When Olivea opened in May at 719 East 17th Avenue, it immediately earned a spot among the top ten restaurants on 17th Avenue, which has become a real restaurant row. Below, nine more places to brake for food along 17th.
Avenue Grill 630 East 17th Avenue, 303-861-2820. For two decades, the Avenue Grill has been one of Denver's favorite greeting and eating spots. But while the photos on the wall might be relics of the '80s (catch the shot of a young Mayor Federico Peña), the kitchen at this comfortable neighborhood joint is absolutely up to date.
D Bar Desserts 1475 East 17th, 303-861-4710.
Keegan Gerhard has earned his place as a celebrity chef. Before the TV shows, before the stand-up hosting duties for Food Network, he spent years working as a cook and patissier in some of the best kitchens in America. In the summer of 2008, he and his wife, Lisa Bailey, opened D Bar right here in Denver, where they started serving up amazing desserts as well as a simple board called "Things We Like to Eat." Hamburger Mary's 700 East 17th, 303-832-1333.
Hamburger Mary's, a chain out of California, bills itself as a "family dining" restaurant -- albeit one where the definition of family is broad and the dining occasionally gives way to the odd drag-queen cabaret performance. Go for the ambience, the incredible patio and the burgers: Mary's has a long list of campily named sandwiches, all of which are served large, loud and loaded. Il Posto 2011 East 17th, 303-394-0100.
Il Posto has an excellent location, crammed between other bars and restaurants, their patios shoulder to shoulder. The concept is also interesting: a purely and unapologetically Italian trattoria with chalkboard menus, changed daily and almost always brilliant, an open kitchen and a dining room alive with bodies, light and noise. Limon 1618 East 17th, 303-322-0898.
In Limon's warm storefront space, owner/chef Alex Gurevich has singlehandedly sold Denver on authentic Novoandino cuisine -- a combination of modern Peruvian flavors and classical French technique that's complex, comforting and delicious all at the same time. Parallel Seventeen 1600 East 17th, 303-399-0988.
The surprising thing about the food at the very hip, very urban Parallel Seventeen is how traditional it is, how Frenchy-Asian, how rigorously grounded in generations of history. Mary Nguyen's kitchen serves an authentic cuisine that's little known outside of Hue or the dining rooms of Denver's Vietnamese immigrants, offering it up to crowds of appreciative, beautiful people. Steuben's 523 East 17th, 303-830-1001.
Steuben's is named after a beloved Boston establishment opened by Josh Wolkon's great-uncles Max and Joe back in 1945; this Steuben's was brought to life over months and years by Wolkon, his wife, Jen, and chef Matt Selby, the same folks who brought us Vesta Dipping Grill. The place looks perfect -- not just like any hometown diner or roadhouse, but like all of them. And the menu, which has been worked and reworked for years, presents the second-best versions of everyone's favorite regional classics. The only better version you'll find is in your own home town. Strings 1700 Humboldt St., 303-831-7310.
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Noel Cunningham is more than a cook; he's Denver's culinary conscience. For over twenty years, he's been making very good things at Strings, his new-American restaurant and a true community institution. Although these days he's pouring a lot of his energy into good works -- both here, where he hosts numerous charity events, and in Africa -- you don't have to be a do-gooder to appreciate his culinary efforts. WaterCourse Foods 837 East 17th, 303-832-7313.
WaterCourse's second home is lovely -- large, bright and airy, with a big dining area and an ample kitchen, it's an almost 180-degree turn from the old, cramped spot on 13th Avenue that now holds sibling City, O' City. There's a bakery case, a blond-wood counter (that also doubles as a bar) and lots of tables bathed in natural light spilling in through the banks of floor-to-ceiling windows. It's a fitting setting for savoring the creative but purely vegetarian menu.