Every time we turn around, it appears something new is popping up on West 32nd Avenue, from West Highland to LoHi. With options including Detroit-style pizza, small-batch ice cream and epic sandwiches, anything you might want to eat can be found on this mile-and-a-half stretch. While it's hard to pick between our absolute favorites, here are ten places you must try next time you find yourself wandering up and down the avenue, with our Best of Denver 2015 winner in the #1 position. (The rest are in reverse alphabetical order.)
10) Wooden Spoon Cafe & Bakery
2418 West 32nd Avenue
Come by this charming shop for breakfast or lunch and get ready to partake in some of the best scones and egg sandwiches around. The cafe opened in LoHi in 2010, the love child of husband-and-wife team Jason and Jeanette Burgett. They make everything with high-quality local ingredients, and all cookies, pastries, macarons and breakfast breads are baked in-house. Other local offerings included drip coffee and espresso drinks using beans from Coda Coffee Company, sausage from fellow Highland business Polidori Sausage and other starchy goods from Trompeau Bakery.
9) Sweet Cow
3475 West 32nd Avenue
Ice cream season lasts all year long at this craft creamery, with rotating flavors like local honey with mint; Jim Beam and coke; raspberry-Oreo; and cantaloupe sorbet to make sure you'll never get bored sampling the goods. Ice cream flavors are made in small batches so that every scoop proves fresh, without any of that pesky freezer burn you find at more commercial shops. As a bonus, each dish, spoon and napkin you use is compostable or recyclable, so you can feel good through and through about indulging here.
2639 West 32nd Avenue
If you're looking for locally sourced traditional Italian food in a laid-back yet elegant setting, Spuntino updates north Denver's red-sauce roots. In 2014, the neighborhood staple got a makeover thanks to new owners Cindhura Reddy and Elliot Strathmann. Both were employees of the previous incarnation of Spuntino, but now Reddy helms the kitchen and Strathmann oversees the front of house. Come in for dinner any day of the week save Monday, and see the magic they're making with handcrafted pasta, housemade focaccia and Colorado corn.
7) Solitaire Restaurant
3927 West 32nd Avenue
Chef and owner Mark Ferguson opened this New American food joint in April this year, and already it has a following. Could it be the unique location inside two conjoined Victorian houses? Or maybe the wrap-around porch and fire pit in the front garden? While all of these aspects of the restaurant are great, we think the main draw comes from the creative dishes like the cherry-smoked sturgeon poutine, lava-grilled chicken with chocolate-habanero sauce, and the butterscotch pudding with honey dust and toffee. And you don't have to worry about a line, since reservations are accepted and there's plenty of space, both indoors and out.
6) Salt & Grinder
3609 West 32nd Avenue
Every good neighborhood should have a deli, and on 32nd Avenue you can find chef and restaurateur Frank Bonanno's ode to the East Coast, where he grew up. For him, New Jersey joints Rudy's and Vito’s Deli were the ultimate, so when he decided to open up Salt & Grinder in 2014, it was with those two institutions in mind. The eatery uses the Grateful Bread Company's loaves to make sandwiches, serves local beer and coffee, has nightly pasta dishes and plates up housemade charcuterie.
5) Pinche Taqueria
3300 West 32nd Avenue
Though this cantina took away our prize for the Best Place to Get in the Skin Game this year, there are so many other reasons to stop by. First up, the cocktails. No, these aren't a fancy glass of craft spirits with twists of obscure citrus, but are instead simple, solid and tasty tequila-based tipples. For the perfect lunch, get the grapefruit- and lime-laden Paloma, an order of lengua tacos and a trio of salsas. Or come for happy hour and get barbacoa and avocado-cream nachos, chipotle shrimp sliders and a fresh margarita. The combinations are endless and the space large enough to accommodate walk-ins, small parties and even a highchair.
4) Highland Tap & Burger
2219 West 32nd Avenue
This laid-back gastropub was the Readers' Choice for Best Restaurant on 32nd in this year's Best of Denver issue, and for good reason. For five years, it has churned out solid bar fare with flair with a consistency appreciated by customers. Go for your midday meal to get the daily special, which consists of a burger or ribs or fish and chips and a pint for about $10. The dinner menu remains the same as lunch and includes gems like the iceberg wedge with three-chile candied bacon and housemade blue-cheese dressing; macaroni and cheese spiked with Avery Brewing Company's IPA; and a lamb burger with goat cheese you won't soon forget. Between 5 and 9 p.m. you can get duck-fat fries, the perfect accompaniment to one of the local and/or obscure beers on tap. Catch a game or just get a bite — it's a neighborhood joint that's open and friendly to everyone who comes in.
3) Denver Bread Company
3200 Irving Street
Even if the address for this bakery says Irving Street, the door is located on 32nd Avenue, so we say it counts. After all, DBC won our award for Best Bakery in 2014, an accolade owner Gregory Bortz greatly deserves given that he's been churning out amazing breads since 1994. But fair warning: Once you start buying loaves of sourdough, olive focaccia, soft potato bread and lavender-berry shortbread, you might find yourself wandering down 32nd Avenue more often. Just make sure you bring cash, as it's the only payment taken here.
If you like this story, consider signing up for our email newsletters.
SHOW ME HOW
2) Blue Pan Pizza
3930 West 32nd Avenue
Detroit-style pizza in Denver? Yes, please! At this tiny shop off of Perry Street, owners Giles Flanagin and pizza-making champion Jeff "Smoke" Smokevitch churn out superb deep-dish pies topped with all sorts of quality ingredients. Go for the award-winning Parma Italia, with burrata, arugula and prosciutto; tap into New York with the Brooklyn Bridge, another prize pie with New York ricotta, pepperoni, Italian sausage and a few types of cheese; or keep it really simple by ordering the Tomato Pie, made with sweet tomato sauce, Italian cheeses and roasted garlic. Each pizza is baked in a blue steel pan, gets enough cheese on top to caramelize on the sides, and has the red sauce ladled on top of the cheese, all techniques used to make these pies officially of the Detroit variety. Of course, you can always go Italian with a thin-crust pie — also a world-class champ.
2215 West 32nd Avenue
Tommy Lee's three-year-old eatery has garnered numerous accolades, including our choice for Best Restaurant on West 32nd Avenue this year — and it still keeps rocking out superb steaming bowls of ramen chock-full of locally sourced chicken, beef, duck and veggies. Order steamed buns for an appetizer — the soft-shell crab if it's on the oft-changing menu — and make sure to check out a sake or two. There's also a craft-cocktail list worthy of its own award that includes a blend of tequila, pineapple and sriracha — and one called Midnight in Tokyo that's simply half sake and half riesling. Keep in mind that the space isn't much bigger than a ramen bowl and reservations aren't accepted, so go early or be prepared to wait.