Best Diners in Denver, Colorado | Westword

Old-School Diners to Visit in Denver

While we still miss Denver Diner and Breakfast King, you can get an egg-cellent low-key breakfast at these spots.
Chicken fried steak and pancakes at Breakfast Inn.
Chicken fried steak and pancakes at Breakfast Inn. Molly Martin
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The local diner scene has taken some big hits in recent years. First we lost the Denver Diner and Tom's Diner, among others. Then 2022 started with another big hit when the Breakfast King closed in January, followed soon after by Nick's Cafe in Lakewood and Annie's Cafe on East Colfax.

But for those craving chicken-fried steak, hash browns and cooked-to-order eggs, there are still a lot of options in the metro area, from decades-old classics to some newer additions.

Here are 23 spots working hard to deliver your diner fix, even if you can't visit most of them at 3 a.m. Order up!

20th Street Cafe
1123 20th Street
Open 6 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Saturday

The OG 20th Street Cafe served classic diner food for 74 years before shuttering in April 2020, but exactly three years later, the space reopened as 20th Street Cafe Mexican. The new owners previously ran the now-closed Mexican eatery Tarahumara, and the menu reflects that, though they did keep some breakfast diner faves like French toast and omelets — and they also make our 2024 pick for the Best No-Frills Breakfast Burrito.

Apple Ridge Cafe
3690 Kipling Street, Wheat Ridge
Open from 5:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 6:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sunday
A little story about the Apple Ridge: It’s an old-school workhorse diner, just the thing when you’re coming back from a family funeral and need some belly-fillin’ comfort. That was the first time — definitely not the last — that I experienced the Apple Ridge Cafe, dressed in my Sunday best, white button-down shirt and sport coat and all. I had my jacket hung on the back of my chair and I ordered a burger and fries. The burger was tall and juicy, the sort your grandmother might fry up for you. The fries were crispy. They begged for ketchup, so I obliged…and found that some wag had loosened the cap as a gag. Ketchup splurted everywhere — all over my shirt, on my pants, a little on my fries, which was something. Everyone laughed, including me — what else can you do? — and the waitress came over and smiled and said, “Wow, you really like ketchup.” Then she comped the burger and helped me clean up and gave me a slice of pie to take with me, laughing all the time. It turned a bad day into one I like to remember. And that’s maybe the finest thing about diners: the memories. Well, that and the burgers and pie.

Breakfast Inn
6135 East Evans Avenue
Open daily from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Since 1976, Breakfast Inn has been a south Denver staple serving up comfort food for breakfast and lunch. While the model train that loops through one half of the dining room wasn't running the last time we visited, the heaping plates of hot food coming out of the kitchen were as satisfying as ever. It has all the diner staples but the can't miss here are the ultra-fluffy sweet cream pancakes.

The Breakfast Queen
3460 South Broadway, Englewood
Open daily, 6 a.m. to 3 p.m.
The Breakfast Queen has been delighting the residents of South Broadway for nearly twenty, with no end in sight, thank goodness. In 2015, owners George and Kosta Vasilias moved the location a couple of doors down from where it had been, keeping the same familiar menu — especially the rellenos and eggs, a house specialty smothered in some of the best green chile around. That's saying something; luckily, George and Kosta have the chops to back it up.
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Always start with a cinnamon roll at the Butcher Block Cafe in RiNo.
Mark Antonation

Butcher Block Cafe
1701 38th Street (plus two other locations)
Open 5 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. Monday through Friday, 5 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday and 6 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday

You want old-school? We’ve got your old-school right here. There are other places in booming RiNo where you can go if you want fancy-schmancy decor — but if you want solid, gut-filling food, you go to the Butcher Block. Be sure to order a cinnamon roll to start. You’re welcome.

Chef Zorba’s
2626 East 12th Avenue
Open daily 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Chef Zorba’s has been faithfully serving in Congress Park since 1979. In 2018, Karen LuKanic took over the place, making some updates and adding a walk-up window, but maintaining the charm. If you prefer your delicious Greek-American fare with a solid side of friendly service, Zorba’s is the place for you.

Davies Chuck Wagon Diner
9495 West Colfax Avenue, Lakewood
Open daily 6 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Opened in 1957 — and added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1997 — Davies feels old-school in a way that suggests that you may or may not be in a Quentin Tarantino film. You don’t come here for avocado toast; you come here to spread jelly on toast and then dip it in your gravy. It lost the 24/7 hours long before the pandemic — the sign just says "Open" these days. Back in the day, we awarded Davies Chuck Wagon Best Chicken-Fried Steak, praising its scratch-made gravy as "pure white death." But seriously, what a way to go.
click to enlarge man and woman posing in front of a neon sign that says "danny ray's"
Danny Hopkins (right) with his daughter Samantha at their all-day diner, Danny Ray's.
Molly Martin
Danny Ray's Food & Spirits
11353 West Colfax Avenue, Lakewood
Open 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday

In March 2023, diner staple Danny’s Carnation closed after more than forty years in business. But owner Danny Hopkins kept its legacy going in a big way, moving into an expansive space three times the size of the original and introducing an updated version of the diner. The menu remains the same, and all the baking is still done by his wife, but this new iteration comes with some additions — including a full bar, televisions, and a patio tricked out with heaters and fire pits.

George’s Cafe
6504 Wadsworth Boulevard, Arvada
Open daily 6 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.
The George in this diner's name is George Karavasilis, who has operated the breakfast-and-lunch joint bearing his name since 2004. His impressively broad menu covers the bases from American to Greek to Mexican food, with breakfast, soups and salads, hearty lunches and desserts. We're talking brown gravy on a plate, gyros and pita, burritos and rellenos. “George’s Cafe is more than just our livelihood; it’s the lives that come through the door every day to say hi and joke and share a story," says Karavasilis. And definitely some great food, too.
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Find favorites like smothered breakfast burritos at Great Scotts.
Cassandra Stiltner
Great Scotts Eatery
1295 Cortez Street (plus a location in Broomfield)
Open 24 hours Thursday through Saturday and 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday through Wednesday

“Taste the memories” is the slogan of Great Scotts old-time diner, which specializes in dishes popular from the 1950s through the ’80s. But the kitchen's emphasis on eating local is fortunately all modern as it partners with local bakeries, coffee roasters and butchers to bring customers the best, no matter what time of day (on weekends, at least).
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Pair your green chile with eggs and hash browns at Hits the Spot.
Molly Martin
Hits the Spot Diner
5637 West Colfax Avenue, Lakewood
Open 6:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Wednesday through Monday
"The fastest egg in the West," proclaims the menu at this diner opened by Manuel and Trish Gatsiopoulos in 2011. And while, yes, you can get a quick meal here, it's more than just a speedy fix, thanks to specialties like cinnamon roll French toast, Polish sausage sandwiches and a giant six-pound breakfast burrito (smothered in its excellent gluten-free green chile, of course).

Javier’s Diner
3801 Tennyson Street, Denver
Open 7 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 7 to 5 p.m. Sunday
If you’re craving Mexican diner eats, you have more than a few options, including a good number of Greek joints that also sideline in some pretty solid Mexican food. But it's possible that you can’t do better than Javier’s in the Berkeley neighborhood at 38th and Tennyson. The family restaurant has been serving good classic Den-Mex dishes for a half-century running. Generation-spanning recipes and an outdoor patio, with some of the best chilaquiles in town? This is one of the holdouts of the old neighborhood — better known as the Northside — that we hope lives on in perpetuity.
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Lookin' Good serves up Greek, Mexican and American food.
Molly Martin
Lookin’ Good Restaurant & Lounge
66 Sheridan Boulevard
Open daily from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.
The Lookin’ Good is a blessed throwback to the times when neighborhoods had lounges, places to eat and drink and gather for some music or just merriment. The family-owned diner was established back in 1978, when eggs were eggs, everything came with gravy, and we just called Yacht Rock the Top 40. The Lookin’ Good even has a name that sounds very 1978 — and it serves flaming saganaki cheese. It’s the restaurant equivalent of watching an old Ronco commercial from the same year: nostalgic, happy, satisfying. Add to that list “delicious,” and you’ve got the Lookin’ Good. We'll be back to pick you up later.

McCoy’s Family Restaurant
4855 Federal Boulevard
Open daily from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m.

A mainstay in north Denver since 1988, this classic diner closed on January 6, 2020, for some upgrades to the kitchen and dining room, opening its doors again just as COVID was shutting everything down. But the family favorite survived, though not with the old 24/7 hours. Still, at a time when too many of our favorites have had to walk away, it fills our hearts with happiness — and our pancakes with syrup — to see the 2017 pick for Best 24/7 Diner still standing.

Moonlight Diner & Bar
6250 Tower Road
Open 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily

Moonlight is the place to go before or after a flight out of Denver International Airport if you want a quick meal or even a drink (the “& Bar” in the title isn’t just for show). But the food is still the star at this ’50s-style boxcar diner, complete with neon and steel exteriors and turquoise seats at chrome-trim Formica tables. They say you can tell a good place by the height of its sandwiches and the quality of its gravy — and based on that scale, Moonlight deserves a stop, and soon. Plus, if you're missing Breakfast King's chicken-fried steak, this spot's rendition — served in both a four-ounce and eight-ounce option — is a solid replacement.
You can still get a late-night meal at Pete's Kitchen.
Danielle Lirette
Pete’s Kitchen
1962 East Colfax Avenue
Open 24 hours Friday through Sunday and 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Thursday
That neon chef has been flipping virtual pancakes on Colfax Avenue for decades, and the kitchen of this classic diner has been flipping the real thing since 1942. Today, Pete’s Kitchen — named for Pete Contos, who passed away in 2019 — specializes in Greek diner food, and you can’t go wrong with feta cheese and gyros, whether in a pita or an omelet. But everything at Pete’s is great, from the chicken-fried steak to the souvlaki, from the pancake stack to the numerous ways you can enjoy a fantastic fried burger. Here’s to you, Pete: We miss you.

PJ’s Diner
1619 Coalton Road, Superior
Open 7 a.m. to 1:30ish p.m. Wednesday through Friday and 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday
Everything here is made from scratch, and you can tell from the moment your server brings you a griddle biscuit that you’re in for a treat. Because everything is made to order, the kitchen sometimes runs out of one option or another; a decadent dish called the Ranchers — hand-breaded chicken-fried steak with country gravy, hash browns and the aforementioned griddle biscuit — tends to disappear quickly. Luckily, everything else on the menu is just as amazing. PJ’s might not have been around long, but it deserves to be around for much longer.

Ranch House Cafe
7676 East Colfax Avenue
Open daily from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Chances are good that you’ve been meaning to check out the Ranch House for some time. You’ve definitely driven past it on East Colfax — one of those ubiquitous classic roadside diners along a busy thoroughfare that looks like it might just serve some delicious food belied by its more modest exterior. You’d be right in that: The Ranch House is worth pulling into for some great old-school diner food done right.

Red Rooster Cafe
5761 Washington Street
Open 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Friday and 7 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Saturday and Sunday
There’s nothing fancy about the Red Rooster: It’s in a strip mall on the west side of Washington Street, in a largely industrial area on the north side of Denver. But that's part of its charm, because this joint is all about the food and the service, both of which will keep you coming back. The portions are generous and the dishes delicious. If you come for breakfast, don’t miss the relleno omelet: This is what all green chiles hope to be when they grow up.
Sam's No. 3 is back in business.
Danielle Lirette
Sam's No.3
1500 Curtis Street (plus a location in Glendale)
Open 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday and Tuesday, 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Wednesday, 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. Thursday, 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday, 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday and 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sunday
In 1969, Sam’s No. 3 — the flagship in a then-fifty-year-old restaurant empire — finally closed, but the Armatas family returned the diner to its original downtown block in 2004 and added two more outposts. While the Aurora location shuttered in 2023, the Glendale one is still serving. Along with the Coney Island favorites that made Sam’s popular in the 1920s, the voluminous, multi-page menu is fueled with diner-style American, Greek and Mexican dishes, including gigantic, green-chile-smothered breakfast burritos. Pair one with a Bloody Mary and make no plans other than a long nap.

Sunrise Sunset
1424 South Wadsworth Boulevard, Lakewood (plus two other locations)
Open daily from 6:30 a.m. to 2 p.m.
This Lakewood original has been slinging the hash (and seriously: Try the corned beef hash, because it will destroy you in the most delicious way possible) since 1984. Sunrise Sunset is its own little Denver-area chain, with three locations offering up some of the best in diner-food enjoyment. The trio's slogan, “Freshness is at the heart of every meal,” is a philosophy that can be tasted in every bite.
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This Denver diner has been around since 1960.
Molly Martin
Swift's Breakfast House
930 Santa Fe Drive, 303-623-9743
Open 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday
Swift's Kitchen
4300 West Colfax Avenue, 303-623-2233
Open 6 a.m. to 2 p.m. Thursday through Tuesday

Both Swift’s Breakfast House and Swift's Kitchen are the sort of no-nonsense, street-side diners that seem to invite you in to have a seat and eat heartily — and it also serves Pete's Coney Island red chili (named after a classic downtown restaurant that was demolished in 1990). This is good food, served with a smile and plenty of refills on your drinks.

Two Brothers Cafe
3743 Federal Boulevard
Open 6 a.m. to 2 p.m. daily

In 2022, brothers Angel and Moses Juarez, who worked together at George's Cafe in Arvada for 23 years, took over the former longtime home of the Breakfast Queen, then Nick's Diner after that. The menu reflects their years of diner expertise, with options such as waffles, pancakes, skillets and omelets along with lunch options including sandwiches, pitas, salads and, of course, green chile. 
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