9 of Westword's Favorite Places to Eat and Drink in Denver 2024 | Westword


Be Mine: An Ode to Some of Our Favorite Places to Eat and Drink

As Valentine's Day approaches, we're paying homage to the places and dishes we love.
The Thin Man is part of a love triangle you want to get caught in.
The Thin Man is part of a love triangle you want to get caught in. Tony White
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Valentine's Day is almost here, and love is in the air — but romantic love can be fickle. One thing that never disappoints: the deep relationships we form with our beloved restaurants and bars. Over many visits, certain spots become go-to's, the kinds of places we can depend on for comfort and joy, whether we're going there to celebrate or commiserate.

If you truly love someone, you should tell them as often as possible, so we're doing just that. We asked our food and drink contributors to profess their feelings for their favorite places to eat and drink in Denver. Here are their love letters:
click to enlarge a gyro sandwich
Fall in love over late night gyros at Pete's.
Tony White
Ménage à Trois
On date night, this trio of Denver classics never disappoints. Your first move: Settle into the last two bar seats by the window at Angelo’s Taverna on East Sixth Avenue. Toast glasses of chilled white wine and watch the gregarious cooks dance in harmony during the inevitable chaotic dinner rush as they make your original grilled oysters — craggy shells glistening with plump, silky meat bubbling in garlic butter and topped with a delicate crust of shredded Parmesan. You move on to second base at the Thin Man in Uptown, sipping on an aromatic mezcal cocktail or a mug of hot mulled spiced wine in the deep red glow of the bulbs draped across the cozy bar’s rafters. After last call, you take a short stroll up to Pete’s Kitchen on Colfax, tuck into a couple of seats at the bar and order the gyros sandwich, a beloved plate at this iconic diner that just tastes better in the wee hours of the night, especially when you have someone to share it with. — Tony White
click to enlarge bread in a red basket, a steak on a plate and a salad in a bowl
What is love? A steak dinner at Columbine.
Erik Rangel
Columbine Steak House, a staple on Federal Boulevard since 1961, may not be everyone's idea of sexy — but it's mine. Forget suits and ties, pricy appetizers and pretension. Give me the simple pleasure of a steak dinner served fast. Cash-only? Sure, I'll do whatever you want for a chance to chow down on flame-kissed beef, hand-cut in the back room and seasoned to perfection. Give me the simple salad drenched in ranch, the thick-cut Texas toast, the baked potato with a pool of hot butter melting inside. Throw in a spicy grilled jalapeño on the side and a cheap vodka tonic (or three) when I can snag a seat on the bar side, too. A bang for your buck, indeed. — Molly Martin
ravioli on a blue plate with microgreen garnish
Spuntino's menu is always changing.
Highland eatery Spuntino is owned by chef Cindhura Reddy and her husband, Elliot Strathmann, who often crafts poems about their dishes for social media — so it's about time someone returned the favor:

What's in a dish, that so magnificently melds the rich traditions of Italy and India,
A plate of hand-rolled capellini married to spice-preserved garlic,
Wild elk meshed with warming masala, bejeweled by ajwain seed crisps,
Two worlds far apart, steeped in love and family,
Finally together in Colorado.

What's in a chef, to make and stir and meld,
A meal that fills the mouth and soul, bit by bit,
Sliced through the heart with rosemary and olive oil focaccia,
Slain by green chile-spiked arancini,
Blood-hued amaro to toast the conquered.

What's in a place, run by love for the love of food,
Two hands are four, now six, to make the spuntino, the snack, the fuel.
Each night a glimpse of family both by blood and proximity,
From bar to table to memories, in glass or on plates.
Ten years now, forever cherished. — Linnea Covington
click to enlarge a molcajete filled with shrimp, steak, cheese and vegetables
Palenque's molcajete will melt your heart.
Courtesy of Palenque Cocina y Agaveria
Hot Stuff
At Palenque, in the heart of Littleton on Main Street, the molcajete is not just a dish, but a celebration of heritage and flavor. Carved from volcanic stone, the humble yet heavy bowl is filled with marinated steak, tender chicken and succulent shrimp bathed in a spicy tomato sauce that sings of secret spices and whispered promises. My love for the dish runs as hot as the lava that formed the molcajete vessel, which arrives at the table bubbling away, promising an eruption of flavors.

With scissors in hand, I dive into the bounty, slicing through each layer like a culinary excavation of Mexican cuisine. Inside the stone chalice, green onions and nopales are nestled like verdant jewels, their crispness a perfect foil to the panela cheese that melts into the sauce. I scoop out each bite and ladle it onto a warm tortilla. On a cold night or a bad day, Palenque's molcajete is pure comfort and joy. Warm, hearty, savory and oh-so-cheesy, it’s a culinary hug. — Helen Xu
click to enlarge tables and chairs on a rooftop patio with city views
El Five's views and vegan eats are dreamy.
Danielle Lirette
My Hero
LOVER is an acronym for the Edible Beats restaurants — Linger, Ophelia’s, Vital Root, El Five and Root Down. While I enjoy them all, there are five reasons that El Five in LoHi is particularly special to me:

One: incredible views of the city I call home,
And a luxe ambience that sets the mood — that’s two.
Three: Holidays, birthdays and anniversaries here are easy for me;
See, vegans are often left out of prix fixe meals,
But at El Five, the veggie-forward menu always appeals.
Reason four: Few places are better for a group of good friends;
Get sangria pitchers and paella to share,
Order pitas and tasty tapas like patatas bravas —
And don’t skip dessert if you have room to spare.

My final reason is the hospitable staff,
Who have created many fond memories on the fifth floor.
Thank you for sharing your great talent and creativity,
It’s always a pleasure to walk through El Five’s door. — Abigail Bliss
click to enlarge a breakfast sandwich on a yellow plate
Forget about those golden arches: Funky Flame does breakfast sandwiches right.
Kayla Jones
Yum Yum
We met last summer at the Highlands Square Farmers Market. I was venturing through the crowds when the alluring aroma of freshly baked bread drew me toward a bright-yellow wood-fired oven. Music was playing and the chefs were dancing. Rays of sunshine reflected from a hypnotizing disco ball as if to say, "Good morning, and remember to keep it funky."

Slightly dazed, I ordered the OG breakfast sandwich from Funky Flame. It's built on a sourdough English muffin with a bold and distinct flavor profile that can only be achieved through the artistry of a wood-fired oven. Baked to perfection, the muffin is sliced and filled with a warm sausage patty and a crispy fried egg, while a layer of fried Swiss cheese adds irresistible charm. Pickled onion infuses a zesty spark that elevates the taste and texture to a whole new level along with the special sauce, a tangy twist. It was love at first sight — or bite — and now I look forward to many more rendezvous at Funky Flame's new permanent home (4994 Lowell Boulevard). — Chris Byard
click to enlarge a latte
We like City O' City a latte.
City, O' City
Stir My Heart
Plant-based before plant-based was cool, City, O' City, you’re old-school.
When Watercourse went uptown back in the day, you opened in Cap Hill, and that’s where you stay.
The heart of the city, a hub for art. A solid cup of coffee from morning ’til dark.
No stranger to construction or gentrification, you cater to all dietary restrictions.
You’ve withstood the changes taking place all around, a steadfast source of tasty food and drink to be found.
Pleasing meat eaters and vegans alike, easily accessible by foot and by bike.
A creative community culinary spot, City, O' City, we like you a lot. — Danielle Krolewicz
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