The new Westin Hotel at Denver International Airport opened on Friday, bringing several food and drink options. The "Flying Mustache," as many have dubbed it, sports a futuristic bar in the arch-ceilinged main lobby; a grab-and-go coffee and snack room with a stunning walkout patio facing the incoming light rail line that will beginning ferrying passengers from Denver beginning in April 2016; and a north-facing restaurant called Grill & Vine (the third in the country) that offers breakfast, lunch and dinner with a view into DIA's south TSA checkpoint, so you can sip cocktails or coffee while timing your dash to the terminal for the shortest line. And soon there will also be a brewpub from a yet-to-be-named Colorado craft brewer. While everything at the Westin is too new to impact our list of favorite eateries at the airport, with the holiday travel season approaching and new food and beverage options landing with the frequency of United Airways jets, we thought this would be a good time to update our list of the ten best restaurants at DIA.
10) Boulder Beer Tap House
Jeppesen Terminal, Level 5
The long, dark, cavernous Boulder Beer Tap House, situated on the security level of DIA's busy terminal, is just the place for travelers to fortify themselves for the ordeal ahead. The bar's menu of sandwiches, soups and salads — with highlights like a fat breakfast burrito smothered in Colorado-style green chile — are a step above standard airport fare. More important, though, is the beer stock, with taps devoted to Boulder Beer's handcrafted ale, giving those about to leave our state one last chance to sip a crisp Sweaty Betty Blonde or hoppy Hazed & Infused.
10a) Cru Food and Wine Bar
While Colorado breweries have made their presence felt at the airport, wine lovers will find their niche, too. And the best of the crew is Cru, where you can sample a flight before your flight, nibble on cheese and charcuterie boards, and pick from a sophisticated selection of small plates and pizzas. And since we couldn't decide between wine and beer, we'll let Cru share the number-ten slot with Boulder Beer.
If the idea of a chicken-fried steak breakfast burrito — made with prime tenderloin and smothered in sausage gravy — doesn't get you in the door, a long menu of burgers, steaks and seafood prepared with the same attention to detail as at the Cherry Creek and downtown locations should. It's not all steakhouse fare, though: Crab cakes, grilled artichokes and entree-sized salads will also please those who aren't fans of red meat.
8) Etai's Bakery Cafe
The name Etai's may not be familiar, but it's just the new name for Udi's, the original Colorado bread and sandwich eatery that moved into DIA two years ago. Sandwiches are still made on bakery-fresh bread and feature locally grown produce. Etai's is also a great option for gluten-free travelers.
7) The Magic Pan
The Magic Pan is new to DIA this year, but longtime Denver residents will remember one of the most enchanting childhood treats that once lured families to Larimer Square from all over the city in the 1970s and '80s. The last of the nationwide chain of creperies closed decades ago, but the franchise was resurrected ten years ago, mainly as an airport concession. There may be better places to grab a bite in Concourse C, but nostalgia surely counts for something — even if the magical, mechanical crepe machine is no longer part of the draw.
6) Modern Market
Concourses B and C
Denver fast-casual chain Modmarket opened two of its pizza, sandwich and salad counters at DIA last spring. Fans will recognize the farm-fresh produce and well-crafted eats from the company's multiple locations around town. A stop at Modmarket — which is in the process of changing its name to Modern Market — is the perfect pre-flight plan for modern travelers looking for energy without heavier, fried options so common in airport food courts.
5) New Belgium Hub
New Belgium has achieved iconic status on the national craft-brew scene, so Colorado visitors seeking one more pint from the Fort Collins brewery's airport outlet will find what they're looking for on Concourse B. The brewery has another tap room, the Spoke, on Concourse A in case you want to make it a bar crawl, but the Hub has a bigger food menu of fun fare like chicken and waffles, chili cheese fries and Belgian frites.
4) Que Bueno! Mexican Grille
Years ago, this miniature chapel to Den-Mex chow was the best the airport had to offer, but even with so many new choices arriving at DIA over the past few years, it's still a great place to grab a shot of liquid courage — tequila, in this case — before checking to see if your flight is departing on time or to fill up on one last fat burrito before you head for less tortilla-friendly terrain.
3) Steve's Snappin' Dogs
Steve's Snappin' Dogs has earned a loyal following at its Colfax Avenue flagship frankfurter hut, and now Colorado visitors can experience a touch of Colfax at DIA. Favorites include the Denver Dog (built on a flour tortilla instead of a bun), a rippin' Rockies Dog smothered in house-made green chile, and crispy sweet-potato tots.
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2) Tamales by La Casita
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 chile for a Christmas treat) or even Frito pie with a local brew or two...or three.
1) Root Down
Root Down's eclectic, mod and worldly decor is creative and eye-appealing enough to make it a destination restaurant of its own, even without the unique, healthy and delicious menu inspired by the Highland neighborhood original. Traveler's bento boxes available in a choice of four different proteins and seasonal veggies highlight the choices here, and breakfast is some of the finest you'll have anywhere in Denver — in or out of the airport. Grab a seat at the bar (where the contents of lost luggage are displayed under glass) and order something from the clever cocktail menu while you relax.