Things to do in Denver

Unique Restaurants Denver

There is a wealth of unique restaurants in Denver. In this blog post, we explore more than two dozen stand-out eateries from the Mile High City.

Colorado’s Mile High City is full of inspiring creative talents. From music and dance to visual art, design, and more, you'll find a joyful, diverse community producing high-quality works. This is certainly true of the culinary scene, as the dozens of unique restaurants in Denver show.

We love the exciting atmosphere of artistry that’s such a vibrant part of life in Colorado’s great metropolis. Whenever we visit, we make a point of seeking out the fun things to do in Denver, especially its cool restaurants. We’ve gathered some of our top picks below, which is just a selection of this city’s unique eateries.

American

The appeal of American dishes goes far with these unique Denver restaurants. A varied melting pot of influences has come together to create something unique. It's full of bold flavors and endlessly adaptable dishes. Restaurants that focus on the contemporary American niche have developed into a phenomenon all their own with a universal appeal.

1. Café Terracotta

Located near old-town Littleton’s Town Hall Arts Center, Café Terracotta brings new meaning to the term “homestyle dining.” A converted Victorian home and one of Denver’s most cozy and romantic spots, the Terracotta is prized for its excellence in both food and service.

The menu boasts persistent favorites that include innovative takes on the Wellington, superb baked delicacies and French toast, and delicious steaks, chops, and sandwiches.

2. Wildflower

Wildflower in LoHi is a hidden gem, offering a veg-forward celebration of the West rooted in the traditions of the area's early settlers. The most direct influences come from the Mexican and Italian heritages of Marigold de la Rosa, an explorer born in the 19th century.

This singular eatery works with local farmers to offer delicious food and drink with a direct connection to the land.

3. Guard and Grace

One of Denver’s most well-known restaurateurs is Chef Troy Guard, who opened his first restaurant in the city in 2009. That first eatery, known as TAG, became the flagship for a group of a dozen restaurants.

All these establishments are highly rated among critics and casual diners alike, but the most famous is Guard and Grace. This show-stopping steakhouse boasts a gargantuan wine room and a menu with a selection of steaks, seafood, and desserts.

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4. Ophelia’s Electric Soapbox

Ophelia’s Electric Soapbox is a popular fixture of the Denver restaurant scene in the Airedale Building. The perfect spot is steeped in over a hundred years of history. It's seen everything from brothels and peep shows to saloons and hotels. Both the food and the atmosphere reflect that history and the menu boasts many inspired takes on American classics.

Crowd favorites range from the delicious chicken, biscuits, and gravy to green chili cornbread, a low country picnic board, and several unique pizza recipes.

5. Sullivan Scrap Kitchen

The family-owned Sullivan Scrap Kitchen can be described as Denver’s scrappiest little restaurant. It offers a unique dining experience anchored in the promotion of sustainable food practices. It sources ingredients from local farms and utilizes unused ingredients from its partner, TBD Foods.

Food prep uses every part of each ingredient for flavoring, stocks, proteins, and garnishes. The resulting dishes feature copious portions that are both delicious and affordable, offering flavors that easily compare with much more expensive destinations.

6. Root Down

Hailing from the employee-owned Edible Beats restaurant group, Root Down offers a rousing atmosphere and an eclectic seasonal menu. It’s known for brightly-flavored cocktails and an inclusive range of dishes.

Food lovers should try the risotto, Thai red curry soup, or lamb or veggie burger sliders. Combined with its reputation as a superb party destination, the reason for Root Down’s unique appeal for its cult following is clear.

Photographer: Foodie Factor

7. Whiskey Tango Foxtrot

Whiskey Tango Foxtrot is a favorite in the vibrant district of LoDo, with a clubby atmosphere perfect for hanging out and watching a game. It’s known for its incredible selection of whiskeys, aged cocktails, and commitment to fresh local ingredients.

Its diverse menu features signature items like Foxtrot fried chicken or shrimp and grits, along with innovative eats like the Ahi tuna nachos.

International

The cosmopolitan character of Denver is evident in the vitality of its international food scene. This includes a stunning selection of Mexican restaurants that merit a category all their own and a representation of cuisines from around the world. Many of the unique places to eat in Denver focus on celebrating this impressive diversity of foods.

8. The Red Barber

The Red Barber is a rooftop restaurant in Denver that offers a panoramic 360-degree view of the city skyline. Its menu focuses on the superb execution of classic Italian food such as risotto and panini.

The restaurant also offers a creative selection of handcrafted cocktails — an array of zodiac-inspired drinks — and a heady atmosphere complete with amphitheater seating, fire pits, and live music. The restaurant complements these with a selection of events and parties, all drawing loyal visitors.

9. Izakaya Den

This legendary sushi joint provides an authentic take on Japanese cuisine, making use of fresh ingredients shipped daily from a fish market in the south of Japan. The Izakaya Den menu features traditional sushi and sashimi dishes served in a peaceful setting that blends the decor and aesthetics of West and East.

Both the food and the design of the space have won awards. The restaurant’s “Ten Qoo” rooftop deck offers the chance to enjoy some of Denver’s best sushi under an open sky.

Photographer: Valeria Boltneva

10. Linger

As unique Denver restaurants go, Edible Beats’ Linger is distinctive. This former mortuary incorporates touches of its history into an upscale modern design.

Its vibrant variety of international dishes is among the most lively food selections in the city. The menu offers everything from steamed Bao and Filipino spring rolls to Bombay taro chips, Wagyu sliders, Masala Dosa, and Wok-charred edamame.

11. El Five

El Five is one of Denver’s most upscale international restaurants. Its menu showcases the bold and delicious flavors of Spain, North Africa, and the Middle East.

The take on these Mediterranean culinary traditions is authentic, affectionate, and relentlessly inventive. Guests can enjoy Harissa eggplant fries, European sea bass, Íberico pork loin, and Tunisian couscous in a sophisticated atmosphere.

12. Avanti Food & Beverage

Denver’s first curated collection of restaurants, bars, and shops came together under one roof a decade ago. It was the beginning of a collective love affair with food halls that has persisted ever since. In fact, the term “food hall” has become almost synonymous with the entire state of Colorado’s food scene.

One of the most popular such destinations in the Mile High City is Avanti Food & Beverage. This eatery gathers an eclectic collection of restaurant concepts from across the world.

13. The Golden Mill

When the subject of Colorado’s love of food halls comes up, it’s only natural for The Golden Mill to come up along with it. Here, the full selection of bars and restaurants is linkable to your debit or credit card with a custom RFID tag.

Visitors can explore a selection of flavors at a Self-Pour Beer Wall and treat themselves to their choice of Mexican, Sushi, and “Comfort Fusion” cuisine, among other options. The Golden Mill is 30 minutes from downtown Denver and makes a perfect choice for refueling after an outdoor adventure.

Mexican

Mexican cuisine is a vibrant range of regional traditions, spices, ingredients, and flavors. It weaves together contributions of ancient Mesoamerica with Spain and Africa to create some of the most distinctive food in the world. Mexico’s cuisine is such a large part of Denver’s international food selection that it deserves its own category in this list.

14. Palenque Cocina y Agaveria

Palenque Cocina y Agaveria is a popular spot in Littleton that attracts a loyal clientele — along with connoisseurs of agave spirits. It offers a cozy atmosphere and an array of authentic Mexican dishes, including a particularly remarkable selection of Oaxacan food.

Perennial crowd pleasers include the carne asada, Palenque pollo, and pozole rojo. However, it’s impossible to list every item that draws ecstatic praise from visitors without repeating the entire menu.

15. La Lloma

Starting life as a small family restaurant in a little brick house, La Lloma grew into a Denver institution over the years, coming to its current flagship location over four decades ago. Its selection of dishes includes award-winning green chili, famous barrel-aged tequila, signature margaritas, and fresh tortillas made in full view of the dining room.

This legendary Mexican eatery is now charming a fresh generation of loyal customers as a fun dining experience in Denver.

16. Mexico City Restaurant and Lounge

The Mexico City Restaurant and Lounge came from humble beginnings as a small place conceived by the husband-and-wife team Willie and Esther Garcia over six decades ago. It's long since grown into Colorado’s go-to Mexican restaurant.

The lounge serves up the city’s best fried tacos and a menu full of delicious and comforting family recipes. Earning accolades from many food journalism outlets, including the title of “Taco the Town” from Westword, its convenient location near Coors Field continues to be a family-friendly destination for the very best in Mexican cuisine.

17. Casa Bonita

If you’re in the market for a combination of excellent Mexican food with joyful performance and pageantry, Casa Bonita is the destination for you. Billed as “The Greatest Restaurant in the World,” the Casa offers a delicious menu of Mexican classics.

This is all accompanied by vivid colorful entertainment. Cliff divers, magic and puppet shows, a fortune teller, and a gaming arcade are some of the diversions that give Casa Bonita its magical atmosphere.

Cafés and Coffee

Denver has plenty of standout coffee houses that provide great opportunities to gather and chat with friends. That includes many locally-based chains whose outlets are signature features of the Mile High City.

18. Pablo’s Coffee

In business for almost three decades and sporting three locations — each with its own particular style and atmosphere — Pablo’s Coffee prides itself on serving Denver’s neighborhoods and honoring their local characteristics. The company hand-crafts its own set of signature blends and roasts single-origin coffee beans from around the world.

19. Thump Genuine Coffee

Thump Genuine Coffee originated with several locations in Oregon before making its way to Denver. It carries on its mission to create a better cup of coffee and a better experience for coffee drinkers. The brand has found popularity in Denver with a carefully curated selection of specialty coffees.

20. Rosenberg’s Bagels and Delicatessen

Rosenberg’s Bagels was founded by Jersey expatriate Joshua Pollack in a bid to bring an authentic New York-style bagel to the American West. Its three locations serve delicious bagels, alongside a menu of breakfast, deli, and fish sandwiches.

21. Queen City Coffee Collective

The Queen City Coffee Collective was founded by a group of friends who volunteered with humanitarian NGOs in Africa before moving back home to Colorado. They brought the lessons they’d learned overseas and made an authentic community of coffee farmers, baristas, and roasters.

The resulting collective now runs four locations across Denver. It's beloved by a customer base that gives five-star reviews for fantastic service and delicious products.

Pizza

The ultimate classic American staple, pizza, is one of the world’s most popular foods and a favorite of more than a fifth of American households. Denver is no different from almost any other American city in having a robust selection of pizza joints.

As with everything culinary, though, the Mile High City sports more than a few restaurants with extra-inventive takes on the pizza pie.

Photographer: DesignDrawArtes

22. Joy Hill

Many Denver restaurants are concerned with food sustainability and use local ingredients. Joy Hill brings that ethic to focus on wood-fired pizza, offering delectable pies that use naturally leavened dough made from organic wheat flour.

23. O’Dell Brewing – Sloan’s Lake Brewhouse

O’Dell Brewing’s taproom in Sloan’s Lake is known for its impressive beer selection and inventive pizza menu. The latter includes a choice of red base and non-red base pies and selections like:

  • The “Let’s Ride” (featuring chicken and blue cheese)
  • “The Diavola” (sporting soppressata salumi and a spicy sauce)
  • The “Truffle Shuffle” (showcasing the flavors of truffle oil, mushrooms and shallots)

Visitors can also build their own pies as they enjoy the taproom’s casual atmosphere or lounge on a rooftop deck with a dazzling view of the lake. If the food makes your taste buds sing — which it definitely will — head down to a private karaoke room in Denver to literally keep the flavor melody going.

24. Cart-Driver

With locations in both LoHi and RiNo, Denver’s Cart-Driver is a fashionable fixture of pizza culture in Denver, named for the Carrettierras, or cart drivers of Southern Italy. The concept celebrates the original farm-to-table providers who bore vegetables, meats, seafood, and stories from one community to another.

The theme of connection and cozy hospitality is at the core of Cart-Driver’s appeal. Each outlet offers an impressive array of antipasti, pizzas, cocktails, and wines.

25. Pizza and Grill (Capitol Hill)

Sometimes the best eateries are the simplest and most straightforward. For pizza in Denver, this niche belongs to Capitol Hill’s Pizza and Grill, which boasts a prodigious selection of pizzas and calzones alongside bread, wings, burgers, pasta, and more. The staggering breadth of the menu is matched only by the confidence of execution and the affordable prices on display.

Desserts

There’s a lot to be said for a culinary spot that devotes itself to celebrating fresh, sweet, and delicious desserts. There are a couple of such eateries that go beyond serving desserts to making sweet things into spectacle. Without these dream-like destinations, no list of unique Denver restaurants would be complete.

26. The Little Man Ice Cream Factory

The Little Man Ice Cream Company operates many locations across and around Denver. One of the most popular new outlets is the Little Man Ice Cream Factory, a whimsical tasting room and production kitchen inspired by the craftsmen of the early 20th century.

There’s a playful touch of Willy Wonka-style fabulism with striking artwork, an overhead conveyor belt, and a hand-built slide for the kids. Guests can order fabulous flights of ice cream scoops and special offerings from the Flight Deck.

27. The Inventing Room Dessert Shop

Founded more than a half-century ago, the Inventing Room Dessert Shop doesn’t just provide a touch of whimsy. It’s built around the surreal and enchanting concept at the heart of the Roald Dahl classic Charlie & The Chocolate Factory.

The Room offers visitors the chance to witness inexplicable desserts take shape before their eyes. The shop's food science demonstrations show how its historical desserts were created and what they might look like in the future.

Embracing Unique Eateries in Denver

Denver's rich selection of unique eateries is well worth experiencing for yourself. The Queen City of the Plains is home to a creative community with a boundless thirst for life, beauty, and artistry.

It's one of the traits of the great Colorado metropolis that we relate to most, and it definitely comes out in the incredible food. Explore these remarkable restaurants when you take in one of our shows in Denver. You won't be disappointed.

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