Best French Fries 2023 | Gaia Masala & Burger | Best of Denver® | Best Restaurants, Bars, Clubs, Music and Stores in Denver | Westword
Molly Martin

The fast-casual Gaia Masala & Burger offers straight-up Indian dishes, a smattering of Mediterranean entrees like falafel and shawarma, and a handful of burgers. But dig deeper into the menu and you'll find the really exciting stuff: neon-orange tikka masala cheesesteaks; a burger topped with mint, cucumber and tikka masala sauce; and (our fave) cheesy masala fries served plain or piled with a choice of chicken, lamb or cheesesteak. The best part? You can dig into these loaded fries until 2 a.m., as Gaia is one of the few Denver eateries open 'til the wee hours.

Molly Martin

Atomic Cowboy, Fat Sully's and the Denver Biscuit Company make up a three-in-one concept that has grown to seven locations and is known mainly for towering biscuit sandwiches and giant slices of pizza. It also serves up an unexpected item known as the Lights Out Burger. And it's perfect: Two smashburger-style patties, aged American cheese, housemade pickles, a layer of minced onions and a tangy burger sauce are all loaded onto a garlic butter-toasted brioche bun. The resulting burger is greasy in all the right ways and completely impossible to put down until every drippy bite is gone. It also rings in at just $8.95, and is an even better deal during happy hour, when the price drops to six bucks.


The green chile cheeseburger at Steuben's has been on the menu since Josh Wolkon opened the restaurant in 2006, and there's no plan to ever change that. The original inspiration came from a manager at the now-closed Vesta Dipping Grill, who tapped into his New Mexican roots to bring a taste of his childhood to the Denver spot, adding chopped Hatch green chiles and American cheese to the beef patty. The whole thing comes on a soft brioche bun, and you can add any combo of tomato, onion, mayo, lettuce and mustard. But even without the accoutrements, the balance of smoky chiles, melty cheese and fatty beef make this burger a winner.

Fellow Traveler

An understated facade and simple "FT" signage belies Fellow Traveler's airy, globally inspired interior, decorated with vintage world maps and pull-down images of iconic travel vistas to enliven the backdrop of your booth. The rotating food menu hosts transcontinental vegan delights, including a coconut curry aloo gobi, green chile chilaquiles, pineapple fried rice and a mixed street taco plate filled with the flavors of ingredients such as Thai curry-marinated tofu. The back bar is also an international affair, with deep dives into Mexico's mezcals, a Malört tasting flight and bottles of limoncello that are made in-house by co-owner Joe Philips and available for sale to take home.

Pit Fiend Barbecue

After the much-loved barbecue joint Owlbear closed in January 2022, a trio of friends, two of them former employees, took it over and reopened it as Pit Fiend Barbecue. Since then, they've been keeping the fire stoked in RiNo. While the Dungeons & Dragons-themed eatery kept some old favorites around, like Owlbear's Texas-style brisket and legendary mac and cheese, the new pitmasters excel at experimenting with barbecue traditions from around the world, bringing unique items such as ras el hanout lamb, vegan smoked mushrooms and a rotating sausage of the week to the menu.

Courtesy Wayne's Smoke Shack

On December 30, 2021, the Marshall Fire swept through Boulder County, causing massive destruction. Wayne and Sam Shelnutt, the husband-and-wife owners of Wayne's Smoke Shack, lost their homes; they lost a car, too. And while the building that held the business they had been running for nine years still stood, it suffered severe smoke damage. But just over a year later, Wayne's reopened, welcomed by its many fans who continue to line up on Fridays and Saturdays for a taste of its Texas-style 'cue. The relaunched joint also has an expanded market, where you can stock up on grab-and-go options, including frozen barbecue for easy at-home meals.

Molly Martin

In Northeast Park Hill, one block off Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, Blazing Chicken Shack II may look unassuming from the outside, but it's pure Southern-style hospitality when you walk in the door. Since 2015, Blazing Chicken has been serving up a menu filled with down-home staples, from fried chicken, catfish and gumbo to mac and cheese, collard greens and black-eyed peas. One must-order, though, is the perfectly seasoned oxtail-and-rice special, which is only available on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays.

Molly Martin

This local New Orleans-inspired brunch chain does a lot of things right. Its beignets are piled high with powdered sugar, the mimosas are made with fresh-squeezed orange juice, and the menu is filled with hits whether you opt for giant flaky biscuits with sausage gravy or shrimp and grits. Whatever you choose, add on a side of the slow-braised collard greens studded with shreds of smoked ham hock, then douse the whole thing in Lucile's own brand of hot-pepper vinegar for a true taste of Southern cooking.

A5 Steakhouse

We could talk about A5's thoughtful sourcing of some seriously high-quality beef that's always cooked just right. Or about the fact that you don't even have to order steak at all to have an indulgent, memorable meal here, with options like oysters, the beef tartare katsu sandwich and the French dip (which is available only at the bar). But what we really love about this restaurant, which joined the scene in 2021, is that it's downright fun, bringing fresh energy to the classic steakhouse concept that was once the darling of the Denver dining scene.

Major Tom

The team behind upscale tasting-menu concept Beckon added the à la carte Major Tom — the name is inspired by David Bowie's "Space Oddity" — in February, and it's already making a big impression, thanks in large part to one substantial entree: the 25-ounce heritage pork chop, with its expertly rendered fat and drizzle of brown butter and red wine vinegar on top. It's pure pork perfection, plain and simple.

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