With the horrors of holiday travel just beginning, you might find yourself with time -- lots of time -- at Denver International Airport in the days ahead. Fortunately, the food at DIA has never been better, thanks to a concerted effort to improve the restaurant offerings -- and add Dunkin' Donuts! Last month, the airport even featured a pop-up beer garden (sadly, that left when the Great American Beer Festival ended.) But there are still plenty of spots where bartenders will give you a healthy pour and servers will let you sit, and sit, while you wait for your flight to be called (or cancelled). So next time you're stuck at the airport, skip McDonald's and grab a seat in one of the ten best restaurants (listed here in no particularly order) at DIA.
10) Aviator's Sports Bar & Bar-B-Que Concourse B Mezzanine Need an eye-opener? Aviator's Sports Bar & Bar-B-Que, a new addition this year, opens at 6 a.m. and starts pouring soon after. It's never too early for beer and barbecue!
9) New Belgium Hub Concourse B, near gate B80 Besides hosting a selection of the Fort Collins brewery's brews, New Belgium Hub has a solid sandwich and entree menu. Now if only you have enough time to run down the concourse to reach this spot, which is tucked away by United's commuter flights.
8) Tamales by La Casita Concourse C, center area Get a true taste of Denver at Tamales by La Casita, which serves up much of the same great menu that the Sandoval family has been offering generations of fans in northwest Denver. You can grab tamales to go for a great hostess gift, but if you have time you'll definitely want to eat at La Casita, where you can wash down a plate of tamales (get it with both red and green chiles for a Christmas treat) or even Frito pie with a local brew or two...or three.
7) Que Bueno Concourse B, near gate B29 We've spent many hours -- and many, many dollars -- waiting for delayed United flights while washing down a big burrito with Mexican beer. The set-up is a variation on Chipotle, as you mix and match ingredients at the counter -- but be warned, that hot salsa is fiery.
6) Cru A Wine Bar Concourse B, near gate B51 Cru, which has outposts in Larimer Square and Park Meadows, is part of a Texas-based chain -- but its airport selections, which include pizzas and sandwiches as well as wine, have earned accolades across the country.
5) Steve's Snappin' Dogs B Concourse, near gate B24 Steve's Snappin' Dogs, which got its start on East Colfax, has won plenty of fans with its authentic New Jersey dogs, deep-fried green beans, respectable chile and specially brewed craft beer. Early this year, a second Steve's location finally landed at DIA, where it serves up breakfast, lunch and dinner -- and everything in between.
4) Wolfgang Puck Concourse B, mezzanine Wolfgang Punk has made a name for himself around the world with his inventive fare that emphasizes quality ingredients. And this airport restaurant is no exception, with a full bar and pizza, sandwiches and full entrees that could make you forget you're eating in an airport. Then again, the mezzanine level location helps, removing you far from the madding crowd.
3) Pour La France Main terminal, west side, level 6 and Concourse B, center area Pour La France once had restaurants dotted across the country, including Denver. Today the only ones left in the U.S. are at Denver International Airport. These two spots have been at DIA since the place opened, and we hope they never leave: The fare is tasty and quick if you need to grab something to go, but delicious to savor at a table if you have time to spare.
2) Elway's Concourse B, center area The airport version of the Denver steakhouse features the same great cuts of meat, same strong drinks -- and, until 10 a.m. the same amazing chicken-fried steak breakfast burrito. Whether you need a fast lunch or have time to linger over dinner, Elway's will meat your needs. And if you forgot to buy your beloved a gift in town, check out the Elway's paraphernalia on sale here.
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1) Root Down Concourse C, center area Root Down upped the ante on airport restaurants when it opened at DIA last fall. The decor is stunning, with an old-aviation feel, and the kitchen has the same "field to fork" mentality that you'll find at the original Highland location; the bar gets extra points for its Bloody Mary. Want to give visitors a healthy appreciation of Denver? Have them hit Root Down for breakfast, lunch or dinner.