Nearly three years after the pandemic began, it finally feels like Denver’s restaurant scene is starting to get back into its groove.
Although there were some closures that still sting, 2022 was a great year for restaurant openings. From po’boys that make you want to book a flight to New Orleans to perfectly precise French dishes and pastries to hand-pulled ramen noodles, here are 10 of the best.
Pirate Alley Boucherie
After closing their Southern restaurant, Julep, during the pandemic, Kyle and Katy Foster returned in full force in September with a permanent location for Pirate Alley Boucherie inside the Ice House building in downtown Denver. The pair had originally started the side concept at Julep in 2019 as a way to capture the lunch crowd.
Named after the famous pedestrian alley in New Orleans’ French Quarter, and inspired by Foster’s Southern childhood, Pirate Alley Boucherie features NOLA-style po’boys and drool-worthy sandwiches, like the Roast Beef Debris with sweet potato chips, cabbage, remoulade and gravy. The space is also an extension of Katy’s cooking school Stir, which she opened 2010.
1801 Wynkoop St., Denver; piratealleydenver.com
Chef Scott Schaden put the “farm” in farm-to-table with his first restaurant, Terra, located across the street from the Colorado Convention Center. The Italian restaurant’s menu changes based on what’s in season, and Schaden emphasizes the importance of sourcing produce and meat from local farmers in the Rocky Mountain, Pacific and Western regions, since he previously worked at the Boulder Farmers Market for years.
The straightforward menu consists of pasta, like the standout rigatoni with venison ragu; meat, like pork tenderloin with pear barbecue sauce and roasted endive; and fish dishes, like oven-seared salmon with roasted turnips and hunter sauce. The menu highlights from which region of the country each dish is sourced.
891 14th St. Unit #100, Denver; terra-denver.com
If you’ve enjoyed Chef Dana Rodriguez’s highly-praised restaurants Work & Class and Super Mega Bien, you’ll want to stop by her latest addition to the family, Cantina Loca, which opened in January 2022. The casual cantina with an artistic streak offers Mexican-style street food like queso fundido, chicharrones and salsa, or juicy carnitas tacos.
But Cantina Loca is also a tasting room for Rodriguez’s new mezcal and tequila line, Doña Loca, which she launched in 2021. The drinks are the star here, with classic agave cocktails, like Palomas and margaritas, or straight-up sips of the house mezcal in three different styles.
And keep an eye out for the upcoming May opening of Casa Bonita, where Rodriguez is the executive chef, in charge of turning around the menu.
2880 Zuni St., Denver; cantinaloca.com
Glo Noodle House
Glo Noodle House has already gained a host of fans after stepping onto Denver’s restaurant scene in March. That’s thanks to the smiling faces in the kitchen, chefs Ariana and Chris Tiegland, whose cooking skills are as impressive as the passion they infuse into each plate.
The couple decided to take the leap and open their first solo venture after partnering on some other restaurants over the years, like Community in Lafayette and Birdhouse in Erie. Glo Noodle House is an homage to Chris’ late mother Gloria, who fueled his love for cooking at a young age, buying him Japanese cookbooks. The menu offers small classic Japanese dishes, such as scallop skewers with dashi butter and lemon, bok choy with anchovy vinaigrette, and steak tataki. Ramen entrees include miso bacon and lemon chicken shio. Wash it all down with a large wine and sake menu or Japanese cocktails, like a margarita with mandarin liqueur.
4450 W. 38th Ave., Denver; glonoodlehouse.com
After working in award-winning New York kitchens for years, Tim and Lillian Lu were ready to get out from underneath the shadows of their mentors. But they wanted to stand out elsewhere, so after moving to Denver in 2018, they spent four years dreaming up their own concept. The result is Noisette, a classic French bakery and restaurant that opened in August in LoHi, and the menu clearly reflects the skills they learned from the French Culinary Institute.
Tim handles the savory side of the business, nailing the restaurant’s popular Magret de Canard, which is duck breast, duck and foie jus and confit potato. Lillian is a wizard in the bakery, having perfected desserts like the Tarte Tropézienne, a brioche bun topped with pearl sugar and filled with vanilla bean cream.
3254 Navajo St., Denver; noisettedenver.com
Bodega demands attention from the first bite. The casual neighborhood eatery’s curated menu of sandwiches can satisfy your craving (or your hangover) with every carb-loaded bite, morning to night. There’s The Basic, which is loaded with crispy bacon, egg, a tater puck and American cheese on a poppy seed kaiser roll for breakfast, or the lamb birria French dip for lunch. There’s also a knee-weakening double burger and a chili crisp chicken sandwich.
Owner Cliff Blauvelt is a Denver native who honed his technique working for the chef-driven company that owns Uptown staples Steuben’s and Ace Eat Serve. And this sandwich and coffee joint, located inside the former Buchi, is a nod to what makes local local.
2651 W 38th Ave., Denver; bodega-denver.com
Bánh & Butter Bakery Cafe
Sisters Thoa and Kha Nguyen wanted to carry on the family tradition in the restaurant business when in April they opened Bánh & Butter Bakery Cafe, a Parisian-style, Asian-fusion bakery in Aurora. They’re following in the footsteps of their parents, who formerly owned New Saigon Restaurant in west Denver and turned it into a three-decade local favorite.
Thoa, a graduate of the Escoffier School of Culinary Arts, blends her French techniques with her own Vietnamese culture, offering fresh-baked baguettes, almond croissants, matcha-infused cruffins, crepe cakes, mochi cupcakes and cold-cut sandwiches.
9935 E. Colfax Ave., Aurora; banhandbutter.com
It wasn’t hard for celebrity chef Ludo Lefebvre, whose been featured on TV shows like “Selena + Chef”, “Top Chef Masters” and “Hell’s Kitchen”, to catch Denver foodies’ attention when he opened his first restaurant outside of California, Chez Maggy, within the new Thompson hotel.
The Michelin-starred chef is serving classic French dishes like cheesy French onion soup, duck confit, escargot and mussels frites. And you’ll regret leaving without dessert, which includes crepes suzette set on fire with Grand Mariner, orange and butter, or Paris-Brest with hazelnut praline buttercream and choux pastry.
1616 Market St, Denver; chezmaggydenver.com
Adelitas Cocina Y Cantina opened in Platt Park in 2013, and chef and Michoacán native Silvia Andaya’s rolodex of family recipes, like rich chocolate mole and soothing molcajetes, has kept authentic Mexican food lovers coming back time and time again.
In July, Andaya’s daughter and son-in-law, Nathan and Karina Ayala-Schmit, borrowed part of the recipe book for Ni Tuyo, a sister restaurant. Ni Tuyo has expanded Adelitas’ menu of molcajetes, named after the footed volcanic bowls that the steaming dish is served in. There’s a meat, seafood, and vegetarian option, plus another with braised pork ribs and a fifth with chicken, chorizo and ribeye steak. In addition to molcajetes, Ni Tuyo serves elevated tacos, as well as appetizers like elote and aguachile, agave spirits and margaritas.
730 S. University Blvd., Denver; nituyo.com
James Beard Award-nominated chef Edwin Zoe decided to follow one of the great passions in his life when he opened new restaurants in Boulder and Denver this year: noodles. And not just any noodles, but the hand-pulled kind, made right on site.
First he transitioned Chimera, his four-year-old full-service Pacific Rim-menued restaurant in Boulder, into Dragonfly Noodle. Then, in October, he opened a second Dragonfly in Denver on the long-suffering 16th Street Mall, which he hoped to breathe some life back into. Both locations feature a streamlined menu of ramen dishes (including one that is served with two char sui pork ribs on top), along with yaki udon, Singapore curry noodles, and a wide variety of fun bao buns, like spicy bulgogi, panko eggplant and butter lobster.
2014 10th St, Boulder; 1350 16th St. Mall, Denver; dragonflynoodle.com
Subscribe to our new food newsletter, Stuffed, to get Denver food and drink news sent straight to your inbox.