2014 might have been the biggest year in Denver dining yet. With over 300 restaurant openings this year alone (including major additions like Union Station), the Denver restaurant scene is officially booming.

From making Bon Apetit’s coveted best new restaurants list to the NPR story about top chefs taking notice, it seems that the word is out. So if there ever was a reason to NOT move to Denver, then this slew of new eateries might convince any potential transplant otherwise. But we’re not too mad because although it might mean more midwesterners, it also means more good eats.

So prepare your mindbellies and feast on our list of our favorite newcomers to the Denver/Boulder area for 2014. 

Note: this is a chronological list of past reviews. To see the most recent reviews, scroll to the bottom. Also, for your viewing pleasure, all photography was created by 303 Magazine. 

First Bite: Lower48 Elevates Modern American Cuisine

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Photo by Glenn Ross

Words by Brittany Werges

What: Lower48 Kitchen

Where: 2020 Lawrence St., Unit ADenver, CO

Pro: Lower48 offers modern upscale cuisine for a moderate price. The menu is one of the more dynamic and interesting offerings in Denver. 

Con: Some of the starter bites (pro-only $2 each) were uninteresting whereas others were fantastic. Choose wisely and try out their more adventurous options like the Dried Celery Root in lieu of the more basic items like the Corn Dog and the Potato Cake. Apply this logic to the whole menu and your mouth will thank you.

“…old Californian railroad ties and reclaimed mahogany from 1930s boxcars highlight the space. These pieces along with many others pay homage to its name, Lower48, which represents the 48 continuous states of America. This inspiration, however, does not end there…” Read the full review here.

Editor’s note: L48 opened in late December of 2013, but since this list is a collection of highlights from 303, we’ve included this review which was conducted in early 2014.

Fork It: Work & Class Takes a Utilitarian Approach to Fine Dining

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Photo by Camille Breslin

Words by Brittany Werges

What: Work & Class

Where: 2500 Larimer St., Suite 101, Denver, CO

Pro: Work & Class, situated in a beautifully designed space, offers incredible food and drinks at a decent price. For every meal, you have the option to choose your portion size as well as a variety of sides. Our favorites are the chickpea croquettes. Try them once and you’ll be hooked for life.

Con: The menu is a little daunting. With different price options for almost every step of the meal, you’ll have to spend a little extra time talking to your waiter about portion sizes. Also W&C doesn’t take reservations and the place can fill up quickly. But it does offer a $3 craft cocktail to anyone waiting for a table.

“Although Work & Class is only 32 ft x 40 ft (exactly the dimensions of the four shipping containers it is built from), the small but smart space packs a punch in every square inch. From its reception table, constructed with salvaged conveyor belts, to the interchangeable custom welcome sign, the aesthetics of this restaurant are straight out of a design junkie’s wet dream. But despite all the bells and whistles of this hyper cool space, W&C has a fairly straight forward philosophy…” Read the full review here.

 First Bite: Gozo Redefines Joy on South Broadway

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Photo by Caitlin Savage

Words by Brittany Werges

What: Gozo // Kitchen, Wine, Cocktails

Where: 30 South Broadway, Denver, CO

Pro: Gozo is a much-welcomed addition to the South Broadway area. With excellent food and a relaxed, unpretentious attitude, this hip new eatery seamlessly integrates itself into SoBo. The prices are also quite reasonable and it has a great lunch menu that is worth checking out.

Con: There is a slight trend of over-saltiness in several of its dishes, but typically the quality of the food overshadows the issue.

“Embedded in a row of vintage stores and dive bars is 30 South Broadway, a matte, black building that houses one of Baker’s newest additions, Gozo. The self-proclaimed “neighborhood joint” is a new restaurant focused on Spanish and Italian rustic dining. With roots in Napa, the project with a high pedigree,seems like an unlikely pairing to the grittier South Broadway area. But with a low-key vibe and a strong dedication to the locals, co-owners Dominic Valenti and Frank Jolley have been able to seamlessly integrate themselves. Business seems to be booming…” Read the full review here.

 First Bite: Stoic & Genuine to Open Union Station 

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Photo by Roman Tafoya

Words by Callie Sumlin

What: Stoic and Genuine, the new fish house from award-winning team, Jennifer Jasinski and Beth Gruitch

Where: Historic Union Station, 1701 Wynkoop St., Denver, CO

Pros: The sparklingly fresh seafood is served with a light touch, keeping flavors clean and delicious. New England classics like the lobster roll and fried clams are even better than most I’ve had in Cape Cod. The indulgent Billi Bi soup is a can’t-miss, meal in itself. The unique granita program features a vibrant chile-citrus granita that tops the house oyster, or a strawberry granita to be topped with one of the many grower champagnes.

Cons: Stoic and Genuine is only 2000 sq. ft., so getting a table may be challenging. Luckily, reservations will be accepted and there will be patios overlooking the Union Station fountains for additional seating in the warmer months. 

“When Crafted Concepts, a.k.a James Beard award-winning chef Jennifer Jasinski and her partner Beth Gruitch, announced that they would be adding a fourth restaurant to their roster, it was bound to be one of the summer’s most anticipated openings. The pair defined Denver dining on Larimer with the likes of Rioja, Bistro Vendôme and Euclid Hall. The team’s newest endeavor, a fish house named Stoic and Genuine, will be located in another Denver landmark: the historic Union Station.” Read the full review here.

First Bite: Sunnyside Burger Bar Opens Today in Denver

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Photo by Lindsey Bartlett

Words by Lindsey Bartlett

What: SunnySide Burger Bar

Where: 3759 Lipan St., Denver, CO

Pros: Craft burgers + Craft beer = heaven. Troy Guard has crafted a unique menu and a one-of-a-kind experience. Try favorites like the Hipster, the Yankee Rose or Garden of the Gods, and save room for a Boozey Shake.

Cons: If the spot gets busy on opening day, you may be looking at a wait since there is not traditional fast-casual seating. It developed a wait-at-bar movement through the restaurant to make it more bearable.

SunnySide Burger Bar is a completely new, completely fresh ‘burger bar’ in Denver whose menu is an homage to the neighborhood’s rich history. It also boasts Troy Guards’ most creative innovations to date. From general manager, Kim Zelmaker, and Head Chef, Troy Guard, the probable keys to TAG’s success, SunnySide Burger Bar is an unique craft burger menu with a fresh, casual-fast hybrid atmosphere. These burgers will not be found anywhere else, and that is saying something among Denver’s busy burger scene…” Read the full review here. 

First Bite: Brazen Denver Opens Today in Berkeley 

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Photo by Lindsey Bartlett

Words by Brittany Werges

What:Brazen Denver, a Neighborhood Eatery

Where: 4450 W. 38th Ave., Denver, CO

Pro: Brazen serves up an affordable and incredibly delicious menu in a fun, relaxed setting with service that can’t be beat. 

Con: The restaurant has great ambiance but its location is in a more commercial area, which can diminish its immediate vibe.

“Almost two months ago, Brazen, a neighborhood eatery located on 38th and Tennyson, was just a dusty space filled with drywall, plastic sheets and loose screws. It was nothing more than a commercial construction site next door to a Comfort Dental. This is where I first met Chris Sargent, the creator/owner of Brazen and formerly of Denver powerhouses Rioja and Acorn. He greeted me outside with a smile and a champagne glass.” Read the full review here.

Visual Guide: Mercantile Dining & Provision 

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Photos by Roman Tafoya

Words by Brittany Werges

What: Mercantile Dining & Provision

Where: Union Station- 1701 Wynkoop St., Denver, CO (The far northside of the Great Hall)

Go for: a delicious dinner from one of Denver’s best chefs or pop into the deli and purchase some locally cured meats and cheeses from its very own Fruition Farms.

“The Low Down: From Fruition, one of our picks for Denver’s 10 most influential restaurants, comes Mercantile Dining & Provision. The part deli, part high-end restaurant continues Union Station’s theme of collectivism with a bustling atmosphere. With an open kitchen on one end and a marketplace on the other, there is a lot to see at Mercantile. Stop by either to pick up some artisan crafted goodies or sit down in the back and get wined and dined by one of Denver’s best Chefs,  Mr. Alex Siedel. Either way you’ll be glad you came.” See the full guide here.

 First Bite: A Carnivore’s Kingdom at Blackbelly in Boulder

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Photo by Roman Tafoya

Words by Brittany Werges

What: Blackbelly Market

Where: 1606 Conestoga St. #3, Boulder, CO 

When: Opens daily at 4:00 p.m., happy hour daily from 4 p.m.- 6 p.m., grab & go breakfast from 7 a.m.-10 a.m on Monday- Friday

Pro: Chef Hosea Rosenberg outdoes himself with a menu packed with delectable animal proteins highlighted with a diverse selection of fresh and local ingredients. Pro tip: Make sure to check out the daily happy hour featuring a rotating menu of different fried bites, oysters and charcuterie (which will soon be cured in-house).

Con: With a meat-centric menu, many of the dishes can be on the heavier side. Come prepared to leave with a full belly but maybe let your vegan friends stay at home.

“Last week “Top Chef” winner Hosea Rosenberg, formerly of Jax Fish House, opened Blackbelly Market in East Boulder. Project Blackbelly began as a catering company and food truck but has successfully snowballed into a brick-and-motar location that is part-deli and part-restaurant. Rosenberg and Blackbelly both garnered a lot of attention throughout the construction of the restaurant which ultimately deemed it one of the most anticipated (if not the most anticipated) opening of the year. So why all the hype? 303 Magazine previewed the menu just days before opening and we can say there’s a lot to be excited about…” Read the full review here.

First Bite: Blackbird Officially Opens Today

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Photo by Brent Andeck

Words by Brittany Werges

What: Blackbird Denver

Where: 305 South Downing St., Denver, CO

Pro: The menu features rustic plates and innovative takes on comforting classics. Blackbird also has a highly anticipated cocktail program that was in part curated by the revered Sean Kenyon of Williams and Graham.

Con: Service can be a little slow and sometimes disorganized. 

“For many years the corner of Alameda and Downing, where Blackbird is now perched, was occupied by Handlebar Tavern. This neighborhood sports bar was known for standard bar food such as chili cheese fries, cheap beer and wings. One Yelp! reviewer even praised it for having “the best chicken tenders in town.” Now Blackbird – a Napa-style, rustic eatery – is set to officially take its place. This farmhouse-esque space, with its muted color scheme and strategically placed knick-knacks, is a far cry from the ol’ tavern. But it seems the neighborhood has not only welcomed the change but has demanded it.” Read the full review here.

First Bite: Sarto’s And the Redefining of Fine Dining 

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Photo by Kiddest Metaferia

Word by Brittany Werges

What: Sarto’s Denver (a North Italian-inspired eatery)

Where: 2900 West 25th Avenue, Denver, CO

Pro: Sarto’s provides a chic, elegant and delectable experience that you’d expect from a fine dining restaurant, except it won’t cost you an arm and a leg. 

Con: The menu has a lot of well done Italian classics (like the gnocchi drizzled with lavender honey $6 for half, $13 for full) at a very fair price, but the more unique offerings will cost you a bit more. 

“For 14 years, Chef Brian Laird spent his days catering to Denver’s elite at the renowned Barolo Grill in Cherry Creek. Here he crafted elaborate multi-course tasting menus filled with extravagant ingredients, paired with a pricey but beautiful wine list.  Many diners came in for special celebrations or business meetings that resulted in a hefty bill. Laird, being a talented chef with a dedication to high quality, shined in this arena. He quickly made a name for himself as one of the best fine dining chefs in town, winning a multitude of awards and accolades. But after over a decade of serving solely the top-tier, Laird became tired.” Read the full review here. 

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