Not to ruin any New Year’s resolutions to lose weight (including my own), the Denver restaurant scene is bursting with new spots to try every week, and some, in my humble opinion, deserve to be highlighted. Although several of these featured spots are no longer “new” to those foodies who have everything in Denver on their radar, they are new to me and will perhaps be new to many Docket readers.
Leña: 4 out of 5 gavels
Leña opened in the fall of 2014 in the popular Baker neighborhood. Leña features an inviting ambience and flavorful Latin American cuisine. The atmosphere inside the restaurant is lively and vibrant, with star lights over the bar, vaulted ceilings and exposed brick walls. On a Thursday night, the restaurant was bustling with large and small groups, as well as plenty of folks who took advantage of the spacious bar. The plates are intended to be shared plates. My group enjoyed the croquetas de frijol (fried black bean nuggets), empanadas verde (vegetarian empanadas) and tacos de pescada (fish tacos). Leña also showcases an extensive cocktail menu.
Location: 24 Broadway, Denver, CO 80203. Parking: Street parking. Reservations: Yes. Great for: Date nights, happy hour and girls/guys night out.
Avanti F&B, “A Collective Eatery”: 4 out of 5 gavels
A huge success when it opened in LoHi this summer, Avanti F&B is a new concept to land in the universe of upscale cafeteria dining. The best part of Avanti, however, is its fabulous rooftop patio showcasing a large bar and striking views of downtown Denver. Avanti has communal dining areas on the lower and upper levels. Patrons can visit a vast array of culinary offerings: Brava! Pizzeria; Bixo Mexiterranean Bites; Poco Torteria; Quiero Arepas; SOUK Shawarma; Farmer Girl; and Mijo. I tried the savory arepas from Quiero Arepa, which were quite scrumptious.
Location: 3200 Pecos Street, Denver, CO 80211. Parking: Street parking. Reservations: Accepted for parties of ten or more (excluding Friday and Saturday nights). Great for: happy hour, friend/family gatherings and entertaining out-of-town guests.
Meadowlark Kitchen: 5 out of 5 gavels
I first tried Meadowlark Kitchen as part of a Docket Bar Review, and although I was slow to write the review, I was quick to return to the restaurant. Located in the expanding RiNo district, Meadowlark features an inviting space with colorful art on the walls and excellent service. It has a tasty menu, and, as an added bonus to my dining companion, 90 Schilling on draft. The menu includes American cuisine favorites, often with a savory twist. I recommend the beef brisket, which was incredibly tender, and the flavorful pork and peaches. For dessert, the peanut butter mousse in a mason jar is a must.
Location: 2705 Larimer Street, Denver, CO 80205. Parking: Street parking. Reservations: Yes. Great for: Date nights and intimate friend/family gatherings.
The Kitchen Next Door Community Pub: 3 out of 5 gavels
Located in the south side of the renovated Union Station, The Kitchen Next Door is a great place to take friends or family visiting town and does not involve the soporific, two-hour-long wait for which Snooze is known. It will come as an equal relief that the menu is less taxing on the wallet than Stoic & Genuine’s. With a warm ambience and a reasonably priced menu, the Kitchen Next Door is a good option when aiming to satisfy a large group. It also features a nice patio, where you can sit outside in the summer and watch children play in the outdoor fountain. The menu has a full spectrum of dishes. My group enjoyed the spiced chickpeas with hummus as a starter and the hearty Next Door burgers as a filling follow-up. I would also recommend the Next Door house wines. But for after-dinner drinks, be sure to check out The Cooper Lounge, located on the second level of Union Station. There, you can observe the bustle of activity down below while enjoying fancy cocktails served with a side of cashews. I would give it 4 out of 5 gavels.
Location: 1701 Wynkoop Street, Denver, CO 80202. Parking: Street parking. Reservations: The Kitchen Next Door — No; The Cooper Lounge — Yes. Great for: Large friend/family gatherings and entertaining out-of-town guests.
Williams and Graham: 4 out of 5 gavels
The Docket Committee enjoyed its annual December bar review at Williams and Graham, a speakeasy-themed spot of national acclaim in LoHi. When you walk into Williams and Graham, you might be confused, as it appears that you are entering a 1920s bookstore. Patrons must give the cashier their name and driver’s license, and the cashier will then escort you through a fake bookshelf into the dimly-lit restaurant and bar. Williams and Graham features an extensive and unique cocktail list, and the bartenders will often make specialty drinks to your taste, such as a refreshing combination of St. Germain, muddled blackberries and prosecco. Our group enjoyed some light bites, including the plantain chips, deviled eggs and macaroni and cheese with bacon jam. Williams and Graham also offers full entrees of lamb, steak and scallops. Although Williams and Graham has limited seating available for reservations for parties of six or less Sunday through Wednesday, on other nights, plan to put your name in on the list, and enjoy another LoHi spot until the staff gives you a call. Due to the small size of the restaurant and its popularity, if you have a group that is larger than six, you may not be seated together.
Location: 3160 Tejon Street, Denver, CO 80211. Parking: Street parking. Reservations: Some limited reservations for parties of six or less, Sunday through Wednesday. Great for: Entertaining out-of-town guests, date night outings and intimate friend/family gatherings.
Natalie Lucas is an Assistant Attorney General in the Business & Licensing section of the Colorado Attorney General’s Office. She has been a member of the Docket Committee since 2006. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.