Sitting at Edge in the Four Seasons for this week's review, I contemplated the notion that you can visit a city and never see anything but your international luxury hotel's version of it. Unfortunately, that's what a lot of hotel restaurants bank on -- that you'll be stuck eating there, anyway, so they can charge you a fortune for food that's only mediocre.
There are some hotel restaurants that are breaking the mold, though. Here are five in and around Denver that are worth checking out, even if you aren't checking in:
5. The Garden Terrace One thing you can almost always count on at a luxury hotel is a massive, blowout brunch. The very best one in town? The Garden Terrace in the Inverness Hotel and Conference Center. The massive display is piled high with cheese blintzes, Belgian waffles, eggs Benedict, made-to-order omelets, pastas, bacon and sausage and carved meats. The restaurant goes beyond regular weekend fare, too, with its oceanic seafood display, heaped with crab legs, mussels, fist-sized prawns and smoked fish of several varieties. Save yourself, though, because the pastries on the dessert buffet are also worth your attention. And if you're overwhelmed, you can calm your nerves with a couple of mimosas before you get started. There's live piano music, too. 4. Restaurant Kevin Taylor Before any other restaurateur brought bastions of fine-dining to Denver, there was Kevin Taylor, a big-name chef who proved that high-end dinners and an expensive wine list could make it in this cowtown. More than a decade after it opened, his eponymous continental restaurant in the Hotel Teatro is still worth a blowout feast -- particularly if you can put it on an expense account. As an added bonus, the space was revamped last year, and the seasonal menu changes frequently. 3. Elway's Downtown When the Ritz-Carlton opened in Denver, it added a second outpost of Elway's, the steakhouse that was already a hit in Cherry Creek. If you're looking for that kind of opulent meal, Elway's Downtown is a notable stop, whether you're a guest of the Ritz or just a guest. But we're more likely to be found in the plush booths in the bar -- an excellent spot for people-watching, rounds of martinis and at least an order or two of the best sushi outside of a sushi restaurant in this city. 2. Second Home This Cherry Creek restaurant, which commands much of the first floor of the JW Marriott, attracts big local crowds to its bar, fireplace-lined patio and spacious dining room. And for good reason: Jeff Bolton's well-executed new American menu spans classic home-cooked fare plus pizzas, pastas, fish tacos and barbecued suckling pig. The spot also pulls in big crowds for weekend brunch, when kids can come in pajamas and adults can drink from the create-your-own bloody Mary bar. 1. Panzano Panzano hasn't just broken the hotel restaurant mold, it's shattered it. On the ground floor of the Hotel Monaco, Elise Wiggins and her kitchen staff turn out impeccable plates of cured meats, tagliatelle, ravioli and veal scaloppini. It was our Best Italian Restaurant in Best of Denver 2011 -- and it's still the best hotel restaurant this city has to offer.
Know of others? Tell us about them below.
More Best of Denver Lists: - Denver's five best restaurants for blind dates
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