The 100 Best Denver Restaurants

Rioja

Rioja
Scott Lentz
When chef Jen Jasinski and Beth Gruith opened Rioja seventeen years ago, it was a game changer for this block — and it’s still a winner. Rioja was the last place we ate before the March 2020 pandemic shutdown and the first place we ate when restaurants reopened that May. A meal here is just a quintessential experience, whether you’re eating on the expanded patio or in the chic dining room that offers a view of the kitchen, where Jasinski can still sometimes be spotted cooking up her trademark pasta and other Mediterranean-influenced dishes. ($$$$)
1431 Larimer St., Denver, 80202

The 100 Best Denver Restaurants

Ace Eat Serve

Ace Eat Serve
Courtesy Ace Eat Serve
Ace owners Josh and Jen Wolkon, who also run Steuben’s, had a fast hit on their hands when they opened their ping-pong hall and pan-Asian eatery in 2012. The menu at Ace Eat Serve has just gotten better over the years, especially since chef Thach Tran joined the team, adding a Peking duck special, hearty noodle soups and new flavors from Vietnam, Thailand and China. ($$)
501 E. 17th Ave., Denver, 80203

The 100 Best Denver Restaurants

African Grill and Bar

African Grill and Bar
Mark Antonation
Sylvester and Theodora Osei-Fordwuo launched their second eatery at the beginning of 2019, after the success of their Green Valley Ranch location, bringing their unique, delicious cooking to Lakewood. Though the original location is now closed, African Grill and Bar is still going strong, with bold spices flavoring uncommon dishes representing Ghana, Nigeria and other African nations, as well as warm service from the owners and their family. ($$$)
955 S. Kipling Parkway, Lakewood, 80226

The 100 Best Denver Restaurants

American Elm

American Elm
Leigh Chavez Bush
American Elm opened in 2019 with a seasoned pro calling the shots. Taking inspiration from Williamsburg, Brooklyn, where owner Bob Reiter previously lived, the restaurant is a neighborhood bistro with an elevated approach that makes it worth a trip to Highland, if that doesn’t happen to be your neighborhood. And the bar offerings are among the best in town. ($$$)
4132 W. 38th Ave., Denver, 80212

The 100 Best Denver Restaurants

Angelo's Taverna

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, even though it’s now on its second owners (who opened a second outpost in Littleton). Even if you’re a half-shell lover, Angelo’s makes a compelling argument for a char-grilled preparation, with oysters dressed up with garlic butter, bacon and Gorgonzola or chipotle bourbon butter. Beyond bivalves and pizza, it's got a stacked lineup of Italian fare — some classic, like chicken parm and vodka penne, while other options have an Angelo's twist, like the chile relleno ravioli. Whatever you order, don't skip the housemade limoncello. ($$)
620 E. 6th Ave., Denver, 80203

The 100 Best Denver Restaurants

Annette

Annette
Danielle Lirette
Located in Stanley Marketplace, Annette is a beautiful restaurant flooded with light and dotted with natural elements that make the room feel sophisticated, not stark. Chef/owner Caroline Glover cooks seasonal ingredients over a wood-fired grill with equal parts reverence and panache, turning out dishes that read as home cooking, even when venturing into such chef-driven ingredients as beef tongue, octopus and heirloom vegetables. ($$$$)
2501 Dallas St., Aurora, 80010

The 100 Best Denver Restaurants

Bar Dough

Bar Dough
Kayla Jones
Chef Russell Stippich took over the kitchen at Bar Dough just before the pandemic put the kibosh on indoor dining, making for a challenging start as the traditionally sit-down eatery navigated food to go. Two years later, Stippich has finally gotten the chance to hit his stride at this LoHi eatery from the Culinary Creative Group, which was once helmed by >i alum Carrie Baird. The only thing better than sidling up to the bar for an Aperol spritz and fried pizza dough hot pocket at happy hour is settling in for a full meal so you can linger over burrata with housemade piada bread, spicy diavolo pizza and crave-worthy pasta. Bonus: Bar Dough also serves an Italian spin on brunch. ($$$)
2227 W. 32nd Ave., Denver, 80211

The 100 Best Denver Restaurants

Barolo Grill

Barolo Grill
Mark Antonation
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 continued the tradition of taking the staff on annual trips to Italy (pandemic aside), 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

Bastien's Restaurant

Bastien's Restaurant
Mark Antonation
There may not be another restaurant in Denver that’s used its history to such great advantage, keeping everything noteworthy from the past — from the mid-century aesthetic to the steakhouse presentations — while meeting the expectations of modern diners. The family-run business dates back to the 1930s, but the current incarnation was constructed in 1958, in distinct Googie style, from the roofline to the neon sign. A sugar steak — served no more than medium-rare — gives a taste of Colfax Avenue’s swingin’, stylish earlier days. ($$$$)
3503 E. Colfax Ave., Denver, 80206

The 100 Best Denver Restaurants

Beckon

Beckon
Danielle Lirette
Beckon’s chef’s-counter dining room feels like a dinner party thrown by a close friend — if that friend happened to be the best cook you know. But even at the outdoor seating under the covered patio, the Beckon experience is unique, thanks to thoughtful executive chef Duncan Holmes and the entire Beckon team, which exudes hospitality. The pre-paid tasting menu changes quarterly, and the whole experience lasts about two and a half hours. ($$$$)
2843 Larimer St., Denver, 80205

The 100 Best Denver Restaurants

Bellota

Bellota
Molly Martin
Restaurateur Bryan Dayton closed Acorn at the Source in the summer of 2020, but quickly reopened as Bellota, Spanish for "acorn." The space is still hip and airy, with a menu of Mexican cuisine overseen by executive chef Manny Barella, who hails from Monterrey, Mexico, and worked in fine-dining restaurants in California as well as Frasca in Boulder and Uchi in Denver before bringing a taste of his hometown to Bellota. ($$)
3350 Brighton Blvd., Denver, 80216

The 100 Best Denver Restaurants

Biker Jim's Gourmet Dogs

Biker Jim's Gourmet Dogs
Molly Martin
How does a humble hot-dog cart rise to the status of one of Denver’s top dogs in the restaurant business? Chalk it up to the creative and obsessive mind of Jim Pittenger, who started out with Coca-Cola-braised onions and cream cheese shot out of a caulking gun as a topping combo that elevated his wieners above the competition. Wild-game and specialty sausages have drawn food celebrities including Anthony Bourdain, Ludo Lefebvre and Andrew Zimmern, as well as long lines of tube-steak tourists and frankfurter fanatics. ($)
2148 Larimer St., Denver, 80205

The 100 Best Denver Restaurants

The Bindery

The Bindery
Danielle Lirette
Linda Hampsten Fox, the Bindery’s chef/owner, lived and worked in Italy for decades, and the elegant dinner menu of the restaurant she opened in 2017 reflects her intimate knowledge of that country. But the culinary roster ranges farther, with Mexican and New American influences that reflect experiences throughout Hampsten Fox’s nearly thirty-year career, as well as her penchant for unusual proteins and brash flavor combinations. ($$$$)
1817 Central St., Denver, 80211

The 100 Best Denver Restaurants

Bittersweet

Bittersweet
Mark Manger
In a neighborhood better known for convenience stores and takeout Chinese, Greek and Thai, chef Olav Peterson and his wife, Melissa Severson, have carved out a reputation for avant-garde cuisine with an eye toward seasonality. Since it opened in 2011, Bittersweet has never been pretentious or unapproachable; instead, its offerings delight with discovery while remaining grounded in familiar flavors. ($$$$)
500 E. Alameda Ave., Denver, 80209

The 100 Best Denver Restaurants

Blackbelly

Blackbelly
Danielle Lirette
Chef Hosea Rosenberg turned his 2009 victory on Bravo’s Top Chef into a culinary business that started with a food truck and catering company, then opened Blackbelly in 2014. The butcher-driven eatery encompasses all of the chef’s passions: charcuterie, top cuts from locally raised animals, and Southwestern flavors from his childhood in New Mexico. Blackbelly’s next-door butcher shop provides an endless supply of cured meats and fresh cuts for the restaurant as well as your home kitchen. ($$$)
1606 Conestoga St., Boulder, 80301

The 100 Best Denver Restaurants

Blazing Chicken Shack II

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

The 100 Best Denver Restaurants

Blue Pan Pizza

Blue Pan Pizza
Molly Martin
Detroit-style pies, known for their rectangular shape and caramelized cheese edges, have become so popular in recent years that even Pizza Hut has sliced into the trend. Chef Jeff “Smoke” Smokevitch and partner Giles Flanagin introduced the city to the finer points of this regional style when they opened the first Blue Pan in West Highland in 2015. That location has since expanded its dining room, and Blue Pan opened a second outpost, too — in Congress Park — making it easier to get your hands on these pies built on an airy, crackly crust with Wisconsin brick cheese, a thick, tangy sauce and premium toppings. Blue Pan also offers a gluten-free pizza, a New York style and a cracker-thin Chicago style. ($)
3930 W. 32nd Ave., Denver, 80212

The 100 Best Denver Restaurants

Brasserie Brixton

Brasserie Brixton
Molly Martin
Brasserie Brixton is housed in a building that’s over 130 years old and used to be a neighborhood market. Inspired by meals he had while traveling abroad, Justin Morse — who co-owns the eatery with his girlfriend, Amy Keil, and their business partner, Matt Daniels — aimed to create a place that is decidedly unstuffy. He wanted to make French food more accessible and fun, and he succeeded. The spot also has an impressive wine list and a selection of cocktails, beer, cider and sake. ($$$$)
3701 N. Williams St., Denver, 80205