Summertime at Denver restaurants is all about the patio. But at these newcomers to the local dining scene, eaters can escape in more ways than just dining outdoors.
Without leaving the boundaries of the metro area, diners this summer can travel all the way to Jackson, Oaxaca, Naples and Hanoi. In Park Hill, for example, you’ll find Mississippi catfish and ribs at one new spot and Neapolitan pizzas at another. A South Broadway drive-thru will serve you Vietnamese chè. And Oaxacan mezcals are the focus at a new-to-Denver Union Station bar. Read on for 10 places to “travel to” without stepping foot in Denver International Airport.
As its name suggests, wood-fired everything — barbecue, pizza, rotisserie chicken — is on special at this Evergreen retreat. You’ll feel like you’ve gone to the mountains for a meal, complete with your own personal s’mores station at the end. Restaurateur Jared Leonard started in Chicago and opened spots in Denver (The Budlong Hot Chicken, Grabowski’s Pizzeria, AJ’s Pit Bar-B-Q, to name a few) before bringing us this latest destination restaurant. 27883 Meadow Drive, Evergreen, 303-593-1018, campfireevergreen.com
Mississippi Boy, Park Hill
This Northeast Park Hill neighborhood spot will make you feel like you’ve traveled South for the summer. Order fried catfish, hot links or baby back ribs with sides like mac and cheese, coleslaw and potato salad. There’s sweet tea to sip on, big screens to watch the game and garage door windows to sit by for an open-air lunch. Plan a to-go order or sit for a leisurely while. 5544 33rd Ave., Denver, 601-880-9828, mississippiboy5280.com
Ghost Donkey, Union Station
A New York-based bar with a Oaxacan bent, Ghost Donkey brings more than 60 mezcal bottles and 25-plus tequilas to its new Denver liquor cabinet. You can order them to sip or in mixed drinks like the Stone Wall with reposado, espadin, pomegranate and habanero. More so than a laid-back Mexican vibe, this is a seated party place, though. Expect close quarters with LoDo neighborhood revelers and light shows. 1750 Wewatta St. (enter through The Coloradan), Denver, 720-409-4242, ghostdonkey.me
Bambu, South Broadway
Vietnamese drinks are the focus at this Overland area drive-thru. There’s traditional coffee, bubble tea and fruit smoothies, as well as chè, a coconut-based beverage layered with various combinations of taro paste, pandan jelly, red tapioca, basil seeds and fruits. Think shave ice with more substance and texture. 2215 S. Broadway, Denver, 720-647-7141, drinkbambu.com
A Baja California escape in LoHi, this newest Bartaco brings a beloved national brand’s tacos and cocktails to Denver after a successful start on Boulder’s Pearl Street. Come here for consistent baja fish, mojo pork and brisket barbacoa tacos served with solid palomas, margaritas, mezcalitas and more. Good for going out with family, a date or friends. 2001 W. 32nd Ave., Denver, 720-712-8226, bartaco.com
Cupbop, Highland, Arvada, Aurora
Three new Denver-area locations of this regional chain gained loyal followings during the pandemic with a simple formula: Korean fried chicken, barbecued beef or pork, served with noodles, veggies and rice, all in one cup. The brand started locally prior to the pandemic with a 16th Street Mall kiosk, but these brick-and-mortar stores are new for 2021 and still just as casual for a quick cup(bop) lunch. 3453 W. 32nd Ave., Denver, plus two more in Arvada and Aurora, 720-741-2409, cupbop.com
A new Neapolitan-style pizza spot, Gorlami makes a mean spread of brick-oven pizzas, baby romaine salads and root beer floats for dessert. Think summertime on the East Coast, with pies like the pepperoni cup, sausage and onion Charlie Boy, and Gabagool (or local capicola) with marinated olives for a snack. 3200 Pecos St. (inside Avanti), Denver, 720-269-4778, avantifandb.com
Benzina, East Colfax
A pleasant surprise in Park Hill, the brand new Benzina is housed in a converted midcentury muffler shop on East Colfax. Its slick architecture is enough of a reason to visit, but the food and service make it a real neighborhood (and destination) spot. Go for Neapolitan pizza made by chefs Brian Lockwood (previously of Eleven Madison Park) and Daniele Bolognini (formerly at Acorn). Sit in one of the garage bays and order a round of classic cocktails while you people-watch. 4839 E. Colfax Ave., Denver, 303-399-2352, benzinadenver.com
The Green Collective, Highland
Denver-based sisters Allison and Jamie Rifkin earlier this spring opened their LoHi healthy food stop, which specializes in cold-pressed juices, smoothie bowls, salads, toasts and bone broths. It’s a little taste of L.A. in North Denver, but with a noble cause: The sisters have their own experience combating autoimmune disorders with diet and nutrition. And they brought on chef Lauren Egdahl, who creates food with a focus on integrative health. 2158 W. 32nd Ave., Denver, 720-708-6865, greencollectiveeatery.com
Heaven Creamery, Cherry Creek, Centennial
And finally, for a sweet Italian treat in the heart of Denver, you can head to Heaven Creamery and order from an eclectic selection of flavors (see: avocado, key lime pie, and activated charcoal) in ice cream, gelato, vegan gelato and sorbet versions. See also popsicles in flavors such as strawberries ‘n’ cream and pineapple chile. Watch for a third shop coming soon to RiNo. 299 Milwaukee St., Denver, and one more location, 303-635-6779, heavencreamery.com
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