(Photo Modified: flickr/anne swodoba)
Denver is home to dozens of local artisan food purveyors, acclaimed restaurants, craft breweries and nightlife that will appeal to the most discerning of palates. Start on the 16th Street Mall and work your way to Union Station, where the newly renovated transit hub houses several restaurants, shops and a boutique hotel. In Larimer Square, visitors can experience local charm, casual eateries, and fine dining while Denver’s River North (RiNo) district has become home to The Source, a one-stop artisan food hall in a converted warehouse.
Don’t miss Denver’s craft brew culture, where imbibers can drink fresh brews directly from the source at one of the dozens of breweries and brew pubs in town. If you have a weekend to spare, head to the Rockies and take in one of the nation’s up-and-coming culinary meccas.
A bona fide shopping destination, Larimer Square in downtown Denver has transformed over the past century into a hub for saloons, hotels, and retail shops. The array of shops is punctuated by some of Denver’s best dining, including Rioja, a Mediterranean-inspired James Beard Foundation Award Winner and Bistro Vendome, a French bistro-style eatery from the same owners.
Decorated at night with a canopy of lights and lined with sidewalk cafés when weather permits, Larimer Square has friendly and personable neighborhood vibe in the heart of downtown Denver.
Opened in August 2014, this converted 1880s steel foundry building in Denver’s eclectic RiNo neighborhood now serves as one-stop shop for food lovers of all ages. The Source embraces Denver’s local food culture and promotes culinary entrepreneurship with a space that boasts artisan bakers, butchers, spice shops, coffee shops, and beer brewers. You’ll also find two restaurants: Comida, which serves Mexican comfort food, and Acorn, where the chefs break down whole animals in-house and present a varied American menu with Southwestern influence.
You won’t be able to call Breckenridge a “microbrewery” for much longer. With distribution in 33 states, the familiar indie brewery has outgrown its campus and is planning its move to a larger facility. Breckenridge is the fifth-largest brewery in Colorado, alongside behemoth brands like Adolph Coors and New Belgium Brewing, the first wind-powered brewery in the world. At its current tap and tasting room, you’ll see old-time beer lovers belly up to the bar to enjoy pints of 471 Imperial IPA and The Oatmeal Stout paired with solid barbecue fare.
Great Divide Brewing Company
Founded with the notion of brewing strong beers, defined as having alcohol content greater than 7 percent, Great Divide Brewing Company has a rich 19-year history in Denver and a lively taproom that boasts numerous award-winning brews. Try an Espresso Oak Aged Yeti, a complex, roast-y 9.5-percent beer, and ask the bartender what types of specials are on tap for the inside scoop.
The bistro-style eatery in the heart of Larimer Street offers everything from French onion soup to escargot fricassée prepared with imported Burgundy snails, chicken oysters, and hazelnut white wine butter over arugula. The steak frites, undoubtedly a menu staple whether dining in Paris or Denver, is available in three different preparation styles: Classique, with a simple béarnaise, Au Poivre, a green peppercorn sauce, and Roquefort, a port reduction.
There might have been a time when it was difficult to find traditional Mediterranean fare smack in the middle of the Southwest, but it’s finally reached the Mile High City, and how. If you can nab a reservation, you know you’re in for a treat with a James Beard award-winning chef at the helm of the kitchen. At lunch or dinner, don’t miss chef Jennifer Jasinski’s handmade pastas, available in appetizer portion for sharing or entrée size for those nights when you want your beet gnocchi or artichoke tortellini all to yourself. At brunch, there is no reason to order anything but Gabe’s chronic breakfast sandwich, which is so delicious you’ll be tempted to order a second helping. It puts all other egg sandwiches to shame with poblano cream cheese, scrambled eggs, bacon, avocado, lettuce, and tomato, all crammed between two thick pieces of grilled jalapeño Cheddar sourdough bread.
Guard and Grace
There are two categories of steakhouses: every one you’ve ever been to, and Guard and Grace. Chef Troy Guard is redefining the modern steakhouse with a selection of cuts of prime, Angus, and grass-fed steaks. Start your meal with some charcuterie and handmade cheeses or an order of Colorado bison tartare before moving on to your salad course, a classic iceberg lettuce wedge topped with tomatoes, grilled scallions, applewood bacon, and gorgonzola dressing. Steaks are juicy and cooked to perfection, while pairing perfectly with an impressive roster of side dishes (think creamed spinach and Swiss chard and truffled gnocchi) and an even more impressive wine list to complement your meal. Denver is home to dozens of local artisan food purveyors, acclaimed restaurants, craft breweries and nightlife that will appeal to the most discerning of palates.
Too many restaurants boast that their fare is “eclectic American” these days, but if anyone has earned the title it’s Acorn, located in the RiNo district’s trendy artisan food hall The Source. Offering lunch, dinner, and a midday eats menu for afternoon grazers, Acorn’s menu is all about local bites (with the right timing, diners might get to observe chefs breaking down a whole hog before dinner service). Start off with a palate pleasing kale and apple salad. The crispy fried pickles with green goddess aioli are a must-have, followed by the Key West royal Shrimp and grits, in a tabasco sofrito and white wine sauce. If you happen to make it for lunch, the fried chicken atop spicy chicken gravy and a sage biscuit will give you the energy for that next-day hike or bike ride.
To Stay in Denver:
Hampton Inn & Suites Denver Downtown Hotel
When visiting any city, it’s important to have a home base that is clean and comfortable. At the Hampton Inn & Suites in downtown Denver, you’ll find yourself walking distance from shopping, dining, nightlife, and a short drive from breweries and outdoor adventures. Guests enjoy a complimentary breakfast buffet between 6:00 a.m. and 10:00 a.m. where they can get their fill of coffee, eggs, and biscuits with sausage gravy. Spend happy hours at the bar in the lobby, which features work from local artists. When you settle into bed at night you can rest easy; the hotel staff washes the duvet covers between each guest, which is not a service that many hotels provide.