Denverites are way ahead of national trends when it comes to brunch; we were standing in lines for the weekend mid-morning meal long before other cities starting catching on. And we've been doing it on Saturdays as well as Sundays, at mom-and-pop eateries as well as hotel restaurants, and all day long instead of just in the a.m. hours. Bacon, eggs and booze, it turns out, are some of Denver's biggest obsessions.
Here are all the Best Brunch winners in our Best of Denver editions over the past ten years — including the 2018 champ — along with our praise in prose from each year (and a few updates).
Beatrice & Woodsley
38 South Broadway
Brunch at Beatrice & Woodsley is like waking up in a dream — and it's not just because of the fantasy interior of this new restaurant, designed to resemble a turn-of-the-last century Colorado cabin. It's also because of the fantastic food. Chef Pete List and his crew of culinary hooligans serve turtle soup, beautiful frog's legs, pear clafouti, pork belly, pimento-cheese grits, curried lamb and flapjacks all off the same menu — their brunch menu. And they do it to a consistently packed house of Denverites who, convinced only by the expertise and brilliant execution of List and company, now realize that there's nothing at all strange about eating turtle, frog and pancakes for breakfast...in the middle of an aspen grove. In fact, it makes for the best brunch in town.
Colt & Gray
1553 Platte Street
At brunch at Colt & Gray, the lovely restaurant that made its long-awaited debut on Platte Street last August, the French-press coffee is woody and rich and strong. It has to be, in order to prepare you for the duck confit hash, served with the most beautifully poached eggs you've ever seen, the streams of yolk brighter than a yellow cab. Or for the heavenly, egg-crowned croque madame coupled with an unexpectedly vibrant tomato soup; if you're a heathen, you dunk the former into the latter and thank the kitchen for robbing you of any gram of refinement. That same kitchen also slyly seduces you with luscious potatoes, sliced the thinness of a silver dollar, edged crisp and rendered in foie gras and duck fat. When you've popped the last one through your lips and let out a long groan, your server nods in empathy. Few dishes in the galaxy are as wicked good as those potatoes. After brunch at Colt & Gray, you'll be ready for a long nap — but you'll wake up eager to return for dinner. Colt & Gray no longer serves brunch.
5641 South Nevada Street, Littleton
There's nothing pompous about this French bistro, where the informal, come-as-you-are ambience makes it all too easy to become a regular. And by the looks of it, especially on Sunday mornings, when Littleton residents sashay in for brunch, there are plenty of regulars who crave JaJa's dazzling crepes, filled with everything from smoked ham and Swiss to scrambled eggs and bacon, to sunny-side-up eggs and sausage, to Nutella and sugar-kissed bananas. The unfussy elegance, coupled with the camaraderie of the ardent habitués who linger over Bloody Marys and bottomless mimosas, makes JaJa's Bistro a must-stop for both wistful Francophiles and card-carrying foodophiles who want a little joie de vivre with their morning pick-me-up. Jaja Bistro closed in 2016.
2550 East Colfax Avenue
We've never found a better reason to lift our head off the pillow than brunch at Encore. Start the day off right with a plate of ethereal ricotta-filled beignets and a bloody Mary to soothe the debauchery from the night before, then move on to one of the other marvels created by chef Paul Reilly. Our favorite is his magnificent lamb posole, sidekicked with all the necessary accoutrements — sliced radishes, onions, cilantro and lime wedges — and capped by creamy scrambled eggs. Encore closed later in 2012, but Reilly went on to open Beast + Bottle, which won Best Brunch in 2017.
609 Corona Street., Denver
Table Six is the consummate neighborhood hang, the kind of place where, at least on Sunday, you can wear your mismatched PJs and fit right in with the rest of the smitten disciples — many of them local chefs — who converge in droves for dashing dishes that stretch far beyond pancakes and eggs Benedict. Chef Scott Parker's eccentric menu is a fanciful blast of morning treats, beginning with the tater tots dipped into blood-orange ketchup and moving on to the "haute pocket" filled with Tasso ham, steak, silky scrambled eggs, grilled onions and cheddar. DJ Ginger Perry keeps things hip with energetic spins, and the intriguing cocktails — stiff and sexy — will make you want to linger long after the 2:30 p.m. closing time. Parker has moved on from Table Six, but it's still a reliable brunch destination five years later.
1939 East Kentucky Avenue
First, let us shower accolades on chef Richard Glover's decadent cinnamon-apple French toast: a plate of thick, eggy slices of gold-tinged brioche splayed with caramelized cinnamon-dusted apples, real whipped cream and a fistful of nuts. Then there are the eggs Benedict, mounted with thin, salty sheets of prosciutto topped with a cascading river of cranberry Hollandaise sauce. And a wild-Colorado-mushroom omelette with roasted red peppers and goat cheese. No matter what you order at Fooducopia, an engaging weekday and weekend brunch spot in Washington Park that also doubles as a market emphasizing local ingredients (that's where he gets those apples), you'll marvel and swoon between bites. And now that Fooducopia has a liquor license, mimosas and bloody Marys just add to the welcoming wake-up call.
5280 West 25th Avenue, Edgewater
It's no fluke that Providence Tavern's address and its phone number both end in 5280, because brunch here epitomizes everything that's right about Mile High dining: cheap drinks, amazing Benedicts, a view of the game from every seat in the house...and no waits. Somehow this upscale neighborhood bar has flown under the radar, even though it serves up anything but average bar food. The smoked pork benefit (no, that's not a typo, and, yes, you benefit if you order this) is one of the best Benedicts in town, smothered in a chile-rojo Hollandaise that will set your mouth on fire. Then there's the truffled grilled cheese, made breakfasty with a bacon and egg on top, a foodgasm-inducing sandwich. Digest it all in the comfortable, all-seasons room; it's the perfect place to drink away the day with $8 bottomless mimosas or manmosas and $5 Bloodys.
2911 West 38th Avenue, Denver
It's brunch every day at the Universal, a sleek and austerely decorated breakfast-and-lunch hot spot in Sunnyside. Although the weekend specials tend to be more elaborate, we're just fine with the standard menu of Southern-inspired dishes: thick, creamy grits (heirloom from Anson Mills) offered on the side and as an always-changing "grits of the day" item on their own; biscuits smothered in a medium-spicy pork-sausage gravy; a fried-egg sandwich with Tender Belly meats; and custard toast, one of the best things to happen to bread. The huge pancakes and several scrambles are also good choices; the sheer variety of flavorful ingredients in the latter, like wild-boar sausage or goat cheese and smoked tomatoes, make them stand out. But the cornbread rancheros are truly distinctive, the moist and crumbly cornbread layered with black beans and roasted-tomato salsa, all smothered with cheese. And the Bloody Mary, a bold brew augmented by a mini-salad of celery, cucumber, olive and pepperoncini, with spicy salt on the glass rim, makes getting up on the weekends worth your while.
Beast + Bottle
719 East 17th Avenue
Beast + Bottle chef/co-owner Paul Reilly has a way with meat; that much is clear from his dinner menus packed with pork and lamb prime cuts and outstanding offal. Reilly's whole-animal philosophy spills over into brunch, too, served Saturdays and Sundays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. And while you can sink your teeth into the likes of smoked trotter confit, corned lamb and B + B's always craveable fig + pig flatbread, more delicate breakfast items — classic French omelets, airy flaxseed waffles, housemade pastries — demonstrates the kitchen's finesse. Anything made with eggs reflects a farm-to-table commitment; Beast + Bottle has its own dedicated egg-laying flock at Cottonwood Creek Farms. Combine that with gracious and cheery service that trickles down from co-owner Aileen Reilly, and you've got a warm and welcoming brunch from a capital crew.
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1550 17th Street
Avelina is a stylish downtown grotto that does a fine job catering to the business set at lunch and dinner, with wood-fired specialties that skew Mediterranean. But when the weekend rolls around and this part of downtown gets to feeling a bit deserted, Avelina serves up a stellar brunch that should draw the crowds. On the sweet side, you'll find beignets with a creamy filling along with lovely scones, crepes and breakfast cakes. The savory slate is full of familiar favorites ranging from pork green chile to steak and eggs, but try the breakfast tacos or duck hash for something just a little different. The kicker, though, is the Bloody Mary bar, which lets you go to work on your own boozy breakfast concoction.
Everyone has a favorite brunch; what's yours? Let us know in the comments or drop us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org, then peruse winners in dozens of other categories in the 2018 Best of Denver.