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The Ten Best Denver Restaurant Trends in 2014

With the incredible number of bars and restaurants that opened this past year, trend-following can lead you down a pretty deep rabbit hole. Sure, there was plenty of kale on Denver's menus, but a big part of that is that kale is cheap and easy to grow in Colorado. But when it comes to spending real money to open a new restaurant, decisions that could mean the life or death of an eatery steer restaurateurs in the direction of pleasing the most people without becoming boring or derivative. Trends grow because customers spend money on the foods and fashions that appeal to them. A restaurant's style, location, the amenities it provides and the basic concept it chooses to present to the public are all part of trend-setting -- and trend-following. Keep reading for a list of the ten top trends in Denver-area restaurants in 2014.

See also: The Fifteen Best New Restaurants in Metro Denver in 2014

10) The Fast-Casual Explosion

Denver has always been at the top of the fast-casual game, but we get it if you're a little tired of the big players. Even though Chipotle, Qdoba, Noodles & Company and Quiznos were born in Denver, you can go to almost any city in America and eat the same burritos, noodle bowls and sandwiches. But for something unique to Denver -- and uniquely tasty -- there are still many fast-casual options, from giant Japanese rolls at Boulder's Motomaki to the fiery and vibrant curries of Biju's Little Curry Shop. In fact, this city saw so many new fast-casual joints this year that we had no trouble coming up with a list of the ten best.

9) Expanding to Multiple Locations -- In and Out of Colorado

If a single restaurant keeps packing the house night after night, multiple restaurants mean restaurateurs can spread the popularity to a bigger audience. Boulder favorites Jax Fish House and the Kitchen (and the Kitchen Next Door) have opened multiple locations in the Denver metro area and beyond. In 2014, both groups opened out-of-state locations, too: Jax built a new fish house in Kansas City while the Kitchen opened a location in Chicago in October. Punch Bowl Social has also continued expansion outside of Colorado, adding Detroit to a list that also includes Austin, Texas, and Portland, Oregon. Snarf's, which just opened a new spot on West 38th Avenue in north Denver, has been busy beyond our state borders too, with sandwich shops opening in Chicago (the fourth Snarf's in that city) and Austin.

In Denver, this year's expansions included a new Snooze in Union Station, a downtown location for longtime favorite Duffeyroll Cafe, an expansion of Biker Jim's sausage empire into Highlands Ranch, and a sprawling, second Viewhouse location in Centennial. Even breweries got in on the action: Dry Dock Brewing Co. opened a second brewing facility and tap room in Aurora.

8) Markets and Butcher Counters Inside Restaurants

Wherever restaurants couldn't squeeze in additional tables for added revenue, they installed cold cases, pantry shelves and butcher counters to sell pickled and jarred products, salumi and charcuterie; prime cuts of beef, pork and lamb; and all manner of baked goods. Mercantile Dining & Provision topped the list by dedicating serious square footage (and a good part of its name) to a cheese and meat counter selling high-end cheese, cured meats and pickled vegetables from owner Alex Seidel's Fruition Farms. Hosea Rosenberg's Blackbelly Market brought the market movement to Boulder with a butcher counter, display cases for fresh sausage and aged salumi, and a grab-and-go breakfast menu that includes classic Colorado-style breakfast burritos. Olive & Finch, Sarto's, Butcher's Bistro, and D Bar also opened with separate spaces for retail sales of their housemade goods.

Keep reading for more of the top restaurant trends in Denver in 2014.

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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

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