Nestled at the foot of the Rocky Mountains, Denver is known for its 300 days of annual sunshine, abundant outdoor options, young population, and beautiful downtown. It has undergone plenty of changes in recent years, but one of the most exciting is the influx of innovative restaurants, many owned by the chefs themselves, and the result is a dining scene that’s positively booming.
From old-school wild game spots to high-end Italian restaurants, from farm-to-table spots to down-home comfort food restaurants, Denver’s best restaurants are breaking new ground and pushing culinary boundaries. In order to compile our ranking of Denver’s 10 best restaurants, we took into account pre-existing rankings both in print and online, consulted with our Denver City Page editor, and pulled restaurants from our own previous rankings, including America’s 50 Best Mexican Restaurants, Best Italian Food in Denver, and Best Vegetarian and Vegan Dining in Denver. So read on for what, in our estimation, are the 10 best restaurants in Denver.
10) The Buckhorn Exchange
One of America’s oldest restaurants (and the oldest in Denver) as well as the best restaurant for meat eaters in the country, Henry "Shorty Scout" Zietz opened the Buckhorn Exchange in 1893, during a time when cattlemen, miners, railroad workers, silver barons, Indian chiefs, drifters, and businessmen all dined under the same roof. The restaurant was given the first liquor license in the state of Colorado and the food menu remains mostly unchanged to this day. The Buckhorn is a true Wild West holdout, with its circa-1857 antique bar, wooden fixtures, 575-piece taxidermy collection, 125-piece gun collection, and a menu that reflects that good ol’ American desire to eat some red meat. Giant steaks are the most popular offering, but there are plenty of exotic game meats on offer, too: elk, Cornish game hen, quail, and buffalo are available and can be served as samplers (elk and two quails; quail, duck and Cornish game hen; etc.) for those who really want to celebrate being on top of the food chain.
9) Pinche Taqueria
This taco spot’s name doesn’t translate well — just think of what you say when you’re moved to be either exceptionally mad or really happy, and you’ll get the idea. You’re likely to be the latter when you visit chef Kevin Morrison’s taqueria. Originally a taco truck, it puts a modern twist on comida de la calle (Mexican street food), along with small-batch tequilas. You’ll want to start with an order of queso fundido con chorizo and homemade chips, but from there it gets more difficult to choose. Carnitas? Pollo a la crema? Asada, lengua, or rajas con crema y maiz? There are also chipotle-and-beer-battered fish tacos and citrus grilled shrimp.