Opened: October 2019
At Daughter Thai, style and substance are what’s for dinner. Under the discerning eye of chef-owner Ounjit Hardacre, the vibe at the Platte Street spot is lively and hip, and even the usual Thai food menu suspects sport flavor upgrades and face-lifts. (You can credit Hardacre’s upbringing in Western Thailand’s Kanchanaburi province for the former and her kitchen tenure at upscale spots in San Francisco for the latter.) Expect clever twists—and lovely presentation—on everything from massaman curry (with Colorado lamb and lychee) to pla larb (a salad laced with fresh mint, chiles, lime, and roasted rice, which Hardacre elevates with fried frog legs). It all meshes beautifully with Daughter Thai’s urbane cocktail program, making this LoHi date-night gem so much more than your average takeout joint.
Opened: December 2019
Chef Tim Dotson (formerly of the Family Jones Spirit House) and partner Chris Fuentes (a Tacos Tequila Whiskey vet) may not have forecast the pandemic, but their deli/convenience store/bar/restaurant was certainly well-stocked for it. Selling everything from Tylenol and hand sanitizer to house-cured pastrami and dried rice noodles, Dotson and Fuentes have created a model that works—and then some. The excellent extras come in when you consider that Dimestore is also a beautiful full-service restaurant and bar featuring $11 craft cocktails by bar manager Mas Morrison, Dotson’s genius dimerolls (stuffed, rolled focaccia sandwiches) and refined small plates (try the spicy fried chicken nuggets with slaw, blue cheese mousse, and hot honey served in a Little Man waffle cone). Throw in the large, social-distancing-friendly rooftop patio, and it’s a new idea whose time has clearly arrived.
Opened: December 2019
Chef Bo Porytko has a knack for novelty, a talent that allows him to riff on pub classics—burgers, popcorn, fried fare—through his own quirky lens. The result? Playful, edible art showcased from a 120-square-foot kitchen inside the Middleman cocktail bar on East Colfax Avenue. Exhibit A: Fried whole clusters of Worcestershire-marinated enoki mushrooms, Porytko’s take on the bloomin’ onion, and a BLT crafted from tomato aspic, braised bacon, and pickled lettuce. If you’re looking for what’s funky and fun in Denver right now, Misfit is it.
Opened: January 2020
Late last year, three Mizuna vets—chef Ty Leon, barman Austin Carson, and hospitality ace Heather Morrison—transformed Cafe Marmotte on South Downing Street into a charming yet modern trattoria inspired by Morrison’s eponymous (and equally charming) 10-year-old daughter, who loves Leon’s glorious handmade pastas almost as much as we do. His modern Italian offerings run the gamut from take-and-bake lasagna family meals to dine-in and takeout tasting menus, all designed to go with Carson’s wild grape French 75s or fig old fashioneds. With Morrison running the floor, Olivia is the full package—a neighborhood spot where every meal feels like a celebration.
Opened: February 2020
It’s a tragic bit of irony to open a cocktail bar based on a fabulous flapper-era traveler just weeks before a no-more-trips, no-more-bars pandemic struck. It certainly rocked Room for Milly’s world, given how tiny the gorgeous Platte Street space is and how most of it is taken up by a long bar. But coronavirus couldn’t stop the brilliant minds behind this transportive new drinks-and-small-plates destination. Room for Milly does everything well: Zoom cocktail classes; luxe merchandise; shaded patio brunches and happy hours; and some of the best sips, snacks, and decor in Denver.
Opened: September 2019
Tricia and Sam Maher’s vegan, no-waste-inspired, Miami retro Overland restaurant blows away all expectations. Hard-core omnivores won’t miss a thing when presented with chef Art Burnayev’s magically creamy almond skordalia, umami-bomb mushroom toast, and hearty semolina pastas. Of course, his vegetable plates are the true stars, each as vibrant and layered as the next. Oenophiles can romp through the natural wine list, and even those of us not comfortable with dining in have reason to go, for Somebody People has turned its foyer coffee bar into a market where you can pick up vino; veggies from Oxford Gardens; dips and pickles and dried noodles; and spices, tiffins, and T-shirts.
Opened: December 2019
It comes as a surprise to no one that Frasca Hospitality Group’s newest baby—a European-style wine bar behind Union Station that spins only vinyl—is the coolest kid in town. The long, narrow space (and train-track-side patio) is elegant and attended to by best-of-the-best restaurant and wine pros dressed in their finest kicks. There’s a high-low thing coming out of the kitchen, with juicy pork burgers, beef-fat fries, and deviled eggs residing on the same menu as lobster hand pies and steelhead trout with smoked onions and pole beans. And, oh, the wine! Let sommelier Clara Klein steer you through the Old World meets New World list and make a suggestion or two; she’s got a story for every pour, which you’ll be able to clearly hear her deliver because the exquisite acoustics at Sunday Vinyl might be its most beloved aspect of all.
Opened: July 2019
The only way Tommy Lee could have improved upon his original LoHi ramen shop would have been to expand it. Enter: Uncle’s second location in the Speer neighborhood. Not only are there more seats (these days, on a massive tented patio), but Lee added more eats, too, via tsukemen and mazemen ramen; apps like celery salad and kimchi-butter-dressed fried potatoes; and Thai-style curry. Go on Tuesday or Wednesday for the 15-course yakitori tasting menu, courtesy of chef Sean May, during which grilled chicken-bits-on-a-stick get their rightful due.
Opened: August 2019
Chef-owner Penelope Wong is a carb whisperer—and Denverites will follow the Mile High City native’s food truck anywhere for a taste of her incredible wontons, dumplings, buns, rice dishes, and hand-pulled noodles. With her husband and partner, Robert Jenks, Wong parks at breweries and local events across the city, often steaming and pan-frying up to 1,700 dumplings in a night. She learned to fold all those perfect pleats from her Chinese grandmother and now puts her skills to use making xiao long bao stuffed with six-hour bone broth and chive-studded pork; crispy-bottomed, emerald-hued vegan Sichuan eggplant pot stickers; sesame noodles; and her silky, signature shrimp-and-pork wontons in chile oil. So, follow the leader (and the well-deserved hype) to Instagram (@yuanwonton) and get ready to pay for your food the minute online pre-orders open—Yuan Wonton always sells out.