Denver's 16 Most Anticipated Openings for Summer

From po' boys and pastas to raw bars and rooftop dim sum
May 31, 2016
by Zagat Staff

When it comes to the explosive Denver dining scene, every season is hotter than the last. But this summer in particular looks like a sizzler, what with a sprawling food hall, a kitchen that recreates your recipes and much more all coming your way.  

Photo by B Public Relations

The Pig & the Sprout
Although this Union Station arrival will follow in the cloven hoofsteps of its popular pork-centric sibling, The Berkshire, the name honors its focus on plants as well as meat. Picture crispy buffalo pig tails and smoked brisket po’ boys; striped bass crudo and tofu French dips. There's also avocado or pork-fat ice cream (really). Per the motto — “Eat hearty, eat light, drink always” — this place will have something for everyone.
ETA: Now open

1900 Chestnut Place; 720-535-9719

Photo by Sprocket Communications

Vital Root
It’s been a long time coming, but Justin Cucci’s fast-casual sanctuary for the health- and earth-conscious is nearly here. It will bring vegetarian- and vegan-friendly eats, juices and a slice of the quirky style that makes his other Edible Beats joints (Linger, Root DownOphelia’s Electric Soapbox) so compelling.
ETA: Now open  

3915 Tennyson St.

Photo by Root PR

Cochino Tacos
Johnny Ballen is co-owner of The Squeaky Bean, a progressive, farm-inspired New American restaurant. Now he's gearing up to open this Mexican homage to the pig (cochino means "pig" in Spanish). The 60-seat space, flanked by a 40-seat patio, will be steeped in tacos. They're mostly of the pork persuasion, although Ballen — who tapped Vinny Sosa (see Que Bueno Suerte! below) to consult on the menu — notes that chicken and fish tacos appear, as does a burger smothered in Hatch green chiles and queso. The bar program is tequila heavy, so, expect plenty of potent margaritas. Ballen plans to offer lunch and dinner daily, plus weekend brunch.
ETA: Late summer

3495 S. Downing St., Englewood

Photo by TAG Restaurant Group

Mr. Tuna
Troy Guard (TAG, TAG Burger Bar, Lucky Cat and others) has more on his plate than perhaps any other chef in Denver. Along with two forthcoming restaurants in the Eastbridge Town Center (a third Los Chingones, his rollicking ode to Mexican, plus an unnamed breakfast concept), he's opening Mr. Tuna in INDUSTRY. In a shared workspace office development in RiNo, Mr. Tuna (the nickname of his ocean-sporting father) is a "personal ode to all the things I love," says Guard, who reveals that the 115-seat, 3,500-sq.-ft. space will feature a menu "inspired by my childhood days, when my Dad cooked all of our meals Hawaiian-style over a grill in the backyard."
ETA: Now open

3001 Brighton Blvd.

Blueprint Bar
A 30 under 30 honoree in 2014, Ryan DiFranco has made his name on his eponymous Italian deli, literally. But for his upcoming Uptown venture, he’s got a whole other plan. As the name indicates, planning will be the actual theme of this cocktail-and-small plates lounge: think decor inspired by architectural engineering and a menu that evolves according to what his customers “decide it’s going to be.” For starters, though, DiFranco and his team will offer a straightforward list of both classic and seasonal sips as well as snacks that include raw-bar items, burgers and “a little ode to DiFranco’s in the form of meatballs and pastas; as he puts it, “We’re not recreating anything here – just doing simple, fresh, damn good food at an approachable price point.”

ETA: Now open

450 E. 17th Ave.

Photo by B Public Relations

Que Bueno Suerte!
The name means “What good luck,” but for the Platt Park neighborhood, a better translation might be “Hooray, at last!” After standing empty for some time, the former Session Kitchen space on Old South Pearl finally has a new tenant – and it’s sure to be a splashy one, right down to the Mayan-inspired decor.  Serving as consulting chef and exec chef respectively, Work & Class whizzes Dana Rodriguez and Vinny Sosa will collaborate on a contemporary Mexican menu that’s still in the works but should include such creations as chipotle-spiced bone marrow with homemade tortillas, squash blossoms in Manchego fundido with mixed-olive salsa, elotes con hongos with ricotta in huitlacoche sauce and strawberry-rhubarb empanadas à la mode. Naturally, the bar will showcase premium tequilas in spades – likely well into the night.
ETA: August

1518 S. Pearl St.

Photo by Sage Restaurant Group

Departure Restaurant + Lounge
As culinary director of the popular Portland flagship (a Sage Restaurant Group concept), celeb chef Gregory Gourdet is designing the menu for this contemporary Pan-Asian/Asian Fusion eatery in upcoming Cherry Creek luxury hotel Halcyon. A wide array of small and larger plates will reveal Japanese, Chinese, Korean and Vietnamese influences, while the bar runs the East-West gamut with a dual emphasis on whiskey and sake; the sultry vibe of the street-level space will extend to Departure Elevated, a rooftop bar with dim sum cart service. (And as if all that weren't enough, Halcyon will also contain an outpost of NYC steakhouse Quality Italian.) 

ETA: Early August

245 Columbine St. 

Photo by Taryn Kapronica

Coperta is a 115-seat restaurant in Uptown from Paul and Aileen Riley, the brother-and-sister team behind Beast + Bottle. Their new restaurant is "rooted in the foods of Rome and south Italy," says Paul, with a menu divided into six sections: antipasti (small plates); primi (fresh and dried pastas); secondi (three dishes from a wood-fired grill stoked with white oak); contorni (seasonal vegetables prepared in a variety of ways); a category devoted to fresh mozzarella and accompaniments; and another made up of ever-changing shared plates and tiny bites that "showcase seasonality and whatever ingredients we're excited about at the time." Paul and Aileen are also opening a next-door walk-up space featuing espresso, pastries, to-go sandwiches, cured meats and food from the restaurant.
ETA: Now open

404 E. 20th Ave.

Photo by DPP Communications

From Duo to Olivéa to Spuntino, chef John Broening and pastry chef Yasmin Lozada-Hissom have long been one of Denver's most celebrated culinary couples – and now they're back. At this LoDo destination, they'll focus on seasonal, wood-fired New American cuisine while the full bar offers a diverse roster of cocktails, craft beers and boutique wines​ in a lively, mod space extending to a patio that will no doubt prove the place to be on day one. 
ETA: Mid-late summer

1550 17th St.

Photo by Feed Media

River and Woods
The brilliant Daniel Asher is joining forces with restaurateur/DiningOut publisher Josh Dinar to realize this Boulder stunning concept. In the cozy old home where John’s Restaurant long stood, Asher will prepare "Colorado comfort cuisine" based on crowd-sourced recipes, chosen monthly and adapted according to his commitment to sustainability; the authors of the winning dishes will even be invited to a tasting dinner. (You can submit your ideas here.) As Asher explains, "Sourcing a portion of the menu from our guests allows us to tell a story that goes far beyond what we ourselves can create. Food is a universal language; it crosses all barriers of culture and time." Meanwhile, in keeping with the outdoorsy theme suggested by the name, the backyard is being transformed into a second dining room, complete with al fresco kitchen. 
ETA: Late summer

2328 Pearl St., Boulder

Photo by The Central Market

The Central Market
Chef-restaurateur Jeff Osaka (Sushi-Rama, Osaka Ramen) and real-estate developer Ken Wolf have lined up a crackerjack roster of tenants for their 14,000-sq.-ft. food hall in the former H.H. Tammen Curio Company building. In addition to Osaka's own fish market, the soon-to-be RiNo sensation will house Crema spinoff Crema Bodega; Temper, featuring chocolates by Jon Robbins of Bistro Barbès; Culture, a cheese and charcuterie shop from Justin Brunson (Old Major, Masterpiece Deli, Masterpiece Kitchen); and more, including a butcher shop, bakery, creamery and greengrocer.
ETA: Mid-August

2669 Larimer St.

Photo by The Kitchen

The Kitchen Cherry Creek
Combining the rustic feel of its Boulder flagship with the LoDo location’s urbane vibe, the newest outpost of Hugo Matheson and Kimbal Musk’s ever-growing farm-to-fork empire will boast a few nifty features of its own, including a chef’s table, trellis-covered patio, onsite garden and valet parking. Better still, there’s a wood-fired oven for flatbreads and other seasonal specialties.
ETA: Mid-August

100 Steele St. 

Also a PDX import, this karaoke lounge will boast a warren of state-of-the-art private suites where you can unleash your inner rock star without terrifying a roomful of strangers. A full bar will dispense liquid courage, while the selection of snacks is being designed by tireless chef-about-town Jensen Cummings.  
ETA: Mid-August

2601 Walnut St.

Post Oak Hall
Why are we so excited about a suburban take-out joint that, at least initially, will open only on Saturdays for breakfast and lunch? Two words: Ellen Daehnick. The founder of beloved caramel company Hellimae’s is turning the space next door to her Wheat Ridge production facility into a cafe that will offer Houston-style po’ boys laced with chow chow; homemade pastries, including kolaches and Bundt cakes; and icebox desserts like her famous caramel-swirled banana pudding (pictured top), grasshopper pie and what she calls a “super-trashy” lemon pie made with saltines. Coffee, Mexican sodas and, of course, candies will round out the list of to-go treats — until, that is, overwhelming demand leads her to expand her menu as well as her hours. 
ETA: Late summer 

6195 W. 44th Ave., Wheat Ridge; 303-834-7048

Photo by DPP Communications

Ocean to Plate
From the owners of the namesake seafood wholesaler who also run the Lobster Bliss food truck, this One City Block newcomer is bringing a bit of the breezy oceanside to Uptown via an exhibition kitchen that prepares steam kettles full of cioppino, raw-bar items galore and much more (including, of course, lobster rolls). As for the bar, it will keep plenty of shellfish-friendly craft beers and wines by the variously sized glass on hand for guests in the spacious, light-filled dining room and out on the patio.  
ETA: Labor Day

444 E. 19th Ave.

Photo by Root PR

La Loma
It's not even closed, but we can't wait for it to reopen. After four decades dispensing green chile, fajitas, tacos and other Mexican-American eats from a hillside Victorian bungalow in the Jefferson Park neighborhood, La Loma will shutter in late August to return a week or two later in a new location: the vacated Trinity Grille, directly across the street from the Brown Palace. The space, currently undergoing a complete remodel, will echo the original decor (think lots of exposed brick and rustic wood) and serve the same food and beverage menu, including those 64-ounce Cadillac margaritas.
ETA: Early September

1801 Broadway

troy guard
cherry creek
mexican food
platt park
italian food
jeff osaka
paul c. reilly
daniel asher
union station
wheat ridge
five points
downtown denver
food hall
justin cucci