Best of Denver

Denver's Twelve Best Breakfast Restaurants

Benedicts come in pleasing versions at Hashtag.
Benedicts come in pleasing versions at Hashtag. Danielle Lirette

Breakfast is the most important meal of the day — whether you're enjoying pancakes and coffee at 7 a.m., eggs Benedict and a Bloody Mary at noon or an omelet and hash browns at midnight. Great breakfast food needn't be fancy, but whether it's served in an upscale restaurant or a greasy spoon, there's an art to crisping bacon, turning out the perfect sunnyside-up egg and stuffing a satisfying burrito. Here are the twelve best breakfast spots in metro Denver, in alphabetical order:

click to enlarge The 20th Street Cafe serves classic American diner fare. - DANIELLE LIRETTE
The 20th Street Cafe serves classic American diner fare.
Danielle Lirette

20th Street Cafe

1123 20th Street

The 20th Street Cafe is one of downtown Denver's last remaining old-school diners, dating back to 1946. For the last twenty years it's been run by Rod and Karen Okuno, third-generation owners; Rod's parents and grandparents operated it before that. The pancakes are big and fluffy (and sometimes studded with blueberries), the green chile zingy and the breakfast burritos fat and filling. If you're there a little later, you can get a taste of the cafe's Japanese heritage: lunch's fried rice and noodle bowls are the last remaining holdouts. But a cup of coffee and an order of Rod's Big Breakfast — pocket your smartphone and grab a newspaper — are all you need to experience Denver as it once was.

click to enlarge The avocado toast at Bacon Social House is a full meal on bread. - MARK ANTONATION
The avocado toast at Bacon Social House is a full meal on bread.
Mark Antonation

Bacon Social House

2434 West 44th Avenue, 720-550-7065
2100 West Littleton Boulevard, Littleton, 720-750-7107

We may have reached peak bacon years ago, but Bacon Social House has turned a breakfast trend into a way of life. Founded in 2015 by restaurateur David Dill, the company now boasts a second location in Littleton with soaring ceilings and a rooftop patio. Bacon is certainly the main event here (don't miss the Baller Bacon or bacon shrimp and grits), but avocado toast (topped with soft scrambled eggs), a Costa Rican Benedict (built on jalapeño cornbread) and Grand Marnier French toast keep things lively. The breakfast eatery segues smoothly into afternoon with a full bar — start with a kombucha for a healthy jolt before switching to cocktails — and all-day eats like a killer burger and a Southern Comfort fried-chicken sandwich.

click to enlarge It always feels like sunrise (or sunset) at the Breakfast King. - MARK ANTONATION
It always feels like sunrise (or sunset) at the Breakfast King.
Mark Antonation

The Breakfast King

1100 South Santa Fe Drive

The bright-orange glow in the dining room at the Breakfast King could be the first rays of sunrise, the last light of the dying day — or just the reflection of overhead lights on shiny vinyl booths and formica tabletops. Along with enormous platters of omelets, country-fried steak and eggs and corned beef hash, you'll find a Denver original: the toro pot, a beef and hash-brown burrito smothered in the house green chile, thick as country gravy. Breakfast is served all day and all night; this is one of Denver's few 24-hour diners, so you can step in for eggs and bacon after last call at your favorite bar or chase away a morning hangover with stiff coffee and spicy huevos rancheros. Regardless of the time outside, the sun never sets inside the Breakfast King.

click to enlarge Sometimes you just need a biscuit full of bacon after a rough night. Denver Biscuit Company is here for you. - WESTWORD
Sometimes you just need a biscuit full of bacon after a rough night. Denver Biscuit Company is here for you.

Denver Biscuit Co.

Multiple locations

Drew and Ashleigh Shader struck gold when they added breakfast, first test-driven on the streets of Denver with a biscuit food truck, to their East Colfax Avenue bar, Atomic Cowboy. Since then, they've spread the Southern charm to three-in-one locations (there's also Fat Sully's Pizza for late-night cravings) on South Broadway and on Tennyson Street, as well as a standalone DBC at Stanley Marketplace. Country gravy, runny eggs, thick slabs of bacon and other tempting toppings make for a wide range of biscuit sandwiches best eaten with a knife and fork. If you only eat one thing all day, make it the Franklin, loaded with buttermilk fried chicken, gravy, cheddar cheese and bacon.

Rise and shine at Four Friends Kitchen. - DANIELLE LIRETTE
Rise and shine at Four Friends Kitchen.
Danielle Lirette

Four Friends Kitchen

2893 Roslyn Street

Families flock to this five-year-old eatery in Stapleton. Kids love the open floor plan, the chocolate chip pancakes and the wall of Etch-A-Sketches; parents come for drinks, reasonably priced fare and a rooftop patio with a view of all of Stapleton. The menu skews Southern, but with New Mexican flavors thrown in. So your toughest morning decision will be choosing between loaded overnight grits or a breakfast burrito bulging with chorizo, eggs, potatoes and refried beans. You'll find more than just four friends here: All of your friends and neighbors are likely to be on hand.

click to enlarge Hashtag is as stunning as it is tasty. - DANIELLE LIRETTE
Hashtag is as stunning as it is tasty.
Danielle Lirette


10155 East 29th Drive

When Troy Guard turned his attention to breakfast in 2017, Stapleton's Eastbridge neighborhood rejoiced, knowing that the chef's penchant for big, bold and nostalgic flavors would spell something tasty. A cast-iron skillet cinnamon roll is a good place to start (and possibly finish), and the lamb-neck Benedict, rotisserie chicken enchiladas topped with fried eggs, and pho-style soup (listed as a "hangover cure") are evidence of a top chef's mind at work. The colorful dining room feels almost like an indoor playground for kids, matching the bright sauces, salsas and sprinklings of spice on every plate.

Ivy on 7th

410 East Seventh Avenue

The folks behind Angelo's Taverna and Carboy Winery landed another winner when they opened Ivy in the former home of Lala's at the corner of Seventh Avenue and Logan Street. It didn't hurt that they hired chef Rebecca Weitzman, who'd made a name for herself in Denver before departing for New York City more than a decade ago, to launch the breakfast and lunch menu. The focus is on light and bright fare, with locally sourced ingredients landing on breakfast sandwiches, toasts, scrambles and bowls. We're nuts for the lemon-ricotta pancakes, but even a simple bowl of granola turns to magic, with touches of tahini, raw honey, fruit and Greek yogurt.

click to enlarge The Deep South Benedict at Sassafras. - COURTESY OF SASSAFRAS AMERICAN EATERY
The Deep South Benedict at Sassafras.
Courtesy of Sassafras American Eatery


320 East Colfax Avenue, 303-831-6233
3927 West 32nd Avenue, 303-433-0080
1027 Washington Avenue, Golden, 303-593-0003

Southern charm is at its most inviting at the breakfast hour, with fluffy biscuits, sweet beignets and steaming bowls of buttery grits. Sassafras puts the comfort in comfort food while expanding on the standard breakfast canon with such tempting plates as chicken-fried eggs atop buffalo hash. The eatery got its start in a cozy bungalow in Jefferson Park before moving to the larger twin Victorians that once held Solitaire. In between, Sassafras also opened in Golden and on Colfax, making a triangle of delicious breakfast destinations throughout central and northwest Denver.

click to enlarge Pancakes are an obsession at Snooze. - COURTESY OF SNOOZE
Pancakes are an obsession at Snooze.
Courtesy of Snooze


Multiple locations

Jon and Adam Schlegel founded Snooze fifteen years ago as an overnight breakfast joint serving night owls in the then-sketchy Ballpark neighborhood on Larimer Street. They quickly ditched that idea in favor of regular breakfast hours, and pancake fanatics have swarmed the place, and its many, many outposts, ever since. Snooze now numbers more than forty locations in several states, but the mid-mod original is still a joyful stop for great food and coffee, if you can handle the ever-present queue on the sidewalk.

click to enlarge Dukkah eggs and trout at Stowaway Coffee + Kitchen. - DANIELLE LIRETTE
Dukkah eggs and trout at Stowaway Coffee + Kitchen.
Danielle Lirette

Stowaway Kitchen

2528 Walnut Street

Rather than brash and overwhelming, as some Denver breakfast joints can be, Stowaway succeeds with a low-key approach and a menu full of subtle surprises. The bright, airy coffee shop serves an international array of breakfast eats, from "killer whale" granola to dukkah (a crunchy Egyptian spice blend) eggs and smoked trout. Whatever you choose, don't skip the coffee, expertly made in a variety of methods, from standard drip to aeropress to espresso pressed from Boxcar beans and other local roasters. The friendly service and roasty aromas will keep you there until the doors close. Just don't go on Tuesdays: That's adventure day for the Stowaway crew.

Settle in for a big breakfast at the Universal. - COURTESY OF THE UNIVERSAL
Settle in for a big breakfast at the Universal.
Courtesy of the Universal

The Universal

2911 West 38th Avenue

It's brunch every day at the Universal, a sleek and austerely decorated breakfast-and-lunch hot spot in Sunnyside. Although the weekend specials tend to be more elaborate, we're just fine with the standard menu: thick, creamy grits (heirloom from Anson Mills) offered on the side or as a complete dish with eggs and meat; biscuits smothered in a medium-spicy pork-sausage gravy; a fried-egg sandwich with Tender Belly meats; and custard toast, one of the best things to happen to bread. The huge pancakes and several scrambles are also good choices; the sheer variety of flavorful ingredients in the latter — like wild-boar sausage or goat cheese and smoked tomatoes — make them stand out. You no longer need to wait for the weekend to luxuriate in a morning meal; just make time on the weekday for the Universal.

Wendell's Breakfast

3838 Tennyson Street

Wendell's joined the a.m. fray on Tennyson Street two years ago, taking over where DJ's Berkeley Cafe left off. The space is warm and inviting, as are the buttermilk pancakes, some of the best in the city. You can keep breakfast traditional, or you can stray a little from your morning regimen with breakfast poutine, the New York Deli Benedict with gravlax and all the accompaniments (including everything-bagel spice), or a luxurious croque monsieur dripping in bechamel. 
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Mark Antonation is the former Westword Food & Drink Editor. In 2018, he was named Outstanding Media Professional by the Colorado Restaurant Association; he's now with the Colorado Restaurant Foundation.
Contact: Mark Antonation