbox Ice Creamery for frozen indulgence afterward). For evening visits—postprandial or otherwise—head up to the Cooper Lounge on the mezzanine level for cocktails looking out into the station’s Great Hall.
1539 17th St, Denver, CO 80202, USA
Eating fresh seafood in an inland city like Denver is certainly a unique experience, but don’t let the distance from the ocean be a concern. Jax’s mission is to bring the coasts to the coastless, and it does so with aplomb. For the eco-minded, the restaurant is deeply mindful about acquiring ingredients from sustainable sources; it’s the first eatery in Colorado to be certified by the Monterey Bay Seafood Watch program. Jax encourages customers to be smart about their own fish purchases and recommends that patrons use the Seafood Watch app. You’d better believe, after taking that kind of care to bring the ocean to the mountains, Jax prepares everything to perfection. There are two locations in Denver to choose from—as well as two other Colorado outposts, one each in Boulder and Fort Collins.
523 E 17th Ave, Denver, CO 80203, USA
If the name of this place reminds you of the Boston landmark, you’re on to something. It was named after Steuben’s, a Beantown hot spot from the 1940s well into the ’60s, known for jazz, big band shows, and parties. Steuben’s in Denver aspires to all that. The restaurant serves American comfort food like meat loaf, chicken and waffles, milkshakes, and lobster rolls in a retro-groovy diner setting. The formula has proven so successful that another location in nearby Arvada opened in 2016.
2376 15th Street
Beat writer Jack Kerouac fell in love with Denver after a visit (he eventually bought a home in Colorado), and Sal, the lead character in On the Road, travels to the city a few times. The free-spirited character Dean Moriarty was based on the real-life Neal Cassady, who frequented My Brother’s Bar, the oldest continuously operating watering hole in Denver. My Brother’s Bar keeps a low profile—a super-basic website and no sign on the door. Inside you’ll find a letter Cassady sent to a friend asking to cover his tab. This spot is also a good place to grab a burger and beer, and—during Girl Scout Cookies season—a box of thin mints.
1000 Osage St, Denver, CO 80204, USA
Buckhorn Exchange, as much a museum as a restaurant, was founded in 1893 by a man who rode with Buffalo Bill. The restaurant’s walls are hung with historical photographs and taxidermy animal trophies, among them a two-headed calf. Glass museum cases display western artifacts, including 125 guns. The walls are painted red, the tablecloths are red-checked and diners are seated Perhaps not surprisingly, the steakhouse menu offers a wide range of game dishes, with daily specials that can run to the exotic, like rattlesnake. Make a reservation, and show up early to enjoy the wild west style lounge and bar on the second floor. You’ll really feel like you’ve stepped back in time.
1520 Blake St, Denver, CO 80202, USA
A key component to the mastery of a skill is knowing when to break the rules. As its name implies, Jovanina’s Broken Italian breaks away from the traditional rules and expectations of Italian cuisine with the measured confidence of a master. Owners Jennifer and Jake Linzinmeir bring years of restaurant experience, both in the kitchen and in management, to Jovanina’s, which allows them to find an approachable balance of new flavors and classic dishes to the menu. The airy ground-floor space feels festive, with whitewashed brick walls along one side and a bar running the length of the other; a downstairs wine-bar dining area has a quieter, more intimate vibe. Try any of the handmade pasta specials or go with the favorite: a brick-oven pizza topped with fennel sausage, smoked mozzarella, and caramelized onions.