Dumplings, tacos, oysters and the next level of farm-to-table dining all play starring roles in this year's most exciting additions to the dining scene. In 2023, a group of scrappy and innovative hospitality entrepreneurs moved into brick-and-mortar locations that allowed them to up their culinary games — and we've been loving every bite. The new standouts serve up diverse global flavors, from modern spins on Eastern European fare to Peruvian influences to tastes from first-generation Asian Americans paying homage to their past.
This year also saw notable moves from some big names as they continue to push Denver dining to new heights. As a result of all this activity, it's an exciting time to eat out, and we've got the proof.
Here are the ten best restaurants to open in metro Denver in 2023:
2401 Larimer Street
Brothers Austin and Davis Breedlove are behind this RiNo spot that opened in September. The food itself is pretty straightforward — a lineup of salads and soups ordered fast-casual style at a counter. But this is also a working, indoor vertical farm with an on-site market where you can stock up on herbs cut right in front of you and flavorful greens in varieties you'd never find at the grocery store. The meals served on site are as nutrient-rich as they are delicious, making for a nourishing dining experience that's low-key enough to enjoy several times a week.
Why we love it: Like Grow + Gather, which opened in Englewood in 2019, Farm and Market is reimagining farm-to-table dining in a way that is primed to have a big impact on how people in cities access fresh, sustainable produce.
4337 Tennyson Street
The Id Est Hospitality Group is an industry leader not just in Denver, but on a national scale — a fact that was solidified when two of its restaurants, the Wolf’s Tailor and Brutø, earned one Michelin star each plus Michelin green stars for sustainability this year. But before that, in late January, the group added a new star of its own: Hey Kiddo and attached bar space Ok Yeah, where staples like K-Town Fried Chicken and oysters are served alongside rotating specials that keep the dining experience fun and full of surprises for guests.
Why we love it: While most of Id Est's concepts are more suited to a special occasion, this is a place where you can pop in on a weeknight to experience some of the most bold — and fun — food being served in the city without having to go into full tasting-menu mode.
1200 West 38th Avenue
The birria boom has started to level off, but when it was in full swing in 2021, Enrique "Kiké" Silva Figueroa and his family smartly launched a food truck specializing in not only slow-roasted beef tacos with consomé for dipping, but also birria ramen and burritos. It was a quick hit, drawing big crowds that have since followed the business to its permanent home, which debuted in May.
Why we love it: Now that it has more kitchen space, Kiké's has only gotten better, staying true to the dishes that made its truck so popular while also adding options like the more traditional goat meat, tortas, street fries and a full bar program.
2400 West 32nd Avenue
The Culinary Creative Group is on one hell of a run, adding four impressive concepts in 2023 alone to its already successful lineup of hits like Bar Dough and A5 Steakhouse. While we fell for Cherry Creek cocktail bar Ay Papi, chef Carrie Baird's brunch spot Fox and the Hen, and Detroit-style pizzeria Red Tops Rendevous, it was the group's final opening of the year, Japanese eatery Kumoya, that fully stole our hearts, thanks to the passion of chef Corey Baker. He's finally getting the chance to truly showcase his talent in both raw preparations and small plates that are anything but typical.
Why we love it: The smartly designed space includes a room that's ideal for private parties, a sushi counter where you can watch the culinary team up close, a lively dining room and an even more lively back room where you can belly up to Bar Kumo and indulge in late-night eats and drinks.
2845 Larimer Street
Two small houses in RiNo have been the site of some big culinary efforts since 2017, when chef Duncan Holmes and his partners debuted their first concept, the daytime eatery Call. Beckon was added next door in 2018, and that tasting-menu-only restaurant earned its first Michelin star this year. While Call had garnered national buzz during its run, it never reopened post-pandemic; in February, the team introduced Major Tom in its place.
Why we love it: Its succinct, à la carte dinner menu gives diners the chance to experience the Beckon team's talent without having to commit to a full (and pricey) tasting-menu experience.
39 West First Avenue
In 2014, Kenneth Wan and Doris Yuen started slinging Hong Kong French toast as a side hustle in New York City. After moving to Denver in 2019 with dreams of opening a concept inspired by their Cantonese upbringing and heritage, they landed a spot at Avanti, successfully navigating Meta Asian Kitchen through the pandemic while consistently impressing diners with hits like Sichuan málà fried mozzarella sticks and dumplings with housemade XO sauce. This year, they "graduated," as Yuen says, from the food hall, introducing the expanded version of their dream in the Baker neighborhood in November.
Why we love it: From its unapologetic use of MSG to the photo on the wall of Yuen's grandmother in a "cocaine and caviar" beanie, this spot is creating its own refreshingly bold narrative.
3333 East Colfax Avenue
From his work at the still-missed Rebel Restaurant to his cooking at Misfit Snack Bar inside Middleman, chef Bo Porytko has been impressing Denver diners for years. But at Molotov, which debuted in the former To the Wind space in January, his fare shines in a totally new way. While the dishes are rooted in Eastern European classics, Porytko's playful creativity imbues each with unexpected elements.
Why we love it: Every service here feels like a dinner party you never really want to leave, so grab a seat under the cuckoo clocks at the small chef's counter, order a round of infused shots and enjoy the ride, wherever it may lead.
2550 East Colfax Avenue
Ni and Anna Nguyen's first brick-and-mortar gained national attention before it even opened, landing on a Bon Appétit list of the most anticipated restaurants in the country. Since debuting in June, it has lived up to the hype, getting even more big-name kudos when it was the only Colorado pick on Esquire's list of the Fifty Best New Restaurants in America in November. Coming soon: a documentary that will provide even more insight into the couple's past, present and future vision.
Why we love it: With a passion for sharing interpretations of traditional Vietnamese dishes that's matched only by a passion for uplifting and empowering their team, the Nguyens embody many of the major shifts that have pushed the local hospitality industry to become stronger.
1432 Market Street
Syd Younggreen and chef Brian De Souza opened this ambitious restaurant in July after originally splashing onto the local culinary scene with the Guest, a pop-up series out of their Boulder home. De Souza, who was born in Peru but has lived all over the world, isn't afraid to pull from his global experiences to create dishes that push the boundaries of what's expected, while Younggreen has proven to be skilled at creating an ambience that toes the line between fine-dining standards and welcoming, energetic dinner-party vibes.
Why we love it: While the Regular on its own has proven to be an impressive addition to the fine-dining scene, its owners are also making good use of its space by bringing back the Guest as a tasting menu restaurant-within-a-restaurant and introducing El Mercado, which cross-utilizes ingredients for a daytime selection of sandwiches, salads and soups, plus a selection of specialty items.
2878 Fairfax Street
Opening a new restaurant is more challenging — and expensive — than ever, but this trio of independent businesses took a different approach when they made the leap into a permanent home. They banded together, opting to share a space but serving in it at different times on different days.
Why we love it: Each concept is impressive on its own, and the shifting schedule allows diners to drop in for varying experiences all week long, from picking up pastries on a Saturday morning to digging into Yuan Wonton's dumplings on a Wednesday night and settling in for bowls of pho from Thuy by PKR (a concept from the owners of Pho King Rapidos) on Sunday afternoons.