Denver Neighborhood Smackdown: Best Brunches, Burgers & More

Your best bets for every dining occasion, block by block
November 14, 2016
by Ruth Tobias

This city's growing so fast, our maps are practically obsolete as soon as they're updated. So we've compiled what we like to think of as a Disoriented Diner's Guide to Denver: Here's where you need to be, when and why. Welcome to the neighborhood(s)!

Best for brunch: Berkeley
For sheer charm, it’s tough to top Tennyson Street these days. Weekends were made for a stroll through its boutiques and galleries, capped off by a leisurely brunch. Want huevos? El Chingon. Biscuits and gravy? Atomic Cowboy. Burgers? Midwestern Saloon. Deli sandwiches? Il Porcellino Salumi. Health food? Vital Root. Even Greek pastries (Axios) and Indian curries (Biju’s, pictured) are on the table — and so is crossing the street to mimosa-splashed haunts like Brazen or Revelry Kitchen. As problems go, an overwhelming number of choices is a good one to have.

Best for beer: RiNo
At this point, most Denver neighborhoods have at least one brewery to call their own. But RiNo practically has one per capita, from Crooked Stave and Great Divide’s Barrel Bar to Black Shirt and Ratio — plus oh-so-many in between. And that’s not all: It’s also home to two of the city’s best beer bars, First Draft (pictured) and Finn’s Manor, as well as several restaurants with superb beer rosters, like Rebel and the brand-new Fish N Beer.

Best for a bar crawl: Capitol Hill
Here you can toast to the ghost of Jack Kerouac at Charlie Brown’s Bar & Grill, chill out in style over killer cocktails at Hudson Hill (pictured) and White Lies, explore the extensive wine lists at Clyde and Max’s Wine Dive, party with the Colfax locals at Prohibition or put yourself in the hands of the supremely creative Austin Carson at Mizuna's bar, then knock back a Coors Banquet at sibling Vesper Lounge next door. There’s a little something for every drinker here — not to mention a few of the city’s most delightfully notorious dives (we all end up at the Nob Hill Inn sooner or later).

Best for burgers: LoDo/CBD
Given its glut of steakhouses, we guess it’s no big surprise downtown Denver reigns supreme when it comes to beef in any form. But cow palaces like Guard and Grace and EDGE aren’t the only purveyors of killer burgers in the area. On the classic side, The Nickel and The Squeaky Bean make two of our all-time faves; Euclid Hall’s brat burger, The Kitchen’s lamb burger and The Pig & the Sprout's French onion burger are our go-tos for a twist. And both Crave Real Burgers (pictured) and 5280 Burger Bar offer the complete package, with a wide array of topping combos, sides and boozy shakes.

Best for date night: LoHi
Do the math. LoHi’s home to at least four wine bars (including The Truffle Table and Postino), two of Denver’s most charming Italian spots (Bar Dough and Spuntino, pictured), two of its most intimate Asian nooks (Uncle and Sushi Ronin), two of its coziest cocktail hideaways (Williams & Graham and Ste. Ellie) and several of its splashiest see-and-be-seen destinations (Old Major, Linger, Avanti, pictured top). We could go on, but it all adds up to a couples’ playground. 

Best for coffee: Platt Park
Other neighborhoods may have bigger names, but there’s something special about the bean scene in this one. Many things, in fact — like 25-year-old Stella’s, a pioneer on Denver’s coffeehouse circuit set in a cozy old house. And its chic counterpart Steam Espresso Bar. And acclaimed roaster Corvus. Just for kicks, there’s chicory coffee at Lucile’s Creole Cafe and espresso from an urn blessed by Pope Benedict at Maria Empanada (pictured). And let's not forget Kaladi Coffee Roasters (technically just over the neighborhood divide in University, but close enough), which has been representing the Third Wave movement here since 1986.  

Best for a secret rendezvous: Cherry Creek
You can slip below street level at Hasu or sneak up to the Halcyon Hotel rooftop, where Departure Elevated awaits. You can duck into the courtyard at Second Home (pictured) or a tatami room at Kobe An. When you and your honey need to lie low — we won’t ask why — this hood’s your best bet. (And that’s not even counting B&GC, the members- and guests-only hideaway, also in the Halcyon.)

Best for happy hour: Baker/Speer
When it’s time to unwind, South Broadway delivers an after-work bargain bonanza — from one-buck steals like Cho77’s sake shots and Leña’s oysters to Punch Bowl Social’s party snacks (pimiento dip pictured) and Beatrice & Woodsley’s elegant cocktails and hors d’oeuvres.

Best for trying something new: Athmar Park/Westwood
This one’s a no-brainer. Outside of Aurora (which is a town, after all, not a neighborhood), there’s no higher concentration of outlets for world cuisine than there is along the few-block stretch of Federal Boulevard that divides these two communities. Pho, curry, dim sum, tacos, Cajun seafood: It’s all here, waiting for you to dig in. Hong Kong BBQ (pictured) and Tarasco’s New Latino Cuisine both make for great starting points.

happy hour
capitol hill
cherry creek
platt park
downtown denver
athmar park
central business district