Hungry visitors to the laidback Queen City of the Plains are in for a royal treat. A slew of hot dining neighborhoods, a fresh crop of new restaurant names joining long established rooms, and a crate of cutting-edge drinking destinations await.
Gay-popular neighborhoods, LoDo, short for Lower Downtown, Capitol Hill and Cheesman Park provide perfect vantage points for exploring the tastes of LoDo, the Cherry Creek North area, and the central stretch of up and coming Colfax Avenue, or Coolfax, as local wags dub it. Colfax is the place to go when you?ve worked up an appetite for ethnic eats from Greek to Ethiopian (and to catch a show at one of the multitude of music venues that the area is famed for.) On the other side of downtown, the flavors of the Highlands neighborhood are increasingly worth detouring for.
For gay-popular eats, try American grille Encore Restaurant (2550 E. Colfax, City Park West/Cheesman Park; 303-355-1112; $8-36). It opened its doors in December 2007 in a former Art Deco theatre and has kept all of the (good) drama. Have a Sidecar in the Box Office Lounge pre-dinner and then dine on recycled tables, created from university stadium bleachers, at this impressive, sustainability-focused gem. South of Capitol Hill, kerosene lanterns hang from high ceilings, modern booths nestle behind sheer curtains, and New American food has a tempestuous love affair with French cuisine at the exhilarating Beatrice & Woodsley (38 S. Broadway, Speer; 303-777-3505; small plates $7-13). Another gay-favored spot is Elise Wiggins? contemporary North Italian haven Panzano (Hotel Monaco, 909 17th St, LoDo; 303-296-3525; $14-26). She also offers gluten-free lunch and dinner menus.
Hipster rooms abound amid the clubs and bars of historic LoDo. Make your way to Mediterranean den Rioja (1433 Larimer St; 303-820-2282; $11-28), where homemade pasta and tasty temptations such as Seven Spice Muscovy Duck and Seared Sea Scallops with coconut risotto cake, star. Live jazz and blues accompany a menu that really hits the high notes at cool Alto (1320 15th St; 303-893-2746; $19-37). Standouts at this modern supper club include buffalo braised short ribs and the Colorado rack of lamb with sweet onion potato galette.
Hundreds of independently owned stores, galleries, boutiques, and spas jostle for your attention in Cherry Creek North. Snack on casual Mexican treats and mezcal concoctions at funky Tambien (Lower level, 250 Steele St; 303-333-1763; $10-15) or go upscale at glorious, Gallic, gastro-palace French 250 (Lower level, 250 Steele St; 303-331-0250; $21-40), home to exquisite wine and cheese tasting opportunities. Meanwhile, an ever more titillating dining strip beckons from East 6th Street. Top tables include sophisticated neighborhood gem Fruition (1313 E. 6th St; 303-831-1962; $21-25) and minimalist bistro Table 6 (609 Corona St; 303-831-8800; $16-26), home to quirky, upscale comfort delights. Make sure to leave room for their signature chocolate beignets.
Highlands is the latest hot neighborhood. Home to a large Hispanic population, this is where to come for the tastes of a neighborhood on the rise. Situated northeast of downtown, all three areas of Highlands offer distinctive dining opportunities. Try Italian and Mexican fare in Tennyson Square, an afternoon of gallery hopping, followed by Mexican and Caribbean delights, in Highlands Square, and a crop of new in addresses in Lower Highlands. My top LoHi recommendations are Vita (1575 Boulder St; $16-25), for its Med-hued food and drinks, and seafood room Ocean (201 Columbine North, Cherry Creek North; 303-377-5350; $19-42), where an extensive drinks list and a sustainable fisheries policy pack in a sleek, chic, mixed crowd.
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