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Denver Food Scene: A Culinary Wonderland for Foodies

I worship at the altar which is the Denver food culture. As a self-proclaimed foodie, having made it a point when traveling both domestically and Internationally to sample and participate in all things food-related, how unique Denver has become in its culinary arts. The entire city is just so vibrant and diverse that I can just not get enough of it and its no wonder that its climbing the ranks as a top hot food city. Even after spending 4 days in Denver, I barely scratched the surface of how the culinary experience here is just amazing.

This article is just to help give you suggestions on the best ways and places to have your own personal eating experiences while spending time in the Mile High City.

Denver Food Halls

It’s great to have all your dining options under one roof. This continuing trend in culinary delights is not slowing down anytime soon, and the locales are just getting more and more interesting. From The Source which originated in an old foundry built in the 19th century, to an airplane hangar turned food hall where Stanley Marketplace is. You never know where the latest food craze is going to take off from.

Denver Central Market

Denver Central Market
Photo Credit: Nicholas Rosen

Located in the heart of the RiNo (River North) Art District, this marketplace is always bustling with activity. It’s still has the trendy vibe of this neighborhood of art and and industrial, ever so evident by the displays of street art you will be passing by on your way inside. You have daily specials most of the week if you are on a budget but it is definitely worth splurging a bit for some extras.

The vendors here are an absolute delight, with a mix of Italian, seafood, artisanal baked goods and desserts, and local meats and cheeses. There is plenty of indoor and outdoor seating both in the front and back of the building. Perfect for people watching or just enjoying the crisp cool weather that makes this location such a culinary hub.

Food Recommendations

Vero Italian Kitchen – A great choice for authentic Italian. The handmade pasta and quick service makes this place an amazing delight. They also have a little shop by the register selling all the ingredients you need to make your own meals at home. The bar seating is good and you will really feel like you are in the center of activity as you eat.

Izzio Artisan Bakery – Here is where you need to get all your desserts and extra treats. They have a wide selection of scones, muffins, buns, and croissants. Along with cake, cookies, and assorted candy, it’s no wonder you will always seem to find a line. Pair these with some premium coffee at Crema, the stall right across from the bakery before heading outside.

Union Station

Denver Union Station
Photo Credit: Nicholas Rosen

This historic transportation hub of the city is now a prime location for high-end eatery establishments. It’s a real crown jewel of Downtown Denver, all very chic with its architecture. The focus here is more on artisanal and modern bites if that is your preference or want a change of scenery. You will find a constant influx of locals and visitors coming through here every day so it’s a perfect place to sit down in the Grand Hall with your meal and just people watch.

Food Recommendations

Milkbox Ice Creamery – Perfect for dessert and ice cream lovers. All the flavors are locally sourced and hand-crafted so you can definitely taste the dedication. An added bonus is they have boozy shakes, where you can add liquor options into your own customized shake or what they have on menu.

Stoic & Genuine – Top place for seafood dishes from coast to coast. You have fish, lobster, octopus, and crab for dinner entrees. Also includes an oyster bar and a oyster/drink happy hour Monday to Friday. A James Beard award winner, they also have a cooking class to learn the finer techniques needs to cooking each type of seafood.

Denver Milk Market

Another historic space modernized into a bustling food hall, it is similar to the Denver Central Market except in my opinion has a little more space so you don’t feel as crowded. It’s a mix of market countertops and sit-down restaurants so it’s your preference if you are just looking for a quick bite or want to linger longer.

Aside from the food, I like the aesthetic of the outdoor seating, especially at night when it’s not too cold. There is a section of the back alley that has its lights consistently changing colors.

Food Recommendations

Lou’s Hot | Naked – A decent place for fried chicken sandwiches with varying levels of spiciness. The waffle fries are especially good. Just a place to grab a quick bite before heading back out into the city.

Lous Hot Naked
Photo Credit: Nicholas Rosen

Denver Restaurant Week

This annual event has been going on for over 20 years and continues to impress. The culinary scene in Denver is continually thriving, expanding, and diversifying itself in so many ways it seems like this will only barely touch the surface for you. The participating restaurants scattered throughout the most popular neighborhoods showcase their talents with pre-fixed menus at a discount price.

It is typically a 3-course menu of appetizers, entrees, and desserts. So you can sample a wide variety. Some of these are family-style or focused on a couple for a romantic evening or date night out. These restaurants are headed by extremely talented chefs from all over. They have won the coveted James Beard award and some are Michelin-starred.

James Beard Award

The James Beard award if you do not know recognizes the achievements and talent of those in the culinary arts. This not only includes the chefs, but journalists, restauranters, and authors. As long as it is food related, they help support those in the industry. So if you pick a location that states they are James Beard awarded, you know it’s going to be delicious. Don’t let that deter you from picking somewhere else that is either closer to your place of stay or is the cuisine you just have to have that day. There really is no bad choice on the list of Denver Restaurant Week.

Michelin Star

A Michelin star is of course a restaurant awarded for outstanding cooking. Even a restaurant with one star will be amazing. They base these several categories from the freshness of the ingredients to cooking technique and the chef’s own personality applied to the food. It’s always changing as old winners are reassessed and new restaurants are awarded. So you never know what might just pop up in Denver as the new Michelin Star hotspot.

Walking Denver Food Tour

Of course I make it a point to take a walking food tour in every new city I visit and you should too. Nothing is better than walking around the neighborhood like a local and having a sample of every hidden gem cuisine there is to offer. You can also learn about the history of the neighborhood and see why it continues to thrive.

There are several different tour groups you can choose from that focus on the same area or a particular neighborhood they are more familiar with. We chose RiNo Arts District with Delicious Denver Food Tours because of the time availability and it was exactly what we needed. It included 5 tastings along with optional drink pairings. This included:

  • Osaka Ramen
  • Redeemer Pizza
  • Los Chingoes
  • Vero Italian
  • Dochi

Our tour guide was knowledgeable and fun. He also helped the group by asking us about our favorite foods at the beginning of the tour and then wrote a list of his recommendations around the city we should go to during our time in Denver.

Our Other Food Recommendations

Denver Breakfast

OneFold Denver Breakfast
Photo Credit: Nicholas Rosen

I’d recommend OneFold in Uptown as they have a delicious Chinese Sausage Fried Rice dish for breakfast and you rarely get to see that as a breakfast option in the States. The Lap Chong sausage brings out the additional flavors of the topped fried egg and rice with tamari soy sauce. It’s an unconventional breakfast but who wants to be conventional on a self-exploring foodie tour?

Sushi Dinner

Flying in high-quality fresh fish daily from the fish markets of Fukuoka, Japan, Sushi Den is a fine dining establishment that has made its mark as one of the premier sushi restaurants not only in all of Denver, but the entire United States as well. And you can definitely taste the precision and dedication in every bite you take.

Denver Sushi Den
Photo Credit: Nicholas Rosen

The dark lighting and colorful displays of Japanese artwork give this location that nightlife ambiance.

But don’t think just because of its stellar and impeccable reputation that you won’t have the chance to get in on your own merits. This place is only for rich and well-known clientele. You can easily book a reservation or just show up as a walk-in. Yes, it gets very busy (even on a random Sunday night) but there is plenty of seating to meet your needs.

If you are celebrating an important milestone or simply looking to try something new with your group, you should partake in the Chef’s table. This private-dining experience allows to try a selection of new dishes and classic favorites. An additional option is having your private chef pair your meal with fine sake to make it an even more memorable foodie adventure. This is something you will need to book in advance so as not to miss a good opportunity.

All of this rich delicious food will have you full in no time at all. Make a point to walk around the city to work up an appetite so you can enjoy this even more. Once you’ve been here, you will definitely be making plans to come again as soon as possible so you can keep diving into the culinary eateries here.

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