During the first six months of 2021, at least 128 bars and restaurants opened in metro Denver — compared to just under 200 in all of 2020. With pandemic dining restrictions lifted, workers once again heading to the office and crowds returning to the streets, it's highly likely that we'll see even more than another 128 openings in the final six months of the year. In fact, we already know about quite a few on the way.
With everything from new locations of old favorites (like Little India adding an outpost in Central Park in August and Sushi Rama opening another spot in Broomfield) to the expansion of chains (Jet's Pizza will be opening on Colorado Boulevard and local brand Birdcall will add numbers five and six in Cherry Hills Village and Boulder), the culinary action doesn't seem to be slowing down.
But a few upcoming openings have people really talking. So get excited: Burgers are coming! Big names are coming! Yet another food hall is in the works!
Here are the most anticipated newcomers for the rest of 2021, in the order of their projected opening dates:
Lucy's Burger Bar
4018 Tennyson Street
Opening: Late July/Early August
Minnesota natives and friends Michelle "Meesh" McGlone and Nate Collis have a background in touring — McGlone as an aerialist and Collis as the longtime guitar player for Atmosphere. But now they're putting down roots with a new burger spot that specializes in a regional favorite from their home state, the Juicy Lucy, with a progressive social mission as well. Lucy's Burger Bar will be open seven days a week (a bonus for a street where most eateries are closed on Mondays) and will be an all-day and eventually late-night place to grab a casual burger, stuffed with cheese or not, along with fries and boozy beverages. But while the menu is small, McGlone has big dreams when it comes to building a community spot where all feel safe and welcome. "You know in an ’80s movie, where there are rich developers coming to town to tear down some special place and a group of kids come together to figure out how to get one over on the businessmen?" she asks. "I want Lucy's to be the place they'd come to meet up and make their plans."
2903 Larimer Street
Opening: Late July/Early August
If you've been in RiNo this summer, you've probably noticed the construction in progress at the corner of Larimer and 29th Street, next door to Finn's Manor. Soon, you'll be able to step right up and order a tequila shot in a glass made of ice, then throw the glass at a bell hung over a fire pit. The "Ring the Bell" special is the signature of Federales, a Chicago-based open-air tequila and taco concept with a reputation as a boisterous party spot.
6575 Greenwood Plaza Boulevard, Greenwood Village
Troy Guard is having quite a busy 2021 so far, and it's about to get even busier as he and his TAG Restaurant Group team prepare to open a food hall in the new Arapahoe Entertainment District, where the bowling/games/food/booze complex Pindustry recently debuted. Grange Hall will mark Guard's entry into the beer game with Little Dry Creek Brewery. He'll also be heading up several of the food concepts, including a Bubu outpost and two new concepts centered on pizza and burgers. The latest Grange Hall news: Crack Shack, which originally opened in 2015 in San Diego and has since expanded and built a cult following for its fried chicken, was recently announced as one of the non-Guard food options at the new hall.
1600 15th Street
Opening: September 1
The space that was Wazee Supper Club for decades before becoming French-inspired eatery Morin will get a new start once again when the Culinary Creative Group led by restaurateur Juan Padró and chef Max MacKissock opens the doors to Denver's newest steakhouse. The team is behind popular spots Bar Dough, Señor Bear, Mister Oso and more, so expectations are high for its "fun and funky" steakhouse "driven by seasonality" that will be "different from anything that's out there," according to MacKissock. In addition to steak and whatever other playful plans the Culinary Creative Group has up its sleeve, oyster guy around town Oyster Wulff is slated to head up the raw bar.
1520 16th Street
Opening: Late Summer
Earlier this year, chef Lon Symensma's Cho 77 closed after six years on the 16th Street Mall; he also recently announced the temporary closure of Le Roux for some "sprucing up," according to an Instagram post. But there won't be much downtime, because his ChoLon Restaurant Concepts team is also planning a new dumpling and noodle bar in the former Cho 77 space called YumCha. Leading up the menu development on the dumpling side is Michelle Xiao, known as one of the best dumpling makers in New York City before joining Symensma's team, and we can't wait to taste what she's got planned.
7111 East Lowry Boulevard
Opening: Late Summer
The team behind one of Denver's best sushi restaurants, Sushi Ronin, originally opened Izakaya Ronin in the Industry building on Brighton Boulevard in 2017. But that location, with seemingly never-ending construction, proved tough, and the team closed the concept in 2019. Now it's making a comeback in a totally different neighborhood. Like the original Izakaya Ronin, Ronin Lowry will have ramen (and hopefully some of the other Izakaya Ronin small-plate faves) along with the sushi and sashimi.
Three Saints Revival
1801 Wewatta Street
North Union Station is another area of town that was under construction for...ever, which may be part of the reason that Hearth & Dram at the Indigo Hotel never really took off — at least, not enough to survive the pandemic closures. But now longtime Denver restaurateur Robert Thompson, who resigned as CEO from the "eatertainment" concept he started, Punch Bowl Social, in August 2020, is hoping to revive the Hearth & Dram space with a dream-inspired tapas restaurant. "Anything that touches the Mediterranean" — from Spain and Greece to Egypt and Israel — is on the table, Thompson says.
Root & Spring
When Top Chef filmed its fifteenth season in Denver, judge Tom Colicchio must have gotten a good impression, because it was recently announced that the Mile High is one of the first three cities (along with Washington, D.C., and Philadelphia) where he plans to open a new, fast-casual concept aimed at providing medical staff, patients and hospital visitors with easier access to high-quality, healthy options. Colicchio is not new to the fast-casual food business — his Witchcraft was one of the first to have a big-name chef behind it. The first Root & Spring location opened in D.C.'s Children's National Innovation and Research Center on July 6.
Church and Union
The only evidence so far that Church and Union — another mystery with a big Top Chef-related name behind it — will come to Denver is a post on Twitter and another on Instagram from Alejandro Torio, one of the three owners of 5th Street Group, a restaurant crew based in Charlotte, North Carolina. The other two names behind the project: Patrick Whalen and Jamie Lynch, a chef whose background includes time at Le Cirque, Aureole and Café Boulud, as well as an appearance on season fourteen of Top Chef and season seventeen of Top Chef All Stars. The team is currently opening a location of the concept, billed as a new American eatery, in Nashville, with others planned for Charlotte, Charleston and Atlanta. Most intriguing: why this group with Southern roots and ambitions chose Denver at all.
2622 West 32nd Avenue
Restaurants rarely hit projected opening dates, so it remains to be seen if Sonny's will indeed debut before the end of the year. But whenever it opens, we'll be there to try it. The Mediterranean concept from David Schloss won't be the only spot serving hummus, pita and falafel in LoHi — Ash'kara and Ali Baba Grill are nearby — but we're curious to see what this Safta kitchen alum has planned for the neighborhood with his first foray into solo restaurant ownership.
Correction: This story has been updated to reflect the fact that Corey Baker is no longer associated with Sushi Ronin.
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