Denver's 20 Most Anticipated Spring Restaurant Openings

Colombian empanadas, Airstream trailer bars, moonrise brunches and more
March 13, 2017
by Ruth Tobias

In terms of restaurant openings, 2017 has been off to such a booming start that you may be hoping for a lull just so you can catch up. Too bad — here are the next 20 to add to your checklist. (And we're crossing our fingers for #21 Downtown: Mint Indian Restaurant & Lounge at 1531 Stout Street, where Indian cuisine is in woefully short supply, has just put up its signage.)

Ruth Tobias

It'll be all of a 10-minute walk from the flagship, but that's not stopping Troy Guard from opening a Republic Plaza spin-off of his colorful, bustling Larimer Square counter joint, specializing in build-your-own rice, noodle and salad bowls — because it won't stop the Central Business District crowds from swarming the place either, especially once breakfast service begins, a first for the brand.
ETA: March 20

370 17th St.

Courtesy Sage Restaurant Group

Poka Lola Social Club
In a town exploding with visionary mixed-use developments, LoDo’s enormous Dairy Block just may prove the most groundbreaking of all. At its heart is The Maven Hotel, where Sage Restaurant Group founder Peter Karpinski is installing this stunning cocktail lounge accented with stained-glass panels and geometric floor tiles. If the name hearkens back to the Copacabana era, it’s not by design, Karpinski admits with a grin: “We just made it up. It sounded fun.” In fact, everything about this place sounds fun, from its small video arcade to the indoor/outdoor bar, spilling out into an alley that will soon be a shopping concourse. Of course, Sage beverage director Brandon Wise is whipping up some concoctions to keep things hopping, including a juniper soda–spiked Negroni and the Improved Jungle Bird with rum and pineapple phosphate. And Kachina chef Jeff Bolton (see next listing) will match them with sausage pasta in garlic-bread bowls, barbecued lamb ribs and other bites.  ​
ETA: Late March

19th and Wazee Sts.

Courtesy Sage Restaurant Group

Kachina Southwestern Grill
The Maven’s main dining room, meanwhile, represents an evolution of the light, bright, modern Southwestern kitchen Karpinski first brought to Westminster some years back. Along with signatures like the Navajo tacos (pictured), exec chef Jeff Bolton will serve up head-turners like lamb-bison Frito pie and clay-baked trout for lunch and dinner in a space that combines nods to regional tradition — white adobe, woven-basket lampshades, a desert-inspired custom mural — with funky touches, including an Airstream trailer dispensing cocktails, ceviches and such to guests in the lobby lounge. And speaking of drinks, Brandon Wise is working on a pineapple-ginger margarita with scorpion tincture we’re dying to try. ​(Note that the hotel will house a dedicated breakfast eatery as well; details to come.) 
ETA: Late March

19th and Wazee Sts.

Courtesy Juan Padro

Señor Bear
From the Midas-touch team behind Bar Dough and Highland Tap and Burger, this contemporary Latin spot will double as a showcase for the skills of chef Max MacKissock’s longtime co-conspirator Blake Edmunds, here serving as exec chef to focus on both the street food and the seafood of Mexico, South America and the Caribbean (pictured: escabeche mixto). A research trip to Peru has yielded a special emphasis on dishes like ceviche-esque tiradito, explains partner Juan Padro, as well as the masa for handmade tortillas, and the variety of chiles Josh Olsen of Bean Acres Farm is growing exclusively for Edmunds. The bar crew, meanwhile, will concentrate on agave spirits, rum and pisco to produce a mix of classic and newly inspired cocktails. And the 50-seat LoHi corner space that most recently housed Jezebel's will set the mood for it all, Padro says, with “wood and steel softened up by lots of greenery and really cool tilework” as well as an outdoor lounge.  
ETA: April

3301 Tejon St.

Courtesy Concourse

Concourse Restaurant Moderne
One of three projects slated to open in Stapleton’s Eastbridge Town Center this spring, rock star chef-restaurateur Lon Symensma’s latest represents a sharp departure from his Southeast Asian destinations ChoLon and Cho77. Launching in partnership with chef Luke Bergman — whose own impressive résumé features stints with Tom Colicchio and Danny Meyer — this contemporary American venue will live up to its name as “a gathering place all day long,” general manager Jose Rodríguez promises, welcoming about 85 guests inside and 65 out on the patio. Following fast-casual breakfast service, when egg sandwiches and housemade pastries such as caramelized tomato–onion brioche star, lunch and dinner will be sit-down affairs. Likely menu highlights include fried duck confit on waffles and porchetta- and provolone-stuffed focaccia by day, bacon-octopus arancini in smoked-tomato butter or butternut-squash tortelli with black sesame and poppy seeds by night. As for the bar, Rodríguez points to “an extensive wine list with lots of choices by the glass” as the primary focus, but adds that the cocktail roster is shaping up to be pretty special too, with a culinary bent: “Luke is excited about putting his stamp on it.” ​
ETA: April

10195 E. 29th Dr., Ste140

Morning Collective

As Snooze’s former exec chef, Joseph Strelnik can take some credit for the local chain’s notorious waiting lines. Now he’s bracing to face his own with this debut at the edge of Rosedale. Like Snooze, Morning Collective will serve breakfast, brunch and lunch with an eye toward reinventing the classics, and the 80-seat space (flanked by a 24-seat patio) will sport a playfully retro look. But Strelnik has got plenty of brand-new tricks up his sleeve. One day you could be digging into banana-hazelnut pancakes while sipping coffee with housemade horchata froth or graham-cracker cream. The next day, it could be a bowl of poached eggs, roasted potatoes and greens in pistachio pesto or coffee-braised pork belly and eggs alongside a whiskey–cold brew cocktail with bacon ice. And as the inevitable crowds begin to form, he’s got wait-listers covered with non-alcoholic drink service outdoors.
ETA: April

2160 S. Broadway

Tom's Home Cookin' becomes Jean-Philippe Failyau's Home Cookin': In taking over the beloved old Five Points joint, the Park Burger restaurateur will honor his predecessor by focusing on fried chicken, serving up sandwiches and other comfort eats — plus booze — in a quick-serve environment. 
ETA: April

800 E. 26th Ave.

Ruth Tobias

El Five
From Linger to Ophelia’s and beyond, Justin Cucci just doesn’t do low-key, so when he describes his upcoming tapas bar as “loud, funky and ostentatious,” you’d better believe it. For starters, his fifth restaurant occupies the fifth level of a LoHi building (hence the name), which is surrounded by windows so that, he promises, “every seat will have a cool view.” Of course, the interior will be just as spectacular, filled with bronze mirrors, old Turkish and Egyptian movie posters and “different types of booths for different experiences” — not to mention live music. And the food? Expect the small and shared plates of not only Spain but also the Eastern Mediterranean: mussels escabeche, tortilla española, nut- and fruit-accented meze platters, classic sweets like halvah and Turkish delight, and more, all paired with wines from the Iberian Peninsula and even the Middle East (Lebanon’s a darling among sommeliers these days). Oh, and be prepared to drink all kinds of things out of porróns. ​​ ​
ETA: Mid April

2930 Umatilla St.

Ruth Tobias

La Chiva
A couple of years ago, we introduced you to mobile vendor Jorge Aguirre and his wonderful corn empanadas. Now we’re delighted to learn that he’ll be offering them at his upcoming brick-and-mortar cafe in Platt Park — along with many other Colombian specialties. Take bandeja paisa, an elaborate combo platter that typically includes beef, chorizo, chicharrones and a fried egg as well as plantains, red beans and rice; meaty soups like sancocho or fried green–plantain patties called patacones that Aguirre plans to offer in several variations; and mantecada, a sweet cornbread, or guava bread pudding. To drink, there will be tropical juices alone or in cocktails from the full bar, and Aguirre’s also working to import coffee direct from Colombian farmers. Bonus: Though La Chiva will be a casual place with counter service, the chef-owner hopes to make it festive too, with occasional live music and dancing.
ETA: Mid-late April

1417 S. Broadway

Ruth Tobias 

Anyone who’s followed the career of Elise Wiggins knows the name of this buzzed-about regional Italian kitchen, which translates roughly as “naughty girl,” fits her to a T. The longtime Panzano chef’s irrepressible style will certainly shine through her first solo venture, a sleek, modern affair in Stapleton’s Eastbridge Town Center. Consider the camera that will project all the action in the open kitchen live on one wall, or the fact that the wood fire in the oven will burn continuously, cooling just enough after a night of baking pizza and pasta to be ready for breads by morning. The wood grill too, will go from firing meats and seafood to braising them over coals. Among the highlights of an early preview: prosciutto-laced focaccia al formaggio di Recco, pasticcio with pork meatballs and cheese tortellini, cannellini slow-cooked in a glass flask, and the torta Caprese pictured above. To pair with them, the deliberately tiny boutique wine list is sure to start a conversation that the suave Italo-centric cocktails continue. 
ETA: Late April

10195 E. 29th Dr., Ste. 210

Courtesy ViewHouse

ViewHouse Littleton
Like the Ballpark and Centennial branches, the 10,000-sq.-ft. Littleton iteration of this playground for sports fans, party people, families and everyone in between will be a biggie — rooftop deck, courtyard cabanas, ubiquitous flat-screens, Sunday brunch buffet and all. We're told the wide-ranging, easygoing menu will resemble that of its siblings, encompassing tacos, burgers, flatbreads, steaks and more to pair with endless variations on the martini and the mule. ​
ETA: Late April

2680 W. Main St., Littleton

Courtesy Kris and Jason Wallenta

White Pie
To date, they’re known for their approach to the street foods of the Mexican Gulf. But brothers Kris and Jason Wallenta are setting their sights on different shores, literally, for their follow-up to Dos Santos: “We’ve wanted to do an East Coast–style pizzeria since we were 20,” says Kris, who adds that they used to eat every week at the Connecticut parlor Sally’s, and found it "the greatest thing ever." The Uptown neighborhood will soon see why. Centered on a wood-fired oven, the kitchen will turn out six or seven pies, from classics like white clam to seasonals that are “a little more off the rocker." A few antipasti (including carpaccio) and housemade pastas such as lasagna round out the menu, along with cannoli and biscotti for dessert. To drink, expect still and sparkling wine on tap, a few draft beers — the Wallentas are in talks with Station 26 for a house exclusive — and batched cocktails. It's all in keeping with the laid-back setting, which Kris describes as “very raw" with "tons of brick, lots of steel and some nice Italian stone around the horseshoe-shaped pizza bar.” Communal tables and a patio go with the convivial flow. ​
ETA: Late April

1702 Humboldt St.

L'Atelier by Radex
A pioneer on the Denver dining scene, Radek Cerny decamped to Boulder in the early 2000s, where he racked up the accolades as chef-owner of L'Atelier for many years. Now he's coming back — and bringing L'Atelier with him. Occupying the former Il Posto space in City Park West, it will be an intimate showcase for the consummate New French cuisine with which the Czech-born Cerny is synonymous — here's hoping the neighborhood is ready for him. 
ETA: Late April/early May

2011 E. 17th Ave.

Nicole Branan

Only Troy Guard could roll out two restaurants in one season without breaking a sweat. But the powerhouse entrepreneur (pictured center) says this one is personal: “I live in Stapleton, and I think the neighborhood’s ready for some cool new options.” As the name suggests, the 100-seat spot in the Eastbridge Town Center is all about breakfast, serving hashes, Benedicts, pancakes and juice cocktails in creative array. ​No word yet on the interior design, but knowing Guard, it'll be funky.
ETA: Mid spring

10195 E. 29th Dr.

Courtesy Tupelo Honey

Tupelo Honey Southern Kitchen & Bar
Just steps away from Union Station, the first Western outpost of this North Carolina–based franchise will dish out sassy, savvy spins on Southern staples (pictured: fried chicken and sweet-potato pancakes), giving many an added Rocky Mountain twist. Based on the menus for other locations, we're crossing our fingers for some nachos with pimiento cheese and black-eyed peas, followed by honey-buttermilk cheesecake — and we're digging the sound of moonrise brunch, served Friday and Saturday nights.
ETA: May

1650 Wewatta St.

Courtesy The Kitchen Restaurant Group

Hedge Row American Bistro
As much as we love The Kitchen, we’re all the more excited to learn that what was slated to be its Cherry Creek satellite is morphing into a similar but distinct venture, named for the farm that originally supplied The Kitchen’s Boulder flagship with its produce more than a decade ago. Needless to say, Hedge Row will be as staunchly farm-driven as all of the restaurant group’s endeavors, while its wood-burning oven will transform those carefully sourced ingredients into specialties like roast chicken (pictured) and mole-braised short ribs — though a few Kitchen classics remain on the menu (yes, sticky toffee pudding included). Wood will dominate the interior design as well, complete with locally commissioned furnishings. And we're told there will be more than one patio to amp up the lively aura.  
ETA: Late May

100 Steele St.

Cracker kingpin Craig Lieberman turned 34 Degrees into an international phenomenon, but his next project is as intimate as they come. Inspired by his own culinary travels, it's "literally and figuratively paired," explains Lieberman, in that it occupies two tiny, adjacent old RiNo houses offering two different formats — casual all-day dining on one side, dinner-only tasting menus on the other. In both cases, however, the cuisine "will be eclectic and constantly changing," he says, and he and his chef-partner (whose identity is intriguingly under wraps, though all will be revealed soon) are also "looking to feature guest chefs with different backgrounds and styles on an ongoing basis." Upon launch, there’ll be seating for 40–50 inside and out on the front patio; eventually, a backyard garden will add more tables while offering “a different, more playful vibe.” ​
ETA: Late spring

2843 Larimer St.

Courtesy Frasca Food and Wine

Thrilled as Denverites are to have their very own slice of Frasca, owner–master sommelier Bobby Stuckey has kept another Italian institution in mind as inspiration for his LoDo venture with chef-partner Lachlan Mackinnon-Patterson: the legendary Cipriani. “Those guys were so good at hospitality — it wasn’t formal, but it was really crisp,” he explains. With that in mind, Stuckey and Mackinnon-Patterson have put an ace team in place. Chef de cuisine Ian Wortham has been traveling from Piedmont to Sicily for ideas for the pan-regional menu; Thomas Keller vet Justin Williams will serve as GM; and wine director Carlin Karr, a 30 Under 30 alumna whom Stuckey calls a "superstar," is building the all-Italian cellar. Stuckey’s no less jazzed about the 125-seat space, including the fireplace-graced bar: “It looks right into the canopies of Union Station,” he says. “You get off the train and you’re staring at it.”​ 
ETA: Early June

1889 16th St.

Courtesy Sage Restaurant Group

Urban Farmer
Following on the success of Departure Restaurant + Lounge, Sage Restaurant Group's Peter Karpinski is exporting yet another Portland, Oregon, sensation. This 21st-century steakhouse franchise will take over where McCormick & Schmick's left off at The Oxford Hotel to serve as a showcase for whole-animal butchery and local products alike, from produce to spirits and beer. Menus have yet to be released, but they’ll be fairly similar to those of its siblings — so perhaps we can look forward to duck breast with foie gras pudding, twice-baked fingerling tarts and butterscotch sundaes in addition to premium chops. A U-shaped bar, a charcuterie station and cheese cart service promise to bring interactive energy to the ultramodern, spacious and airy interior.
ETA: Early June

1600 17th St.

Courtesy Lobster Bliss

Ocean to Plate
The owners of the namesake seafood wholesaler who also run the Lobster Bliss food truck are bringing a bit of the breezy oceanside to Uptown with this One City Block venue, housing 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 beers and wines by the glass on hand for guests in the light-filled dining room and out on the patio.
ETA: Early June

444 E. 19th Ave.

cherry creek
mexican food
lachlan mackinnon-patterson
southern food
bobby stuckey
platt park
italian food
spanish food
kimbal musk
lon symensma
union station
french food
five points
colombian food
justin cucci
max mackissock
central business district
peter karpinski
elise wiggins
southwestern food
dairy block
eastbridge town center
latin american food
radek cerny