Nearly three years after the pandemic began, it finally looks like the Denver restaurant scene is starting to pick up its stride.
Although there were some closings that still hurt, 2022 was a great year for restaurant openings. From po’boys that make you want to book a flight to New Orleans to perfectly accurate French dishes and pastries to handmade ramen noodles, here are 10 of the best.
Boucherie Pirate Alley
After closing their southern restaurant, Julep, during the pandemic, Kyle and Katy Foster returned in full force in September with a permanent location for Pirate Alley Boucherie inside the Ice House building in downtown Denver. The pair had originally started the side concept at Julep in 2019 as a way to capture the lunch crowd.
Named after the famous pedestrian alley in New Orleans’ French Quarter, and inspired by Foster’s Southern childhood, Pirate Alley Boucherie features NOLA-style po’boys and drool-worthy sandwiches like Roast Beef Debris with sweet potato fries, slaw, remoulade and sauce. The space is also an extension of Katy’s Stir cooking school, which opened in 2010.
1801 Wynkoop Street, Denver; piratealleydenver.com
Chef Scott Schaden put “farm” in farm-to-table with his first restaurant, Terra, located across the street from the Colorado Convention Center. The Italian restaurant’s menu changes based on what’s in season, and Schaden stresses the importance of sourcing produce and meat from local farmers in the Rocky Mountain, Pacific and Western regions, having previously worked at Boulder Farmers Market for years.
The simple menu consists of pasta, such as the standout rigatoni with venison ragù; meats, such as pork loin with barbecue pear sauce and roasted escarole; and fish dishes, such as baked salmon with roasted turnips and casserole sauce. The menu highlights which region of the country each dish comes from.
891 14th St. Unit #100, Denver; terra-denver.com
If you’ve enjoyed Chef Dana Rodriguez’s lauded Work & Class and Super Mega Bien restaurants, you’ll want to stop by her latest addition to the family, Cantina Loca, which opened in January 2022. The casual cantina with an artistic streak offers Mexican-style street food like queso fundido, chicharrones and salsa, or juicy carnitas tacos.
But Cantina Loca is also a tasting room for Rodríguez’s new line of mezcal and tequila, Doña Loca, which he launched in 2021. The drinks are the star here, with classic agave cocktails like palomas and margaritas, or sips of the House. mezcal in three different styles.
And keep an eye out for the upcoming May opening of Casa Bonita, where Rodríguez is the executive chef, in charge of turning the menu around.
2880 Zuni Street, Denver; cantinaloca.com
Glo Noodle House
Glo Noodle House has already gained a huge following after entering the Denver restaurant scene in March. That’s thanks to the smiling faces in the kitchen, chefs Ariana and Chris Tiegland, whose culinary skills are as impressive as the passion they infuse into each dish.
The couple decided to take the leap and open their first solo business after partnering at other restaurants over the years, including Community in Lafayette and Birdhouse in Erie. Glo Noodle House is a tribute to Chris’s late mother, Gloria, who nurtured her love of cooking at a young age by buying her Japanese cookbooks. The menu features classic Japanese small plates, such as skewered scallops with lemon dashi butter, bok choy with anchovy vinaigrette, and steak tataki. Ramen entrees include miso bacon and lemon chicken shio. Wash it all down with a great wine list and sake or Japanese cocktails, like a margarita with mandarin liqueur.
4450 West 38th Avenue, Denver; glonoodlehouse.com
After working for years in award-winning New York kitchens, Tim and Lillian Lu were ready to step out of their mentors’ shadows. But they wanted to excel elsewhere, so after moving to Denver in 2018, they spent four years dreaming up their own concept. The result is Noisette, a classic French bakery and restaurant that opened in August in LoHi, and the menu clearly reflects the skills they learned from the French Culinary Institute.
Tim takes care of the savory side of the business, nailing the restaurant’s popular Magret de Canard, which is duck breast, duck juice, and foie gras and potato confit. Lillian is a baking wizard and has perfected desserts like the Tarte Tropézienne, a brioche bun topped with pearl sugar and filled with vanilla cream.
3254 Navajo Street, Denver; noisettedenver.com
Bodega demands attention from the first bite. The neighborhood diner’s curated menu of sandwiches can satisfy your craving (or hangover) with every carb-laden bite, from morning to night. There’s The Basic, which is packed with crispy bacon, egg, a tater puck, and American cheese on a poppyseed kaiser bagel for breakfast, or the lamb birria French dip for lunch. There’s also a knee-weakening double burger and a crispy chili chicken sandwich.
Owner Cliff Blauvelt is a Denver native who honed his technique working for the chef-driven company that owns Uptown staples Steuben’s and Ace Eat Serve. And this sandwich and coffee shop, located inside the old Buchi, is a nod to what makes local local.
2651 West 38th Avenue, Denver; winery-denver.com
Banh & Butter Bakery Café
Sisters Thoa and Kha Nguyen wanted to carry on the family tradition in the restaurant business when they opened Bánh & Butter Bakery Cafe, a Parisian-style Asian-fusion bakery in Aurora, in April. They are following in the footsteps of their parents, who previously owned New Saigon restaurant in west Denver and made it a local favorite for three decades.
A graduate of the Escoffier School of Culinary Arts, Thoa blends her French techniques with her own Vietnamese culture and offers freshly baked baguettes, almond croissants, matcha-infused cruffins, crepe cakes, mochi cupcakes, and cold-cut sandwiches.
9935 E. Colfax Avenue, Aurora; banhandbutter.com
It wasn’t hard for celebrity chef Ludo Lefebvre, who has appeared on TV shows like “Selena + Chef,” “Top Chef Masters” and “Hell’s Kitchen,” garnering the attention of Denver foodies when he opened his first restaurant outside of California. , Chez Maggy, inside the new Thompson Hotel.
The Michelin-starred chef serves up classic French dishes like French onion soup with cheese, duck confit, escargot and fried mussels. And you’ll regret leaving without dessert, which includes fire-fired crepes suzette with Grand Mariner, orange and butter, or Paris-Brest with hazelnut praline buttercream and choux pastry.
1616 Market Street, Denver; chezmaggydenver.com
Adelitas Cocina Y Cantina opened in Platt Park in 2013, and chef and Michoacan native Silvia Andaya’s list of family recipes, such as rich chocolate mole and soothing molcajetes, have kept true Mexican foodies coming back a and again.
In July, Andaya’s daughter and son-in-law, Nathan and Karina Ayala-Schmit, borrowed part of the recipe book from Ni Tuyo, a sister restaurant. Ni Tuyo expanded Adelitas’ menu of molcajetes, named for the volcanic footed bowls in which the steaming dish is served. There is a meat, seafood and vegetarian option, plus another with braised pork ribs and a fifth with chicken, chorizo and ribeye. . In addition to molcajetes, Ni Tuyo serves elevated tacos, as well as hors d’oeuvres like corn and aguachile, agave liqueurs, and margaritas.
730 S. University Blvd., Denver; nituyo.com
James Beard Award-nominated chef Edwin Zoe decided to follow one of his life’s great passions when he opened new restaurants in Boulder and Denver this year: noodles. And not just any kind of noodle, but the hand-pulled kind, made on the spot.
He first transitioned from Chimera, his four-year-old Pacific Rim-menu full-service restaurant in Boulder, to Dragonfly Noodle. Then, in October, he opened a second Dragonfly in Denver on the long-suffering 16th Street Mall, which he hoped could bring some life back. Both spots feature a stripped-down menu of ramen dishes (including one served with two char sui spare ribs on top), along with yaki udon, Singaporean curry noodles, and a wide variety of fun bao buns, like spicy bulgogi, panko eggplant and butter lobster.
2014 10th Street, Boulder; 1350 16th St. Mall, Denver; dragonflynoodle.com
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