Denver is a worthy contender at the “grown-up” table when it comes to food cities, positioning itself to join other A-list culinary hotspots like Charleston, Chicago and New York. Among its credentials? The Mile High City has nabbed James Beard awards and recently starred in season 15 of “Top Chef.”
Suffice to say, when you live here, you’ll always have a list of “must-visit” restaurants that are newly opened or buzzing. But, there are also some hidden restaurants—either because they’ve got a speakeasy appeal or haven’t been completely discovered—that are bidding for your attention, too.
These 6 restaurants and bars are among Denver’s best-kept secrets:
Russell’s Smokehouse: Best for Date Night
Larimer Street, which is draped with a hammock of white lights year-round, helps set the tone for a romantic night out. Slip downstairs to Russell’s Smokehouse. You’ll know you’ve arrived at this speakeasy-style spot when you see the “pie shop” decal on the door. Start off in Green Russell, an intimate Prohibition-era cocktail joint. Then, enjoy dinner at the adjoining Russell’s Smokehouse. Highlights of the menu include decadent mac and cheese with green chile, racks of ribs and beef tips smoked with whiskey from a local distiller, Leopold Bros.
Location: 1422 Larimer St. in Denver
Garibaldi Mexican: Best for Lunch
There’s no shortage of great Mexican restaurants in Denver that have earned themselves a cult following. Some of the best include La Loma and La Pasadita Inn. Oh, and, if you’re a newcomer to Denver, you’ll probably get pointed to Casa Bonita. Let us warn you, though: It’s a bit of an initiation. The restaurant made famous by “South Park” is beloved for its eccentricities like cliff divers who plunge from a waterfall in the restaurant; not its cafeteria-style food. For some truly great Mexican, though, try out the Mexico City-style tacos and burritos at Garibaldi Mexican, an unassuming spot that, yes, shares a building with a Conoco gas station. A must-try? The quekas: Which are huge corn tortilla quesadillas stuffed with slow-cooked meat or a vegetable mix. There’s no way your tank or stomach is leaving empty after you visit here.
Location: 3298 S. Broadway in Englewood
Suite 6A: Best for a Special Night Out
Denver has been getting a taste of New York City with the opening of Death & Co inside the Ramble Hotel in the River North neighborhood earlier this year. Death & Co has dining and drinking experiences throughout the hotel, but Eater dishes that its latest concept is a sophisticated and moody 22-seat bar that’s hidden upstairs above the hotel’s lobby. Suite 6A has rotating cocktails and food menus. A debut menu includes creative cocktails like the Birthday Daiquiri made with rums, lime and champagne, plus small plates such as Colorado lamb tartare. You can be among the first to experience the bar, which has an exclusive feel.
Location: 1280 25th St. in Denver
Kachina: Best for Brunch
Denverites love to brunch. (Translated: At some of the more popular brunch spots, you might be waiting an hour or more for your pancakes and mimosas). But, an unexpected brunch spot with a delicious build-your-own Bloody Mary bar can be found in the ‘burbs. Kachina Southwestern Grill in Westminster, just north of downtown, serves both sweet and savory brunch dishes and gets bonus points in our book for having guac on the brunch menu. Other standouts are breakfast beignets filled with chocolate, blueberry pancakes, huevos rancheros and a variety of savory dishes that get the green chile treatment.
Location: 10600 Westminster Blvd in Westminster
Hidden Idol: Best for a Night Out With Girlfriends
Surprise! Denver has a tiki bar. Hidden Idol at Beetle Bar is, as its name suggests, a bit hidden. It’s upstairs at Southside Bar | Kitchen, and has its own secluded entrance. Here, you’ll be in the capable hands of friendly bartenders wearing Hawaiian shirts and crafting tiki cocktails. You just might hear a DJ spinning calypso or reggae music or catch a bartender making a flaming cocktail while there. The small bar is open 7 p.m. to midnight Wednesday through Sunday and operates on a first-come, first-serve basis.
Location: 3014 E Colfax Ave – Upstairs in Denver
Frozen Matter: Best for Your Sweet Tooth
Ice cream shop in the front, bar in the back! Frozen Matter has an alternating list of ice cream flavors, and oftentimes partners with other local businesses to create only-in-Denver flavors like a Cold Brew Coffee ice cream made in partnership with Huckleberry Roasters. You’ll find classic flavors on the menu, alongside some more inventive ones, such as miso salted caramel and pear white tea sorbet. Hidden behind a faux freezer door is a speakeasy-style cocktail lounge called Retrograde. Pretty cool, right?
Location: 530 E 19th Ave. in Denver
For more hidden hot spots in the Mile High City, check out Eave’s free Insider’s Guide to Denver, written by our neighborhood experts!