32 Most Anticipated Denver Restaurants of 2017
And you thought 2016 was a banner year for Denver dining. Over the next 12 months, the Mile High City will welcome tapas bars, bistros, trattorias, chophouses, Southern joints and so much more from homegrown celeb chefs, rising stars and a wave of transplants alike. (And we're not even counting the much-awaited relocations and expansions of favorites like Il Posto, Olive & Finch, Sushi-Rama, Rosenberg's Bagels & Delicatessen and The Cherry Cricket.) Check out 32 soon-to-be sensations of 2017.
We wouldn't normally get wound up about a burger joint. But this one has a cult following due to its previous life as a food truck, run by none other than the guys behind The Way Back. What's more, it's moving into Avanti F&B, which means it's got two bars and some of the city's best views built right in.
January Now open
Courtesy Hearth & Dram
Hearth & Dram
A star at Atlanta’s lauded Kimball House, Zagat 30 Under 30 alum Jeffrey Wall is about to enter our own orbit with this new-school LoDo saloon. As the name suggests, it’s built on the twin pillars of wood fire and whiskey: open-flame cooking in the exhibition kitchen on the one hand, a massive array of bourbon, rye and Scotch on the other (some 350 labels in all). But the results hardly lack refinement — think smoked rib-eye or salt-crusted sturgeon accompanied by sides that reflect Wall’s interest in foraging, like nettle soup or creamed rye with dandelion greens. “Being in Denver, I’m so close to the wilderness — it’s inspiring,” he says. Wild West-meets-Mile High style will drive the interior design too.
January Now open
1801 Wewatta St.; 303-623-0979
Courtesy Big Red F
The Post Chicken & Beer
At long last, the Big Red F group is bringing its sensational suburban chicken shack to the big city. The Rosedale outpost will have everything that makes its Lafayette and Longmont siblings so popular: a neo-roadhouse vibe, Brett Smith’s sly twists on down-home Southern grub and beers to match from brewmaster Bryan Selders. Guess what you won’t have? An hour-long drive to get your fix of biscuits, drumsticks and pie washed down with Townie ale and Top Rope.
January Now open
2200 S. Broadway; 720-466-5699
Annette Scratch to Table
Expectations are high for this contemporary wood-fired kitchen at Stanley Marketplace — which marks the exec-chef debut of the talented Caroline Glover, a former sous at both Acorn and New York’s The Spotted Pig. We’ve already got our eye on the charred-octopus sandwich and grilled tongue with crispy potatoes.
January Now open
2501 Dallas St., Aurora; 970-376-1747
Courtesy Stella's on 16th
Stella's on 16th
In the rapid development of LoDo north of Union Station, this American cafe and marketplace promises to be a cornerstone. Not only will it be open all day serving both takeout and sit-down meals — from breakfast skillets to gourmet sandwiches and burgers — but it will have an in-house bakery, a full bar with its own happy-hour menu and an outdoor lounge complete with fire pits. In short, it should be the complete package.
January Now open
1550 Wewatta St.; 303-578-5900
Courtesy LOW Country Kitchen
LOW Country Kitchen
As the owners of longtime Steamboat Springs destination bistro c.v., the married team of chef Brian and Katy Vaughn made their reputation on high-end dining. But they’ve put their hearts and souls into LOW, closing their flagship earlier this year to focus on the casual Southern kitchen’s expansion — starting with a LoHi satellite. From buttermilk fried chicken and biscuits to babyback ribs, the menu will look a lot like that of the Steamboat original, as will a bar built on bourbon and local brews. And it’ll all appear against a genteel backdrop: whitewashed brick and library-themed wallpaper here, tufted booths and wicker stools there — and perhaps best of all, a rooftop garden above the ivy-lined front entrance.
January Now open
Courtesy The ONE Group
Downtown's stable of steakhouses expands with this LoDo outlet of a New York–based franchise, known for its contemporary spin on genre standards and its see-and-be-seen glamour.
January Now open
1550 Market St.; 720-597-8010
Courtesy Quality Italian
Already home to the smash hit that is the Portland-born Departure, Cherry Creek's Halcyon hotel is about to make a splash with a second import, this one out of NYC: Quality Italian. In many respects, the Denver offshoot of the Italian steakhouse will resemble the flagship, combining old- and new-world influences both in the AvroKO-designed 125-seat space, and on the menu, ranging from chicken-Parm pizza for two to agnolotti with dry-aged porterhouse. But it will incorporate local elements too, with Colorado spirits dominating the cocktail list, for instance.
Late February/early March Now open
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 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.
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 plates of not only Spain but also the Eastern Mediterranean — and be prepared to drink out of porróns.
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 its predecessor by focusing on fried chicken, serving up sandwiches and other comfort eats — plus booze — in a fast-casual environment.
From the Midas-touch team behind Bar Dough and Highland Tap and Burger, this contemporary Latin American will double as a showcase for the skills of longtime Max MacKissock co-conspirator Blake Edmunds, here stepping into the role of exec chef. In the LoHi corner space that most recently housed Jezebel's, he'll focus on both the street food and the seafood of Mexico and the Caribbean, while the bar concentrates on agave and sugar cane spirits.
Courtesy Kachina Southwestern Grill
Kachina Southwestern Grill
Sage Restaurant Group’s Peter Karpinski brings the light, bright, modern Southwestern brand he’s built in Westminster to LoDo — bison empanadas, Navajo tacos (pictured), prickly pear flan and all. What's more, beverage director Brandon Wise is redesigning the cocktail menu. That’s welcome news for the fans he’s made with his fab libations at Departure.
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.”
Courtesy Tupelo Honey
Tupelo Honey Southern Kitchen & Bar
Just steps away from Tavernetta, the first Western outpost of this North Carolina–based franchise will dish up modern spins on Southern classics (pictured: fried chicken and sweet-potato pancakes), some with a Rocky Mountain twist. We're digging the sound of moonrise brunch, served Friday and Saturday nights.
Anyone who’s followed the career of Elise Wiggins knows the name of this buzzed-about 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 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 pizzas and pastas to be ready for breads by morning. The wood grill, too, will go from firing chops and skewers to slow-cooking meats over coals. Expect regional specialties served with Italo-centric wines and cocktails against a sleek modern backdrop.
Concourse Restaurant Moderne
Wiggins will have plenty of company at Eastbridge — including Lon Symensma. The rock-star chef-owner of ChoLon and Cho77 is opening a day-to-night New American spot in partnership with chef Luke Bergman, whose own impressive résumé features stints with Tom Colicchio and Danny Meyer. That's all we know so far — but where Symensma goes, smash hits follow.
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 craft beers and wines by the glass on hand for guests in the spacious, light-filled dining room and out on the patio.
Courtesy The Kitchen
The Kitchen Cherry Creek
Combining the rustic feel of its Boulder flagship with the LoDo location’s urbane vibe, the Cherry Creek 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 wood-fired oven, chef’s table, trellis-covered patio, on-site garden and valet parking.
New year, new Troy Guard joint. But the prolific chef/restaurateur (pictured center) says this one hits especially close to home: “I live in Stapleton, and I think the neighborhood’s ready for some cool new options.” As the name suggests, this 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
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 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 we're 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: Mid spring
Courtesy Kevin Delk
Mighty Mighty Sparrow! and the Sea Maiden
You probably guessed it from the whimsical name alone: This Capitol Hill project will be every bit the wild wonderland as its siblings Beatrice & Woodsley and Mario’s Double Daughters Salotto. Partner Kevin Delk is keeping the precise details under wraps for now, but he promises that the Sparrow will be serving food that’s “very festive, bold, big-portioned, a rockin’ value and super-unusual to the Denver dining scene,” while adjoining cocktail bar the Maiden brings the liquid fun.
ETA: Late spring/early summer
First there was Brazen. Next came Telegraph — and now restaurateur Chris Sargent and his team are spreading their mojo to Sunnyside. Like its siblings, Kindred will straddle the line between a gastropub and an American bistro, serving casually contemporary seasonal fare alongside a full slate of craft booze. But it will boast one feature all its own: a raw bar dispensing not only shellfish but also crudo meats and veggies.
ETA: Late spring/early summer
Courtesy Punch Bowl Social
Punch Bowl Social Stapleton
Robert Thompson’s retro-cool dining, drinking and gaming emporium has become a multi-state franchise complete with a celeb chef, Hugh Acheson, for a partner. But it started right here, and now the Baker flagship is getting an instant landmark for a sibling, set in the old Stapleton airport’s control tower. (You bet there will be plenty of room to play outside as well as in.)
Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. and Uinta St.; 303-765-2695
Quality Italian (above) isn't the only big-name steakhouse Sage Restaurant Group's Peter Karpinski is exporting in 2017. Known for its emphasis on whole-animal butchery and perks like a charcuterie bar and cheese cart, this West Coast–based standout will be replacing McCormick & Schmick's in The Oxford Hotel.
Courtesy Kevin Taylor Restaurant Group
Hickory & Ash
With this soon-to-be anchor of Broomfield’s Arista complex, pioneering Denver chef/restaurateur Kevin Taylor marks his comeback even as he turns the reins over to his son/partner Ryan (pictured). The younger Taylor will preside over a contemporary kitchen centered on a hickory grill, where he’ll showcase local ingredients in the likes of Aspen Ridge Ranch short-rib pastrami or gnocchi in squash “Bolognese.” Mountain-chic decor will set the stage for a casual experience throughout the 120-seat dining room, adjoined by a roomy patio.
8001 Arista Place, Broomfield; 303-534-1455
Photo by Justin Lee
Unnamed Bryan Dayton project
While the details remain scant, mixology whiz Bryan Dayton could open a phone book and we’d be excited — he is, after all, one half of the celebrated duo behind OAK at fourteenth, Acorn and Brider. Here’s what we do know about his solo Boulder project: It will be a full-service restaurant, not just a bar (although the drinks will no doubt be fabulous), boasting rooftop views of the Flatirons. You'll learn more when we do.
ETA: Early summer
For their follow-up to El Chingon, uncle/nephew team Lorenzo Nunez and David Lopez aren't restricting their culinary scope to Mexico, as the small-plates menu at this Sloan's Lake spot will run the gamut of Latin cuisines. But not all at once. Rather, Lopez will derive inspiration from a few different countries each season — and the bar will follow suit, letting geography dictate the cocktails and some of the wines. And the 240-seat space may offer as much room for exploration as the food itself, what with a bar, lounge, private mezzanine and wraparound patio in addition to the main dining room.
ETA: Early-mid summer
Courtesy Bonanno Concepts
Smokehouse, speakeasy, sandwich shop: At this stage in his career, Frank Bonanno has done it all. Now he’s going back to his roots in France. But while flagship venue Mizuna focuses on contemporary interpretations of French cuisine, his Downtown venture will present traditional bistro fare, prepared in an open kitchen where, he says, “I'm really excited to work with the rotisserie I ordered from France — can't wait to put a Colorado leg of lamb on that baby.” (Meanwhile, one section of the menu is devoted entirely to foie gras.) As for the atmosphere, Bonanno offers a little hint: “There's a pretty spectacular interior component that requires 7,000 Chartreuse bottle caps.”
Courtesy Kyle Foster
Long known as the head butcher and salumaio at Colt & Gray, Kyle Foster is striking out on his own with this RiNo tribute to his Southern roots. “Respecting tradition" will be a cornerstone of the restaurant, he says, with daytime menus composed of “simple, thoughtful” regional staples and a bar built around domestic whiskey. But come dinner, “I’m hoping to surprise people with food they might not expect." That plan extends to his charcuterie, which he’ll reserve for composed dishes: “I’m trying to get away from the meat and cheese boards you see everywhere else,” he explains. What Foster calls a “sophisticated Southern” design, featuring an expansive mezzanine and patio, will complete the picture.
Jennifer Olson Photography
From pintxos to petiscos, the small plates of Spain and Portugal will star at Jennifer Jasinski, Beth Gruitch and Jorel Pierce’s tapas bar–inspired venture in Union Station’s Great Hall (just steps away from sibling Stoic & Genuine). The team tapped its Bistro Vendôme chef, Adam Branz, to do the honors in the kitchen, where he’ll prepare dishes both classic and original — perhaps offering prix fixe as well as à la carte menus for those who’d prefer a guided tour of regional items like almond gazpacho and sardine toast. The bar, too, will encourage exploration by pouring all manner of variations on the standard gin tonic (as they're called overseas) along with sherry flights. Good thing a patio will double the capacity of the mezzanine-lined 50-seat space — small as it is, this place is going to be big.
ETA: Late summer
Courtesy Zeppelin Development
Having helped turn the national spotlight on RiNo with TAXI and The Source, the visionaries of Zeppelin Development are at it again. The roster of vendors at this mixed-use project on the A Line have yet to be announced, but Kyle Zeppelin says he's looking to create "a multicultural food hall" with a diversity of not only cuisines — Korean, Thai, Vietnamese, Mexican and so on — but also levels of service and price points, plus a bar that dispenses juices by day, cocktails by night. (Also coming soon from Zeppelin: the game-changing Source Hotel, with its on-site satellite of New Belgium Brewing.)