With the explosive growth that Denver has been experiencing over the past decade has come a vast improvement in the quality and variety of food selections on offer. If you've been living in the area for a significant length of time, some of my suggestions may not surprise you...but others may! Those of you who are new to the state and are trying to find something that matches up favorably to your old favorites "back home," I have suggestions for just about every major cuisine style you could ask for...and I've decided to put it in a blog post, for you to reference. Try them all, you won't be disappointed!
There are a bunch of contenders for great breakfasts in the Denver metro area; but for overall quality and available choices, I give the edge to Syrup. There are several locations around Denver, however the only one I have visited is the location on 18th street, downtown. The runner-up for the breakfast category would probably be Snooze, which also has several locations to choose from. For something closer to home, I have always loved Le Peep...we frequent the Westminster location.
This one is the reason behind the "and around" Denver, in the title of this blog post...because while I know that Aspen isn't exactly a convenient trip for a meal, the 520 Grill has by far the best burgers I've eaten, in the entire state of Colorado. Burger connoisseurs really need to try the bacon-infused Bison burger, but they've also got beef, turkey, chicken and vegan options. Whichever way you go, these guys won't disappoint. A very strong runner-up locally would be the burger on offer at Prohibition in downtown Denver. Order it with a fried egg...it's truly spectacular!
Authentic Chinese can be a real challenge in Denver, especially if you've been spoiled by living in one of the larger coastal cities, such as New York or Los Angeles...but if you want the real thing, Hong Kong BBQ is the best spot I've found for it. Totally unassuming hole-in-the-wall place and don't expect stellar service if you're going to sit down for a meal in the restaurant (most people order take-out), but the food is mouth-watering, authentic Cantonese. You'll be doing yourself a disservice if you don't try their BBQ pork.
I started to love Cuban cuisine while living in Los Angeles, and got hooked on Picadillo and Papas Rellenas. Upon my return to Denver, I needed to find a restaurant that could approximate the food at my favorite place on the west coast...and I found it, at Frijoles Colorado Cuban Cafe. This is where Florida transplants who love Cuban food go to eat, here in Denver. Great service and the food is top notch, you will not be disappointed. Try their Cuban Sandwich once and I guarantee you'll be back.
My wife and I are huge fans of Indian curries and the quality here in the Denver metro area is kind of "all over the place" - the vast majority of people seem to have no problem with buffet-style fast food places. If you want something more authentic and traditional, my suggestion is Namaste India Restaurant in Arvada. Don't expect great or particularly attentive service here, but it's definitely the best Indian food my wife and I have had in Denver.
Come for the free garlic knots, stay for the incredible dessert case! This is an "over the counter," deli-style style eatery, with great-tasting food and some of the best pizza in Denver (by the pie, or by the slice). Because of the unassuming location, it's easy to miss...but you're missing out, if you haven't tried Grammy's Italian Goodies yet. I recommend a canoli, followed by their tiramisu...f'getaboutit!
There's just something about sitting around a grill while I pile on the bulgogi, steak and onions...letting those marinated smells waft across the table while we enjoy a dozen or so different "banchan" appetizers, laid out by the servers. In Denver, nobody does the Korean barbeque experience better than Seoul Korean BBQ in Aurora...it's the best.
One thing there is no lack of in the Denver area is quality Mexican food...so deciding on a best restaurant wasn't easy. For my money, though, the best spot in Denver for authentic Mexican food is Guadalajara Restaurant in Westminster. The top dish to try is the Molcajete, which is their signature item...a sizzling plate of steak, chicken, shrimp, chorizo and cheese that will wake up even the most stubborn taste buds. You aren't going to go wrong with their burritos, either...smothered in green chile, if you're like me. Bring your appetite!
Ramen is one of those dishes that is difficult to get right and requires a ton of artistry...and a lot of places around Denver get it wrong. Tokio is not one of those places. They serve the best, most flavorful and authentic Japanese Ramen of anyplace I've tried in Colorado. The restaurant also serves sushi, but I don't really recommend it (see my recommendation two entries down, for the best Sushi in Denver)...stick with the Ramen and you won't be disappointed. It's also a great place to sit down and enjoy the ambiance, while you slurp down your noodles!
Much like Mexican food, there's no shortage of great steakhouses in Denver...but one stands above the rest, and that's Shanahan's Steakhouse in Downtown Denver. Started by former Denver Broncos head coach, Mike Shanahan, this place is high-end dining with some of the best meat you'll taste, anywhere. You're not limited to steak here, there are a wide variety of seafood options on offer as well...for the ultimate "surf and turf" meal. As you might expect, the prices are not what you'd call "reasonable" but for a special night out, it's hard to beat. For a less expensive option in Arvada, I'm partial to The Butchery, which replaced The Old Neighborhood restaurant, a longtime fixture of the area that suffered a steady decline in quality over the years. Update: I have discovered another great option in North Denver, this time in Westminster...The Hideaway! The prices are similar to The Butchery, the ambiance and service are great, and the steak was top notch. Give it a try!
One of the toughest things to find in the Denver metro area, since returning from a long stint living in Los Angeles, has been sushi that meets the freshness and flavor standards that I'd become accustomed to. Happily, after much trial and error, we discovered Sushi Hai in the Highlands area of Denver. This place offers LA-style sushi and sashimi options that far eclipse higher-profile restaurants like Sushi Den (which is still pretty good) and Sushi Sasa. As a backup closer to home, I can recommend Namiko's in Olde Town Arvada.
I am a huge fan of Pad Thai and Chicken Satay...and J's Noodles does Pad Thai better than anybody else in the state, that I've tried. Don't confuse this with the location of the same name in Lakewood, the quality is not on par. This area on south Federal isn't trendy, but does play home to a wide variety of quality asian cuisine (the Vietnamese food options are abundant, though I'm not a fan of Pho)...and there isn't much room inside for a sit-down dining experience, you'll be better off ordering take-out. But if you're a fan of Thai, you need to try this place.
Hands-down the best Buffalo wings in Denver, easily besting the likes of Buffalo Wild Wings, is Grillin' Wings & Things in south Denver. This location, not far from the University of Denver on University Blvd, has so many awesome sauces to try that you'll be coming back again and again...but don't focus solely on the chicken wings, because the "Pig Wings" made of pork shoulder are also fantastic and a must-try. They'll let you sample the sauces before you order, as well...go give them a try and tell me I'm wrong!