Morin executive chef, middle, poses for a portrait with his sous chef team below a large fabricated steel piece above the bar that is meant to be an inverted Mont Blanc on October 3, 2018 in Denver, Colorado. His team is from left to right: Chris Ryan, sous chef, Mike Mayo, sous chef, Blake Edmunds, sous chef, Max Mackissock, executive chef, Charles Mathews, sous chef and William OÕLeary, Pastry chef. Morin is a modern French restaurant offering refined, inventive food including a menu of classic dishes as well as riffs on French cuisine with seasonal and French ingredients. (Helen H. Richardson, The Denver Post)
Another year, another round of new restaurant trends and experiences: Latin dim sum! Down with menus! Zero-waste! Sustainability! Just give us a burger! No, just give us foie gras terrine!
There kind of was something for everyone, from super-sophisticated French food and walk-up pizza windows to seriously good Chinese and bucket list-worthy pita and hummus. There were new offerings from established Denver chefs (Hi, Dana Rodriguez and Max MacKissock!) and welcome imports from other areas (Thanks for coming, Alon Shaya and Shake Shack!).
Here, for your eating pleasure, are the nine hottest restaurants that opened in Denver this year.
Famous Original J’s, 715 E. 26th Ave., Denver, 720-420-9102; famousoriginaljs.com
Pizza is personal. It’s everyone’s favorite food, but how we like it varies from person to person. That said, it’s hard to imagine anyone not loving the New York-style slices at J’s, the walk-up pizza window from the Rosenberg’s Bagels & Delicatessen team. Heck, we wake up in the middle of the night craving the white pie. If you haven’t yet tasted the creamy ricotta-topped slices, well there’s a New Year’s resolution for you.
Shake Shack, 1509 Park Central Drive, Highlands Ranch, 720-452-1007; 2995 Larimer St., Denver, 720-543-8609; shakeshack.com
Yes, it’s an East Coast-based burger chain. And it’s not cheap by fast-casual standards: a basic ShackBurger will set you back $5.49, then the crinkle cut fries are $2.99 and if you get a shake — get a shake! — it’s another $5.29. But even this die-hard In-N-Outter has to admit that it’s a great burger, and judging by the lines out the door, others agree.
Beckon, 2843 Larimer St., Denver, 303-502-5800; beckon-denver.com
Is Denver ready for an all-chef’s counter, $95/person tasting menu-only restaurant? Time will tell, but kudos to chef Duncan Holmes (formerly of Frasca Food & Wine) for giving it a go. The more formal counterpoint to Call, which garnered plenty of best-new-restaurant praise last year, serves eight creative, constantly-changing courses in a dinner party sort of experience. What else is new here? Dinner is ticketed and prepaid online.
The Wolf’s Tailor, 4058 Tejon St., Denver, 720-456-6705; thewolfstailor.com
Is The Wolf’s Tailor a Japanese restaurant? Italian? A zero-waste, design-forward hot spot? What about those tasting menus? However you classify it, The Wolf is ambitious, plain and simple, and it’s worth checking out a restaurant that’s the result of letting someone’s — in this case, chef Kelly Whitaker’s — imagination run wild. Because sometimes you need pasta with koji-fermented turnips for dinner.
Morin, 1600 15th St., Denver, 303-623-0534; morindenver.com
When it comes to dining, “fancy French” are two very polarizing words. Some people live for the technique and richness of beef marrow custard, while others dread the pretense. Morin tries to please both camps, serving the refined food you’d expect from a French restaurant and from accomplished chef Max MacKissock, but in a comfortable space (it was the Wazee Supper Club for 40-some years, after all) and with decidedly un-snooty service.
Safta, 3330 Brighton Blvd., Denver, 720-408-2444; eatwithsafta.com
Can pita and hummus really be that good? Yes. Yes they can. And so is the rest of the menu at two-time James Beard Award-winning chef Alon Shaya‘s first restaurant outside of New Orleans. Located inside the Source Hotel, the modern Israeli Safta might be the best restaurant to have opened in Denver all year.
Super Mega Bien, 1260 25th St., Denver, 720-269-4695; supermegabien.com
Chef Dana Rodriguez has already become something of a legend on the Denver dining scene — the dishwasher whose hard work and incredible talent earned her a role as sous chef and partner at Rioja, followed by a James Beard nomination for her first solo restaurant, Work & Class. So, yeah, she can do pretty much anything she wants in the kitchen. This year, “anything” meant opening a pan-Latin dim sum restaurant, one of the most fun restaurants to eat at in the city right now.
Bamboo Sushi 2715 17th St., Denver, 303-284-6600; bamboosushi.com
Technically Bamboo opened at the tail end of 2017, but it deserves a spot for its innovative takes on sushi and commitment to sustainable seafood. (The Portland-based Bamboo bills itself as the world’s first certified-sustainable sushi restaurant.) Whether you go for ethical or hedonistic reasons (count us on team hedonist), you’ll enjoy super-fresh fish at a fair price.
Q House 3421 E. Colfax Ave., Denver, 720-729-8887; qhousedenver.com
Q House started out fairly under-the-radar, but its can’t-miss modern Chinese food soon got people talking. And talking. Word spread that dishes like General Tso’s fried eggplant, Chong Qing chicken and smoked trout fried rice were really freaking good, and since people tend to like things that taste really freaking good, the Q on Colfax has become something of a dining destination.
And now, here are seven restaurant to look forward to in 2019.