Guard & Grace
1801 California St., Downtown
Named after chef Troy Guard (and his daughter, Grace), this 9,000-square-foot space tucked into the street level of the fifty-six-floor CenturyLink Tower is home to the best steaks in the city. Bright, airy, and sleek, with just enough touches of warmth to keep it from being too corporate, Guard & Grace offers everything we’d want from a modern steakhouse: elevated, fresh seafood (plus a raw bar), amazing charcuterie, perfect martinis, and of course, local grass-fed cuts of beef offered in 4 to 22 oz. portions. There’s no official dress code, but it is definitely dressed-up for Denver.
2601 Larimer St., RiNo
After nine years at its original location in Uptown, Il Posto has recently re-opened in this two-story space, double the size, in the RiNo area. The sculptural light installation, 12-seat bar topped with a slab of Carrara marble, dark wood floors, and impressive views of Downtown are certainly a sleek departure from the old space, but Chef Andrea Frizzi’s Italian menu continues to impress—take, for instance, the beef candle, a bone marrow appetizer that melts into a dip, or more classic Italian standbys like their house-made burrata with huckleberry jam and lavash cracker. The menu may be relatively small, but you can’t go wrong, whether it’s their made-to-order risotto or classic calamari.
To the Wind
3333 E. Colfax Ave., City Park
This bistro on Colfax is super tiny—the 628-square-foot space has only about 20 seats—but it’s worth the (usual) wait. Run by chef Royce Oliveira and his wife and pastry chef Leanne Adamson, the restaurant definitely has a family-run feel; you can expect extra-hospitable service and even a friendly chat with the chefs, if you’re lucky enough to snag a seat at the chef’s counter. The menu is updated daily, depending on available produce and also the popularity of the dishes the night prior—entrées range from buttermilk chicken with creamed quinoa, spinach, and hazelnuts to bison pastrami with gnocchi, cheddar, and sauerkraut. They also have a strong beer selection, with about ten local beers, plus some well-chosen wines and spirits. Note: Despite its size and propensity to fill up quickly, To the Wind doesn’t take reservations, but you can call in advance night-of.
Work & Class
2500 Larimer St., Curtis Park
Work & Class is named to represent its simple ethos, which is their goal to provide a “square meal, stiff drink, and fair price.” And really, that kind of undersells it—the Southern–Latin American menu from chef Dana Rodriguez is full of inventive small plates from bacon-wrapped jalapeños, shrimp and grits, and chickpea croquettes to salads like their “massive attack” (tempura broccoli, asparagus, avocado, spinach, cucumbers, parmesan) to substantial meat and fish offerings like whole fried Idaho trout and cochinita pibil. Designed inside some re-purposed shipping containers, the restaurant is small, always packed, and pretty loud and lively.
1475 E. 17th Ave., City Park
A relative newcomer to Denver’s taco scene, Dos Santos is among the best: Whether you choose their grilled steak, slow-roasted pork, or chicken tinga tacos, you won’t be disappointed. Our favorite is the O.M.F.G., a bib lettuce-wrapped offering filled with raw tuna, lime cilantro aioli, pickled onion, avocado, and cabbage. (Their guacamole is just as inspired: If you’re so inclined, you can try it with fresh fruit and bacon, or with pumpkin seed, nopal, and roasted tomatillos.) Cement floors, exposed brick, and colorful chairs add to the taqueria’s charm—as does a nice selection of local and Mexican beers, plus amazing margaritas.
3163 Larimer St., RiNo
Nestled among the bars, breweries, and art galleries occupying the former warehouses of Denver’s flourishing RiNo (Riverfront North) Art District, the Populist has plenty of urban charm. Chef Power regularly rotates the concise menu, made up of New American dishes, to ensure a different experience almost every visit, and the communal tables and small plates are meant to encourage a shareable dining experience. Menu favorites include the Korean croquettes, leek fonduta agnolotti, and the grass-fed burger, and we like to order salt and vinegar popcorn to munch on as soon as we sit down.
Stoic & Genuine
1701 Wynkoop St., LoDo
Tucked away in Union Square, this top-notch, multi-coastal seafood house and oyster bar flies in fresh seafood daily. The space is kind of narrow, but the high ceilings, exhibition kitchen, and 40-seat patio more than make up for it; and their fresh raw bar, craft cocktails, and perfectly shucked oysters are the real reason to pay a visit. If you can, try to take advantage of their happy hour, where you can get the same amazing oysters at $2 a pop.
2413 W. 32nd Ave., LoHi
This bistro has been in the neighborhood for a decade, making it a LoHi mainstay. Over the years, the upscale (but relaxed) restaurant has maintained more than 40 local partners, who make their farm-to-table commitment possible—and ensure their seasonal menu continues to impress with selections that range from crispy cauliflower with stewed red lentils to country ham carpaccio to “chicken & waffles” (chicken liver mousse on a brown butter waffle with date chutney and pickled shallot). Note: The small space is reliably packed, so it’s good to make a reservation.
2401 15th St., LoHi
This quiet sushi destination right off downtown discreetly serves some of the freshest fish in town. The interior is sleek and calming, and the vibe is unpretentious—it works for date night, as well as a quick lunch during the work week. There's an intimate bar space with a TV downstairs that gets lively at happy hour.
3316 Tejon St., LoHi
Justin Brunson is known as a meat guy (his other restaurants include Masterpiece Deli, Denver Bacon Company, and Culture Meat & Cheese), and Old Major is his fine-dining celebration of whole animal butchery, which all come from his in-house butcher and charcuterie program; you'll see the charcuterie room just off the dining area. The casual vibe here is quintessentially Denver, with an industrial space flecked with barn wood, exposed brick, a wide patio, and—importantly—a great bar. Brunson's best dishes, understandably, are meat-centric, like a gorgeous dry-aged Colorado ribeye, an excellent charcuterie plate, and the nose-to-tail, a plate of Italian sausage, red wine-glazed confit belly, crispy ears, and pork shoulder ragú served with vegetables. It's a lot of food, but take it from us: You'll want to save room for the pretzel knots.