What's on Denver's shortlist of hot spots right now? Glad you asked. The buzz is strong with these 23 places, all opened within the past eight months.
Must-order: An ice-cream sandwich or a cotton-candy waffle cone
Insider tip: Now through February 28, creative kiddos are invited to submit Valentines in a parent's honor that explain what ice cream flavor mom or dad would be and why. Not only will the winning flavor be added to the lineup, but its inventor will receive an ice cream social for the whole family. Get the full details at the shop.
Must-order: The Fettster, The Greggers, the chicken tagine (pictured), chocolate–peanut butter cake
Insider tip: Happy hour launches March 1, featuring an array of tartines not found on the regular menu.
Must-order: Crispy sunchokes, fried crab, hen of the woods with celeriac, gnocchi with uni cream (pictured), grilled branzino — or a preordered Whole Beast Feast
Insider tip: If this doesn’t look like the kind of place you could catch the game, guess again — those gilt-framed mirrors behind the bar (pictured top) are elaborate covers for TVs.
Must-order: Beef-fat candle, riccio di mare, linguine nere with calamari, short-rib risotto, scallops in lobster bisque
Insider tip: If it’s a special evening, book a table on the mezzanine in advance for an intimate perch with a view.
Must-order: A cheeseburger and fries at Avanti's brand-new burger joint (and The Way Back sibling) American Grind; prosciutto-wrapped savory donuts at Barolo Grill alter ego Chow Morso, which opened in late fall
Insider tip: As a former beer buyer, American Grind co-owner Kade Gianinetti knows his brew. Look for two of his pairing recommendations at Avanti's bar: Ratio Repeater with the house burger and TRVE Pteroptican with the veggie burger.
3200 Pecos St.; 720-269-4778
Must-order: Besides steak, Colorado lamb (pictured) and bison
Insider tip: In a town as casual as Denver, feeling underdressed is rare. But trust us — if you put a little extra effort into looking sharp before coming here, you'll be glad you did.
1550 Market St.; 720-597-8010
Must-order: Oxtail shepherd's pie, chicken pot pie, coconut-cream pie (pictured) — basically pie — and all-day breakfast items like cornmeal pancakes with pulled pork shoulder, fried eggs and green chile
Insider tip: Heads up, alfresco fiends: There's a blazing fire pit for cold nights on the patio.
1529 S. Pearl St.; 303-777-0500
Must-order: Chips and salsa trio, griddled tacos, watermelon or pineapple margarita
Insider tip: Surprisingly, this Mexican cantina has a way with hot toddies in the winter.
2501 Dallas St., Aurora; 303-484-1632
Must-order: Maple-glazed wings and the loaded potato rösti (per chef Theo Adley), the Italian sausage sandwich (pictured)
Insider tip: Because it's in the Stanley Marketplace, this is one beer joint that's kid-friendly — there's even a suds-free menu for the little rascals.
2501 Dallas St., Aurora; 720-749-5098
Must-order: Tamal yucateco, faisan a la pibil, piña colada invierno
Insider tip: Never mind seats at the bar — head to the seats behind the bar (pictured) for a semi-private perch with a view.
1518 S. Pearl St.; 720-642-7322
Must-order: Frog's legs karaage (pictured), cream pork kimchi, Mizu roll
Insider tip: Don't overlook the list of daily specials, featuring such surprises as insalata caprese with Fernet dressing.
1560 Boulder St.; 720-372-7100
Must-order: The veggie sandwich (lunch only), braised short ribs, mint fazzoletti, sunchoke mezzaluna
Insider tip: Rowdy kids in tow? Sit in back — the video screening on the wall will mesmerize them.
3264 Larimer St.; 303-562-1965
Must-order: Chicken and waffles (brunch only, pictured), mussels with yak chorizo, harissa-smoked ribs, the Joyce saison
Insider tip: Keep tabs on Briar Common's Facebook page for special events such as beer dinners and new releases (like the just-debuted Nösel Schwartzbier).
2298 Clay St.; 720-512-3894
Must-order: To name just a few of a wide array: egg-challah scramble with pork belly at Izzio, the salumi cone and grilled cheese sandwich at Culture Meat and Cheese, oysters at Silva's Market, the Massimeno pizza at Vero (pictured), SK Provisions' porchetta and a five-scoop flight at High Point Creamery
Insider tip: Though the market closes at 8 PM, rest assured that its house bar, Curio, keeps the party going until 10 PM on weeknights and midnight on weekends.
Must-order: Charred octopus, mushroom ravioli, cauliflower flatbread (pictured), dulce de leche stack
Insider tip: Save room for a nightcap. Sommelier Aubrey Baker pours some fabulous dessert wines.
1550 17th St.; 720-904-6711
Must-order: Aunt Penny’s mac 'n' cheese, matzo ball ramen, pan-fried trout and chips, bison burger
Insider tip: Ask lots of questions. Since many of the recipes are community sourced (submit yours here!), the stories behind the menu are as endless as they are charming — all the more so when chef-partner Daniel Asher adds his own flourish, as with the canned cheese he uses for the mac.
2328 Pearl St., Boulder; 303-993-6301
Must-order: Sausage-and-egg fried rice, tiger-prawn kushiyaki, crispy Colorado lamb cake, Wagyu bulgogi burger (lunch only), citrus mousse (pictured), celery vinegar soda
Insider tip: You gotta check out the private tatami room, where the artwork inspired by airport security X-rays is somehow as strikingly elegant as it is witty and risqué.
249 Columbine St.; 720-772-5020