Fall means it’s time to get cozy and curl up with a good restaurant. These six places have just what’s required — they all offer good food, a comfortable setting, and plenty of new things to take in. Some spots just opened, others debuted during the pandemic and are finally able to strike a solid stride, and a couple have moved into Denver from other cities, followed by a lot of fanfare. From epic renovations to hotel restaurants that wow to new locations of neighborhood favorites, book a table now to secure a spot at Denver’s hottest restaurants for fall.
Benzina (Park Hill)
This Neapolitan pizza joint just opened in a historical landmark, bringing not just good pies and pasta to Denver, but bocce ball, too. In the kitchen, restaurateur Brad Anderson brought on executive chef Daniele Bolognini, formerly of the now-closed Acorn restaurant, to oversee the menus. Bolognini hails from Italy, and this influence plays strong in the small menu of ever-changing pizzas and pastas. But while Italian food is the basis of the restaurant’s cuisine, local ingredients and seasonal foods are the heart of it. Don’t miss the smoked trout Caesar salad with a glass of local Attimo Bianco wine, served right from the tap.
Happy Camper (Sunnyside)
This Sunnyside hotspot opened in 2020 in an airy lot perfect for alfresco imbibing and dining, all with a camping theme. Aside from the great outdoors, beer, cocktails and comfort food are the focus here, where you’ll face a long wait unless you have a reservation. The energetic concept comes from Chicago, where the two original locations are going strong. With that connection, it’s no surprise pizza is a big deal here, and there are a lot of types to try. Also on the menu are items such as pulled pork nachos, elote dip, kale cobb salad, and chicken-lime soup. Order pick up or delivery as well, though you’ll miss out on the whimsical decor and party-like vibe, complete with a ton of colored lights, picnic tables, and faux grass.
Ronin (Congress Park)
The Congress Park sushi restaurant is the third concept by the popular Sushi Ronin family, and it’s one of the hottest places to be right now. The space opened at the very end of 2020, and its popularity hasn’t slowed since launching. The specialty of the house is omakase shimasu, an ever-changing tasting menu curated by the chef that includes fish flown in daily from Japan. Book a table to secure a spot in the cream-colored and wood-paneled room, either at the sushi bar or at one of the two- or four-top tables on the floor. Pro tip: be sure to order the hamachi and kanpachi belly nigiri, a tasty bite not often found in this town.
The Fifth String (LoHi)
Meat man Justin Brunson closed his Old Major restaurant last year during the pandemic, only to have one of his former chefs, Amos Watts, take it over and rebrand it as The Fifth String. For a year now this spot has been drawing locals and remains as popular as Brunson’s old place. What also remains is the rustic, wood-heavy decor of the former space, and it fits right in with the new concept. Watts showcases a new American and Italian menu that includes raw bar, a 36-ounce tomahawk ribeye, and tallow candle bread service. Order a la carte or indulge in a three-course prix-fixe that includes an appetizer such as hamachi crudo or fried green tomatoes, a main course like the New England sea scallops or wagyu agnolotti, and dessert, with options including a lemon tart or cheeses, to name a few.
Palace Arms at the Brown Palace (Downtown)
Welcome to this newly refurbished, old-school Denver spot, where you can settle into a plush red velvet seat among Napoleonic artifacts while sampling goods from chef Kim Moyle’s menu. The food centers around locally raised Angus beef steaks, which can come topped with foie gras butter, Mystic Mountain mushrooms, or caviar. Also order a savory wedge salad, herb ravioli with ricotta and mushrooms, and the ice cold freezer martini. There’s even a nightly vegan option available. Make a reservation for this upscale spot on Tuesday through Sunday, dinner only.
Not every hotel restaurant stands out, but this beautifully decorated, classy and plush LoHi spot is one to visit even if not staying overnight. Located in the Lifehouse Hotel, this new restaurant brings plant-forward foods that focus on the Italian and Mexican settlers of the area. It’s easy to see the influence of this culture and the Americas in general in chef Will Harris’s dishes. The Colorado culotte steak, for example, is served with mole verde, a masa crisp, gigante beans, chicharrón and the peppery herb hoja santa. Don’t pass up the wildflower-laced focaccia or a glass of one of the locally made meads. Not only do the drinks and plates of thoughtful food look elegant, but the space does, too, with its deep red and blue tone accented by dark wood and brass elements.