Denver’s dining scene is anything but ordinary. From local farm-to-table bistros to historic Denver restaurants, the Mile High City has something for everyone. One of my oldest friends, who is a chef, moved to Denver last year and he told me that the city has some of the best food he’s ever eaten. He wasn’t wrong. Every restaurant I visited was unique, memorable and just downright delicious. If you’re planning to visit Denver, consider grabbing a bite at the following spots. I promise you won’t be disappointed.
Ophelia’s Soapbox. If I had to describe Ophelia’s in one word it would be: provocative. Ophelia’s serves as both a restaurant and a music hall and pays homage to its former life as a bordello with its dim lighting, suggestive pinup girl posters and old sex booths that surround the main stage. If you’re not listening to live music booming from the stage on the first floor, you can watch old 70’s Soul Train videos projected on the brick walls of the second story. The food and cocktail menus are unusual but delicious with items such as Crème Brûlée French Toast and Nacho Flatbreads. My favorite drink was the Dirk Diggler (gin, chartreuse, coconut, almond milk, honey, and cardamom bitters) named after the main character from the movie Boogie Nights. Oh, and on your way out, be sure to grab a condom from the hostess stand as a souvenir.
El Five. They say that the early bird gets the worm, but at El Five, the early bird gets the best view of the city. Nestled high above LoHi, El Five boasts spectacular views of the downtown Denver skyline. My friends and I made 5PM dinner reservations so we could sit outside on their patio and we were completely spoiled. Not only was the view incredible but their Mediterranean tapas menu was to die for. Personal favorites? Spreads of Med as an appetizer, Shrimp and Calamari a la Plancha and the Shawarma Spiced Lamb Ribs. But, I’d wager a bet that every item on the menu is fantastic. Full disclosure: this was my favorite restaurant during my stay in Denver.
Euclid Hall. Foodies rejoice! If you’re looking for an unconventional menu and/or an extensive beer list, Euclid Hall is the place to go. Ever tried Duck Poutine or Pad Thai Pig Ears? I personally have no desire to try Pad Thai Pig Ears, but the Duck Poutine was delicious. The restaurant prides itself on its beer and ales and if you’re a nerd like I am, you’ll appreciate that the beer list is categorized by different branches of mathematics. The categories are Arithmetic, Algebra, Geometry, Trigonometry, Calculus and Quantum Mathematics, based on the ascending complexity of the brews. DISCLAIMER: if you’re a picky eater or have dietary restrictions, this might not be the best restaurant for you as the menu is limited and eclectic.
Union Station. All train stations should be like Union Station. Besides serving as the main hub for Denver’s public transportation, Union Square provides the perfect atmosphere to grab a bite to eat, drink cocktails with friends or play a round of shuffleboard. It boasts a variety of concessions and has something for everyone. The station itself is elegant and well maintained, which is not usually how I would describe public transit. It also houses the Crawford Hotel and The Terminal Bar, which is where I went for a late-night Aperol Spritz. Come here to grab an ice cream, window shop or just hang out. In a nutshell, Union Station is a piece of art strategically placed in downtown Denver.
The Nickel. A friend of mine recommended I grab a drink at The Nickel mainly because it was “Instagram worthy” and he was 100% right. The Nickel is not your ordinary hotel restaurant but instead a very charming bistro situated in Hotel Teatro in downtown Denver. I would describe the interior as “industrial chic” with rustic light fixtures, seats made of leather from the Rocky Mountain region and wooden barrels that adorn the wall above the bar. The menu rotates monthly and offers some unique, but delicious options. I ordered a Japanese-influenced kampachi crudo with white tuna but they also had green curry and citrus confit, and a few solid Italian dishes such as braised short ribs Genovese and lamb bolognese.