A really good neighborhood restaurant is like a close friend; it’s something beloved by the family, visited often, and missed when it’s unavailable. These 12 spots remain near and dear to Denver locals either because they have been around for decades or because they offer diners something that’s not attainable anywhere else in the city. This includes a 50-year-old Mexican joint still dealing with wait times, the first Japanese restaurant to open in Denver, and a family-run red sauce spot that continues serving plate after plate of top-notch classic Italian food. Visit these restaurants because not only will you get some of the best food the Mile High City has to offer, but it’s also an experience just being there.
The Blue Bonnet (South Denver)
Arlene and Philip Mobell bought Blue Bonnet in 1968, and today the casual Mexican joint is run by the couple’s children, Gary Mobell and Marci Rosenberg. While updates have been made here and there, overall the restaurant hasn’t changed much, especially food wise — and that’s exactly how locals like it. Go to get a taste of Southwestern Mexican fare and enjoy a crowd who has been frequenting the place for decades. Sit back in one of the large, roomy booths or outside on the covered patio, and sip a refreshing margarita on the rocks, fill up on chips and salsa, and indulge in a large platter of tamales, chile rellenos, enchiladas, or tacos. Service is quick and laidback, and you won’t wait long for food, but you might for a table without a reservation on weekend nights.
Dining at the restaurant: There are a handful or large booths, the bar, and some standalone tables inside. Or, take a seat on the large covered and heated patio.
Takeout: Order any of the food to go by calling the restaurant.
The Pig & The Sprout (Downtown)
Whether visiting for the food, drinks, or company, there’s a lot to enjoy at this neighborhood gastropub. The menu is split between two concepts, the pig, or meat side, and the sprout, the produce-heavy dishes. That means diners can indulge in green chili poutine with a plate of bacon candy, fried green tomatoes with cheddar pig fries, and elote with a plate of bacon-laced roasted Brussels sprouts. The menu also includes tacos, burgers, sandwiches, and pasta dishes. It’s fun to pick and choose, which is why owner Andy Ganick planned it that way. Locals love the space and comfort food menu, the main reason this laidback eatery has been popular since opening in 2016. Drinks also draw a crowd, with creative cocktails, a long list of local beers, and a solid wine program.
Dining at the restaurant: Enjoy a heated, dog-friendly patio and a spacious, two-level indoor dining room complete with cozy wooden booths and bar seating.
Takeout: Get food to-go by ordering online via OpenTable.
Opened by Jon Schlegel in January 2020, the goal of ATTIMO is to bring Italian wine and culture to Denver, and the venue does it well. While the wine being made in the 8,000-square-foot winery uses Italian grape juice, the aging, refining, bottling, and drinking all happen in Colorado. Visit the tasting room to sample all the wines, as well as nibble on Italian-style plates of antipasti, handmade pasta with tiny meatballs, baked chicken parmesan, and a scoop of seasonal gelato. Tours of the cellar and winery should be booked in advance and are separate from the tasting room reservations.
Dining at the restaurant: Eat and drink inside the roomy tasting room, which includes community high-top tables, two- and four-person tables, and three beautiful blue couches along the wall for a more intimate night out. There’s also outdoor seating and a heated patio.
Takeout: Takeout can be ordered through the restaurant.
Kobe An (LoHi)
While sushi is definitely served and enjoyed here, Kobe An is all about shabu shabu, a Japanese-style of hot pot involving “swishing” the meat in hot, flavored broth in order to cook it. Diners choose from miso or homemade dashi as the broth base, then add whatever spices and oils to the pot to give it exactly the taste desired. Add vegetables, noodles, and tofu, and eat the beef with a side of rice. Yes, the food is impressive, but so are the decades of history. Since 1979 this spot has served traditional Japanese food, and remains one of the oldest venues in Denver to do so. It was opened by Kobe, Japan native Kimie Loeffler and still draws a crowd of both regulars and new diners.
Dining at the restaurant: From the outside Kobe An is unobtrusive, but opens up into an intimate interior that’s perfect for having a pot of shabu shabu and some sushi. There’s also a roomy patio complete with soft lighting and heaters.
Takeout: Order takeout by calling the restaurant or arrange delivery through third party apps.
The Preservery (RiNo)
When Dr. Obe Ariss and Whitney Ariss opened their small, community-focused restaurant in the RiNo area in 2016, they brought a real passion for fresh and local produce and meat, visiting many of the farms where the goods were grown and raised. They also have a rooftop garden that supplements ingredients. This set-up was exactly what the husband-and-wife team knew they wanted after living in Boulder and New Orleans, and their dedication to good food is seen in meals. The menu features breakfast burritos, a fried chicken sandwich, the house hamburger, macaroni and cheese with grilled chicken, and Greek frites, a dish made with spiced beef, olives, and feta over fries. Fresh cookies and seasonal cocktails should also be ordered, and occasionally pies are sold to take home. Don’t be surprised if a live band is playing; there’s a small nook in the eatery with a piano and space for musicians to jam, and Dr. Obe has his doctorate in music.
Dining at the restaurant: When booking a reservation, keep in mind only parties of six or fewer are accepted here. The tables are simple and sturdy, with a bench-style banquet on one side and plenty of room to wander up to the counter to peruse the food case. Make sure to take in the plentiful art along the walls.
Takeout: Order takeout through OpenTable. Delivery is available through third-party apps.
Q House (Congress Park)
Chef Christopher Lin has been immersed in Chinese-American food since he was a child, thanks to his Chinese immigrant parents and their New Hampshire restaurant. Lucky for Denver, in 2018 Lin brought his skills to Congress Park, where he creates platters of shareable foods such as wok-fried cheung fun, bang bang chicken salad, twice-cooked pork belly, and more. A lot of the dishes sound familiar to any Chinese food lover, though each one tends to have a little twist. For example, the lo mein has duck in it and the barbecued spare ribs are spiced with peanuts. The setting proves modern with thick wood tables, padded chairs, and a row of stools along a wall of windows. There’s also outside seating for those nicer days and a full bar where you can sip a yuzu highball or glass of dry Riesling.
Dining at the restaurant: Diners can sit inside or book an outside seat on nicer days.
Takeout: Order takeout from Q House by calling.
Taw Win (Aurora)
The menu at Taw Win comes in two parts, the Thai side and the Burmese side. While the Thai part is also great, it’s the Burmese food that truly shines. Taste why it’s a neighborhood staple by ordering a bowl of mohinga, a fish soup with ginger, garlic, banana root, cilantro, and egg. Also try nan gyi tho, a chicken and rice noodle salad with egg, bean powder, and fried garlic. Burmese cuisine famously has different curries, including fish, beef, goat, and shrimp. The setting is small, simple, and clean, ideal for tucking into a meal of Burmese comfort fare.
Dining at the restaurant: There aren’t many tables at this small, no-frills restaurant, but diners can reserve a space.
Takeout: Order takeout by calling the restaurant.
Sunnyside locals flock to the spacious patio and stylish interior of this American restaurant. It was opened by Betsy and Sean Workman, the same couple who run the Hornet in Baker. But, while the two bought the Hornet as it was, they built this spot from the ground up. When dining, start with appetizers and get an order of the tomatillo beer cheese dip with roasted pretzel bites, spicy deviled eggs with prosciutto, and smoke-brined, flash-fried chicken wings. The entree menu has a lot to offer, too, including many types of burgers and sandwiches, lobster macaroni and cheese, and gluten-free honey-fried chicken. For those with dietary concerns, there are notes on each dish dictating gluten-free, vegetarian, and vegan.
Dining at the restaurant: With sturdy wooden tables, long community seating, a lot of space, and plants scattered throughout, this is one of the best patios in Denver to have lunch or dinner. The inside is just as nice, with a roomy bar and high-top tables on one side and regular tables and booths on the other.
Takeout: Delivery can be ordered through third-party apps or takeout can be arranged by calling the restaurant.
Bon Ami (Speer)
Denver doesn’t sport many French restaurants, let alone the quaint bistro style synonymous with casual Paris dining. That’s where Elena Zasytiene’s Bon Ami comes in, the little sister to the owner’s other popular spot, La Merise in Cherry Creek. Since 2018, this quaint Speer cafe has offered diners raw oysters, imported French cheeses, escargot, French onion soup, and steak au poivre — aka all the bistro favorites. Bon Ami is also known for its crepes, and with more than a dozen flavors including prosciutto and brie, monte cristo, seafood, lox, and cordon bleu, there are plenty of reasons to come back. Don’t miss the daily brunch that features even more crepes.
Dining at the restaurant: Inside dining has reopened, but the large outdoor patio is still available, weather permitting.
Takeout: Order takeout via OpenTable.
Kinga’s Lounge (Uptown)
When craving Polish food in Denver, there’s one place to go to get beef goulash, grilled kielbasa with hunter stew, golabki, and pork schnitzel. Owner Kinga Klek opened this spot in 2007, and it’s been a neighborhood staple ever since. One reason for the popularity is that on Saturdays and Sundays, the restaurant does a $10 bottomless brunch with mimosas and bloody marys. Diners can chase the booze with a $10 all-you-can-eat pierogi deal that includes flavors such as potato and cheese, potato with bacon and kraut, ground pork, and spinach and feta. While the food is reason enough to dine here, the setting also has plenty of pull. After all, the restaurant was built in 1889 in what is known as the Colmar Mansion, which also hosts apartments above and may or may not be haunted by an old miner named G.V. Kram.
Dining at the restaurant: Take a seat at the bar or reserve a table inside. There’s also an outdoor patio with a large community table and a couple smaller ones that are available when the weather is nice.
Takeout: The restaurant works with third-party apps for delivery, while takeout can be ordered by calling.
Serene Cuisine of India (South Denver)
In 2019, owners Amarendra Sarma and Niru Basnet brought their native Indian cuisine to this modern and sleek space, dishing out plates of spicy vindaloo, curry-basd bhuna, and creamy korma. Foods cooked in the tandoor, an open charcoal flame clay oven, are a specialty of the house, including chicken, shrimp, lamb seekh kebab, and mahi mahi. There is plenty of room for large parties as well as intimate tables for a night out. It’s not a fancy restaurant, but richly spiced foods and warming dishes give the neighborhood a place to go that’s comforting and delicious.
Dining at the restaurant: Dine inside or on the small patio when the weather is nice.
Takeout: Order takeout via calling the restaurant, or get delivery from third-party apps.
The Saucy Noodle (Bonnie Brea)
For decades this red sauce joint has served the Bonnie Brea area heaping plates of baked ravioli with garlicky marinara, eggplant parmesean, fettuccine alfredo and artisan pizzas. The restaurant opened in 1964, the Italian love child of big band leader Sam Badis. He wanted a place to bring family and friends together for a good meal, and within the iconic red velvet walls that’s exactly what happened. The Saucy Noodle has been a neighborhood staple ever since, even as Sam’s granddaughter Erin Markham and her husband Nathan have taken over, expanding the space but keeping the vibe exactly the same. From the red checkered table clothes to large goblets of red wine to garlic on just about everything, reserve a spot here for the next family outing, ironic date night or when a craving for classic Italian-American food strikes.
Dining at the restaurant: Reserve a seat inside or on the small patio when the weather is nice.
Takeout: Get takeout by calling the restaurant, or order delivery though third-party apps.