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Cattle call! Denver’s history as a Cowtown makes it a great place to find a steak. And while there are plenty of upscale chain steak houses in downtown or the tech center, other, more original options are tucked away in the neighborhoods … and beyond.
You can certainly get big and vigorous in some of these spots, but you can also keep things low-key (and even relatively inexpensive) while quenching all of your carnivorous cravings.
Here are the best classic Denver steakhouses for all budgets:
You didn’t actually live in Denver until you ate at Bastien’s.
3503 East Colfax Avenue
There may be no other restaurant in Denver that has used its history to such a great advantage, preserving everything noteworthy from the past – from mid-century aesthetics to quality steaks that meet the expectations of modern diners. The family-run business dates back to the 1930s, but the current incarnation was built in 1958 in Googie style from the roofline to the neon sign. Inside, dinner in the Bird’s Nest loft feels intimate and old-fashioned, and a sugar steak – no more than medium-seldom served – gives a taste of Colfax Avenue’s peppy, classy days of old.
1000 Osage Street
The Buckhorn Exchange offers a Wild West experience as a true, ancient place that still has meaning for today’s guests. Before Henry “Shorty Scout” Zietz opened the Buckhorn in 1893, he rode with Buffalo Bill; In 1905 he fed President Teddy Roosevelt and then set out with him to hunt big game. The menu to this day is full of big game, meat that is quite expensive. If you’re on a 19th century budget, head to the historic bar on the second floor, where you can enjoy Rocky Mountain oysters, enjoy entertainment, and look at all of the taxidermal specimens that are distantly related to what’s on your plate could.
The Columbine cooks (seen here before the pandemic) cook a mean flame steak.
300 Federal Boulevard
At night, the low roof and bright yellow sign of Columbine Steak House beckons like a painting by Edward Hopper, although perhaps without the pervasive feeling of loneliness. Through the window, passers-by on Federal Boulevard can see a crowd of people waiting, often stepping out the front door and lining up to order a steak from the grill man while flames pop up behind him. The steaks are simple and cheap, kissed by the fire, oozing fat and blood, and sprinkled with a touch of salt and pepper. Columbine has served steaks for more than half a century, and what you get on your plate is exactly what your parents and grandparents would have gotten here. The diner page is absolutely no-nonsense – just pay and eat, and make room for newcomers. At the bar the pace is a little more relaxed; Just don’t ask for something too fanciful (which means something with more than two ingredients) or you will run into suspicion. Bring cash and leave your coat and tie at home.
4710 National Western Drive
The National Western Stock Show has now missed two years in a row, but the Stockyard Saloon still has beef year-round. This is not your typical steakhouse. The menu leans more towards bar food. But that just gives you the option to order a New York strip sandwich – a full-size strip, not sliced or shaved – so you can grab your beef with both hands and eat it as if nobody was watching.
19192 Highway 8, Morrison
Some Denver residents would prefer to leave the fort to the tourists; others know the Old West-themed steakhouse still cooks delicious beef – and so does bison if you prefer. Treat it like an Old West museum or a cheesy time capsule from another era, but when the bell rings you will be sick of every tasty part of the animal – from the tongue to the oysters.
Prime Beef is back on the menu at Luke’s.
Courtesy Luke’s, A Steak Place
4990 Kipling Street, Wheat Ridge
Luke’s is almost thirty years old but has been in new ownership for two years. You can do it all with USDA Prime Ribeye or New York Strips, but the Choice steaks are still well cooked here and offered at surprisingly low prices. You can find the convenience of a neighborhood classic without the clogging of national high-end chains.
Auto club rallies were a common sight at Lulu’s Inn before the pandemic, and they are sure to return soon.
33355 CO-36, Watkins
When Lulu’s Inn first opened in the 1940s, the classic country joint was indeed in the country … but today Watkins is just minutes from the eastern edge of Aurora and a short hop from Denver International Airport and its nearby hotels. Lulu has left his original home and moved a few doors down to a larger room with a bar, full dining room and dance floor in the 80s, although the live music and dancing are currently interrupted. But on Fridays, steak and lobster are back and you can still grill your own steak on the patio grill (or let the professionals do it for you).
Mickey’s Top Sirloin has served steaks here for more than half a century.
In 2005, Mickey’s replaced its rundown, decade-old home with a shiny, family-friendly new building on the same property. The atmosphere is still casual and diner-like, and the menu is basically unchanged – which guarantees you can get tons of food for just a little bit of money. Most of the dishes are solidly Italian and Mexican, especially for lunch. Steaks star on the evening menu. The meat may only be of prime quality, but the kitchen knows how to make the most of it.
3517 South Elati Street, Englewood
You can’t buy a cheap cut of beef at Steakhouse 10. The menu reflects the modern steakhouse prices for quality cuts. But the place feels old-fashioned and inviting like the best restaurants in the neighborhood and you will often see the same people in the dining room so you can nod hello to familiar faces on the way to your table. The combination of properly cooked steaks and service that makes you feel like family has kept the place going for the past 25 years.
4300 West Colfax Avenue
This is the place you crave a steak for breakfast, with eggs sunny side up, in a burrito or as a chicken steak, one of the best things on the menu. This no-frills restaurant has been cooking beef for so long that even the “famous” Chili con Carne is named after another restaurant that closed decades ago.
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Mark Antonation is the Westword Food & Drink Editor. He began eating and writing about every restaurant on Federal Boulevard, and continues to report on Metro Denver’s diverse international food scene and the city’s rapidly changing dining landscape. Mark was named an Outstanding Media Professional by the Colorado Restaurant Association in 2018.