The Nickel
The Nickel

The Nickel had a hard act to follow: The prior tenant in its Hotel Teatro space was iconic Denver chef Kevin Taylor's long-running Restaurant Kevin Taylor. But it's risen admirably to the challenge, especially after Russell Stippich took control of the kitchen in the middle of last year. Stippich's team pays homage to American classics and draws inspiration from the culinary memories of the kitchen staff; the resulting menu is at once familiar and exhilarating, making it an ideal middle ground for all types of palates. That suits it: In addition to serving a hotel full of guests, the Nickel's location close to the Denver Center for the Performing Arts makes it a no-brainer for pre-theater dining. The power move, though, is to make a reservation for after the show starts: This place is strong enough to be the star of an evening (or brunch) devoted only to eating out.

Readers' Choice: Hearth & Dram

Citizen Rail
Danielle Lirette

Citizen Rail isn't technically a steakhouse, since the menu at this Hotel Born restaurant ranges further afield than just steak, creamed spinach and a classic wedge. But when we want a great piece of beef, this is where we go, drawn by steaks that are hand-cut by an in-house butcher, then dry-aged for a month (or two or three). All of that patience pays off, resulting in wood-fired New York strips, bone-in ribeyes and hulking, 48-ounce tomahawks with deeply concentrated flavors and unparalleled tenderness. In true steakhouse style, you get your choice of sauce, from Béarnaise to bourbon peppercorn, but we recommend eating meat this good plain. The bar is nifty, too — a bonus when there's a wait for a table.

Readers' Choice: Guard and Grace

Tavernetta
Danielle Lirette

The strength of Tavernetta lies in the details; everything — food, decor, service — lives up to the reputation of owners Lachlan Mackinnon-Patterson and Bobby Stuckey, who shot to stardom more than a decade ago with their fine-dining restaurant, Frasca Food and Wine. Tavernetta doesn't have Frasca's tablecloths or price point, but it does whisk you to Italy with every aperol spritz, every plate of ruby-hued carpaccio, every bowl of filled pasta lovingly twisted into edible origami. Under the supervision of executive chef Ian Wortham, who took multiple trips to Italy and staged in six restaurants over a two-year-period, the menu unfolds in a sophisticated and approachable manner, rooted in Italian traditions but subtly reframed. Whether you sit in the lounge for an aperitivo, enjoying the views of Union Station over an assortment of reasonably priced snacks, or in one of the dining rooms for a multi-course feast with a bottle of red expertly chosen by the sommelier, you'll always be well taken care of, with a level of service rarely seen these days.

Readers' Choice: There...

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