Best Oysters
Danielle Lirette

Oysters arrive alive from America's coastal waters, but if they've been clammed up too long, they start to suffer. So getting the best oysters to Denver as quickly as possible is the trick to making sure they're at their freshest. Stoic & Genuine's connections with oyster growers on both the Atlantic and Pacific coasts ensures that every oyster is sweet and briny, and that the individual flavors of each variety shine through. While that dedication to freshness doesn't come cheap, S & G offers an oyster hour with discount mollusks alongside reduced-price cocktails, wine and beer. So go ahead and order more; your oyster shucker will set you up with another round.

Best Steakhouse
Danielle Lirette

Denver's reputation as a cowtown — in the form of steak, not cattle wandering the streets — is bolstered by chef/restaurateur Troy Guard's upscale and always busy Guard and Grace. Only the best cuts make it onto the menu, whether grain-fed Prime, grass-fed or wagyu. But there's more than just beef here; a raw bar supplies seafood towers with oysters, lobster, crab legs and shrimp, and an international roster of appetizers and small plates covers everything from artichokes to octopus. Mark your calendars with upcoming special occasions — and spend them all at Guard and Grace.

Best Food Hall
Danielle Lirette

Chef/restaurateur Frank Bonanno's Milk Market in the Dairy Block honors the notion of a true market while offering enough variety to keep visitors happy. At one of the food hall's counters, you can get yourself a lobster roll while your family or friends explore fried chicken, burgers, pizza, salads, pasta, bao buns and much, much more. And when you've all eaten your fill, you can grab prepared foods and raw ingredients — such as meats, cheeses, pasta and seafood — to cook at home. But don't miss the chance to enjoy cocktails, a pour of Colorado craft beer or a nitro cold brew coffee on the patio, where you can watch downtown Denver coming back to life.

Best New Restaurant in a Food Hall

Bellota

Best New Restaurant in a Food Hall
Mark Antonation

Bryan Dayton and Steve Redzikowski closed Acorn last summer after seven critically acclaimed years at the Source on Brighton Boulevard, citing the difficulty of doing fine dining during the pandemic. But even then, Dayton said there were new things planned for the space. And just a couple of months later, Dayton, Redzikowski and chef Bill Espiricueta (who also owns Smok in the same complex) reopened the restaurant as Bellota, a Mexican eatery with chef Manny Barella as executive chef. The menu combines Barella's childhood memories of food in his hometown of Monterrey, Mexico, with his career in fine-dining restaurants in California and Colorado. The result is a step up from standard margarita-soaked cantinas, but without a drop of stuffiness.

Best Hotel Restaurant
Danielle Lirette

Holding up one corner of the Ramble Hotel in RiNo, the second effort from Tony Maciag, Tabitha Knop and chef Dana Rodriguez (after the brilliant Work & Class across the street) turns out a rich and varied array of Latin American dishes, many from Mexico, where Rodriguez grew up. Whole Colorado lambs and chickens are turned into succulent family-style dishes sided with fresh-made tortillas, and other plates large and small come alive with tastes of plantains, coconut, chimichurri and various chiles. Between the riot of aromas rising from the kitchen and the boisterous clamor of joyful guests keeping things lively in the Super Mega Bien dining room and the street outside, it's a wonder anyone in the hotel rooms above gets any rest at all.

Best Takeover of the Block
Mark Antonation

Craig Jones and Eric Hyatt, owners of Angelo's Taverna and Carboy Winery, snatched up some prime restaurant real estate when Govnr's Park Tavern and Lala's closed at the corner of East Seventh Avenue and Logan Street in 2018. They converted the vacated space (including a former dry cleaner) into Ivy on 7th, a breakfast and lunch spot; a wine bar and retail shop for the growing Carboy Winery brand; and a new Mediterranean eatery called Logan Street. Ivy on 7th opened first, but the entire stretch was up and running by August 2019. A year and a half — and a pandemic — later, the trio has become a destination for lovers of wine, food and fresh air, all best enjoyed on the patios overlooking the Governor's Park neighborhood.

Best New Restaurant in a Former Best New Restaurant

The Fifth String

Best New Restaurant in a Former Best New Restaurant
Mark Antonation

When Justin Brunson closed Old Major, his acclaimed LoHi restaurant, in order to focus on River Bear American Meats last spring, it seemed unlikely that anyone would be able to fill his shoes. But the space didn't remain vacant for long, because former Old Major executive chef Amos Watts (who'd filled the same role at Acorn and Corrida) stepped in and turned it into the Fifth String, changing little of the interior decor but launching his own menu of thoughtful and surprisingly veg-forward (given the previous occupant's meaty reputation) dishes. Along with excellent food, the chef/owner brought his love of wine, and his wine roster is already among the deepest and most interesting in town. Watts isn't playing second fiddle to anyone at the Fifth String.

Best New Restaurant
Joni Schrantz

The finest restaurants make you feel as if you're the only one who matters, and that's how Ty Leon, Heather Morrison and Austin Carson treat diners at Olivia, which opened in January 2020. While Leon is in the kitchen folding pasta into intricate shapes for your wonder and amusement, Carson is mixing a cocktail just right for your tastes, and Morrison is gliding between tables to check on your every need. The food must be perfect, too, so that your dinner is a smooth trip in a luxury sedan, not a wild ride of highs and lows. And from bread to entree to dessert, Olivia executes on all cylinders. Each menu item is as tempting as the last, so choosing isn't easy. But a tasting menu solves that problem, and even if you go à la carte, there are no bad choices. Fine dining is a rare treat for most of us, and we want our dining dollars to be well spent. Olivia makes sure that happens every time.

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