New & Hot Places

Hottest Restaurants in Denver

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.

Sweet Cooie's

NewIce Cream ShopCongress Park
Though not housed in a giant milk jug like its sibling Little Man, this Congress Park soda fountain exudes charm all its own with its old-fashioned, eggshell-blue decor; a full line of treats from ice cream scoops, sandwiches, shakes and sundaes to housemade chocolates; and its commitment to donating a portion of its proceeds to charity.

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.

Annette

NewAurora
Snug yet light and airy, this polished New American haunt in Aurora's Stanley Marketplace marks the debut of former Acorn sous chef Caroline Glover, who turns out farm-centric menus of wood-fired, globally influenced fare for brunch, lunch and dinner. The equally well-curated beverage list consists of a handful of craft cocktails and beers as well as about 20 boutique wines by the bottle.

Must-order: Charred endive, whole roasted bass, grilled cheese sandwich (lunch or brunch only)

Insider tip: Fun fact for fans of RiNo Yacht Club: co-owner (and 30 Under 30 alum) McLain Hedges designed the cocktail list.   

Olive & Finch

NewAmericanCherry Creek
Mary Nguyen's “cute” American cafes serve “superlative” sandwiches (including the signature beef tongue), “great” breakfast skillets, house-baked goods and more, along with coffee, beer, wine and cocktails, while the Cherry Creek location also offers an expanded bistro-style dinner menu; there's “good customer service” too, as the staff “accommodates special dietary restrictions.”

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.     

Hearth & Dram

NewAmericanLoDo
Suave, au courant wood-fired cuisine from chef Jeffrey Wall complements cocktails from a bar boasting more than 300 whiskeys at this New American destination in LoDo. It's all served against the wood, steel and glass backdrop of the dramatic dining room, which overlooks Union Station.

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.  

Il Posto

NewRiver North Art District
Contemporary piatti "prepared with ingenuity" and "genuine flair" by an "engaging" Milanese chef-owner and served by a crew that's "happy to explain" the "complex daily menu" has earned this "cosmopolitan" RiNo Italian spot a "devoted following"; relocated from City Park West, its much larger space boasts a mezzanine, sculptural booths, dramatic lighting, an exhibition kitchen and a full bar, and while tabs aren't especially cheap, lunch will be less of a "pinch on the wallet."

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.    

Avanti Food and Beverage

EclecticLoHi
Some of the Mile High City's most recognized chefs reside in this LoHi food hall that dispenses everything from pizza and paella to burgers and Venezuelan arepas. The bi-level shipping container is industrial-chic, offering a wide variety of dining and drinking nooks including several communal dining areas and two bars (one downstairs and another on the roof).

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

STK Denver

NewSteakhouseLoDo
LoDo adds another steakhouse to its stable with this flashy outpost of a national chain, where global influences put a contemporary gloss on the standard roster of chops and shellfish with all the trimmings – while kicky cocktails and a convivial lounge atmosphere lure the nightlife crowd.

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

Yardbird

NewBistroPlatt Park
Gaia Bistro, a longtime Platt Park fixture, has moved down the street into the intimate, softly lit space formerly occupied by another old staple, Black Pearl – and voilà, a new neighborhood gathering place is born, serving diner-inspired American fare from breakfast through dinner alongside drinks from the full bar.

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

Comida at The Stanley Marketplace

NewMexicanAurora
It's “hard to go wrong” at these “contemporary” cantinas (spun off from the popular hot-pink food truck) that offer a “unique” take on “killer tacos”, gorditas and other Mexican snacks, accompanied by a “wide array of salsas” and craft margaritas; meanwhile, the branches at The Source and the Stanley Marketplace serve a Sunday brunch that further reveals the subtle Southern influences on the regular menu.

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
 

Stanley Beer Hall

NewAurora
Set in Aurora's Stanley Marketplace, this lively watering hole offers a wide array of craft brews and an easygoing menu of American and bistro-style fare – think poutine, fried chicken and steak frites – in an industrial space featuring black-and-white murals and materials reclaimed from the aviation factory formerly at the site.

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

12@MADISON

NewCongress Park
Low-key refinement defines Jeff Osaka's Congress Park bistro, where California-influenced New American small plates (from ricotta gnudi to lamb tagine) and large-format daily specials meet a varied wine list plus a well-edited selection of craft beer and cocktails. Art gallery-like in its crisp simplicity, the narrow, L-shaped space boasts a chef's counter, a back bar and a small patio.

Must-order: Portuguese sardines (pictured), veal sweetbreads, the Bee’s Knees cocktail

Insider tip: Happy hour isn't just for grown-ups anymore: from 4 to 6 PM, 12 offers a three-course kids' menu to ease your little ones into fine dining.

1160 Madison St.; 720-216-0190

Que Bueno Suerte

NewMexicanPlatt Park
At this upscale Mexican in Platt Park, consulting chef Dana Rodriguez (Work & Class) and executive chef Vicente Sosa craft sophisticated twists on traditional comida, from shareable small plates to tacos and elevated entrees. Soaring ceilings, sculptural chandeliers and elaborate Mayan-inspired artwork set a sultry mood inside the bi-level setting, with two bars pouring margaritas, pisco sours and other Latin cocktails for dinner dates and late-night crawlers alike.

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

Mizu Izakaya

NewSushiLoHi
Funky art, dramatic woodwork and other chic details distinguish this date night–worthy LoHi izakaya, where a diverse menu of Japanese plates – including yakitori, ramen, sushi and more – awaits alongside an equally varied list of beverages from the bar.

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

Dio Mio - Handmade Pasta

NewRiver North Art District
Chefs Alex Figura and Spencer White (both formerly of Lower48) turn out the traditional and original fresh pastas that star at this RiNo counter serve, also offering smart Italian small plates and drinks from the full bar in a minimalist white-on-white setting.

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

Fish N Beer

NewSeafoodRiver North Art District
Along with Kevin Morrison of Tacos Tequila Whiskey, chef/co-owner Aniedra Nichols (ex Elway's) brings a bit of the coastline to RiNo via this sardine can–sized dinner spot with the charm of a classic raw bar enhanced by a seasonal seafood menu that skews contemporary. A roster of craft beers and cocktails, plus a handful of fish-friendly wines by the glass, are also offered inside the warm space or out on the back patio.

Must-order: Fish charcuterie board, grilled oysters with devil butter (pictured), mushroom steak, FNB French saison (an exclusive from Ratio Beerworks)

Insider tip: Oyster lovers and workweek haters, this one's for you: Happy hour runs from open to close on Mondays.

3510 Larimer St.; 303-248-3497

Ohana Island Kitchen

NewLoHi
An instant cult hit in LoHi, this tiny counter-serve lunch joint serves up Hawaiian staples such as poke and Spam musubi in a colorful 20-seat space with picnic tables.

Must-order: Hawaiian sliders, poke, Spam musubi and mac salad (pictured)

Insider tip: Keep your eye on Ohana's Instagram feed for specials like Japanese curry.

2563 15th St.; 303-718-6580

Briar Common Brewery + Eatery

NewJefferson Park
A setting with lots of sunlight, stylishly minimalist decor and a roof terrace distinguishes this two-story Jefferson Park brewpub, as does its globally influenced bistro-style menu of New American plates designed to pair with house craft beers on tap.

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

The Denver Central Market

NewFood CourtRiver North Art District
In a beautifully restored old building, this RiNo food hall has it all: a butcher, fishmonger, greengrocer, salumeria, rotisserie, bakery, pizzeria, creamery, chocolatier and coffee counter – many of which are run by well-known chefs. A full bar dispenses drinks you can take with you as you shop, or pair with a meal while perched at any of the central communal tables.

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. 

2669 Larimer St.

Avelina

NewNew AmericanLoDo
Longtime culinary couple John Broening and Yasmin Lozada-Hissom command the stage at this splashy New American destination in LoDo, serving seasonal wood-fired plates with global influences (Mediterranean, Asian, Latin, African) and desserts to match. The breezy, spacious dining room – flanked by an exhibition kitchen and a bar that opens to the patio – fosters conviviality, fueled by craft cocktails and diverse wines.

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

River and Woods

NewAmericanBoulder
The little old cottage that long housed Boulder institution John's Restaurant is now home to this regional American kitchen, where chef Daniel Asher (ex Root Down, Linger) crafts thoughtful, seasonal comfort food, including family recipes crowdsourced from the local community. The serene interior showcases natural materials, opening to a spacious backyard with a rotisserie and bar, as well as a kids' play area.

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

Departure Restaurant + Lounge

AsianCherry Creek
Top Chef runner-up Gregory Gourdet brings his bohemian brand of Pan-Asian cookery to Cherry Creek with this splashy outpost of a Portland, OR original, serving dim sum, kushiyaki, noodles and more in a modern setting with an air-travel motif. In addition to a central island bar dispensing craft cocktails and premium sake, there's also a rooftop lounge called Departure Elevated, boasting panoramic views.

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

Coperta

ItalianFive Points
From sibling team Paul and Aileen Reilly (Beast + Bottle), this buzzy Five Points kitchen specializes in cuisine and wine from Southern Italy, including daily changing "spuzzulia" platters and handmade pastas. The crisp yet homey three-room setup features a cocktail bar up front, a central mozzarella counter and vintage accents.

Must-order: Spuzzulia, house mozzarella, fried artichokes, spaghetti cacio e pepe, pesce del giorno (pictured)

Insider tip: Did you know about the take-out counter on 20th Street, which dispenses sandwiches, fresh pastries and espresso all day? Well, now you do.

400 E. 20th Ave.; 720-749-4666

Mister Tuna

New AmericanRiver North Art District
Troy Guard (TAG, Los Chingones) celebrates his Hawaiian upbringing at this sexy spin on the bar and grill in RiNo's Industry building, where the eclectic New American menu highlights wood-fired meat and seafood dishes. The long, high-ceilinged space brims with energy, flanked by a patio and a counter facing the open kitchen.

Must-order: King crab with apples in brown butter, 16-oz. pork collar, grilled lamb pizza (pictured)

Insider tip: Watch the Facebook page for the occasional lunch pop-ups that are serving as promos for soon-to-launch midday service. 

3033 Brighton Blvd.; 303-831-8862

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