Whether you're traveling for work or vacation, there's nothing more depressing than the standard hotel restaurant. Kept in business by expense accounts and timid tourists, most offer little more than tired bar fare designed to appeal to the masses. Hotels can get away with 3 a.m. room-service club sandwiches, but sitting down at a normal dinner hour to something bland or poorly cooked can ruin a trip. Here in Denver, we were already lucky to have a good range of hotel restaurants that are destinations on their own -- but with the opening of Union Station and a few other high-profile spots this year, we're about ready to check in for our own staycation.
If you have friends or family visiting over the holidays and don't have the space (or patience) to put them up at home, send them to a hotel and then meet them for dinner at one of the ten best hotel restaurants in Denver. Here's our list, in no particular order -- and without reservation!
See also: Ten Best Tiny Restaurants in Denver
10) Spruce Hotel Boulderado 2115 13th Street, Boulder 303-442-4880
Spruce opened in the Hotel Boulderado over the summer, after renovations of what had been Q's for the past couple of decades. With plenty of big windows and a year-round,enclosed veranda, Spruce's atmosphere is bright and airy, bathing the century-old architectural elements in Colorado sun. Like the dining room itself, the menu takes traditional standards and gives them new life with modern ingredients and techniques. Colorado striped bass stands out on a mound of black quinoa and Harris Ranch filet mignon rests in a pool of smoked tomato jus. Pastries are a kitchen strong point, even in savory dishes like a roasted pear tart with caramelized onion and Gorgonzola.
9) Randolph's Warwick Hotel 1776 Grant Street 303-318-7272
Just outside of the downtown business district and away from the the standard hotel zones, the Warwick is a bit of a secret. Randolph's is as much of a secret, but chef Jesper Jonsson -- who was just inducted into the Disciples of Escoffier in October -- is doing his best to get Denver's attention, with locally sourced meat and produce, classic technique and a few unique menu items like tart flammande (a traditional northern French pizza) or rabbit ragout fettucini, as well as steaks and chops for executive travelers.
8) Second Home Kitchen and Bar JW Marriott 150 Clayton Lane 303-253-3000
Second Home offers a more playful approach to the normally staid and stuffy hotel restaurant. From the Sunday Pajama Brunch to chicken with cornbread-cheddar waffles, the eatery -- equal parts modern and woodsy -- invites guests to drop the business attire and relax. Daily specials like all-you-can-eat fried chicken on Sundays and chicken-pot pie on Thursday offer homey alternatives.
Keep reading for more of the best hotel restaurants in Denver.
7) Elway's Ritz-Carlton 1881 Curtis Street 303-312-3107
John Elway is one of Denver's top embassadors; his steakhouses greet travelers at DIA, welcome them to Vail and show them a good time in Cherry Creek North and at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel. A little more swank and elegant than the Cherry Creek original, the downtown Elway's is perfect for a power lunch or a serious steak dinner.
6) Jill's Restaurant The St. Julien 900 Walnut Street, Boulder 720-406-7399
Jill's Restaurant does much more than cater to business travelers on expense accounts and vacationers with cash to blow. The cozy bar and dining room attract plenty of locals at lunch and dinner, and Jill's is particularly popular with Boulderites during weekend brunch, when it offers a sweeping, delightful buffet of breakfast foods. That goes for the daily happy hour as well, when the rooms fill with post-work professionals sipping cocktails and wine and nibbling on small-plate appetizers.
5) Edge Restaurant & Bar The Four Seasons 1111 14th Street 303-389-3343
Attentive service, lavish digs and a Colorado-style meat-focused menu that's filled out with steak, lamb and bison balance the elegance expected by Four Seasons guests with a helping of Rocky Mountain cooking and hospitality.
4) The Nickel Hotel Teatro 1100 14th Street 720-889-2128
It might be easy to pass off the Nickel as just an easy stop before the theater or another typical hotel restaurant, but here's what our restaurant critic has to say: "the Nickel has gotten off to a fast start, becoming not just a go-to restaurant for theater-goers and hotel guests, but a growing destination for locals looking for comfortable, honest fare." Under the direction of chef Chris Thompson, the Nickel's kitchen puts out a range of wood-grilled meats and subtly Mediterranean compositions. Keep reading for three more of the best hotel restaurants in Denver.
3) Stoic & Genuine Union Station 1701 Wynkoop 303-640-3474
The Crawford Hotel is fortunate to have all of Union Station as its lobby. With ten restaurants, bars, cafes and other food vendors just downstairs, the Crawford is the perfect place for a stay-cation, where you can wander out of your room and experience excellent dining without ever leaving the building. Stoic & Genuine combines the bustle and energy of an urban train depot with fun and sophisticated seafood small plates and raw-bar delights. While a few bigger dishes dot the menu, sampling your way through oysters, crudos and carefully constructed hot and cold plates will make you feel like you're at a seaside resort.
2) Mercantile Dining & Provisions Crawford Hotel 1701 Wynkoop Street 720-460-3733
Mercantile, directly under the Crawford, is another standout at Union Station, offering breakfast treats and cappuccino from its cafe, lunchtime edibles from the deli case and a dinner in the spacious dining room where service is perfected paced and gracious. Choose from simple but modern dishes featuring produce, cheese and meat from chef and owner Alex Seidel's fruition farms, or bring the whole gang and opt for one of four family-style dinners featuring whole fish, enormous bone-in steaks and chops, or and entire lamb shoulder, replete with sides and condiments.
1) Panzano Hotel Monaco 909 17th Street 303-296-3525
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Panzano manages a fine balance between hotel restaurant and destination dining spot. Chef Elise Wiggins offers a list of recognizable Italian dishes to draw in hotel guests, but in town she's know for whole-animal cooking, house-made salumi and an inventive approach, even while highlighting the flavors of seasonal and local produce. Rustic favorites like veal scallopini and fried eggplant share space with wild boar croquettes and pan-seared grouper with pumpkin gnocchi. Panzano is also known for gluten-free options, making it a great spot for big groups and families.