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The Mile High City's dining landscape is a pulsating, on-fire culinary climate that's surging with a surplus of restaurants—and mind-altering meals. From Jennifer Jasinski, who won the 2013 James Beard Foundation's Best Chef Southwest award, to Frank Bonanno, a chef and restaurateur whose prolific culinary empire keeps growing by the minute, an extraordinarily accomplished pool of kitchen magicians are shaping the way that Denverites eat, pulling from the state's bounty and diversity for inspiration. Whether it's a booth at Beast + Bottle, a bar stool at Trillium or a seat overlooking the chef's counter at Acorn, there's no shortage of brilliance in the kitchen or on the plate. More than anything else, Denver is a city driven by chefs with strong sensibilities, unwavering intensity and a perfectionist's touch.

DINING

  • Acorn

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    Exec chef Steve Redzikowski, a Food & Wine magazine "People's Best New Chef" nominee, turns out riveting, flavor-bombed dishes (his house-made squid ink tagliarini with braised octopus and calamari evokes long sighs of rapture), while the bar program, captained by master sommelier Bryan Dayton, spotlights infectious sips that, like Redzikowkski's menu, sway to the seasons. Wrangle a stool at the chef's counter for a voyeuristic view into Redzikowkskii's culinary kingdom. Details»

  • Argyll Whisky Beer

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    Argyll's John Broening, a brainy, thoughtful chef who favors classic techniques, catapults the gastropub to new heights with his splendid takes on British-based favorites, uplifting a tamarind chicken curry with chickpeas. The bar syllabus, which favors whisky, also offers an unbeatable selection of craft beers. Details»

  • Beast + Bottle

    $$$

    The beautifully crafted, seasonally intensive menu at chef-owner Paul Reilly's Uptown charmer doesn't miss a beat thanks to superior sourcing (Bangs Island mussels, for example) and a kitchen staff that touches every plate with hands of masterful scrutiny. From the crisp headcheese to the flatbread crowned with guanciale, Gorgonzola and baby arugula, Reilly and cohorts have created a delightful restaurant that's conducive to any occasion. Details»

  • Biker Jim's

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    Local sausage czar Jim Pittenger, aka Biker Jim, is justifiably renowned for his wonderfully wacky hotdogs that zigzag from antelope and wild boar to elk and rattlesnake. He slides the pudgy frankfurters between a soft bun, thunderbolts the meat with a quick lurch of cream cheese and, for his final act, crests the sausages with a splay of onions soaked in Coca-Cola. Details»

  • ChoLon Modern Asian Bistro

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    The soup dumplings, plump with sweet onions and melted Gruyère, are just plain brilliant, a superlative that describes just about every creation in chef-owner Lon Symensma's Asian-comprehensive repertoire. Book seats at the chef's counter to watch all the action unfold, and be prepared for a parade of stunningly prepared dishes that transcend the senses. Details»

  • El Taco De Mexico

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    "For truly amazing flavors, El Taco de Mexico is a must," declared Bizarre Foods host Andrew Zimmern following a culinary sojourn to the Mile High City. That sentiment is echoed by the endless pomp of green-chile junkies who jostle for seats at the lively counter overlooking the open kitchen, where a crew of unflappable women, most equipped with a cleaver, turn out street tacos hugging marinated meats and buxom burritos draped with Denver's best verde. Details»

  • Euclid Hall

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    Indulgence without pretentious shams or schtick defines this effervescent gastropub just around the bend from Larimer Square. Superlative poutines and fried cheddar curds share space on the playful menu with chicken and waffles, and pad Thai pig ears slicked with a chile-and-tamarind glaze. And the house-made sausages? Those have a following all their own, as does the stellar craft beer syllabus. Details»

  • Fruition Restaurant

    $$$

    Chef-owner Alex Seidel's charmingly snug Country Club charmer authentically embodies everything local and seasonal (the chef also owns his own farm and dairy), a lust that translates into definitive resonance on the plate. To wit: potato gnocchi served with house-cured lamb pancetta, squash blossoms and wild chanterelles. Seidel's pasta carbonara—a menu mainstay—is equally mind-altering. Details»

  • Old Major

    $$$

    The nose-to-tail plate—andouille sausage, braised pork belly, pigs' ears, shrimp jambalaya—is a snapshot of chef Justin Brunson's rustic butchery sensibilities, while the behemoth tomahawk ribeye crowned with foie gras butter speaks to his passion for performance art and abundance. Pastry chef Nadine Donovan's work is every bit as glorious: For proof, try her maple bacon crème caramel. Details»

  • Osteria Marco

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    Prolific chef and restaurateur Frank Bonanno's subterranean shrine to char-flecked pizza, house-made charcuterie and artisan cheese is a Larimer Square thrill. His creamy burrata, in particular, is a beautiful starter before yielding to his carbonara pizza dotted with ribbons of pancetta showered with Pecorino and topped with a yolky egg spilling rivers of gold. Details»

  • Pinche Taqueria

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    Tacos are a blank canvas for ingenious creativity at this wildly popular, irreverently named sonnet to Mexican street food. The kitchen, much like the crowds, pulsates with Energizer Bunny stamina, turning out hundreds of tacos every hour, each one better than the last. The most difficult part is choosing which taco suits your mood: lengua and fried shrimp; sweet and sour-braised pork belly; or griddled cotija cheese with avocado, roasted tomatillo salsa and a spray of fresh lime. Details»

  • Rosenberg's Bagels & Delicatessen

    $

    Rocky Mountain tap water simply doesn't make a good bagel, so the smart crew behind Rosenberg's Bagels and Delicatessen reformulates it by adding mineral content, the result of which parrots a bona fide New York bagel. It turns out fluffy, chewy, warm and yeasty bagels smeared with plain and flavored cream cheeses, smoked salmon and pickled herring, smoked white fish and sable. Details»

  • Stoic & Genuine

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    Jennifer Jasinski, a James Beard Best Chef Southwest title-holder, is to blockbuster restaurants what Steven Spielberg is to blockbuster films. At Stoic & Genuine, an urbanized fish house, oyster cove and granita bar, she's reeled in another jewel, mesmerizing smitten diners with tuna tartare, Hawaiian kajiki and nine oyster varieties, all of which can, and should, be paired with her refreshing granitas. Details»

  • The Plimoth

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    A tight, hopping dining room streaked with natural light sets the stage for chef Peter Ryan's classic European cuisine that's steeped in seasonality. Vegetables get the royal treatment here in lyrical collections that combine lemon cucumbers with charred and pickled cipollini onions, for example, or ricotta gnocchi festooned with blistered green beans and fava bean pesto. And Ryan knows how to make every single dish shine. Details»

  • The Populist

    $$

    Conversation buzzes in this hyper-spirited dining room adorned with a community table. The supremely talented kitchen, commanded by chef Jonathan Power, is just as effervescent. His duck charcuterie is a perennial favorite, while the carrot agnolotti and beer-marinated olives have their own fleet of followers. And everyone is enamored with the inexpensively priced boutique wine list and classy cocktails. Details»

  • The Squeaky Bean

    $$$

    A visit to the Squeaky Bean makes you feel cool again. Furbished with a retro Bingo sign (Sunday is Bingo brunch) and a nine-shooter retro autobar that doubles as a host stand, it's a convivial restaurant that reminds us that eating out should be communal and pleasurable. And chef Theo Adley's food—unassailable fried chicken, a stupendous burger, brussels sprouts glistening with a Thai vinaigrette—all equate to memorable bites that linger long after you've knocked back a potent cocktail or two created on the fly to celebrate the life of a deceased celebrity. Details»

  • Tom's Home Cookin'

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    It's cash only at this iconic luncheonette that slings Southern comfort food to a dedicated posse of regulars who know to jump in the queue on the early side of the lunch crush. The menu changes daily, but no matter what's cooking—fried chicken, meatloaf, catfish, collard greens or macaroni and cheese—you're guaranteed an enormous plate of wonderfully prepared staples that taste even better when paired with sweet tea. Details»

  • Trillium

    $$

    Chef-owner Ryan Leinonen's elevated new Nordic cuisine serves as a model for uncompromising splendor and gratification, and, within the confines of his airy dining room augmented by a flattering lounge that's ideal for intimate cocktail gatherings, he fearlessly delves into Scandinavian culture: He marries foie gras with griddled rieska and pickled chanterelles and bolsters his bourbon barrel-smoked mackinaw trout with salt-and-sugar-pickled radishes. Details»

  • Vesta Dipping Gril

    $$$

    Under the direction of chef Brandon Foster, this infectiously energetic fidelity to global foodstuffs courts with its playful—and confident—cookery augmented by 25 different dipping sauces, the choices of which range from a Thai chile vindaloo to a dried berry chutney. Sultry lighting, a spirited bar scene and skillfully made cocktails add to its magnetism. Details»

  • Work & Class

    $$

    Good things happen to those who put their fate in the unflinching hands of Dana Rodriguez, a vivacious chef whose wide smile is every bit as contagious as her cooking. Her blue corn empanadas are abundant with fresh corn, squash, zucchini and Oaxacan cheese; her roasted goat is life-changing; and sugary finales, like the chocolate bread pudding, transcend dessert status. Details»

DRINKING

  • Black Crown Lounge

    Strewn with opulent antiques, all of which are available for purchase, this sensual bar doubles as a live-music venue that sings with some of the city's best local talent. Sink into a plush velvet sofa in front of the baby grand piano or retreat to the beautiful back patio graced with a koi pond and sip cocktails while sharing plates of charcuterie and truffled pâté. Details»

  • Crooked Stave at The Source

    Sour beer purists pour into this farmhouse-inspired taproom emphasizing a world-class, barrel-aged sour beer and wild ale collection. The best way to enjoy the liquid assets is to order a flight, and if you happen to be around when the brewery unleashes special releases, consider yourself extremely fortunate; you can't find beers like this anywhere else in the city. Details»

  • Epic Brewing Company

    An epic number of craft suds are poured from the taps inside this gorgeous tasting room and brew house that features floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the River North neighborhood. A large cooler lined with bottled brews, including bombers, are a beer geek's nirvana, and growlers are available for purchase, too. Details»

  • Williams & Graham

    Proprietor Sean Kenyon, a world-renowned bartender and mixologist, knows his way around a cocktail better than just about anyone, and here, at his sultry speakeasy, he, along with an impressive lineup of likeminded tenders, mix and muddle like pros, crafting imaginative cocktails that make you think beyond a Manhattan. Small plates—oysters on the half shell, chicken liver mousse and roasted bone marrow—emerge from the kitchen in elegantly presented fashion. Details»

  • The Cruise Room

    For a nip of nostalgia, tuck into this romantic Art Deco bar, fashioned after one of lounges on the Queen Mary, for potent martinis and a dose of history that dates back to the late nineteenth century. Hop aboard a stool for a pre-dinner drink and converse with bartenders, old-timers, hipsters and overnight travelers of the historic Oxford Hotel, in which it resides. Details»

  • Star Bar

    Oozing with charisma and character, Star Bar is Downtown's answer to the modern dive bar. It's a little bit country, a little bit rock-and-roll and a whole lot of fun. Plus, there's skeeball and foosball, not to mention an ever-evolving craft beer selection and cocktail scroll that makes you want to stay and imbibe until last call. Details»

  • Green Russell

    Below Larimer Square's arch of white lights is a staircase that leads to the entrance of a pie shop; the door beyond gives way to a swanky Prohibition-style speakeasy that's almost always filled with cocktail savvy patrons who come for the easy banter with the bartender superheroes, all of whom are assertively talented when it comes to making the drink of your dreams. Sit back, enjoy the show and behold the hand-carved ice, which is worth the price of admission. Details»

  • Ste. Ellie

    At this below-street-level lounge, moody lighting illuminates the ivory-hued, crescent-shaped booths occupied by a classy clientele that seeks out the underground haunt for its astute dedication to craft cocktails. Seasoned bartender Kevin Burke, whose esoteric, often original libations are created from extolled spirits, house-made bitters and syrups and edible herbs, is a study in bartending prowess. The kitchen, which turns out snacks and small plates that focus on house-made charcuterie, deserves its own accolades. Details»

PROVISIONS

  • EVOO Marketplace

    If you're a chef, an amateur cook, or just someone who appreciates the good things in life, then this olive oil and balsamic vinegar emporium is your Shangri-la. The lovely staff is terrific when it comes to offering samples. And if you're searching for a gift (we're enamored with the Baklouti green chile-infused olive oil), it's a given that you won't leave empty handed. Details»

  • Western Daughters Butcher Shoppe

    The fledging butcher shop is flourishing in the Highland neighborhood thanks to Kate Kavanaugh and Josh Curtiss, two passionate butchers who mastered their art at Fleisher's Meats in New York City. Their showstopping meat displays are stocked with fat sausages, pork and beef cuts, and house-cured deli meats, all of which are antibiotic- and hormone-free. And the shelves are loaded with several Colorado products, including Elevation ketchup and jarred pickles from the Real Dill. Details»

  • The Truffle Cheese Shop

    There's no better place to indulge in cheese than at this delightful oasis of stink that's run by two supremely dedicated dairy advocates who search the world over for the best wedges, rounds and wheels. Whether you're pining for Gouda or Gorgonzola dolce, English cheddar or Époisses de Bourgogne, the glass cases are brimming with small-batch cheeses that pair beautifully with the store's charcuterie and other edibles, including just-baked baguettes. Details»

  • Savory Spice Shop

    The scent of just-ground spices can be sniffed from blocks away, and once you've entered this homegrown spice shop, where there's collective inhaling, it only gets better. All of the spices and rubs are available for sampling, and whether you're purchasing jerk seasoning, extracts, makrut lime sea salt or ghost chiles, the store allows you to buy as much—or as little—as you'd like, and the staff always has recipe cards at the ready. Details»

  • Mondo Vino

    What sets Mondo Vino apart from its competition is the combined years of experience clocked by the highly personable, accessible and knowledgeable staff. They're always happy to recommend wines that fit your budget. And the bottles, many of them from small vineyards, are organized by country. Bonus: The shop offers free wine tastings every Friday from 4 to 7 p.m. and again on Saturday from 2 to 7 p.m. Details»

  • Marczyk Fine Foods

    The sandwiches alone are worth a visit to this beautifully curated market and specialty food shop (there's a second location at 5100 E. Colfax) that also specializes in hard-to-find products from around the globe and local foodstuffs that can be combined to create a brilliant gift basket saluting Colorado's bounty. The adjacent wine shop, which is owned by the same family, is an oasis of beauty, too. Details»

  • Sweet Action Ice Cream


    The lines never cease at this quirky ice cream "sweetery" that's made a name for itself by scooping oddball flavors that you won't encounter anywhere else. The ice cream, made by hand from fresh and natural Colorado dairy products, rotates frequently, but on any given day, there are 24 varieties. Our favorite inspirations: Stranahan's whiskey brickle, salted butterscotch and Colorado honey.
    Details»

  • Black Eye Coffee Shop

    A come-as-you-are vibe dominates this community-minded java joint that drips to a slower pace and provides a sunlit, laid-back respite from the hustle and bustle just beyond the roll-up garage door. The baristas, all extremely well-versed in coffee culture, pull an excellent cappuccino, which is best suited to a French macaron or blueberry scone. Details»

EXPLORE

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DINING
DRINKING
PROVISIONS