Openings and Closings

Restaurant Roll Call: All the Openings and Closings in 2018

Pita bread fresh from the oven at Safta.
Pita bread fresh from the oven at Safta. Danielle Lirette
The final count is in, and 2018 was another big year for restaurant openings — and closings — in metro Denver. Over the past twelve months, we followed the openings of more than 230 new restaurants and bars, ranging from Acova, which filled the big shoes left behind by Patsy's, to Zocalito, the last eatery to open this year. In between, we saw an influx of high-end restaurants, some from already well-known local restaurateurs, but neighborhood coffee shops, suburban ethnic joints and out-of-state interlopers kept pace.

What were the big trends? Locally made beer, wine and spirits came on strong, with 25 breweries, wineries and distilleries opening in the metro area, serving a diverse selection of chicha and pulque (Dos Luces), sake (Colorado Sake Co.), cider, beer, wine and hard liquor. Close to twenty new coffee shops are also brewing up good things around town, some with built-in social missions, including Reunion Coffee House and Dirt Coffee Bar.
click to enlarge Pita bread fresh from the oven at Safta. - DANIELLE LIRETTE
Pita bread fresh from the oven at Safta.
Danielle Lirette

Italian and Mexican were both common culinary themes this year, but Middle Eastern and Mediterranean cuisine also made an impact, with ten new establishments representing those regions, most notably the upscale Safta from chef Alon Shaya and Ash'Kara from chef Daniel Asher. Denver got its first Turkish and Egyptian restaurants with Bosphorus and Koshari Time, respectively, and Boulder quickly followed suit with a Turkish breakfast joint named Breakfast Champion. Other unique openings included Au Feu (serving Montreal-style brisket), Bang Up to the Elephant (specializing in Caribbean cuisine), Liberati Osteria & Oenobeers (pouring wine/beer hybrids), Osaka's (Japanese okonomiyaki burgers) and Toasted & Cajun (dishing up American diner food by day and Vietnamese/Cajun seafood by night).
click to enlarge New styles of fermented beverages hit Denver in 2018, including oenobeers at Liberati. - JONATHAN SHIKES
New styles of fermented beverages hit Denver in 2018, including oenobeers at Liberati.
Jonathan Shikes

Not every launch was successful, though: Cafe UR Way, Delhi Darbar, Garibaldi Mexican Bistro's central location, Squared Pizza + Beer, Rincon De Villa and Miami Vibez all opened and then shut within a few months.

The number of closings this year were on track with the stats from years past, with nearly 100 restaurants shuttered, but some of 2018's losses hit close to home. Favorites that fell by the wayside included Solera, Rebel, the Chowder Room, Hi*Rise, Makan Malaysian Cafe, Phil's Place, Solitaire and Thai Street Food. And some true Denver restaurant landmarks, including the Wazee Supper Club, White Fence Farm, Mataam Fez, the Old Spaghetti Factory, Famous Pizza, Jack-n-Grill, the Paramount Cafe and Govnr's Park Bar & Grill all said goodbye.
click to enlarge Govnr's Park Bar & Grill regulars hoist one last drink before the forty-year-old bar closed in November. - DANIELLE LIRETTE
Govnr's Park Bar & Grill regulars hoist one last drink before the forty-year-old bar closed in November.
Danielle Lirette
What's the takeaway? This marks at least four straight years of openings coming at a blistering pace, and the impact can be felt in the scarcity of inexpensive restaurant real estate and a talent pool that's spread thin as a slice of prosciutto. Customers are having a hard time keeping up with the pace and parting with ever increasing wads of cash.

Will the restaurant bubble burst in 2019? We'll be right here, shoulder-to-shoulder in the dining action, making sure we don't miss a beat.


Here's our complete list of restaurant and bar openings and closings in 2018:

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Mark Antonation is the former Westword Food & Drink Editor. In 2018, he was named Outstanding Media Professional by the Colorado Restaurant Association; he's now with the Colorado Restaurant Foundation.
Contact: Mark Antonation