Mirror, mirror on the graffitied wall -- which is the hippest hangout of all? Denver is suddenly bursting with hipster neighborhoods, spiraling out from the longtime center in Capitol Hill to South Broadway, LoHi and the burgeoning RiNo area. And not only are these neighborhoods home to cool coffeehouses and watering holes, but increasingly they're attracting some of the most interesting restaurants in town. The lineup changes rapidly, but here's our list of the ten best hipster restaurants in Denver (presented in no particular order), right now!
See also: Denver's ten hippest bars
10) Sputnik 3 South Broadway Sputnik continues to be a favorite hipster bar -- but it pulls its weight as a restaurant, too. Turning out eclectic interpretations of commonplace bar snacks (like fried pickle chips and hand-dipped corn dogs), Sputnik feeds the hungry hordes that come in for lazy weekend brunches, productive breakfasts (courtesy of the free WiFi), and pre-and-post show bites. The menu is seasonal, with offerings ranging from mac-and-cheese to falafel pitas and bibimbap; Sputnik prides itself on a menu that is vegetarian and vegan-conscious, too. And meals are usually graced by the sounds of a live DJ spinning vintage vinyl or something new that you've never heard of.
9) Illegal Pete's 270 South Broadway Illegal Pete's has always been a go-to for pints of cheap beer and plates of tacos, either when you're on the move or lingering to watch the ever-changing stream of bands that come through some locations almost nightly. (After he founded the Boulder-based Pete's chain, founder Pete Turner started Greater Than Collective, a record label conceived with Virgil Dickerson in 2011.) But when Illegal Pete's opened its sprawling location on South Broadway this year, it also created a hipster headquarters in a neighborhood already brimming with hip. The place oozes a casual sort of cool, conducive to hours of relaxing inside at the bar, or outside with beers and a lawn game.
8) City, O' City 206 East 13th Avenue To put City, O' City in a vegetarian box would be wrong. Yes, this Capitol Hill mainstay serves up an incredible line of vegetarian dishes that stun even the most devout of carnivores -- seitan wings, a fork & knife sandwich made with "meatless" loaf, steaming udon noodles served in a carrot, ginger broth -- but it serves up so much more in character and cool. City, O' City is a vibrant mix of coffeehouse, hippie haven, cozy lunch and dinner spot, and raucous bar. And whether they're sitting down for lunch or heading to that bar (which screens movies and usually has a live DJ), patrons rarely pass up the pastry case, which doles out all-vegan treats (like its take on a classic ho-ho) from the in-house bakery.
7) Colt & Gray 1553 Platte Street Colt & Gray, the Platte Street gastropub, is bigger and better than ever, serving up bone marrow and burgers topped with fois gras like nobody's business. The bar, however, is why hipster beer and spirits geeks originally flocked here: The staffers, perhaps enjoyed best when given full creative license, mix expert cocktails with a profound knowledge of what's stocked at the bar and beyond, in an intimate setting that makes it too easy to stick around. The recent dining room expansion, plus the long-awaited opening of underground Ste. Ellie, are destined to make this even more of a hipster hangout, with a speakeasy feel and plates of charcuterie cured in-house.
6) Comida Cantina 3350 Brighton Boulevard The truck gone brick-and-mortar opened its second location in August in The Source, the much anticipated marketplace that is now home to several cool ventures, from a butcher and cheese monger to a brewery and art gallery. Comida's space is fresh and urban, but the tacos are what fill the seats -- 140 of them, to be exact -- stretched between an expansive community table, open bar and spacious patio. This spot is perfect for kicking back with a margarita, checking off your taco picks, and taking in the developing scenery.
5) The Universal 2911 West 38th Avenue The Universal opened in 2012 in a nondescript West 38th Avenue strip mall in Highland -- but it quickly distinguished itself as a cult-favorite for drawn-out brunches and weekday lunches. This is a place where young families and Highlands-dwelling hipsters head for mugs of coffee, fresh biscuits, and bowls of grits laden with anything from pulled pork to chicken confit. The young staff is cool and always friendly, and the space is simple and inviting, with warm wood paneling and a vintage American flag that covers an entire wall -- an homage to rustic yet understated Americana design.
4) Cafe|Bar 295 South Pennsylvania Street A true neighborhood joint (if you consider all of Denver your neighborhood), Cafe|Bar still seems like a hidden gem in West Washington Park, nestled on the corner of a quiet residential block. The space is clean and comfortable, the ideal setting for enjoying the seasonal American menu, with a well-stocked bar and intimate patio. The feel is effortlessly cool, and brings in effortlessly cool customers, from young Washington Park couples to Baker-dwellers looking for cocktails away from the bustle.
3) Root Down 1600 West 33rd Avenue An incredibly cool space -- a renovated gas station -- in an incredibly cool part of town, with an expansive view of downtown below. What else did Root Down need to become one of the hippest spots in Denver? The incredible menu by chef Justin Cucci, with has a healthy appreciation of healthy fare but also recognizes that sometimes, you just want to eat meat and just about everything else, too. Root Down just opened a branch at Denver International Airport -- and we can't imagine a better introduction to this city.
2) Ace 501 East 17th Avenue Interesting takes on the cocktail, re-imagined Asian fare (like spicy pork ramen and bao buns), and an expansive hall of ping-pong tables are enough to make Ace the ideal hipster hangout. Throw in the atmosphere, which ranges from the buzz of friends huddled around the low-lit bar with scorpion bowls and thai iced teas to the bump of bass over shrill cries of ping pong competition, and you've got yourself a veritable hipster haven. During the day, the place maintains its cool with a fresh juice bar.
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1) The Populist 3163 Larimer Street Baker is getting a run for its money as this town's hipster destination as RiNo continues to develop, opening a slew of ultra-hip shops, restaurants, coffee joints and watering holes. Since it opened a year ago -- brought to us by the team behind Crema -- the Populist has been a pioneer of sought-after dining experiences in the neighborhood, with its an uncommon menu of interesting dishes, like deconstructed cubano plates and beef cheek, plus a cozy bar serving classic cocktails in a pint-sized space. In the summer, the tiny outdoor patio is an idyllic oasis and a bright contrast to the more industrial surroundings. For the more upscale hipster, this is the place.