Breakfast in Denver: Where Locals Love Eating the City's Most Popular Meal
By Becca Blond
Denver Local Expert
As would be expected from a city that has an omelette named for it, breakfast and brunch are easily the meal of choice when it comes to dining out in Denver. The sun rises before 8am here year-round, and shines for some 300 days per year, so it really isn't that surprising that locals like to eat out for the first meal of the day.
Where you go will depend on what you're craving. For an all-you-can eat style Sunday brunch with bottomless mimosas or Bloody Mary's hit up Ellyngtons at the historic Brown Palace Hotel or Randolph's at the Warwick Hotel. For the best bagel in Denver, you'll want to pay a visit to Moe’s Broadway Bagel, which does carry out and always has a line out the door. And when it comes to down home southern cooking you just can't beat Sassafras, which has a number of "secret" items you'll have to ask your server about. And then there is Snooze, which is packed seven days a week for good reason -- it's famous for its pancakes, but personally we love the benedicts.
Any restaurant that is remotely popular will be packed on weekends -- arrive before 9am or expect to wait as most places don't take reservations -- and even during the week, you may not be seated right away at the top breakfast joints. But trust us, it's well worth any wait to eat at the 10 restaurants listed here as all are beyond tasty.
10 Sam's No. 3
Sam's No. 3 is everything you love about Greek diners and diner food--with a whole lot of green-chile smothered Mexican breakfast, lunch and dinner dishes thrown in. The multiple-page menu can seem overwhelming. Not to worry. All you really need to know is that Denverites have been giving awards to Sam's No. 3 for years--especially for its Kickin' Green Chili, its burgers and its breakfasts. Even Food Network celeb Guy Fieri stopped in to get the scoop on "Diners, Drive-ins and Dives." If you can't already tell, this is not the place for dieting. Sure, there are vegetarian and gluten- and dairy-free options and fruit plates, but seriously, you can get those anywhere. On the other hand, where can you get a burrito filled with chorizo, tator tots and mac-and-cheese smothered in green chili? Or a Naked French Canadian Swiss Melt? Down-home and divey, Sam's is a Denver tradition. (303-534-1927)
Tamayo is one of the most popular restaurants on historic Larimer Square with good reason. Richard Sandoval--of Zengo and La Biblioteca fame--has created a posh, airy space in which Mexican is reimagined as an artful, surprising cuisine yet true to its roots. Among the starters are a wild-mushroom flatbread with goat cheese, black-bean puree, caramelized onion and truffle oil, and a chile-encrusted calamari served with Napa cabbage salad and a chipotle-blood-orange reduction. La Tampiquena is one of the chef's specials, a dish featuring filet mignon and served with poblano-chile potato gratin, mole-cheese enchilada, cactus salad and guacamole. A variety of tacos and enchiladas round out the menu, and there are also cazuelas--traditional braises of chicken, pork shoulder or short ribs accompanied by warm tortillas, Mexican-style rice and crema fresca. Don't skimp on the delectable sides here, especially the caramelized plantains with chipotle butter. (720-946-1433, 646-285-0796)
8 Sassafras American Eatery
Start with beignets and move on to a trio of Benedicts: deep south, cajun or fried-green tomato. Of course there's biscuits and gravy, and for grits lovers (yes!) you can get yours with roasted veggies, barbecue shrimp and in the uber-rich eggs Sardou. All of the New Orleans standards are on the menu, including etoufee, jambalaya, red beans and rice and fried oysters. There are po' boys and there's mac-and-cheese done four ways, from a breakfast option and classic style to mac with barbecue or with blackened chicken. There's no reason not to considering drinking your breakfast or lunch, and by that we mean indulging in a Butterfinger or salted-chocolate-pretzel milkshake, or, in a nod to today's current bacon trend, the chocolate-dipped bacon shake. The newer Capitol Hill eatery is a nice addition to the original Jefferson Park location in a historic home. (303.433.0080)
In the historic Brown Palace Hotel, Ellyngton's oozes class and old world civility, and as such, has long been considered Denver's top power breakfast joint. Wake up with a steaming cup of coffee served in a china cup while perusing the classic American menu -- try the authentic Denver omelet, Portobello eggs Florentine or delicate French toast. Those in search of something more reminiscent of the day's first meal across the pond, order the chipped beef served with broiled grapefruit. And although its regular breakfast fare is delicious, Ellyngton's gets many accolades for its sumptuous Sunday brunch. The acclaim is well-deserved, as the champagne buffet ably indicates. A veteran waitstaff and live jazz work their magic, and the food has an allure all its own. Fresh fruit, shrimp, salmon, cheeses, and breads burden the buffet table while steaming dishes of light pancakes and perfectly prepared omelets top linen-covered tables. (303-297-3111)
6 Randolph's Restaurant & Bar
Located in Denver's uptown neighborhood, inside the Warwick Hotel, Randolph's serves contemporary American fare paired with classic cocktails in a dining room that feels comfortable yet elegant. It's known for having one of Denver's best happy hours as well as an excellent Sunday brunch buffet that includes an option for mix-and-match bottomless mimosas and bloody mary's. The menu created by chef Jesper Jonsson is artful, yet unpretentious and changes seasonally, but always includes a half dozen pasta options (recommended) as well as farm-to-table and plenty of fish and seafood entrees. These are complemented by an award-winning wine list. When the weather is nice, down outside on the patio. (3033187272)
5 Eggshell Cafe
This homestyle caf� means business with its breakfasts, which include fluffy pancakes, savory omelets, and signature dishes like eggs Mazatlan and huevos rancheros. Any way you crack it, you're sure to be pleased! Bear in mind that Eggshell is a bustling sort of place, so don't expect to sit down with your paper and be overly leisurely. (303-322-1601)
Doughertys is an Irish pub in the quirky South Broadway (SoBo) neighborhood just south of downtown and north of I-25. Owned by the gregarious Wes and Tina, it is a favorite with hoodies and the regulars rule the roost on weekdays, while weekends bring people from all over Denver. The food at Dougherty's is surprisingly good, people crave it. Ranging from burgers, salads to traditional Irish fare, everything is well-prepared, inexpensive and generously portioned. The stuffed burgers are delicious accompanied by homemade fries or chips. There is an open-faced turkey sandwich that will knock your socks off. Cheap mimosas complimenting beautiful breakfast burritos, eggs benedicts and the brunch special of the day cover tables throughout the restaurant helping people recover on the weekend. This is a relaxed hidden spot that will satisfy you any day of the week.
3 Moe's Broadway Bagel
Moe's Bagel keeps breakfast simple but interesting -- you'll find variety in both type of bread and in luscious spread. Although it offers the range of cream cheese style bagels, the ones stuffed with egg, meat and cheese are best, especially if you have a hangover. It also does an amazing lox and cream cheese bagel, which we can't recommend highly enough should you like smoked fish. You order from the counter, and most people grab and go with their sandwich, but should you wish to linger there is indoor and outdoor seating at no frills tables. Expect a line out the door any morning of the week, but service is efficient and you won't wait to long. There are also plenty of Odwalla style beverages and espresso drinks to wash down your food. (303-733-7331)
This quirky Capitol Hill breakfast spot comes with the motto "eat more jelly" and a crowd out the door on weekends. It is the neighborhood go-to place for what locals swear are the best benedicts, hashes and pancakes in the Mile High City not to mention the donuts. We agree the benedicts here are a worthy calorie binge -- the eggs are poached to order, the Hollandaise a whipped creamy wonder and the toppings range from traditional smoked ham to salmon, chorizo, spinach and roast turkey. Scrambles are also delightful, served with a side of rustic potatoes and mixed with seared salmon, goat cheese and chives (The North West) to mushrooms, tomato, feta and spinach (The Boulder). Decor is as enticing as the food, with yesteryear's cereal boxes lining walls and hipster waiters serving up steaming plates of biscuits and gravy or the menu's most unique dish, the breakfast slider. (303-831-6301)
When Snooze opened in its first Denver location in 2005 it became an instant hit. Today there are three locales, including inside the newly renovated Union Station, and all three are always crowded. The wait is worth it, however, as this is a restaurant that knows how to serve breakfast. Whether you're craving carbs or protein or some combination of both it manages to delight with breakfast staples cooked every imaginable way. The pancakes are delish, and so are the benedicts. But Snooze is most famous for its signature dishes like Juan's breakfast tacos, which salute Denver's Wild West roots with corn tortillas, scrambled eggs, cheese, hash browns and ranchero sauce. If you need to quash a hangover, there are plenty of hair-of-the-dog cocktails to choose from and free coffee while you wait. (303-297-0700)
About Becca Blond
Becca Blond is an award-winning Denver based freelance travel writer. She has authored more than 30 Lonely Planet guides on five continents. She also writes about Colorado and the world for The Guardian, Los Angeles Times, Cadillac Magazine and Jetsetter, for which she also is a Travel Planner. When not out of the country, Becca loves hanging with her three dogs, Duke, Bobbi and Poppy (who review hotels with her) and is the Public Relations Director for Outpaws, a Denver non-profit animal rescue she helped found. She loves Denver for its sunshine, craft beer scene and outdoor activities.
Read more about Becca Blond here.