What's on Denver's shortlist of hot spots right now? Glad you asked. The buzz is strong with these 18 places, all opened within the past six months.
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 ribs
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, apple pie — basically pie — and all-day breakfast items like cornmeal pancakes with pulled pork shoulder, fried eggs and green chile (pictured)
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
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: Portuguese sardines (pictured), veal sweetbreads, the Bee’s Knees cocktail
Insider tip: The chef's counter is tiny, so arrive early to snag the best seats in the house.
1160 Madison St.; 720-216-0190
Must-order: Tamal yucateco, faisan a la pibil (pictured top), 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: 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' roast chicken 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
Must-order: Spuzzulia, house mozzarella (pictured), fried artichokes, spaghetti cacio e pepe, pesce del giorno, any of the lunchtime panini
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