We've been eating our way across Denver for the past year, keeping an eye on every new opening to see how each new restaurant measures up to the competition. Now 2018 is coming to a close, so it's time to look back and pick our favorites. Here are the twelve best new restaurants to open this year:
Beckon and Call are two separate eateries united by a common culinary team and vision. Call was the first to open in the two neighboring cottages on Larimer Street. It's a sleek, next-gen cafe with plenty of flair and attitude, serving breakfast and lunch in a space that feels almost like someone's home kitchen. Early risers will love the fried-egg sandwich with such thoughtful accents as finely chopped, housemade giardiniera and house-cured meats on brioche, and aebleskiver, barely sweet pancake balls — akin to Scandinavian doughnut holes — with ricotta and jam. At lunch, check the daily specials that expand the concise regular menu. Beckon joined its sibling this fall, offering seventeen seats around a chef's counter where multi-course tasting menus evolve from week to week and season to season. Together Beckon and Call serve as a signal that Denver's dining scene is evolving into something new and exciting.
Chow Morso Osteria
1500 Wynkoop Street
Chow Morso isn't breaking new ground or inventing a new cuisine, but as a spin-off of Barolo Grill, one of the most consistent providers of culinary excellence and hospitality in the city, the more casual osteria provides the same level of perfection and reliability in each plate of pasta and glass of wine. You know you're in good hands as owner Ryan Fletter attends to every detail, making sure that customers leave thinking of nothing other than their next reservation.
1023 Walnut Street
Bryan Dayton and Amos Watts have already impressed Denver and Boulder with their work at Oak at Fourteenth and Acorn; with Corrida, they've turned their attention to beef, in the form of a Spanish-style steak served in a fourth-floor aerie overlooking the Pearl Street Mall. But beyond the wagyu tri-tip, dry-aged rib eye and Angus filet, there's a vast array of tapas and pintxos to keep nibblers happy. And with Dayton's background in the bar world, expect outstanding gin tonics, an impressive wine list and a surprising selection of vermouth by the glass. Corrida is the place to blow your children's inheritance or just relax over sips and snacks.
3258 Larimer Street
Yes, you can order biscuits, macaroni and cheese and chicken-fried steak at Julep, an industrial-chic Southern restaurant in RiNo. And by all means do, because chef/owner Kyle Foster’s versions are terrific. But don’t limit yourself to the classics. Julep serves sophisticated Southern cuisine that you’d never expect in such a laid-back spot. Vegetable-forward starters such as radishes over a cloud of lemon curd, or chicory-coffee tuile with beets and watercress display the creative pairings for which this chef is known. Some have a woodsy char, like asparagus with pretzel crumble; others are elegant, like an onion tarte tatin. Paired with elevated bar snacks, the inventive starters can easily make a meal, but entrees shouldn’t be overlooked, nor should the family-style supper that varies nightly. Julep is helping us rediscover a part of the South that we never knew we'd lost.
Liberati Osteria & Oenobeers
2403 Champa Street
At most brewpubs, the food is meant only as a base for soaking up pints of beer, but at Liberati, which built a lovely restaurant and gleaming brewery in a former printing press, the food is taken as seriously as if it opened in the heart of Rome, and the beers are as distinct and enticing as the cuisine. Housemade breads, pastas, cured meats and other Italian staples go hand in hand with brewer/owner Alex Liberati's unusual grape-based beers, which subtly intertwine the best of old-world wine and rare European beer styles. Enjoy street food-style snacks at the marble-topped bar while tasting your way through the many taps, or relax at a table for a leisurely meal of dishes not often seen outside of their home country.
1600 15th Street
Restaurateurs Juan Padro and Katie O'Shea, along with chef Max MacKissock, saw something special in the space occupied by the Wazee Supper Club for more than forty years at 1600 15th Street. So they transformed the corner into Morin, an upscale eatery with roots in modern Parisian cuisine as well as the chef's French family background. MacKissock and his team have put together a menu of original creations built around French ingredients and techniques, but without slavish devotion to tradition. So you won't find such Gallic standards as French onion soup, crepes or cassoulet, but you will notice a combination of luxury ingredients (lobster, foie gras, caviar) and humble farmhouse fare transformed as only the French can do.
3421 East Colfax Avenue
Q House is doing for Denver Chinese cuisine what Julep is doing for Southern food. Traditional Taiwanese and Sichuan ingredients and techniques find their way out of obscure neighborhood joints into the heart of the action on East Colfax Boulevard. Racy red chiles are tempered by numbing Sichuan peppercorns in Q House's Chong Qing chicken and other dishes; thin-sliced pig ears stand in for bacon in a deeply flavorful salad; and fried eggplant in General Tso's sauce show how a tired takeout classic can be remade into something fresh and wonderful in the right hands. Watch the flames leap beneath sizzling woks while indulging in house cocktails infused with Asian ingredients at the long bar and chef's counter, the best seats in the house.
3330 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. 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.
3330 Brighton Boulevard
As a kid, chef Bill 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.
Super Mega Bien
1260 25th Street
Anyone who's been to Work & Class (which is likely all of Denver, judging by a dining room that hasn't emptied since the place opened in 2014) knows the magic that chef Dana Rodriguez brings to even the humblest of ingredients. That magic carries over to her new kitchen, across the street at the Ramble Hotel, where dim sum carts trundle between tables, bringing diners tastes of Oaxaca, Yucatán, Puerto Rico 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 chipotle-glazed Peking duck that borrows the best of Mexico and China are built to thrill. Super Mega Bien is as clamorous, irreverent and spectacular as its older sibling across the way.
If you like this story, consider signing up for our email newsletters.
SHOW ME HOW
You have successfully signed up for your selected newsletter(s) - please keep an eye on your mailbox, we're movin' in!
2500 Lawrence Street
It takes a lot of confidence to take a concept successful in one city and translate it for a new audience in a faraway city. But chef/restaurateur Tyson Cole exudes confidence with his cooking, which re-envisions Japanese sushi-house fare without ever disrespecting its roots. The Denver version of Uchi remains true to the Austin original while adding just enough Colorado originality to entice dubious diners. The result is a tranquil and mesmerizing dining experience that hypnotizes equally with ambience and platings. We'll take this Texas invasion.
The Wolf's Tailor
4058 Tejon Street
Yes, the Wolf’s Tailor combines influences from Italy, China and Japan, but if your mind is wandering to fusion cuisine, with its high-voltage mashup of Asian flavors and western European technique, you should know that’s not exactly right. Rather, the Wolf’s Tailor captures chef/owner Kelly Whitaker’s own journey through international kitchens, in addition to his team’s. The kitchen focuses more on what the different cuisines naturally have in common: grilled meats served on skewers, raw-fish preparations, noodles. A charcoal binchotan grill forms the basis of much of the cooking, and Whitaker has brought his obsession with heritage grain to bear through both a bread oven and extruded noodles made with house-milled flours. The result is something altogether new, but grounded in flavors and textures familiar and delicious.