This noisy, nautically-themed shrine to the brine set sail in LoDo over eighteen years ago, but even now, it’s packed to the gills with hipster crowds that suck down oysters at the convivial bar that stretches from the front door to the exhibition kitchen and showcases a gleaming ice display of fresh seafood. The partially-open kitchen cranks out pan-roasted Steelhead trout, seared sea scallops tangling with curried carrots and a Maine lobster roll bolstered by the addition of bacon lardons, while the crew that mans the long counter is responsible for turning out gumbos and chowders, caviar and tuna poke, peel-and-eat shrimp and steamed mussels. The cocktails are some of Denver’s best liquid assets, and the bar team even makes its own alcohol-free root beer and ginger beer. Sit in the sun-filled space for a quick bite, or linger over seafood delights not often found in Denver.
With nods from USA Today, CBS News, and The Washington Post, Rodizio Grill has made a name for itself as an authentic Brazilian charrascuria—a South American–style rotisserie. Founded by São Paolo–born Ivan Utrera, the cuisine comprises of select cuts of meat, which are slow-roasted on a spit and then skewered. It also features fish, grilled pineapple, and unlimited trips to an award-winning salad bar with over 40 items. Gauchos—also known as Brazilian cowboys—bustle about the restaurant, bringing unlimited slices of tender meat to diners who can also grab fresh vegetables and homemade salads at the gourmet salad bar, as well as enjoy Brazilian appetizers served directly to the table.
With a menu comprised only of two sections—'before tacos' and 'tacos'—T/aco's chef Matt Collier understands the power of the white-glove approach. In a recent interview, he divulged to Thrillist that each tortilla, like everything else on the restaurant's menu, is handmade. Harnessing a diverse culinary palette of fresh herbs and ingredients to craft bold flavors, Chef Matt and his team top their braised pork belly, Ahi tuna, and veggie tacos with such gourmet fixings as poblano crema, queso cotija, and chayote-squash salsa. To add a touch of diversity to their taco-heavy menu, they whip up fresh ceviches and guacamole with housemade chips. T/aco's bartenders have also honed an all-important craft. They mix smoky and fruity margaritas with 25 reposado, anejo, and blanco tequilas—one for each year an American must live before she can eat tacos in the US House of Representatives.
1515 Restaurant's executive chef Jonas Halstead and chef Sous Chef Jason Collins strive to use the freshest local and seasonal ingredients in their classic French recipes. But they also go much, much further. For example, this Denver staple was the first restaurant in the city to be certified in sous-vide cooking, a French technique that involves vacuum-sealing food and placing it in hot water for hours, resulting in a moist and flavorful final product. The chefs also practice molecular gastronomy techniques that present familiar flavors in exciting new forms. And the restaurant has also been awarded for its progressive, green initiatives. By incorporating these new methods, the chefs push the culinary envelope while keeping their flavors fresh and approachable.
To pair with the ever-changing seasonal menus, the restaurant presents diners with a few wine choices—500 of them, to be precise. The Wine Spectator Award–winning wine list joins a refreshing selection of local craft beers that complement grand meals in the homey second-floor dining room or hors d'oeuvres and pub-style dishes in the ground-floor lounge.
Tucked amidst an historic block of downtown Denver is the family-owned Market at Larimer Square. This former grocery store has been replaced with a gem of an espresso shop, complete with deli and bakery touches. The European-style market starts with the enticing smell of brewed coffee at the entrance, and customers can continue up the stairs to an open square space topped with plenty of casual seating. The deli and bakery offers more tempting scents, and customers tend to fall for the hot French dip, a staked Cuban sandwich or the New Orealns-leaning Muffuletta. Of course, the perfect finisher is the Market’s signature dessert: the Spring Fling, a delightfully layered concoction of zucchini bread, cream cheese and fresh fruit.
Packed with jet-setting tourists and powerhouse locals, the Palm, the signature restaurant in the downtown Denver Westin hotel, puts its meat where its mouth is, unleashing superior cuts of beef at prices that match the pedigree. Still, this clubby, expense-account stalwart knows its way around steer, and no matter how you slice it, the beef is hefty, well-seasoned and cooked to perfection. The cow is served a la carte, but side dishes, including creamed spinach, Brussels sprouts glistening with butter and potatoes au gratin ensure you won’t leave hungry. Caricatures of local celebrities and long-standing regulars surface the walls, while the dining room boasts masculine dark woods, tables topped with starchy white linens and cushy booths the color of evergreen. The voluminous wine list, which has generated numerous awards, is worthy of exploration, as are the cocktails.