Olive & Finch features three meals a day made-from-scratch and made-to-order. Bread is baked daily, sauces are house-made, juices are pressed on site and the restaurant's chefs cure and smoke the meats. Like the original Uptown location, this one in Cherry Creek is designed to be a gathering place for locals and visitors, morning to night. Breakfast and lunch are served all day (no need to get up at the crack of dawn). The morning menu includes house-made hashes and interesting egg combos served with biscuits or beignets. Lunchtime sandwiches are served on a variety of bread, along with soups and salads. After 11 a.m., there's steak, poultry and fish added to the menu. Pair your chosen dishes with espresso or other coffee drinks, Colorado craft brews, wine or cocktails; fresh-pressed juices are customer faves, with good reason.
Recommended for Best Restaurants because: The emphasis on scratch cooking and fresh, made-to-order food gives Olive & Finch a top spot in Denver's culinary scene.
Christine's expert tip: Not a morning person? Olive & Finch serves breakfast all day long.
The focus at this Highlands-area eatery is on heritage-raised meats from Colorado farms. The restaurant does its own butchering and cures the meats in-house (you can see the curing room from the dining area). While the emphasis is definitely on meals that meat lovers will enjoy, meat is not the only option. There are also seafood selections, including oysters, as well as salads and veggies, so any group with diverse culinary preferences can come together in Old Major and enjoy a meal out. Standouts on the menu: the nose-to-tail large plate and fried chicken starter; did we mention the pork-fat fries? Arrive early for the well-priced happy hour menu and you'll save a few bucks without sacrificing taste. The beer list is deep and eclectic, the cocktail menu decidedly creative.
Recommended for Best Restaurants because: Old Major takes pride in all it does in-house and its connection to Colorado purveyors.
Christine's expert tip: Enjoy happy hour 3 to 6 p.m., Wednesday to Saturday.
Il Posto's mission is to offer "the complicated simplicity of Italian food and wine." Chef-owner Andrea Frizzi's menu emphasizes simple, fresh, local, seasonal and authentic, and dishes from every region of Italy. Tradition is important and there are plenty of traditional dishes to entice diners. But Frizzi is all about celebrating "progressive" dishes as well. Options might include whole wheat noodles with Brussel sprouts, carrot spaghetti or bison, for example. The menu changes frequently, which Frizzi calls "cooking in the present," and the wine list is massive, including plenty of by-the-glass offerings. There's also a nice list of cocktails and mocktails to complete the dining experience. Frizzi was equally passionate about the space he created and the striking contemporary aesthetic is one in which diners will no doubt choose to linger.
Recommended for Best Restaurants because: The airy, bright, contemporary space is the perfect accompaniment to the deeply satisfying menu.
Christine's expert tip: A sommelier is on hand to assist with wine choices.
As its name suggests, Work & Class is down to earth and deliberately reflective of the owners' own working-class roots. The exceptional food, however, makes it in any class. The food is a melding of American and Latin and the dishes are meant to be shared. Don't skip the cornbread. For desserts, it may be hard to resist the warm chocolate brownie but it's not the only temptation. There are a ton of craft beers; a nice selection of wines by the bottle or glass; and, most impressively, an expansive list of whiskey, single malts, vodkas, tequilas and more, many of them from Colorado small-batch distillers including Laws, Leopold Brothers, Marble and Peach Street. Show up when you're ready; no reservations are taken. One caveat: Work & Class is loud. Very loud. If you want dinner with conversation, this is not the best choice.
Recommended for Best Restaurants because: A "square meal, stiff drink and fair price" is the theme, and who can argue with that?
Christine's expert tip: Happy hour runs 4-6 p.m. Tuesday-Friday. On Saturdays and Sundays, it's a very literal interpretation of the custom: just one hour of happiness from 4-5 p.m.
Sunday Vinyl is for couples, singles. foodies and music lovers. The compact, cozy wine bar and restaurant overlooking the tracks at Union Station deliberately evokes the sophistication and camaraderie of the best wine bars in Europe. With 20 to 25 wines by the glass and a menu featuring snacks to entrees, this is an anytime place for couples and others to gather, afternoons to late evenings. The space was designed with acoustics in mind, and what's noticeable immediately on entering is the rich quality of the sound. But whatever is playing, guests can still talk and hear each other. The thoughtfully curated collection of vinyl comes from every genre and, like the wine list, from across the world. Somewhere in the mix you'll likely hear old favorites. For a well-priced wine and bite, go for Happy hour, 9 p.m. to close.
Recommended for Best Restaurants because: Sunday Vinyl has a limited but stellar menu and the music gives it an ambience like no other.
Christine's expert tip: The kitchen at Sunday Vinyl serves food until closing.
Acorn, an anchor in The Source, one of RiNo's multivendor spaces, continually evolves and adheres to a practice of sourcing as much as possible from local farms. New menus are never disappointing. Chef Ian Palazzola's intent is clear in a statement on the restaurant's website describing the food: "Gifts of nature prepared and arranged so as to emphasize their flavors in a way that creates novel experiences for the palate." You can watch preparation in the open kitchen. The design is contemporary industrial chic, complete with artist-rendered graffiti, yet Acorn exudes a welcoming, warm aesthetic. Whether you're at the bar for an after-work cocktail or seated for a full-on dinner, order the candied pecans. Warning: they're utterly addictive.
Recommended for Best Restaurants because: Like its 'parent' restaurant Oak at Fourteenth in Boulder, Acorn offers an excellent menu featuring wood-fired dishes and American comfort food in an engaging space.
Christine's expert tip: Instead of happy hour, Acorn has a Mid-Day Menu available from 2:30-5:30 p.m., with a few dishes and well-priced beer, wine and cocktails.
Light-colored woods and stylish contemporary furnishings give Tavernetta, just outside Union Station, an appealing Northern European vibe. Unlike Frasca, its acclaimed sister restaurant in Boulder, Tavernetta draws inspiration not from one region of Italy but from areas across the country, with added inspiration from neighbors Austria and Slovenia, among others. Cloud-like gnocchi is a standout, but whatever seasonal dishes are on the menu will likely be memorable. For couples seeking a romantic interlude, there are options for two to share, along with a nicely curated wine and "aperitivi" list. Tavernetta is a place to splurge, to savor, to indulge and to find utter satisfaction in a meal artfully conceived, flawlessly served and presented. If you just want drinks and appetizers or dessert, find seating for two by the lounge fireplace, Tavernetta's most romantic spot.
Recommended for Best Restaurants because: Tavernetta offers fine (but not fussy) dining in a contemporary atmosphere and a menu that takes upscale Italian to new heights.
Christine's expert tip: Arrive early in happy hour to get a seat by the fireplace, perhaps the most romantic spot in the restaurant.
Chef Alex Seidel opened Fruition Restaurant in 2007 with a seasonally driven menu of upscale comfort food and a well-curated wine list. It was an instant success. Dishes may include such options as cheeses from Fruition Farm, gnocchi with blue crab or sunchoke salad. While the term "farm-to-table" is overused, Seidel made it a reality here when he started his 10-acre farm south of Denver. Trendy descriptors are not what Seidel is about. Rather, he's about relationships. Fruition Farms has been what he calls an education in understanding how to grow crops, make cheese and raise animals and how to harvest these foods. "Farm-to-table," Seidel says, "is all of those processes and understanding what goes into the relationship between producer and end user. This hands-on experience has helped us create a viable, long-lasting relationship between farm and restaurant." For more than a decade, Fruition has done just that.
Recommended for Best Restaurants because: Chef Alex Seidel changed Denver's dining scene with Fruition Restaurant and Fruition Farm, where he sources much of his food.
Christine's expert tip: Make a reservation well in advance as Fruition is popular.
Beckon is an experience, an evening conducted much like a symphony. The tempo rises and falls as eight or nine courses appear, but everything, including the synchronized plating of courses and placement of plates before guests, is deliberate. Beckon is available by prepaid ticketed reservation only at $95 per person and likely to be sold out weeks in advance. Just 18 diners sit down at each of two sessions per evening. The chef's table experience is approximately two-and-a-half hours of small plates prepared and presented in view of guests, each dish created to be savored and remembered. When you make your reservation you're asked if there's anything you can't or won't eat, but the menu remains a mystery until the food appears before you. Adult beverages are extra, including the option of a wine or beer pairing for $65 per person. The menu changes with each moon.
Recommended for Best Restaurants because: Pre-paid chef's tables have become popular in other cities and Beckon is Denver's first, setting the bar high for any to follow.
Christine's expert tip: Reservations open on the 1st of the month prior, e.g. March 1st for April reservations.
Chandeliers and candlelit table define LeRoux's elegant space. Even the bar gets candles as evening arrives. Several seating areas provide intimacy for a romantic occasion or simply a dinner at which conversing is not made impossible by the cacophony experienced at so many restaurants today. It feels a bit old school in that regard, a return to what fine dining used to be, yet it's also casual and contemporary. Dishes are prepared meticulously, a perfect melding of complex and delicate flavors in an exquisite presentation. The chicken liver mousse might be the best in Denver, and if you want a show-stopper, go for the Wagyu beef tartare presented with a flourish of smoke. The saffrony bouillabaisse piled with mussels, scallops and octopus surprises with a tweak of peppery heat, and for those who love ChoLon's soup dumplings, LeRoux's French Onion short ribs provide a delicious reunion.
Recommended for Best Restaurants because: LeRoux has a lovely, upscale space and a menu filled with exquisite choices. It has raised the bar on 16th Street.
Christine's expert tip: Happy hour runs 4-6 p.m. and 8-9 p.m. daily