Roasted foie gras in Cafe Marmotte in Wash Park. The restaurant has new owners and a new French menu, but not until the end of the year before moving to an Italian restaurant in 2020. (Provided by Cafe Marmotte)
When it comes to restaurants in Denver, I heard and said many times, if it happens on the coasts now, we’ll see it arrive here about a decade later. But that’s just not the case in Colorado anymore.
Looking back on the past year and beyond, Denver and the surrounding area have kept pace with the national dining scene – and with our own views on new French food, wine bars, and barbecues, to name a few.
We saw some very new niche restaurants and some all-encompassing ones. “All day” could be the key word for the 2019 meal. We have had a few local restaurants, food stalls, and food trucks creating secondary locations or stationary spots – a sign of success, if there ever was one.
And new formats of dining rooms, from multi-purpose dining rooms to walk-in windows, are emerging to fill gaps in the “restaurant” experience.
Read on for eight trends that dominated local restaurant news this year.
What a year for French restaurants in Denver. Starting with the openings of Morin and red End of 2018 and beyond Le French, Bistro Georgette in Cafe Marmotte and Le Bilboquet. These are not your typical French bistros and brasseries.
Morin has one of the best bars in town with freshly peeled oysters and natural wines by the glass, while LeRoux is the nicest dining room on 16th Street Mall – and has an after-dinner cheese cart.
Le French made it into our best new restaurants of 2019 due to its unique combination of ingredients in the south of the city. And the Bistro Georgette in Cafe Marmotte was the shortest of all and only lasted 12 weeks until the owner team reopened as a pasta spot in the new year.
Lest you forget, Le Bilboquet was the place from New York where you shouldn’t wear yoga pants or talk about wearing yoga pants because people have thoughts about yoga pants, it turns out.
A 2018 Rose, Grand Valley, Colorado, and a 2018 BLAN.CO WHITE BLEND, Grand Valley, Colorado were served at Carboy Winery Restaurant and Logan Street in Denver, Colorado on September 30, 2019. (Photo by Joe Amon, The Denver Post)
From natural and biodynamic to local and native Colorado or just served with a bunch of records on the turntable, Denver stepped up its wine bar game in several ways in 2019.
At the Carboy Winery, Ivy and Logan StreetColorado carboy wines are served in two restaurants, a bar, a bottle shop, and a tasting room. It’s huge, in the truest sense of the word.
On the much smaller side, Noble uprising is now Denver’s dedicated natural wine bar tucked away in the alley behind Denver Central Market. Sunday vinyl is the latest and most eye-catching addition to this mix: it’s a proper wine bar and restaurant with a variety of records played on a state-of-the-art sound system.
At the end of last year, Blanchard family wines also made his debut with Dairy Block. The winery is based in Sonoma but has a tasting room here in downtown Denver.
A Post Oak Denver grill, sides, and fixings tray. (Josie Sexton, The Denver Post)
The whole grill!
I’m not the one to complain about more grilling spots, especially when they have mastered (heck evolve) Texan-style smoked meats or combining American and Latin American traditions.
At the Owlbear barbecueGuests who were our Best New Restaurants of 2019 should try the Brisket, Mac and Cheese and Pork Belly by Pitmaster Karl Fallenius (if available).
Post Oak applies to Texan traditions too – try the sausage links. And at Mr. BearYou should order the smoked meat filled tacos with homemade sauces and fried tortillas with duck fat underneath.
Maine Shack’s main course: Maine Shack’s lobster roll with light mayonnaise and butter. (Beth Rankin, the Denver Post)
Oh, so niche!
Some spots this year didn’t open with the intention of something for everyone, but with the idea of doing a few things very well – almost strange, especially well.
At the Someone people (one of our most popular new restaurants of the year) guests can order hip vegan dishes and natural wines in a dining room lined with potted plants and pastel colors.
Dang soft serve offers families and Instagrammers alike a neon backdrop from the 1980s for soft ice cream and french fries.
Maine Shack makes five flavors of lobster rolls and sells the main attraction as well as whole belly clams and chowdah, which are pronounced that way.
And at Run for the roses In the Dairy Block, the drinkers got the coolest upscale and underground – but not speakeasy – cocktail bar. Drinks are ordered from card games and snacks consist of caviar and banana splits.
Opening weekend at the new Rosetta Hall on October 13th in Boulder. (Photo by Helen H. Richardson, The Denver Post)
All day spots for everyone!
That year, “all day, every day” suddenly became a rallying cry in the restaurant. For so many new places that have opened with super-specific menus and purposes, just as many have opened with offers and formats that adapt to your mood and the time of day. Many of these places start with coffee service or breakfast in the morning, lunch and dinner in the afternoon, and last until late at night.
Brass nails is such a place. According to the website, it’s “always open” from 10am to 1am, from coffee to lunch, happy hour, and late night dinner, as you call it.
At the Frank & PinkA coffee shop by day turns into a wine and beer bar, and small plates stop at night. And Rosetta Hall In Boulder, the all-day food hall model goes one step further and turns into a nightclub with DJ sets and themed dance evenings.
The Daisy Pizza includes tomato sauce, mozzarella cheese, and fresh basil at Cart-Driver LoHi on December 11, 2019 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Helen H. Richardson, The Denver Post)
Seconds and Spin-Offs!
That was the really dominant trend of the year in Denver – because if it’s not broken, you’re not fixing it.
Denver now has many secondary locations for successful restaurants. they include ChoLon, Wagon driver, Uncle, Chook and African grill.
Brick-and-mortar versions of previous food trucks and stalls also make up this list I want arepas to Ginger pig, Bistro Georgette, American grind, campfire burritos and Owlbear barbecue. Their owners have all upgraded to real digs this year.
And came from the owners of the Citizen Thai Bistro in Golden Daughter Thai in Denver while the team behind Señor Bear took us to LoHi Mr. Bear in RiNo – Do you get it?
Broadway Market on February 20, 2019 in Denver. (Amy Brothers, the Denver Post)
Food halls still!
The dining rooms won’t stop taking over. I repeat: the dining rooms have become wild here.
This year, Broadway Market, Edgewater Public Market, Tributary Food Hall, and Drinkery and Rosetta Hall added to the existing options. So we’re working on a hall in every suburb and neighborhood, and probably on every house that could work.
In addition to the typically trendy food halls, a new food court has also been introduced. Mango House, in Aurora, which doesn’t fit the shape at all and was therefore one of our new favorite restaurants.
Chef Edwin Sandoval and his pop-up restaurant Xatrucho can be found in various locations in the city. Photographed here at Re: Vision in Westwood, Nov. 15, 2019. (Photo by Hyoung Chang, The Denver Post)
Restaurants in restaurants (or bars)!
This year, restaurants started popping up in other restaurants and bars, creating all sorts of cool confusion for patrons trying to figure out where to eat.
Last winter, Pirate Alley Po ‘Boys was the first of them to be described as a lunch sandwich shop at Julep Restaurant. Those Po ‘Boys sure were delicious, and while Julep stopped selling them for a season, the restaurant will be offering them again, this time through the grocery delivery service. Many thanks to the gods of roast beef rubble.
More recently Edwin Sandoval Xatrucho has appeared at the Fort Greene Bar and the Queens Eleven Bar Misfit snack bar has settled in Middleman behind a walk-in window.
The food truck Yuan Wonton It probably deserves its own trending category too, having popped up in restaurants, bars, breweries and on all social media and apparently always selling out. But this dumpling popup is something I can imagine we’ll see a lot more of next year.
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