So far, 2018 has thrown plenty of great new food our way: dim sum carts filled with Latin American flavors; a rural cider house with a rustic, wood-fired menu; a Southern eatery that looks far beyond fried chicken, biscuits and gravy for inspiration. Denver chefs seem more enamored of international influences than ever before, whether from South America, China, Spain or Mexico. The result has been a delicious mix of unique offerings in stunning settings, as well as a few new neighborhood kitchens taking chances while remaining true to what their guests want. Here are the ten best new restaurants that opened in the first six months of 2018. If they're any indication of the year's food trends, we're really looking forward to what the next six months will bring!
1380 Horizon Avenue, Lafayette
Stem Ciders has played a pivotal role in the resurgence of cider, once one of America's favorite beverages. After five years of small-batch production in a tiny cider house downtown, the company thought big — really big — with its new Boulder County farmhouse restaurant. Located on more than ten acres of hilltop property (where orchards and vegetable gardens are even now being planted), Acreage combines a cider taproom and wood-fired kitchen to draw guests from the entire Front Range. Subtle Spanish influences on the menu nod to cider's European origins, while rustic American cooking keeps the food grounded. And without making a fuss of it, Acreage is almost entirely gluten-free. A seat in the bright and airy dining room, with views of Boulder Valley and the Rocky Mountains, makes for a relaxing evening of sipping and dining in the country.
43 West Ninth Avenue
After Charcoal closed in 2017, the Golden Triangle was in need of a dining room serving creative, chef-driven cuisine that didn't feel stuffy or uptight. Ad Hominem is the answer, offering a tight menu of seasonal creations with equal hints of whimsy and comfort. A glowing, glass-encased herb garden to the side of the dining room gives guests a glimpse of the greenery that will make it onto their plates, and a menu centered on local produce and proteins makes for a distinctly Colorado experience while sending tendrils into Japan, Italy and Mexico.
730 South University Boulevard
A new restaurant in an old neighborhood can be a scary proposition for residents who value familiarity over change, tradition over trendiness. The founding team at Brightmarten understood this when they took over the former 730 South in April. While platings and sensibilities are thoroughly modern, executive chef Jake Grant keeps his menu in check; there's even a dish called "steak and potatoes." You'll also find nachos, skillet cornbread and a roasted half chicken, but it's the attention to details and quality of ingredients that keep customers coming back. That, and a team of Denver restaurant veterans who prize hospitality as much as good food.
2014 Tenth Street, Boulder
You need only know that Zoe Ma Ma founder Edwin Zoe is the man behind this new Boulder restaurant to understand that it's worth a visit. But add an eclectic roster of Asian dishes that reads like a greatest hits of what we're craving right now, and a reservation — the sooner the better — is a must. Handmade xiao long bao (also known as soup dumplings), lobster ramen, duck dumplings, pork belly bao buns and a noodle dish called "Everybody Chow Fun" are all draws. Put an exclamation point on the end of your night with a housemade fortune cookie complete with a trio of sweet dipping sauces.
6830 South Yosemite Street, Centennial
There's nothing fancy about this fast-casual joint in the southern suburbs, but that's exactly the point. Chef/owner Afred Rojas has compiled an edible encyclopedia of street food from Latin America, going from Mexico to Argentina, with stops in Peru, Colombia, Cuba and Venezuela along the way. Sample empanadas from two countries, dig into hefty tortas, Cuban sandwiches or an Argentinian choripan (a grilled sausage sub), or go nuts with a nachos-style plate of salchipapas — a mound of fries loaded with cheese, guacamole, salsas and hot dog slices. You won't have to face off with an expert mixologist or share an overwrought small plate with your ten closest friends here; expect only big, flavorful portions without the typical sticker shock.