The Mile High City’s Best Dining Spots
With more than 2,000 restaurants, there’s plenty of food choices in Denver.
But rather than going through them all and reading confusing and conflicting reviews by people who may or may not know what they are posting about, trust PubClub.com’s out-on-the-town locals.
Naturally, Southwestern cuisine is plentiful but Denver has not pulled up its original roots from the cowboy days. Wild game – particularly buffalo – can be found on many menus.
Top-Notch Expense Account Restaurants
The most famous hitching post is Buckhorn Exchange, an old saloon that doubles as a restaurant. It’s walls are covered with 500 stuffed animal heads and has The Fort, a reproduction of a fur trapper’s post on the Santa Fe Trail. Located at 10th Ave. and Osage on the edge of downtown (there’s a light rail stop across the street), it has hosted celebrities and U.S. presidents. A good place to use the expense account, it holds Colorado liquor license #1.
While we’re on expense accounts, The Chop House is the best steakhouse in town. Located near Coors Field in LoDo, its tables are often filled with players from visiting sports teams. National Hockey League players especially like the place. It’s upscale (at least by the casual surroundings of LoDo) and also has a respected brewhouse on-site.
Many locals regard Mizuna as the best restaurant in Denver. It’s a French bistro and mong the menu items can be macaroni and cheese with lobster, lamb, salmon and duck. Be ready to be pleasantly surprised because the menu changes monthly ( 225 E. Seventh St., 832-4778). Prices are in the mid $20 range.
Campo di Fiore (300 Fillmore, 377-7887) is excellent for Italian.
The Vesta Dipping Grill, so named because of its dishes of beef, poultry and seafood are dipped into homemade sauces and salsa, is a locals’ favorite.
The power lunch spot is The Palm (Westin Hotel, 1672 Lawrence). In fact, while PubClub.com was there, Shaquille O’Neal of the L.A. Lakers was at an adjacent table (that is, if you consider the back of the restaurant adjacent to where we are sitting). The food – salads, seafood, chicken, steak, veal – is sensational and the service exceptional.
Trio Enoteca (1730 Wynkoop) was a cool, classy cafe wtih a soft rock/jazz band, a lounge area cigar room that has been replaced by Zydeco’s. It’s now a Cajun Southern-style restaurant/bar with live music and an extensive wine list.
The food at The Rio Grande (Blake Street) is predictable but the atmosphere is the best in town at dinnertime. It helps to have some food to soak up the grain-fed margaritas. Friday and Saturday nights it’s a bar night and there are often lines after 7. Closes at 11.
Jax is a good seafood house that serves cold beer to help wash down the 50-cent oysters (4-6 p.m., Mondays-Fridays).
On a far less exotic scale, Croc’s is a low-key bar that happens to serve surprisingly good food. We say surprisingly good because to look at the place after 11, one would be flabbergasted to discover the kitchen could come up with anything but chicken wings and fries. It’s a fun, super casual environment where the entertainment will eventually literally come to your table.
16th Street Mall Restaurants
There are all kinds of restaurants along mile-long 16th Street Mall. The best may be Maggiano’s Little Italy (at Glenarm). The decor is overwhelming enough – classic Italian – and the food is outstanding. With many entrees priced in the mid-teens range, it’s the best value in Denver (500 Sixteenth Street, 260-7708).
Appaloosa Grill (at Welton) is a cozy restaurant offering chicken, steak and salads in the mid-teens price range, but it’s the ribs that will stick to your mind. One block away is Marlow’s, a solid choice with a variety of offerings for about the same price. It’s next door to the Paramount Cafe, a burger-and-fries kind of place with a Hollywood theme. Basically, the Paramount has younger diners (and a semi-active bar at night) while Marlow’s serves to a bit more mature crowd.
Toward LoDo, the Cheesecake Factory is familiar to people from the West Coast. Talk about variety – the place gives you a book to read through. Frequent travelers will recognize the Rock Bottom Brewery. The food in this mini-chain (Long Beach, Portland, Milwaukee, among other cities) is quite good and affordable. The beer is home brewed and good. The staff is usually young and friendly and for parties of one, two or even three, the bar area is the best place to dine.
If it’s a nice day, just grab a sandwich from a deli and hang out in LoDo. An ideal place to eat, watch and relax is Writer’s Square at Larimer St. If you like food trucks, they line up in front of the Capitol building.
Great Breakfast Spots
There are a few places in town but the place for PubClub.com is the Delectable Egg (is it a joke that it’s located a few doors down from where you may have very well ended your night a few hours before, Croc’s)? It has all kinds of large egg dishes, including big skillets loaded with ham and potatoes.
There’s also another location with less character at 16th and Court near the Adam’s Mark.