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Eat Here: Our list of the 100 restaurants that define Denver's dining scene.EXPAND
Eat Here: Our list of the 100 restaurants that define Denver's dining scene.
Westword

Eat Here: The Denver Restaurants We Can't Live Without in 2018

Last year we served up Eat Here, a list of the 100 Denver restaurants we couldn't live without, a roster of eateries including the very best in town as well as other unique spots that help define the dining scene. (We're talking about you, Casa Bonita.) These restaurants are so essential to the Denver dining scene, in fact, that over the past year, we lost only one: Rebel Restaurant, which burned fast and bright in RiNo during its three-year journey.

Over the past twelve months, though, dozens of new restaurants have joined the fray, many instantly attracting attention from around the country as well as from local diners. So now we've updated our original Eat Here, adding thirty names while removing others from the initial lineup. That's not to say that all of those have declined or become less relevant, but in a city that's seen more than 200 new restaurants open every year for the past five years, Denver just has a lot on its plate...much of it very, very good. While some of the newcomers to our list are also newcomers to the scene, others are older but have withstood the test of time, rising to meet the challenge of a restaurant community growing at a furious and unrelenting pace.

For the 2018 additions to Eat Here, we followed our rule of evaluating new restaurants only after they've had three months to find their footing; any spots that opened after June were not considered. We also decided not to include food halls and markets, since the individual stops at each one stand on their own merits as restaurants. But without doubt, there's great food to be found at Avanti Food & Beverage (a pioneer even after just three years), Denver Central Market, Zeppelin Station and newcomer Denver Milk Market. And in order to capture the spirit of Colorado, we only included independent eateries and small restaurant groups founded in our state.

Here are the 100 Denver restaurants we can't live without in fall 2018, starting with our thirty additions to the list, in alphabetical order, followed by the seventy that have earned another round.

Acreage.EXPAND
Acreage.
Danielle Lirette

Acreage
1380 Horizon Avenue, Lafayette
303-227-3243
acreageco.com

Acreage, with its wraparound patios, fire pits and outdoor games, all surrounded by open fields with views of the mountains, feels like a rural brewery, but despite the pastoral location and farmhouse vibe, its menu is a far cry from pub grub. The crew at Stem Ciders, which also operates a taproom in RiNo, has lofty ambitions for this restaurant. With help from big-name chefs Kelly Whitaker and Daniel Asher, the kitchen has put together a Basque-inspired lineup, with an emphasis on wood-fired proteins and local and seasonal vegetables that pair well with a wide array of ciders. So order a flight and take your pick from whole grilled fish, burgers with onion jam and oh-so-tender spare ribs with apple-cranberry glaze. And stay tuned as the campus develops: Plans for an orchard, vegetable plot and grazing animals are in the works.

Adelitas Cocina y Cantina
1294 South Broadway
303-778-1294
adelitasdenver.com

Adelitas won the hearts of Platt Park neighbors and South Broadway commuters with its raucous Taco Tuesdays and potent house margaritas that far surpassed the typical premixed standard. But owner Brian Rossi wasn't content to rest on his tortillas; instead, he continued to present alluring dishes representing regional Mexican cuisine while building a jaw-dropping selection of tequila and mezcal bottles behind the bar. With a second cantina debuting in downtown Littleton, Adelitas stands as proof that Denver diners are hungry for far more than just smothered burritos and ground-beef tacos.

Annette.EXPAND
Annette.
Danielle Lirette

Annette
2501 Dallas Street, Aurora
720-710-9975
annettescratchtotable.com

Located in Stanley Marketplace, Annette is a beautiful restaurant flooded with light and dotted with natural touches — planters with live trees, live plants on every table — that make the room feel sophisticated, not stark. The restaurant pushes boundaries with a small-plates menu (think beef tongue and marrow toast), building on a foundation of small-plates eateries that helped modernize Denver's dining scene, not the least of them Acorn, where Annette chef-owner Caroline Glover worked. Seasonal ingredients are revered; pickled accents pop up everywhere. A wood-fired grill adds a cozy rusticity that you smell when you walk in the door. The restaurant is at its best when showcasing Glover’s take on comfort food: pillowy gnocchi, whole fish with Calabrian chile jam, grilled carrots and snap peas, and housemade ice cream sandwiches.

Atelier by Radex.EXPAND
Atelier by Radex.
Danielle Lirette

Atelier by Radex
2011 East 17th Avenue
720-379-5556
atelierbyradex.com

For a chef who's been in the restaurant business as long as he has, Radek Cerny still manages to bring a sense of fun and whimsy to some seriously French cuisine. His Papillon was a smash hit in Cherry Creek before many of today's hot young culinary stars had tasted their first frites; the chef returned to Denver in 2017 after years of serving dinner in Boulder, putting Atelier in the original Il Posto location in the Uptown neighborhood. Here you can luxuriate in rotating classics like duck rillettes, escargot, foie gras and lobster, but Cerny also has a way with Western favorites such as elk (look for wapiti on the menu), Alaskan salmon and bison short ribs. Be sure to bring a few extra bucks for a bottle of wine; the list here is dazzling, and the food is built to match the best of Burgundy and Bordeaux.

The Bindery.EXPAND
The Bindery.
Danielle Lirette

The Bindery
1817 Central Street
303-993-2364
thebinderydenver.com

The Bindery is a sprawling, sunny restaurant in LoHi that bills itself as an all-day eatery and marketplace, selling coffee and pastries from a counter and serving a menu that’s heavily influenced by Italy from morning to night. Why Italian? Chef/owner Linda Hampsten Fox lived and worked in Italy for decades, and her elegant dinner menu reflects her intimate knowledge of the country. Don’t miss happy hour’s prosciutto-wrapped grissini and the hand-cut pappardelle with meats that change with the seasons — sometimes braised boar, sometimes lamb. But the menu ranges farther afield than Italia, with Mexican and New American influences that reflect experiences throughout Hampsten-Fox’s nearly thirty-year career, as well as her penchant for unusual proteins — tuna ribs and rabbit, for example — and brash flavor combinations.

Call.EXPAND
Call.
Danielle Lirette

Call
2845 Larimer Street
303-954-0230
call-denver.com

Call is a sleek, next-gen cafe with plenty of flair and attitude, enough to earn it a place on Bon Appétit's list of the ten best new restaurants of 2018. Anachronous telephone references fill the tiny space: Replicas of the tin-can phones kids once used to talk with their friends serve as light fixtures, and a neon sign in the bathroom, hung over wallpaper that looks like pages from a phone book, glows suggestively: “For a good time.” The food, though, is no laughing matter, even if it’s deceptively simple. 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 night, a host of specials expands the tiny menu so you can build your own platter and pair it with a cocktail, a surprising touch for what appears at first to be little more than a neighborhood coffee shop.

Cattivella.
Cattivella.
Danielle Lirette

Cattivella
10195 East 29th Avenue
303-645-3779
cattivelladenver.com

In 2016, Elise Wiggins left her longtime position as executive chef at Panzano to pursue her vision of opening the Italian restaurant she'd always wanted. And with Cattivella (which means "naughty girl" in Italian), she's created a place that reflects her many experiences traveling, working and eating in Italy. The wood-fired pizza oven is used for far more than pizzas; even beans are slow-cooked there, in glass flasks nestled in hot embers. An adjustable wood grill gives meats (many of them brought in whole and butchered on site) and vegetables a rustic, old-world depth of flavor (during the warm months, large-format grilling takes place on the patio). And then there are the housemade breads and pastas, which separate Cattivella from the standard bistro or trattoria; a gluten-free menu makes sure that housemade pasta and pizza options are available without sacrificing quality. You're sure to feel spoiled — and even a little naughty — delving into this unabashedly Italian eatery.

Citizen Rail.
Citizen Rail.
Danielle Lirette

Citizen Rail
1899 16th Street
303-323-0017
citizenrail.com

Hotel restaurants don't have much of a reputation for inventive, chef-driven fare, but Citizen Rail, beneath the Kimpton Hotel Born, is among a growing number of exceptions to the rule. Not content to offer bland tourist fare to please the masses, chef Christian Graves turns his attention toward 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 whole animals 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.

Colt & Gray
1553 Platte Street
303-477-1447
coltandgray.com

Colt & Gray is an exercise in how far someone — chef/owner Nelson Perkins, in this case — can push a neighborhood restaurant without going completely over the edge. Since it opened at the foot of the 16th Street pedestrian bridge connecting Commons Park to LoHi in August 2009, this compact eatery has been an equally good spot for savoring a perfectly executed cocktail while you eat your way through one of the best and most interesting happy-hour menus in town, or sipping a specially selected glass of wine while enjoying a special night out in the small but elegant, well-staffed dining room. The dinner menu is well thought out, too, with a number of dishes built around parts of the animal that some people would consider scraps, including a roasted marrow bone that concentrates the essence of grilled meat into a buttery spread.

Comal Heritage Food Incubator
3455 Ringsby Court
303-292-0770

Comal is a restaurant on a quest: The RiNo lunch spot opened in late 2016 with the goal of training low-income women (many of whom are immigrants and refugees from Mexico, El Salvador, Syria, Ethiopia and Iraq) in restaurant and business skills. But such noble ambition doesn't mean much if a restaurant doesn't serve great food — and here Comal succeeds admirably. Mexican dishes are on the menu early in the week, with offerings changing regularly based on recipes handed down from generation to generation. On Friday, though, Syrian cooks take over the kitchen and serve creamy hummus and pillowy housemade pita, along with other hard-to-find dishes such as stuffed artichoke hearts, bulgur salad and the transcendent dessert called kanafeh, made of mild white cheese surrounded by shredded pastry and soaked in syrup. You'll want to sample everything the kitchen turns out — which is why you'll keep returning to Comal, time and time again.

Concourse
10195 East 29th Drive
720-550-6934
concoursedenver.com

The first project from ChoLon Concepts to venture outside of Southeast Asia, Concourse Restaurant Moderne is a Stapleton stunner. With its low, wood-slat ceiling that undulates like waves and a light-filled wraparound bar, the restaurant feels elegant but playful, and the kitchen, headed by chef/partner Luke Bergman, turns out cuisine to match. The Modern American menu offers an embarrassment of riches, some of which change with the season; others, like a whole-roasted head of cauliflower with lemon, capers and brown butter, please year-round. Any number of dishes — perhaps the wagyu tataki served like high-end nachos, or the showstopping beet salad with arugula sorbet — have the potential to join sister restaurant ChoLon’s soup dumplings and kaya toast as icons of the city’s best fare.

Corrida.EXPAND
Corrida.
Danielle Lirette

Corrida
1023 Walnut Street, Boulder
303-444-1333
corridaboulder.com

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.

Dio Mio.EXPAND
Dio Mio.
Danielle Lirette

Dio Mio Handmade Pasta
3264 Larimer Street
303-562-1965
diomiopasta.com

Alex Figura and Spencer White are trying to elevate pasta’s status as an oft-abused filler to the star of the plate, one handmade noodle at a time. But rather than taking an overtly refined approach, as you’d expect given their backgrounds in kitchens where success was measured in awards and Michelin stars, they’ve set up shop in a minimalist fast-casual spot, with unadorned white walls, black chairs and a stark-white art installation that dangles from the ceiling like a squadron of half-folded paper airplanes. Freed from the burdens of high-end, high-overhead operations, they seem thrilled to let loose and use food as a springboard for play. Seasonal vegetables and herbs serve as the color palette on an ever-changing canvas of ravioli and spaghetti.

El Five
2930 Umatilla Street
303-524-9193
elfivedenver.com

El Five isn’t just a restaurant, it’s an experience. Perched atop a five-story building in LoHi, the restaurant commands breathtaking views of downtown and the mountains. But the views inside the walls are just as mesmerizing. People are everywhere — down corridors that lead to dining rooms surrounded by mirrors and glass; standing, sitting, ordering drinks, saving seats, sharing steel pans of paella, laughing and leaning in across velvety booths to be heard over the primal thump of a dance beat. A shiny black ceiling and ebony walls envelop you in the inner sanctum that is home to the open kitchen. Everything else glows in stark contrast, backlit with light pouring in through the open-air bar and wraparound windows. The bold reds and yellows of vintage Arabic movie posters capture the Mediterranean themes and audacious platings of the menu, which skews toward tapas, so everything is meant to share — from lamb sausage with hummus to patatas bravas to matzoh-ball soup dumplings.

FNG.EXPAND
FNG.
Danielle Lirette

FNG
3940 West 32nd Avenue
720-667-3727
fngrestaurant.com

FNG, a rock-and-roll-themed hit from prolific chef/restaurateur Troy Guard, more than lives up to its name: It’s fuckin’ good. It also manages to be a neighborly place with nothing to prove — except maybe that comfort food from a restaurant can be just as good as homemade. The vibe is youthful and raucous, slightly diner-like on the perimeter, where garage-door windows flood a family-friendly section of booths with fresh air and sunlight. Vintage album covers decorate the walls, many from Guard’s teenage collection. Servers sport band T-shirts, and ’70s and ’80s rock and heavy metal is cranked at all times, sometimes so loudly that you’ll shout or give up trying. The menu straddles the line between nostalgic and contemporary, with a mix of small plates, sandwiches, housemade pasta and down-home favorites like meatloaf and chicken-fried steak. Just have fun trying to explain to the kiddos what the initials FNG mean!

Garibaldi Mexican Bistro
1043 Broadway, 720-638-7330
3298 South Broadway, Englewood, 303-781-0812

The original Garibaldi Mexican Bistro shares a building with a Conoco service station; the little eatery is wedged between the gas station's convenience store and automated car wash. The second location, in the Golden Triangle, opened in July and includes a full bar. Of course, we wouldn't send you to a taqueria if it wasn't top-notch, and the food is the main attraction at both. Daily specials — lamb barbacoa, quesadillas with huitlacoche and squash blossoms — are worth investigating, or sample the unique queka, which comes in somewhere between an oversized taco and a corn-tortilla quesadilla. Other hard-to-find regional dishes include pambazos (smothered tortas), nopales rellenos (stuffed cactus leaves), Oaxacan-style tlayudas, and mixiote (slow-cooked pork or chicken). Fill ’er up!

Julep.EXPAND
Julep.
Danielle Lirette

Julep
3258 Larimer Street
303-295-8977
juleprino.com

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.

Little Chengdu
8101 East Belleview Avenue
303-220-0577

This Denver Tech Center strip-mall spot, which still bears the "Blue Ocean" sign of its predecessor, offers an array of traditional Chinese dishes, from noodles hand-pulled to order at an exhibition counter, to dapanji, or big tray chicken, to hand-formed Sichuan wontons stewed in chili oil. But the showpiece at Little Chengdu is the stove atop your table, where you can cook up your own hot pot. Choose a broth, designate a spice level (be aggressive with your preference if you really like heat), and then order your produce and protein. We recommend starting with tofu skin, lamb slices, lotus root and enoki mushrooms, then finishing with noodles and greens, but Little Chengdu serves all of its hot pot all-you-can-eat style, so don't be shy. While you wait for your pot to boil, wander back to the condiment bar and mix up the sauce in which you'll dip the cooked morsels that you fish from the pot. Sesame oil is a fairly traditional base, but you can go wild from there. Hot damn!

My Brother's Bar.
My Brother's Bar.
Westword

My Brother's Bar
2376 15th Street
303-455-9991
mybrothersbar.com

Yes, My Brother’s Bar has a fascinating history: The building has held a bar since the 1870s, Neal Cassady hung out here when it was Paul’s Place, and as My Brother’s Bar, it’s survived with no TVs while playing classical music and serving burgers in wax paper until 1 a.m. Across the decades, the place has evolved from dusty cowtown cantina to Beat Generation hangout to neighborhood bar for the entire city. But the most interesting chapter is the current one: After four decades, the Karagas family sold the spot to a longtime employee and her family, who’ve vowed to keep My Brother’s Bar going in its current incarnation, even as developers knock on the door. We’ll drink to that.

Nocturne
1330 27th Street
303-295-3333
nocturnejazz.com

In 2015, Nicole and Scott Mattson brought jazz back to the RiNo neighborhood with the opening of Nocturne. While there's plenty of action at the art deco-style bar, where classic cocktails are served with old-school flair, dinner in front of the stage is a memorable experience. Away from the stage and dining room, cocktail shakers flash in the dim light, and buckets of ice keep sparkling wine chilled at the end of the bar. But if you’re feeling sophisticated, you'll book a night to indulge in a "Renditions" tasting menu, which gives the kitchen a chance to show off by pairing thoughtfully prepared small plates with songs from classic jazz albums chosen every two months to bring together music and food.

Pho Duy
925 South Federal Boulevard
303-937-1609
phoduyrestaurant.com

Located in a sea of noodle shops along South Federal, Pho Duy serves up pho that's among the best in town. And pho fans know it, too. After two decades of serving Vietnamese specialties in a tiny space that saw a constant frenzy of activity, with eaters rotating through the tables jam-packed into the space, the restaurant moved next door into a renovated KFC in June 2015. And still, this place can get crowded. Aromatic broth, fresh and flavorful meats, and options far beyond the standards — there's even a vegetarian broth — keep this pho joint on the top of everyone's list of standby lunches, late-night drop-ins and cold-weather haunts.

Santo.
Santo.
Laura Shunk

Santo
1265 Alpine Avenue, Boulder
303-442-6100
santoboulder.com

Denver and Boulder are chock-full of great Mexican food; whether you're a fan of Den-Mex, Tex-Mex or plain old Mex-Mex, there are plenty of places to get your taco-and-smothered-burritos fix. But New Mex? There aren't many places in town specializing in the fusion of Native American, Spanish and Mexican cuisine that's found in New Mexico. That's why chef/owner Hosea Rosenberg's Santo made such a splash when it landed in November 2017. Southwestern classics like Navajo fry bread, pork-and-potato green chile stew and blue-corn rellenos and enchiladas pack the menu. Of particular note is the restaurant's vegetarian green chile; rather than rely on pork in the dish, Rosenberg builds layers of flavor by oven-roasting all of his vegetables before they go in the pot, including the Hatch green chiles — which the chef brings up from New Mexico every fall. You'll find a land of enchantment in suburban Boulder.

Señor Bear
3301 Tejon Street
720-572-5997
senorbeardenver.com

Chefs Blake Edmunds and Max MacKissock have worked on numerous projects together, but Señor Bear is the purest distillation of their intelligence and adventurousness. The bright and festive Latin American cantina, with its Peruvian mirrors and the soft glow of its long central bar, might initially come across as Mexican, given its hefty margaritas and queso fundido, plus carnitas and “el pollo bronco” chicken strips. But the menu is much broader, and the standout dishes — such as Puerto Rican mofongo re-envisioned for the Rocky Mountains, Peruvian saltado made with broccoli, not beef, and Oaxacan mole negro with squash — reveal these subtle influences while showcasing the creativity of the kitchen.

Super Mega Bien.EXPAND
Super Mega Bien.
Danielle Lirette

Super Mega Bien
1260 25th Street
720-269-4695
supermegabien.com

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 street.

Sushi Ronin
2930 Umatilla Street
303-955-8741
sushironindenver.com

Sushi chef Corey Baker garnered such a reputation for his omakase feasts, customers sought him out at Sushi Den and Sushi Sasa — Denver's sushi pioneers — when they wanted a customized slate of fish. Omakase, then, is what you should order at Baker's own restaurant, Sushi Ronin; the chef's-choice menu gives you a little taste of everything this restaurant does. And you should order it at the sushi bar, where Baker will tailor his picks specifically to your tastes. He'll pass you such exotic specimens as Spanish mackerel and monkfish liver (basically the foie gras of the sea) if he thinks you'll like them, and add flourishes to his nigiri based on what you tell him about your own palate. If omakase is not quite your speed, Ronin is still worth a stop: The restaurant offers cuts of fish not available at many other places, and deals with them respectfully, making each bite a true pleasure.

Sushi Sasa
2401 15th Street
303-433-7272
sushisasa.com

Wayne Conwell has been slicing fish and finding new ways to turn Japanese tradition on end at Sushi Sasa since 2005. By synthesizing Western technique and current Denver tastes with the traditions of sushi that evolved in isolation long before it hit American shores, the chef has continued to stay relevant in a scene that shifts and changes like an undulating school of tuna. Whether you order minimalist nigiri that accentuates the meat of the fish itself or delicate constructions that build layers of flavor, the menu always holds surprise and satisfaction in equal measure.

Tarasco's New Latino Cuisine
470 South Federal Boulevard
303-922-2387
tarascosrestaurantdenver.com

Tarasco's peeks out from its corner spot like the shy girl in a homemade dress at her first dance. The interior walls are covered in Spanish aphorisms and descriptions of fruit and vegetable drinks (jugos and licuados), part of chef/owner Noe Bermudez's dedication to healthy food. Tarasco's has a way of creating beauty and perfection in even the humblest of dishes, like rich and spicy posole or simple corn tamales that balance sweet and earthy with the gentlest kiss of chile verde. The posole is award-winning; doctored up, it’s like eating Christmas in a bowl. We can't get enough of the seven-chile mole — a specialty of Michoacán — but the mole verde is also a great option. And keep your eyes on the specials board for the rare mole amarillo. Tarasco's may look a little plain and unassuming, but the food is far from it.

Tavernetta.EXPAND
Tavernetta.
Danielle Lirette

Tavernetta
1889 16th Street
720-605-1889
tavernettadenver.com

Standing in front of Tavernetta, the latest from Frasca Food and Wine owners Bobby Stuckey and Lachlan Mackinnon-Patterson, you almost wouldn't guess you were in Denver — despite being only a stone's throw from Union Station. New hotels and apartment buildings crowd in around the stone facade of the eatery (as if peering down to see what's on the menu), and a train platform stretches off into the distance. Surely this is the transportation hub of some major East Coast or European city, not our quaint Denver, where only a few years ago weeds and chain-link fences sprouted from a dirt lot where Tavernetta now stands. Visionary forces are at work in this sector of downtown, though, and Stuckey and Mackinnon-Patterson are now a part of that. The food of various Italian regions is the theme of the menu, from well-known ports of call like Venice to hidden gems such as Trapani, on Sicily's far shore. The staff has taken time to travel through these regions in search of unique and interesting flavors, adapting them as needed for Denver tastes and available ingredients. The result is magnificent, bustling to the point just shy of chaos, and almost overwhelming with a brand of hospitality that makes you feel as if every one of the dozens of staffers on hand are there just for you.

Ultreia.
Ultreia.
Danielle Lirette

Ultreia
1701 Wynkoop Street
303-534-1970
ultreiadenver.com

This 2017 addition to the restaurant group that includes Rioja and Stoic & Genuine exudes an elegance befitting Ultreia's location in historic Union Station. Beyond the gin-stacked bar is a Spanish-style plaza, with tables tucked around a fountain and flowers. Ornate wrought-iron stairs lead to the mezzanine, where tables perch like box seats at the opera. Walls come alive with a mural of cows and peasants adapted from a seventh-century work in London’s National Gallery. But this isn’t a fine-dining spot: Ultreia is a fun-loving gastroteka, specializing in Spanish and Portuguese tapas, pintxos and gin tonics. Settle in for wood cones of chorizo and Manchego, crispy ham croquettes, and pork ribs that fall apart on contact for delightful bites of juicy meat and cumin-seasoned bark. And don’t miss the pan con tomate, with puréed tomato that you slather on garlic-rubbed ciabatta until the juices seep ever-so-slightly into the crumb. Entrees and desserts are on offer, too, but a glass of sherry might be all the ending you need.

The Way Back
3963 Tennyson Street
970-682-6888
thewaybackdenver.com

Call it a reboot, a relaunch or a rebirth, but definitely welcome back the Way Back. In February it reopened in new digs on Tennyson Street, not far from its original Highland home on West 38th Avenue. But with a new chef, menu and ambience, the updated Way Back deserves recognition on its own. Some dishes, like kung pao bison heart or odes to single vegetables, will remind diners of the original, but this kitchen adds a touch of approachability to what was once an esoteric slate built more for culinary adventurers. And as always, the Way Back team nails the cocktail program while incorporating the theme of local, sustainable and responsible that pervades the entire operation.

And back for another round from 2017:
12@Madison
Acorn
Bar Dough
Barolo Grill
Basta
Bastien’s
Beast + Bottle
Biju’s Little Curry Shop
Biker Jim’s Gourmet Dogs
Bistro Vendôme
Bittersweet
Black Cat
Blackbelly
Blue Pan Pizza
Bonnie Brae Tavern
Breakfast King
Buckhorn Exchange
Cherry Cricket
ChoLon Modern Asian
Chubby’s
City, O’ City
Domo
El Chingon
El Taco de Mexico
Flagstaff House
Frasca
Fruition
Hop Alley
Hops & Pie
Il Porcellino
Il Posto
Izakaya Den
Jax Fish House
The Kitchen
La Loma
Linger
Lola Coastal Mexican
Marco’s Coal-Fired Pizza
Maria Empanada
Masterpiece Deli
Mercantile
Mister Tuna
Mizuna
New Saigon Bakery & Deli
Oak at 14th
Old Major
Pizzeria Locale
The Plimoth
The Populist
The Post Brewing Co.
Potager
Queen of Sheba
Racines
Rioja
Roaming Buffalo
Root Down
Rosenberg’s Bagels
Spuntino
Steuben’s Uptown
Stoic & Genuine
Super Star Asian
Sushi Den
Table 6
Taste of Thailand
To the Wind Bistro
Uncle
Vesta
Vinh Xuong Bakery
Work & Class
Zoe Ma Ma

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