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.
Contemporary and upscale, Vesta Dipping Grill offers great food that finds much favor with the business set. Young professionals looking for a twist on American cuisine flock to this LoDo eatery, enjoying dishes that bear global culinary influences. The focus here is on protein and dipping sauce. The open kitchen, for example, crafts savory plates of grilled chicken, duck breast with mango salsa, calamari steak with chili-lime sauce, and ancho chili grilled lamb tenderloin. Burnished hues, open vistas, and exposed brick lend a modern ambience to the place. Friendly, expert service makes gluten-free dining a breeze – they'll know what sauces are safe and what are not.
Range, the just opened restaurant in the brand new Renaissance Downtown City Center Hotel in the former Colorado National Bank building, is so masterful with its culinary creations it can make a brussels sprout taste good to a person who normally can't stand this vegetable. Executive chef Paul Nagan is that good. The New West menu is creative and quite varied including everything from inexpensive wood-fire pizzas that truly stand out taste wise to deletable meat and seafood entrees. We loved the sea scallops with sweet potato mashers and Tasso ham. The shellfish was seared to perfection and the flavor was divine. If you like game meat, the ancho cocoa elk rack is the menu's star attraction. Also don't skip the equally creative cocktails – for something different try the Sage & Berries, it's a rum drink that tastes exactly like a sipping tequila. If possible save room for dessert.
It's not just pizza. Consider the award-winning IPA mac & cheese made with smoked ham hocks, IPA, English peas and a cheddar-and-cream reduction that takes five hours to perfect. There's also a roasted pear salad with toasted pine nuts and Haystack Mountain goat cheese. The hard part is choosing a pie. There are several sizes to choose from, and if you're not too hungry pizza is available by the slice, too. There are traditional pies, pan pies and gluten-free pies, and each month there's a specialty artisan pie. The long list of toppings includes traditional fare and some not-so-traditional toppings such as banana peppers, mashed potato dollops, beer-braised brisket and vegan alternatives. The craft beer list is comprehensive. Very comprehensive. Make no mistake: Hops & Pie is uber popular and lines form every day. But arrive before 6 p.m. and you can probably snag a table.
The former mortuary building seems an unlikely place for a restaurant, but chef/owner Justin Cucci (of Root Down restaurant fame) has done it again with another Highlands restaurant, Linger. A nod to the space is found in the tongue-in-cheek reference to Linger as an "eatuary." Whatever that is, we like it. The menu is arranged by global region and features what might be called global street food. You could choose the Mongolian BBQ tofu bun or pork belly bun from the Asian offerings, the shrimp and grits or Veracruz fish tacos from the Americas, or chicken bastille from the African and Middle Eastern list. It's all a happy global feast in an urban setting with non-stop views of the Denver skyline. On weekends, try the brunch.
A recent remodel brought a freshness to Panzano, which has always been a pleasant place to dine. With a design inspired by the Italian streetscapes and terracotta tile roofs of Renaissance Florence, the restaurant is light-filled and stylish, an Italian retreat in the center of the financial district. Yes, it's located in the Hotel Monaco, but delete visions of ho-hum hotel food from your mind. Panzano stands on its own with a menu best described as a contemporary take on northern Italian cuisine. The dinner menu includes crepes stuffed with Hazel Dell mushrooms, fonduta sauce and white truffle oil; a grilled Caesar salad; and gnocchi with rabbit confit, leeks, shallots, mushrooms, roasted tomatoes and Gorgonzola. The extensive list of wines includes several that have won the coveted "three glasses" award from Gambero Rosso, the legendary guide that annually rates Italian wines. Panzano is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Finally opened in early 2014, Work & Class is, as its name suggests, down to earth and deliberately reflective of the owners' own working-class roots. But that doesn't mean the food is lacking in creativity or interest. Stout-braised short ribs and coriander-roasted Colorado lamb are among the meat offerings, while blue corn empanadas and salmon fritters served with sweet plantains appear in the appetizers, soups and salad section--along with red-chile braised goat stew. For desserts, it may be hard to resist stuffed doughnuts & warm boozy eggnog, but there are other temptations, too. There are a ton of craft beers; a nice selection of wines by the bottle or glass; and, most impressively, an expansive list of whiskeys, single malts, vodkas, tequilas and more, many of them from small-batch distillers including Stranahan's of Colorado.
Denver's finest vegetarian fare can be found at WaterCourse Foods in a hip Uptown neighborhood locale. The restaurant, which operates on a motto of "eating the path of least resistance" has an onsite bakery that churns out both regular and gluten-free loaves of bread – which is awesome, since there are loads of delicious sandwiches on the menu, which can be made gluten-free. Other main course options include country-fried seitan with mashed potatoes and vegetables, zesty Andalusian pasta, a tamale plate, and a Thai peanut stir-fry. Breakfast is also served all day, and this is a popular spot for weekend brunch, especially when the weather is nice and you can dine on the outdoor patio.
Located in the hip historic northwest Highland neighborhood in a converted 1950s service station, Root Down is Denver's hip answer to unique, sustainable casual dining. The first time you dine at Root Down, you'll uncover one of Denver's innovating and sustainable restaurants where fresh herbs and vegetables are harvested from the roof-top and patio gardens. Choose from creative dishes with creative names, such as Devils on Horseback – Date & Goat Cheese stuffed Peppadews, wraped in Serrano Ham, Smoked Paprik-Sherry Gastrique. Other tasty menu items include Long Farm Pork Chops and Organic Butternut-Ricotta Gnocchi! The soup (Organic Carrot & Thai Red Curry OR Zucchini & Poblano) is always worth ordering. Bottomless Blood Orange Mimosas are prefect with Root Down's Classic Benedict served with poached organic eggs, home fries and lemon-dressed arugula – or the Omelet of the Day!
City O' City is a vegan gem in the heart of downtown, near the Civic Center, Capitol Hill and Golden Triangle neighborhoods. It's a vegan paradise for just about any time of the day: a coffee shop with vegan pastries; a bistro-style vegetarian restaurant serving breakfast, lunch and dinner. Creative menu items, like Hickory Smoked Tofu with a smoked jalapeno & grilled pineapple slaw and Root Beer BBQ sauce, make your inner vegan go oh yeah! And yes, you can also hang out at the full bar sipping local and small batch brew.