The holidays are upon us, and friends and family are streaming into town to see the sights, hit the slopes and celebrate over good food and drinks. Hopefully they're staying at a hotel with one of these ten restaurants, which have turned hotel dining into something to look forward to instead of just a sad and lonely meal at the end of a day of meetings. Here are the ten best hotel restaurants in Denver, in alphabetical order:
Citizen Rail1899 16th Street
Citizen Rail, beneath the Kimpton Hotel Born, was one of a wave of chef-driven restaurants to open in boutique hotels over the past several years. The kitchen focuses on artisan food production, with dry-aged steaks (some for up to a year) and handmade bread and pasta. The heart of the restaurant is an open kitchen with several wood-burning grills, where everything — from those flavor-packed steaks to cocktail garnishes — is kissed with flame and smoke. Behind the scenes, a larger kitchen holds a butchering room where sides of beef, pork and lamb are brought in and broken down, providing cuts typical of steakhouse slates but also leaving room for oxtail, lamb sausage, rabbit loin and a decadent burger made from fresh-ground short rib and brisket. Yes, it's a meat-lover's paradise, but it's also so much more.
Death & Co.1280 25th Street
New York City cocktail pioneer Death & Co. opened in the lobby of the Ramble Hotel in 2018, where tufted upholstery demands that guests settle in and enjoy a high-end cocktail in the decidedly swanky space. But this isn't just a re-creation of the East Coast original: The menus (both food and drink) are unique to Denver, while the service is characteristically Colorado (read: casual), so guests will always feel right at home, no matter what part of the country they hail from.
Hearth & Dram1801 Wewatta Street
The Indigo Hotel is located behind Union Station in one of Denver's hottest new instant neighborhoods. The draw here is Hearth & Dram, which combines wood-fired cooking perfect for meat lovers with a towering bar stocked with one of the best selections of whiskey in the city. Lunchtime is an eye-opener, with a variety of sandwiches stacked with hearth-roasted meats, and a "whole-beast feast" awaits groups who book ahead for a special occasion.
Kachina Cantina1890 Wazee Street
The Maven is filled with art and fanciful decor, and the lobby entrance to Kachina Cantina looks as much like an installation as it does a segue into a delicious meal. Quite frankly, we go for the fry-bread tacos and margaritas, but the entire menu is worth exploring, with the Southwestern allure of chiles, corn, beans and slow-roasted meats.
Panzano909 17th Street
Now more than twenty years old, Panzano was one of the first hotel restaurants in Denver to prove that chef-driven cuisine could draw customers from the entire city, not just from the Hotel Monaco's rooms above the eatery. The culinary team at Panzano has as its motto "Chi mangia bene, viva bene" (Those who eat well, live well), and although we can't guarantee how you'll live, or even sleep, at the Hotel Monaco, you can certainly live it up in the elegant yet comfortable dining room that specializes in perfectly prepared northern Italian cuisine. In addition to the impressive menu, there are regular specials, and the attached bar has both an excellent happy hour and a few very cozy booths that are just the spot to sip martinis.
Safta3330 Brighton Boulevard
Safta, which means “grandmother” in Hebrew, is a personal project for chef/restaurateur Alon Shaya, whose home territory is New Orleans but whose first project outside that city landed inside the Source Hotel in RiNo in 2018. Inspired by his grandmother's recipes and the cuisine of Israel (where he was born), Shaya has given Denver a new glimpse into Mediterranean cuisine, with wood-fired pita bread, a five-deep hummus menu, salatim (salads and spreads), and small and large plates that include kebabs, falafel, crisp-edged Persian rice, braised lamb shank and duck matzoh ball soup.
The Ship Tavern321 17th Street
Once a gentleman’s lounge, this space in the venerable Brown Palace was remodeled into a seafaring bar that opened eight months after Prohibition ended. The fish-out-of-water nautical theme was inspired by a collection of model clipper ships that the hotel’s then-owner brought home from a trip and his wife suggested should shove off. Although a remodel brought in some Denny’s-like tables, the ships are still here, as is the crow’s nest, and a seat at the bar is a swell spot to let history wash over you. Save some dough for a nightcap and cigar in the nearby Churchill.
Smok3330 Brighton Boulevard
The only downside to a room at the Source Hotel is the tempting aroma of smoke wafting up from chef Bill Espiricueta's restaurant. As a kid, Espiricueta lived in Austin, Texas, and then in Kansas City, Missouri, eating at all the best barbecue joints in those cities. Since moving away from the Midwest, the chef has traveled to America's other top barbecue regions to eat and learn. Smok brings together the best of his findings on one menu, but that doesn't mean you'll find a hodgepodge of mismatched cooking styles and sauces. "It's about the whole package," Espiricueta explains, "with different regional influences, but balanced." Smok offers downhome flavors and familiar smokehouse favorites, all filtered through a chef's detail-oriented lens.
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Super Mega Bien1260 25th Street
Anyone who's been to Work & Class knows the magic that chef Dana Rodriguez brings to even the humblest of ingredients. That magic carries over to Super Mega Bien inside the Ramble Hotel, where dim sum carts trundle between tables, bringing diners tastes of Oaxaca, Yucatán, the Caribbean and other Latin American culinary hotbeds. While the small plates are pleasing, big dishes like seafood soup that simmers on an oven-hot stone, braised lamb wrapped in banana leaf and Jamaican jerk chicken are built to thrill. Super Mega Bien is as clamorous, irreverent and spectacular as its older sibling across the street.
Urban Farmer1659 Wazee Street
The Oxford Hotel has seen hard times during Denver's lean years, but it has returned to its former glory in recent years, especially with the addition of Urban Farmer, which takes the modern trend of housemade everything to new levels: Beehives on the roof provide honey, and the kitchen makes its own oversized English muffins for a decadent burger. Urban Farmer brings the locavore movement to a hotel setting with a celebration of Colorado produce and meats. The restaurant has a great bar, too, but don't miss the legendary Cruise Room next door, which has survived the many changes at the Oxford over the decades.