Larimer Street has become one of Denver's hottest dining destinations. The trend started a dozen years ago in Larimer Square, when Larimer Associates made a conscious decision to fill the block with chef-driven restaurants rather than tourist traps. Since then, ambitious eateries have continued to open along Larimer Street, and decent dining options now stretch for twenty blocks along what was once this town's skid row. And many more are in the works. Keep reading for our picks, in no particular order, of the twelve best restaurants on Larimer Street.
See also: Ten best restaurants in Cherry Creek
12) Rioja 1431 Larimer Street Since Rioja's opening nearly a decade ago, chef/co-owner Jennifer Jasinski has attracted diners near and far with her adventurous menu, which is influenced by the flavors of the Mediterranean and filled with the city's best homemade pastas. And Jasinski's recent Jame Beard award and stint on Top Chef Masters just kept the crowds coming. Whether you're sitting down for snacks and drinks in the cozy bar, going for the seven-course tasting menu in one of the comfortable booths or watching Jasinski work her magic while seated at the chef's bar, Rioja shows how very good dining can be not just on Larimer Street, but in all of Denver.
11) Amerigo Delicatus 2449 Larimer Street This pint-sized Italian eatery has the charm of a neighborhood sandwich joint by day and the feel of an intimate evening hideout by night. With a focus on simple Italian staples like fresh pasta and sausage made in-house, chef/owner Iain Chisholm cooks up plates of comfort food in a dining room that he remodeled himself. Don't miss Monday's lunch special (when everything on the lunch menu is five dollars) and Tuesday's cheap date night, a special that includes three antipasti, two entrees, one dessert and one bottle of house wine for fifty bucks.
10) The Capital Grille 1450 Larimer Street Want to be pampered? The Capital Grille rolls out the white tablecloths. The Larimer Square steakhouse may be a chain, but it's a chain that has service as impeccable as those big grilled steaks that servers set down on those white tablecloths. Even if you're not a meat-eater, you can appreciate the smooth service as well as the indulgent sides, the big drinks and the best calamari in town. If you've got an expense account, this is the spot to give it a workout.
9) Osteria Marco 1453 Larimer Street Named for the youngest son of restaurant empire-builder Frank Bonanno, Osteria Marco began as a more casual complement to the much-lauded Luca d'Italia. But ultimately, the restaurant exercised its own independence, becoming a welcome addition to the dining scene. Today the expansive, rustic eatery in a subterranean space in Larimer Square is a place to linger over plates of house-cured meats and handmade cheeses, delicate-crusted pizzas, and a well-curated (and vast) wine selection.
8) Bistro Vendome 1420 Larimer Street As elegant as it is approachable, Bistro Vendome is the sophomore venture of the group behind Rioja. Jennifer Jasinski and Beth Gruitch took over a French bistro and made it into something special. The setting, slightly hidden from the bustle of Larimer, is lovely both inside and out; the courtyard equates to a blissful setting for a summer brunch, and the tiny bar inside is a lively spot for a glass of bubbly. The menu includes everything from steak tartar to steak frites, with big bowls of mussels, an exquisite duck dish and the best fries in town.
7) The Populist 3163 Larimer Street When the Populist opened last November, it broke new ground -- both by bringing diners to a well-designed, ultra-cool space in a previously unexplored part of RiNo, and by offering them a surprising, world-spanning menu of small plates. Those plates are eminently shareable, and designed with no particular dining format in mind. As a result, you might stop in for a cocktail and find yourself still at the Populist several hours and many courses later.
6) Marco's Coal-Fired Pizzeria 2129 Larimer Street Mark Dym took on a century-old space for the home of Marco's Coal-Fired Pizzeria, putting a roaring pizza oven at the back of a comfortable dining room with a welcoming bar and plenty of convivial seating. Out of that oven come delicious pizzas that mimic the legendary ones of Naples, including the incredible "Sicilia," a pie made with ricotta, fresh mozzarella, Genoa salami, prosciutto cotto, artichokes, mushrooms, San Marzano tomato sauce and extra-virgin olive oil. But Marco's is nothing if not accommodating: For those nostalgic for the East Coast, there are New York-style pies, too. And don't miss the chicken wings, crisped up in that same oven.
5) Trillium 2134 Larimer Street From its cocktail list, which includes libations made from housemade, house-infused Akvavit, to its traditional Nordic-inspired fare, Trillium fills an essential niche in Denver -- one that we didn't even know needed filling until chef/owner Ryan Leinonen started serving his Akvavit-cured Scottish salmon and toast "Skagen" in this vibrant, open space.
4) TAG 1441 Larimer Street Chef/owner Troy Guard calls the food at TAG "continental social food," and that label works as well as any. The atmosphere at his Larimer Square spot is certainly social, and the menu has a continental flair, offering everything from taco sushi to a goat enchilada to miso black cod. If you really want to take a culinary trip, go for the "omakase," or chef's menu, which will take you on a journey that showcases all of the talent at TAG.
3) TAG|RAW BAR 1430 Larimer Street The tiny TAG|RAW BAR has raw power, pairing the commitment to quality ingredients of its next-door sibling up the stairs with an inventive approach to dining. Healthy plates of fresh, seasonal vegetables and fish pair with a creative cocktail menu for an adventurous, and unprecedented, Denver dining experience.
2) Biker Jim's Gourmet Dogs 2148 Larimer Street In 2012, Forbes published a list of America's 10 Best Hot Dogs, and Biker Jim's made the cut. But that was no surprise to those who'd become fans of Biker Jim's weiners when the only place you could get them was a cart on the mall. From the classic all-beef frank to dogs made of elk, boar or Alaskan reindeer, Biker Jim's turned the hot dog into a truly haute dog. And now, with his brick-and-mortar spot, he's created a haven for those looking for a quick, cheap dinner to start an evening or a spot to end a long night of carousing.
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1) twelve 2233 Larimer Street Jeff Osaka's twelve derives its name from its focus on monthly menus, which consider seasonality as far more fluid than just spring, summer, fall and winter. Seasonality wasn't all that hot when Osaka opened twelve in late 2008; neither was the Ballpark neighborhood, where he turned an old storefront into a spare, elegant dining room laid out with nicely spaced tables and anchored by a giant antique mirrored bar. The vintage-theater-like marquee out front does little to suggest the eatery within, and the location has been a challenge from the start. But slowly, Osaka won over the city. Denver's chefs became his first big fans -- Osaka has been a tireless cheerleader for the scene -- and then Denver diners caught on to the undeniable delights of twelve. This is an intimate spot with a tightly edited, protein-centric menu that glides through the seasons, with five new appetizers and six new entrees designed to capture the spirit of the month. The service is almost as seamless, with Osaka himself sometimes pitching in to serve. Read Gretchen Kurtz's review of twelve here.