Where do the Mile High City’s most lauded restaurateurs, chefs and bartenders go to eat and drink? Here, seven Denverites spill on their favorite places to wine and dine.
Carrie Baird, Executive Chef & Co-owner of Bar DoughI love Señor Bear in Denver’s Highlands. The menu changes seasonally and the kitchen is always running killer delicious specials. My go-to drink is the Congelado Del Dia, Bear’s rotating frozen cocktail, which is so delicious but very strong, so you can only drink one. My favorite dishes are the brócoli saltado, topped with super crunchy fries and served with chive crêpes, or the crispy pig’s tail when it’s on the menu. On my days off I also like to eat at New Saigon. It’s such a fun place to eat with friends, [because] everything is huge and shareable! The 1RW (sài gòn đặc biệt) is a gigantic platter of [fried soft-shell crab, egg rolls, fried shrimp paste, grilled pork skewers and grilled shrimp]. They serve it with rice paper and ridiculous amounts of cilantro, basil, jalapeños, bean sprouts and limes. I also never miss the 4DU, sliced grilled duck breast in curry. It’s so sweet and spicy, maybe the best curry in town. Wash it all down with a Saigon Special Beer.
Tristen Epps, Executive Chef of Mister TunaI love Hop Alley on my Monday nights off. The kitchen team puts out consistently solid food. My go-to is the hong you chao shou, pork [and cabbage] dumplings with peanuts and a hot chile oil that will creep right up on you. The Beijing duck rolls are also delicious, and creatively wrapped in a scallion pancake. They don't take reservations, so get there early. Usually, I'll put my name in and then go slam a few $1 oysters at Fish N Beer next door while I wait.
After a crazy weekend dinner service, you'll find me at Cart Driver, devouring their clam pizza and a $5 late-night happy hour Manhattan. Their concept is simple: order at the counter, cocktails and snacks are pre-batched so you get your drinks and small items right away, and then they bring you a piping hot pizza from the wood-fired grill. It's just what you want for a quick refresh after a long shift.
If I want to throw my Sunday afternoon plans to the wayside, I'll hit Pony Up for the half-priced bottles of Champagne. I also love a good Negroni, and no one makes them better than Tavernetta.
Linda Hampsten Fox, Chef & Owner of The BinderyI love eating at Fish N Beer, a really sweet little place in the RiNo that has great oysters and beer! For a [terrific] martini, extra dirty and in a beautiful glass, I head to The Cooper Lounge in Union Station. [It’s] elegant and transports you to another world outside the bustle of the city. My favorite quick bite, morning, noon or night, is a great taco. Denver has many options scattered across the city, but the breakfast taco at Union Station Farmers’ Market is to die for.
Loren Martinez, Director of Operations of Little Man Ice CreamThe best meal in town is at Cafe Brazil. They've been a North Denver staple for over 20 years now. I always order the Cazuela Colombiana [a prawn and chicken curry]. [It’s] super fresh and hearty all at the same time, [with] amazing flavors! I recommend the Three Dots and a Dash as a slow sipper throughout your meal.
For a late night cocktail, you have to go to El Five, sit on the patio, and enjoy the best view of downtown Denver. They have a great gin selection and a really fun menu dedicated to gin and tonics.
If you’re looking for a great place to hang out on a Saturday afternoon, I recommend Denver Beer Co. They have a great selection of hand crafted beers, my favorite [of which] is the Princess Yum Yum Raspberry Kolsch. (I hear it pairs really well with Little Man Ice Cream just up the street.) A huge bonus to hanging out at Denver Beer Co. is that it’s dog-friendly, so there's never a lack of entertainment.
Mary Nguyen, Chef & Owner of Olive & FinchBetween balancing being a mother to twin four-year old girls and three Olive & Finch locations, it's challenging to find time to dine out. However, when I do, I like to visit places that are off the beaten path.
I used to live in Mexico and still dream of the street tacos I was able to get there. While we have some great places in Denver, I really enjoy Tacos Acapulco for their authentic carne asada and carnitas tacos and pupusas. You’ll always find a line out the door. I love watching the all-female team working together behind the counter; they make it look so easy.
When I’m in the mood for dim sum, I go to Star Kitchen. I always order the traditional har gow, siu mai and scallop dumplings. They [also] make great tasting cilantro and leek dumplings, and I love the spicy jelly fish.
As a former sushi chef, I can eat sushi every day; my go-to place is Sushi Den. They’re very busy so you’re guaranteed fresh fish. I absolutely always order the Japanese tofu; you can’t get anything quite like it [anywhere else] in town.
When my husband and I can break away from the kids, I like to go to the Plimoth for a nice dinner. The menu changes often, but I’ve found it’s always good, so we always order a few appetizers to share, and of course [entrées] and desert. The last time I was there I had the Morroccan fried rabbit, and it was awesome. The staff are very friendly and you just feel like you’re having dinner at a friend’s house.
When I can get away for happy hour to catch up with my girlfriends, I like going to Cattivella, where they have a great wine selection, grilled oysters and great pastas.
For craft beers, I like Goed Zuur. They have great sour beers and I love their selection of charcuterie and cheese. I’ll always order a galette and of course some butter; what beer hall has amazing butter on their food menu?
When I’m in the mood for a stiff drink without any frills or just [for] a neighborhood dive bar, I like to go to PS Lounge. It’s an iconic Denver bar where the owner gives everyone a free shot and all the women a glass of rosé. [Owner] Pete [Siahamis] is often hanging around the bar and buys drinks for you. It also helps that the drinks are the cheapest in town.
Rita Price, Owner of Rita’s LawI am a big fan of SuperMegaBien—it’s my favorite place to take any guests from out of town. Amazing staff, atmosphere and food. I always get the ceviche, spicy coconut shrimp soup and have to have the “Best Chicken” and the Spanish rice. [For late-night food], absolutely Pig and Sprout. They serve food and drinks until 1:30 a.m. and have some of the best staff in town.
Lately, my favorite bar [has been] Lady Jane. The cocktails are creative, unique and fun. They have well-trained staff that know so much about all spirits and can craft off-menu drinks, so I always feel like I learn when I go there! It doesn't hurt that the space is beautifully designed.