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The EAT List

The 14 best restaurants in Colorado

Sink your teeth into the best restaurants in Colorado, from inventive, locally-sourced dishes to classic, hearty plates

Written by
Daliah Singer

Colorado used to be a steak-and-potatoes town. Not anymore. Across the state, farmers and chefs are committed to serving locally grown and responsibly harvested ingredients, and they’re opening restaurants that reflect that ethos. Diners—who care about what they eat and whose palates are becoming increasingly sophisticated—now have more choice than ever, and visitors arrive with numerous restaurants on their lists of things to do in Colorado. From local wild game to foraged ingredients to inventive craft cocktails, Colorado eateries are raising the bar in every corner of the state. All the eateries on this list show why the Centennial State has emerged as a food destination.

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Best restaurants in Colorado

Frasca Food and Wine
Photograph: Courtesy Yelp/Jody B.

1. Frasca Food and Wine

The prestigious James Beard Foundation is a fan of Frasca—and you’ll quickly become one, too. The upscale Boulder eatery’s menu is centered around the cuisine of Friuli-Venezia Giulia, a region in northeast Italy. Every course is exquisitely plated, and the servers are polished but genial. Let owner and master sommelier Bobby Stuckey guide you through the 200-plus wine options. Tip: Make reservations for the less pricey Monday night wine dinners. The four-course tasting menu costs $55, with vino flights an additional $50.

221 South Oak
Photograph: Courtesy Yelp/Lauren R.

2. 221 South Oak

Tucked into a box canyon about 300 miles southwest of Denver, Telluride is a quintessential mountain town. But the intimate 221 South Oak isn’t a quintessential mountain restaurant. Chef Eliza Gavin (a Top Chef alum) is committed to highlighting vegetables (there’s a whole vegetarian menu available) and has a knack for transforming expected rustic fare like lamb and venison into elegant, modern cuisine. The best part: Nearly everything (sauces, pastas, sausages, breads, ice creams) is made in-house.

Beast & Bottle
Photograph: Courtesy Yelp/Tak L.

3. Beast & Bottle

At Beast & Bottle in Denver’s Uptown neighborhood, every guest feels like family. Executive chef Paul Reilly (his sister, Aileen, is the general manager) abides by a nose-to-tail philosophy, using as much of every ingredient, whether it’s a pig or a carrot, as possible. His commitment to reducing food waste and expanding diners’ palates is laudable—and the resulting dishes are just as impressive. The imaginative craft cocktails are always well-balanced, and smart diners save room for dessert.

Photograph: Courtesy Yelp/Alice O.

4. Annette

A dining room awash in natural light and anchored by a wall of chopped firewood sets the homey scene at Annette, a “scratch-to-table” restaurant in the Stanley Marketplace food and retail collective in Aurora. Chef Caroline Glover cooks with precision—she trained under renowned chef April Bloomfield at the Spotted Pig in New York—but it’s her passion for fresh ingredients and simple cooking and her commitment to the joy of breaking bread together that makes dining at Annette such an exceptional experience.

Photograph: Courtesy Yelp/Michael U.

5. Basta

You can’t talk about the local food movement without mentioning the name Kelly Whitaker. The chef is an unofficial ambassador for creating a sustainable food system; he co-founded the nonprofit Noble Grain Alliance in 2016 to bring back local grains. Taste Whitaker’s devotion to quality ingredients at Basta, his first restaurant, where he grinds grains into fresh flour that becomes crispy-crusted pizza, belly-warming pastas, and perfectly doughy breads. Don’t miss the Boulder eatery’s inventive small plates.

Oak at Fourteenth
Photograph: Courtesy Yelp/Alice Q.

6. Oak at Fourteenth

Boulder’s Oak at Fourteenth, helmed by the supremely talented Steven Redzikowski, mastered wood-fired cooking before it became trendy. An array of ingredients, from artichokes to octopus, take a spin through the smoke, and dishes are plated like edible works of art. The New American menu is concise but varied, and dishes harmonize perfectly with beverage director Bryan Dayton’s lineup of cocktails and wine. This is high-end food served in a sleek but wholly inviting atmosphere.

Mountain Standard
Photograph: Courtesy Yelp/Trinh T.

7. Mountain Standard

Vail’s swanky aesthetic may lead visitors to focus their attention on pricey, white-tablecloth restaurants. But some of the best grub in Vail Village can be found at the more casual Mountain Standard, a tavern on the banks of Gore Creek. Here, food such as Colorado striped bass and hanger steak are cooked over an open wood fire, and servers are ski bums with bona fide hospitality credentials. Visit at lunch for a concise menu of salads and sandwiches.

The Pullman
Photograph: Courtesy Yelp/Charles L.

8. The Pullman

Mark Fischer’s American eatery may be in western Colorado, far from the state’s capital, but that hasn’t stopped the lively restaurant from quickly amassing fans: The Pullman landed on Esquire’s Best New Restaurants in America 2011 list. Brick walls and an industrial-meets-rustic interior set the scene for lunches and dinners centered around locally sourced, seasonal ingredients.

Secret Stash
Photograph: Courtesy Yelp/Dominic G.

9. Secret Stash

Nothing satisfies after a long day on the slopes or the trails like beer and pizza. Secret Stash, in downtown Crested Butte, delivers. The lively, open dining room is outfitted in bright colors and funky decor. Pizzas have thick, doughy crusts and creative toppings (figs on the Notorious FIG, a Thai curry base on Buddha’s Belly). Whatever you order, wash it down with a pint from the small selection of Colorado craft brews.

Mercantile Dining & Provision
Photograph: Courtesy Yelp/Scott B.

10. Mercantile Dining & Provision

There are many reasons to love chef-owner Alex Seidel’s second restaurant (his first, Fruition Restaurant, is also worth a visit): the bustling vibe of its Denver Union Station location, servers’ unfussy hospitality, and a bar putting out some of the best cocktails in town, among them. But the best thing about Mercantile is that it’s open all day. Stop by in the morning for salmon toast; midday for a Colorado quinoa salad made with feta from Seidel’s farm and creamery; and in the evening to linger over house-made pastas in the tasteful dining room.

House Rock Kitchen
Photograph: Courtesy Yelp/Christina L.

11. House Rock Kitchen

Even small-town Colorado hasn’t escaped the healthy eating movement. At House Rock Kitchen—situated on Main Street in Buena Vista, a rafter’s paradise that borders the Arkansas River—salads, protein-rich bowls, sandwiches, and burritos rule the menu. Those with dietary restrictions will find it easy eating at the fast-casual joint. If the sun is out, grab a seat on the patio and enjoy a side of bocce (and beer or kombucha) with your meal.           

Low Country Kitchen
Photograph: Courtesy Yelp/Michelle C.

12. Low Country Kitchen

Steamboat Springs’ rodeo culture meets the South at Low Country Kitchen. In a sleek space on the town’s main drag, guests are greeted with all the expected Southern eats—fried green tomatoes, shrimp and grits, collard greens—but the real star here is the buttermilk-fried chicken, which takes 48 hours to make. Pair the crispy on the outside, juicy on the inside “main attraction” with an order of crumbly house-made biscuits and an updated classic cocktail. You can try everything else on your next visit.

Hop Alley
Photograph: Courtesy Yelp/Nancy C.

13. Hop Alley

River North (RiNo to locals) is Denver’s hippest neighborhood, and its energy can be felt in one of the area’s hottest restaurants: Hop Alley. The 57-seat modern Chinese restaurant is boisterous, crowded, and dimly lit. Reservations are limited, but Denverites are willing to wait—Asian-inspired cocktail in hand—for their chance to dig into compelling bites such as chilled tofu with bang bang sauce or salt-and-pepper soft-shell crab.

El Taco de Mexico
Photograph: Courtesy Yelp/Robert B.

14. El Taco de Mexico

Green chile is a quintessential Colorado dish and diners will find some of the best at El Taco de Mexico. The taqueria, which opened in 1985, serves authentic Mexico City eats (think pozole, gorditas, chilaquiles… basically any south-of-the-border dish you’re craving) at wallet-friendly prices. Locals snag a yellow stool overlooking the kitchen and order the enchiladas smothered in green chile.

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Colorado’s pioneering history and mountainous topography—plus four national parks—make it an obvious destination for travelers seeking adventure. But a strong music scene and expanding restaurant and arts scene mean the Centennial State is just as appealing to city-dwelling vacationers.

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