El Chingon | The 100 Best Denver Restaurants We Can't Live Without | Westword

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December 4, 2023

Dining out in Denver is better than ever, and we’ve got the proof: this list of our current 100 favorite restaurants. Tried-and-true spots are still going strong, providing a nostalgic taste of the Mile High’s culinary foundation. But there has also been a slew of impressive additions in recent years, upping the ante for anyone in search of a memorable meal.

While a lot of well-deserved hype hit when the Michelin Guide released its first Colorado edition, we opted to leave the metro area’s first one-star eateries off this list — but not because we’d ever want to live without them. Quite the opposite: Frasca, Beckon, the Wolf’s Tailor and Brutø are powerhouses, and their contributions have helped Colorado’s culinary scene gain national recognition. Instead, we chose to highlight sister concepts of each, all destinations in their own right where you might have a shot at getting a seat.

Anything within the Westword circulation area — which stretches from Boulder to Castle Rock, Aurora to Evergreen — was eligible for consideration, as long as the restaurant was open by Labor Day 2023. We pushed the envelope for two delicious exceptions: concepts that moved into brick-and-mortar locations after dishing up delicious eats for years in other formats.

Ready to dig in? From hole-in-the-wall eateries, diners and bakeries to steakhouses and splurge-worthy escapes, these picks celebrate everything we love about the city’s diverse dining options.
- By Molly Martin

The 100 Best Denver Restaurants We Can't Live Without

El Chingon

El Chingon
El Chingon
The late Gloria Nunez and her grandson, David Lopez, opened the original El Chingon in a strip mall in Arvada in 2010 before moving to a small space in Berkeley. In 2022, Gloria’s son, Lorenzo Nunez Jr., closed the restaurant in order to better accommodate the many fans of its Mexico City-inspired fare. A year later, El Chingon is back in LoHi, with more space but just as much heart. That El Chingon is a family affair gives every dish just a little more soul and a little more flavor, whether it’s a favorite like carne asada or soft chile rellenos, or a more upscale offering such as scallop crudo. ($$)
1691 Central St., Denver, 80211

The 100 Best Denver Restaurants We Can't Live Without

A5 Steakhouse

A5 Steakhouse
A5 Steakhouse
The Culinary Creative Group has had a string of hits, but A5, which debuted in 2021, stands out — and not just for its steaks (though those are excellent). With lively, retro-inspired vibes, this is the kind of place where we want to go for special-occasion dinners, weeknight happy hours and everything in between. Whether you belly up to the bar for a well-crafted Manhattan and a French dip or settle in at a table for a multi-course feast complete with oysters and A5 wagyu, this spot always delivers in both flavor and fun. ($$$$)
1600 15th St., Denver, 80202

The 100 Best Denver Restaurants We Can't Live Without

Abejas

Abejas
Molly Martin
Since Abejas opened in downtown Golden in 2015, the intimate eatery has become a standout for fine dining in the western suburbs. The name is Spanish for “bees,” after founders Brandon Bortles and Barry Dobesh, who were called “the Bs” by their friends — and it’s still buzz-worthy, thanks to its eclectic, seasonal roster of clever yet grounded dishes incorporating global influences and bolstered by playful cocktails and a succinct but smart list of wines by the glass. ($$$$)
807 13th St., Golden, 80401

The 100 Best Denver Restaurants We Can't Live Without

Adobo

Adobo
Molly Martin
After a head-on motorcycle accident derailed his career in finance, Blaine Baggao re-evaluated his professional path, ultimately launching Adobo in 2016 as a food truck that combines his New Mexican and Filipino roots. Its first brick-and-mortar is an expansive space that hosts live music and serves food into the late-night hours, with a menu of hits that includes favorites like lumpia and chicken adobo tacos. ($)
3109 Federal Blvd., Denver, 80211

The 100 Best Denver Restaurants We Can't Live Without

African Grill and Bar

African Grill and Bar
Molly Martin
The menu isn’t limited to a specific African region at this restaurant owned and run by Sylvester Osei-Fordwuo and his wife, Theodora. Instead, it offers a variety of foods from across the continent. If dishes like fufu, South African pap and chakalaka sound unfamiliar, worry not: The knowledgeable staff is happy to help guide you, delivering plenty of warm hospitality along the way. ($$)
955 S. Kipling Parkway, Lakewood, 80226

The 100 Best Denver Restaurants We Can't Live Without

Angelo's Taverna

Angelo's Taverna
Molly Martin
Angelo's Taverna bills itself as Denver's original pizza and oyster bar — and since 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, though it’s now on its second owners (who opened a second outpost in Littleton). Even if you love oysters raw, Angelo’s makes a compelling argument for a chargrilled preparation, dressing them up with garlic butter, bacon and Gorgonzola or chipotle bourbon butter. There’s also a stacked lineup of Italian fare, but whatever you order, don't skip the housemade limoncello. ($$)
620 E. 6th Ave., Denver, 80203

The 100 Best Denver Restaurants We Can't Live Without

Annette

Annette
Annette
In 2022, Annette chef-owner Caroline Glover became Aurora’s first James Beard Award winner, five years after she opened her first solo venture. Over the years, this Stanley Marketplace anchor has only gotten better as Glover plays with seasonal ingredients to keep things fresh while also revisiting past favorites from time to time. The beef tongue remains a staple, the happy-hour steak frites are swoon-worthy, and we always save room for whatever dessert the kitchen is dishing out — especially if it’s a Paris-Brest pastry. ($$$$)
2501 Dallas St., Aurora, 80010

The 100 Best Denver Restaurants We Can't Live Without

Aspen Lodge Bar & Grill

Aspen Lodge Bar & Grill
Molly Martin
What do lava lamps, Christmas trees and Iron Maiden have in common? Mesut Cetin, the amiable owner and chef of Aspen Lodge loves them all, which is why his Westminster joint is packed with an impressive collection of the retro lights, year-round holiday decor and odes to metal. His other passion: sharing food from his native Turkey, which he serves alongside typical bar fare and “the best Philly cheesesteak in 666 miles radius,” as the sign out front proclaims.
8125 W. 94th Ave., Westminster, 80021

The 100 Best Denver Restaurants We Can't Live Without

Bakery Four

Bakery Four
Bakery Four
In 2022, Shawn Bergin’s popular Bakery Four moved into a space much larger than its previous Highland home, though the line still often snakes out the door. The new address meant not only room for more customers, but also plenty of space to expand the pastry selection and add savory items like sandwiches. The only thing more tantalizing than a sweet treat from here is the promise of more to come as Bergin prepares to open a second, bagel-focused concept called Rich Spirit in Wheat Ridge. ($)
4150 Tennyson St., Denver, 80212

The 100 Best Denver Restaurants We Can't Live Without

Banh & Butter Bakery Cafe

Banh & Butter Bakery Cafe
Banh & Butter
Pastry chef Thoa Nguyen dreamed of running her own Parisian-style Asian-fusion bakery for years. One of the daughters of the former owners of New Saigon, she grew up in the restaurant business. Now she’s running the show at this spot, which excels not only in sweets such as crepe cakes and croissants, but savory options like banh mi and classic Parisian-style ham and butter sandwiches. ($)
9935 E. Colfax Ave., Aurora, 80010

The 100 Best Denver Restaurants We Can't Live Without

Bar Dough

Bar Dough
Molly Martin
Open since 2015, Bar Dough feels like a longtime staple in LoHi, where the Italian eatery offers fresh pasta, pizza, small plates and a top-notch happy hour. The kitchen is led by chef Russell Stippich, who spent time at Frasca, Acorn and the Populist before joining the Culinary Creative restaurant group and landing at Bar Dough. ($$$)
2227 W. 32nd Ave., Denver, 80211

The 100 Best Denver Restaurants We Can't Live Without

Barolo Grill

Barolo Grill
Barolo Grill
Since 1992, Barolo Grill has served upscale Northern Italian fare in Cherry Creek with charm and sophistication — and a generous amount of vintage wine. Ryan Fletter, who worked there for nearly as long as it's been open, took over from Blair Taylor as owner in 2015 and quickly installed executive chef Darrel Truett in the kitchen, where cutting-edge presentations and techniques have kept the restaurant relevant and rewarding for guests. Fletter has also continued the tradition of taking the staff on annual trips to Italy, and Barolo's truffle dinner remains one of Denver's most indulgent culinary nights of the year. ($$$$)
3030 E. 6th Ave., Denver, 80206

The 100 Best Denver Restaurants We Can't Live Without

Bastien's Restaurant

Bastien's Restaurant
Molly Martin
With its iconic sign, sunken bar and mid-century aesthetic, Bastien's is a holdover from times past — and we wouldn't have it any other way. The family-run business dates back to the 1930s, but the current restaurant was constructed from scratch in 1958. That sign outside the Googie-style building touts the famed Bastien’s sugar steak, but there are twelve other preparations to choose from. And whether or not you splurge on a full steak dinner, nothing beats sipping Colfax dirty martinis delivered by friendly servers who've been working at this classic for years. ($$$$)
3503 E. Colfax Ave., Denver, 80206

The 100 Best Denver Restaurants We Can't Live Without

The Bindery

The Bindery
Molly Martin
Linda Hampsten Fox opened her LoHi eatery — part market, part all-day dining destination — in 2017. Six years later, the menu continues to show off her passion for highlighting seasonal ingredients in unexpected ways as she composes dishes inspired by memories from her childhood, her travels and a thirty-year-plus career in restaurants. ($$$$)
1817 Central St., Denver, 80211

The 100 Best Denver Restaurants We Can't Live Without

Bistro LeRoux

Bistro LeRoux
Bistro LeRoux
Lon Symensma's snazzy European restaurant debuted just before New Year’s Eve 2018 next door to one of his other eateries, ChoLon, home of his famed French onion-soup dumplings. After a brief closure in 2021, it came back with a new lounge area and a revamped menu, with a tighter focus on French fare. The design details in this sexy spot, including eye-catching chandeliers, make it ideal for date nights, during which you can dig into both shareable small plates and larger entrees that cover such bistro staples as steamed mussels and delicately layered potato pavé. ($$$$)
1510 16th St., Denver, 80202

The 100 Best Denver Restaurants We Can't Live Without

Blackbelly

Blackbelly
Molly Martin
After winning Top Chef in 2009, chef Hosea Rosenberg launched a food truck and catering company before opening Blackbelly in 2014. Now he’s expanded the business even more, creating what the team calls a “culinary campus” complete with an upscale dining area, private dining room, two patios, and a market that showcases its in-house butchering, charcuterie and baking programs. It also serves daytime fare such as sandwiches and one of the best breakfast burritos in the metro area. In 2023, Blackbelly’s efforts were rewarded when it earned a Michelin green star for excellence in sustainability. ($$$$)
1606 Conestoga St., Boulder, 80301

The 100 Best Denver Restaurants We Can't Live Without

Blazing Chicken Shack II

Blazing Chicken Shack II
Molly Martin
This small spot tucked a block off Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard may not look particularly welcoming from the outside, with its caged-in windows and barred door, but you’ll find warm hospitality inside Blazing Chicken, along with a menu full of homestyle Southern classics. From the fried chicken to the gumbo to sides like mac and cheese and collard greens studded with shredded ham hock and bolstered with cabbage, this is soul food done right. ($)
5560 E. 33rd Ave., Denver, 80207

The 100 Best Denver Restaurants We Can't Live Without

Bodega Denver

Bodega Denver
Bodega Denver
When Northside native Cliff Blauvelt, the chef-owner of Bodega, opened his neighborhood eatery in 2022, he described the offerings as "sandwich-forward." Since then, Bodega has gained a lot of fans both in and outside Sunnyside for a number of reasons, including its morning menu, which made it our 2023 pick for Best Breakfast, and its double cheeseburger, one of the best in town. Now Blauvelt is keeping things interesting with playful new additions, like a breakfast-sausage spin on the classic chopped cheese. ($)
2651 W. 38th Ave., Denver, 80211

The 100 Best Denver Restaurants We Can't Live Without

Bourbon Grill

Bourbon Grill
Molly Martin
Since 2002, the aroma of chargrilled chicken has wafted from Bourbon Grill, which began as a walk-up window with a perpetual line before moving into a larger space with indoor seating in 2017. The star, of course, is the bourbon chicken, served in a hefty portion over rice with a choice of two sides. Founder and chef Lien Vo also dishes up other favorites like egg rolls, wings and creamy mac and cheese, all at prices that make a meal here one of the best values in town. ($)
571 E. Colfax Ave., Denver, 80203

The 100 Best Denver Restaurants We Can't Live Without

Brasserie Brixton

Brasserie Brixton
Shawn Campbell
This isn’t like a regular French restaurant. It’s a cool French restaurant. Housed in a building that’s over 130 years old and once held a neighborhood market, the eatery is decidedly unstuffy and boasts an impressive wine list as well as a strong selection of cocktails, beer, cider and sake. Stop in for a bowl of French onion soup, or eat your way through a selection of dishes with playful touches that change with the seasons. Every neighborhood deserves a spot this good. ($$$$)
3701 Williams St., Denver, 80205

The 100 Best Denver Restaurants We Can't Live Without

Cafe Brazil

Cafe Brazil
Summer Powell
Cafe Brazil has been a haven for Mediterranean-inflected South American cuisine for more than thirty years. If you’ve been in Denver long enough, you probably knocked back your first caipirinha here — possibly even at the eatery’s original Highland location (long before folks started calling the area LoHi). Come for the slow-roasted meats, baked sweet plantains and satisfying seafood stews, like the coconut milk-enriched moqueca de peixe, and stay for a rum flight and warm hospitality from owners Tony and Marla Zarlenga. ($$$)
4408 Lowell Blvd., Denver, 80211