Bamboo Sushi
Mark Antonation

When Bamboo Sushi first landed in Denver from Portland, it operated out of a stall at Avanti Food & Beverage, giving the city a tantalizing taste of its sushi. It initially garnered praise mostly for its sustainable sourcing; Bamboo's deep commitment to good ocean stewardship is particularly admirable in a category that relies heavily on over-fished specimens. But that stall turned out to be a rather limited glimpse of the restaurant's capabilities. Bamboo's permanent LoHi location is sleek and modern, with a wide-ranging list of sushi served both traditionally and innovatively, a well-rounded sake list, and an array of izakaya fare that carries Bamboo's sourcing commitment from water to land. Also worth noting is Bamboo's omakase, for which you can set your own price. It feels like a steal, especially paired with the Wednesday night deal on sake, when every single bottle is half price.

Readers' Choice: Sushi Den

Cattivella
Marla Keown

Cattivella means "naughty girl" in Italian, but the only naughty thing about chef-owner Elise Wiggins is that she didn't open her own place sooner. With an approachable menu of shareable plates (think buffalo burrata and flatbread), wood-fired pizzas, entrees and scratch pastas, Cattivella captures the heart and soul of Italy, a country that Wiggins knows well. And since she's a constant presence in the restaurant, no dish goes out without her stamp of approval. With a bustling open kitchen and wrap-around chef's counter, Cattivella, which opened last year in Stapleton, has a convivial vibe, one that spills to the spacious patio when the weather is warm. This is a place where friends greet old friends and newcomers make new ones, all while savoring agnolotti and drinking great wine.

Readers' Choice: Gaetano's

Romano's Italian Restaurant
Lindsey Bartlett

Romano's is truly old, old-school Italian. Neil Romano moved to Denver from Manhattan (bringing some of mother Carmela's recipes with him), and in 1967 founded a three-table pizzeria in Littleton with his wife, Ellie. Over the years the restaurant has expanded in both space and scope, adding liquor and many of those classic dishes, redolent with the garlic that was key to Carmela's spaghetti sauce. Today a third generation of Romanos work the kitchen and the charming dining room, filled with regulars who consider themselves part of the family. That family's motto: "Every day we are grateful for la dolce vita — the sweet life we have found here." And we're grateful they did.

Readers' Choice: Gaetano's

Atelier by Radex
Danielle Lirette

For a chef who's been in the restaurant business as long as he has, Radek Cerny still manages to bring a sense of fun and whimsy to some seriously French cuisine. Papillon, for example, was a smash hit in Cherry Creek before many of today's hot young culinary stars had tasted their first frites. The chef returned to Denver in 2017 after years of serving dinner in Boulder, putting Atelier in the original Il Posto location in the Uptown neighborhood. Here you can luxuriate in rotating classics like duck rillettes, escargot, foie gras and lobster, but Cerny also has a way with such Western favorites as elk (look for wapiti on the menu), Alaskan salmon and bison short ribs. Be sure to bring a few extra bucks for a bottle of wine; the list here is dazzling, and the food is built to match with the best of Burgundy and Bordeaux.

Readers' Choice: Bistro Vendome

Leaf Vegetarian Restaurant
Danielle Lirette

Vibrant vegetarian cooking is about far more than tofu and seitan. Boulderites have long been focused on meat-free dining, so they're a tough lot to impress. Leave it to Leaf to rise above the competition and provide modern, international and inventive dishes that folks actually crave. The restaurant has its own farm, so produce is at its best during Boulder County's growing season, but the kitchen supplements locally grown goods with a worldly roster. Enchiladas are stuffed with jackfruit carnitas, fried chicken is reimagined with meaty king trumpet mushrooms, and sweet-potato gnocchi are dressed with jewels of fava beans, winter squash and nutty pesto. No matter what you order, every bite is alive with the seasons of Colorado.

Readers' Choice: Vital Root

Stoic & Genuine
Danielle Lirette

There may be many fish in Denver's sea of seafood restaurants, but Stoic & Genuine is a real catch. Pull into this Union Station eatery for gleaming oysters, craveable crudos and fabulous fish. If you need a quick lunch, the seared albacore tuna melt on an English muffin or the fish and chips could be just the ticket, but make the return trip for dinner and spoil yourself with caviar service, a seafood tower (bring friends!), or one of Denver's most decadent dishes: the "Surf in Turf," a miraculous melding of New York strip and ahi tuna swathed in a silky black truffle Hollandaise. Don't quite have your sea legs? Buck the trend as all around you slurp shellfish by tucking into S & G's masterful double cheeseburger.

Readers' Choice: Jax Fish House

Angelo's Taverna
Courtesy Angelo's Taverna Facebook page

Angelo's Taverna bills itself as Denver's original pizza and oyster bar — and given that it's been serving central Denver since the Nixon administration, it's safe to say that it's the longest-running restaurant of its ilk. While it was refurbished by new owners in 2013, Angelo's is still all dark woods and stained-glass windows, with the kind of labyrinthine floor plan that suggests the restaurant was built before breezy, cavernous dining rooms became the norm. Oysters still anchor the menu here, and Angelo's offers a rotating menu of mollusks that changes with what's fresh. We're half-shell people, but the restaurant makes a compelling argument for a char-grilled preparation: Your order of a half-dozen can be dressed up with garlic butter or bacon and Gorgonzola. Belly up to the bar during happy hour for $1 East Coast or West Coast oysters, or have them char-grilled for a dollar more.

Readers' Choice: Jax Fish House

Emmerson

During one visit to Emmerson shortly after the restaurant opened last year, a server told us that not every diner was ordering dessert. Big mistake. Chef Jeb Breakell, who co-manages the kitchen with Michael Gibney, came up working pastry in New York fine-dining establishments, and he treats dessert as a true final course, not a gut-busting palate blowout. His sweets, all eye-catching on the plate, boast unusual flavors that are nicely balanced, and they tend to please even the staunchest no-dessert people. With his malted-barley pavlova, you crack open the matcha tea-dusted airy puff only to find buckwheat cream, its nuanced earthiness playing foil to the sugar. The shiro miso flan with sudachi citrus-infused caramel and pear marries savory, tart and floral notes in each bite. As the seasons evolve, so will the dessert offerings...but it's hard to imagine anything better than what's served there now.

Cattivella
Marla Keown

You say potato, I say po-tah-to, but at Cattivella, all that matters is that you say crostata, even if you're more familiar with galette, the French word for this rustic, fruit-filled tart. Chef-owner Elise Wiggins learned the recipe from a chef on the Amalfi Coast, and translates it beautifully at the restaurant she launched in Stapleton last spring. Typical crostatas resemble free-form, one-crust pies. Hers is far more satisfying, a mound of barely sweetened fruit tucked inside dough that curls upwards around it like petals. Fillings vary by season — perhaps berries, perhaps apples — but whatever's inside, you'll relish the flaky and buttery crust, with its light sprinkling of demerara sugar, every bit as much. Baked to order, each crostata is finished with a dollop of swoon-worthy amaretto mascarpone mousse.

Best First Half of a Two-Part Restaurant

Call

Call
Danielle Lirette

Call isn't a very evocative name for a restaurant, but it's actually half of Beckon|Call, a dual-concept eatery located in two neighboring bungalows in the heart of the RiNo neighborhood. Beckon will be a seventeen-seat chef's-counter eatery when it opens later this year, but Call opened at the end of last year, serving breakfast, lunch and dinner in its cozy space. A low counter separates customers from the kitchen, making you feel like you're in someone's home during an intimate dinner party. In the morning, coffee, housemade pastries and breads, breakfast sandwiches and tartines (open-faced toasts) are on offer, transitioning to salads, small plates, grab-and-go items and made-to-order entrees for lunch and dinner. Chef Duncan Holmes, whose culinary skills will be showcased at Beckon, orchestrates the action at Call, creating fare worthy of the best white-tablecloth dining rooms in a casual setting. Don't miss sweet and savory takes on ebelskivers — like Danish doughnut holes.

Best Of Denver®

Best Of