Denver is a crossroads food town with options that are both upscale and have a unique feeling to the eateries’ food and ambiance. The Denver vibe is fun, and a little twist to the recipe to make it match the mile-high altitude. These restaurants fit the qualities of the Denver vibe and are worth a visit on your next trip.
My Neighbor Felix
Mexican food that diverges from traditional to add a taste bud spark, and you have My Neighbor Felix in Centennial. The bar serves eight kinds of specialty margaritas like the hibiscus, and then, on Tuesday, pairs them with unique tacos like the Birria (lamb). The happy hour scene amps up the fun with a large, square bar flanked by Mexican art with a bit of a jungle motiv. Move to one of the three distinct dining rooms, each with spacious seating and the favorite set of circular booths with skyline views. The most unique dish? The red snapper is deep-fried and served with various sauces and sides on a giant platter.
This downtown eatery combines excellent food and drink with a historic shopping/gathering place, Larimer Square. This was the first downtown Denver district to draw people for a total experience starting in 1965. Osteria Marco features a classic Italian dining progression – formaggi, antipasta, pasta, pizza, and secondi. They are food-famous for their homemade burrata paired with grilled garlic bread. Drooling comes standard with the wild mushroom pizza with truffle oil and taleggio cheese. The squid ink, lobster taglierini with lemon butter, and chives get an appreciative croon upon consumption. End it with the magnificent chocolate bomb – chocolate mousse and raspberry gelato. The restaurant is one block from the Denver Center for the Performing Arts, perfect for a pre-show meal.
Root Down tweaks dishes to match Denver’s geographical gathering point and feel. The Highlands location features vegetables grown in their own garden and a beehive for honey. The setting is a re-purposed automobile service station, which now has a full bar, two dining rooms, and a heated patio with a view of the downtown area. The lights and ambiance focus on the food. Root Down highlights creative takes on dishes like the Arepas, creatively presented in a layered style. Small plates are the go-to here, combining the diver scallops and the leek gnocchi. Deserts get their due with the candy bar creation of chocolate, light mousse, and red currant drizzle.
Going for 50 years, this unique pizza establishment in Idaho Springs hits all the Denver and Colorado food buttons. Their take on pizza – the Mountain Pie, is long on ingredients and roof-top thick. Beau Jo’s has been on the food radar as once you have consumed the central part of the pie, they have honey to finish the incredible crust. Feel good about a massive pizza feast by starting with the cranberry-walnut salad. Then, create your own mountain pie and pick the level of ingredients and crust. The hearty choice is the LIL’ ITALY with roasted garlic olive oil sauce, tomatoes, mushrooms, black olives, pepperoni, parmesan, and provolone cheese. Of course, a bevy of sudsy libations, many from local brew houses, to wash it all down.
In the ’40s and ’50s, when Denverites trekked to the mountains, it was slow going. El Rancho started in 1947 as a mountain restaurant that hit all the mid-trip buttons west of Denver. Built with Colorado logs and wood from the ground up, you were in a posh yet comfortable ranch house with hearty, local food goodies. The restaurant was recently renovated and kept all the original tables, seating, and log beams, restoring the original finish. The result is a comfortable stop before or after skiing with impressive mountain-matched cuisine and even their own brewery. Can’t go wrong with the El Totcho, tater tot nachos followed by the home made smoked chicken pot pie paired up with a cold one from their onsite brewery.
Cherry Creek Food Hall
Sometimes, being later in the marketplace is a way to learn people’s food preferences. In the case of Cherry Creek Food Hall, so many food halls have sprouted about Denver in the last 10 years; how was this going to work? The answer is they learned what customers liked from all the eateries around town and squished it into one unique food hall. First, the bar is amazingly spacious, with room to spread out while close to the libation action. The restaurant eating areas are spaced around the hall, so each feels slightly out of the way. No cafeteria feel here; walk over to the food stall of choice, then pick from different seating arrangements that fit your mood. The Bomshell’s Elote is deep-fried corn on the cob with a spicy zip. The top lobster roll sandwich of any hall in Denver with four iterations. No regular pizza here; all is artisan from the wood-fired oven.
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