What is Restaurant Hopping?

Looking for an adventure for your next date night? You may already know what “bar hopping” is — going from one bar to the next with a drink at each — but have you ever considered doing the same with restaurants? Restaurant hopping is a similar concept, but has a bit of a twist; instead of a string of bars you have a progression of restaurants with a new course at each. The hope is that rather than spending an hour or two at a table in one restaurant, you get to spend several hours exploring a part of town all while trying new eats. So, instead of the standard date night eating out, you create an adventure and an experience. It gives you the opportunity to try several new menu items at various places, while exploring food you normally wouldn’t and finding new places you more than likely have walked passed before.

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Rabbit Pappardelle from Solitaire   Photo by Justin Barbour

Before You Go

First, you’ll have to accept that failure is a strong possibility. You have to be able to make last-minute substitutions and be comfortable with not everything working as planned — because, to be honest, nothing ever does. Something will be closed, or the wait will be too long or the building will be on fire. This will remind you that it’s not an adventure if everything goes right.

Second, you have to be open to trying new things. Going from one restaurant to the next and getting the french fries at each place isn’t restaurant hopping; it’s just sad and probably bad for your health. The point is to get the menu item that you don’t recognize or haven’t had before. The fear is always that you’ll hate it and be stuck with your choice. But when hopping, you just move on to the next thing. Hating one out of five dishes will make the other four dishes taste even better.

Finally, you have to be nice to the staff at each restaurant. Coming in, eating for twenty minutes and then leaving can be seen as rude. Explain what you’re doing, ask them for recommendations on your adventure and tip well. You’d probably be spending even more money on show tickets or etc. so splurge a little bit on the fancy drinks.

How To

Step 1: Make a general plan. I don’t recommend making reservations; it adds a time limit that hinders the night, but sometimes can be necessary. Pick an area or neighborhood (see below) with a dense enough population of non-chain restaurants. I personally like picking a starting restaurant and an ending restaurant and making the in-between decisions spur-of-the-moment. Some like to plan each restaurant in succession. Go with whatever satiates your specific level of OCD. But make sure you always have a few Plan Bs in your back pocket.

Step 2: Pace yourself. While you’ll probably have a few drinks along the way, it can add up. Make sure you plan ahead with either designated drivers or transportation. We don’t want that much of an adventure.

Step 3: I think this works best in groups of three or four. It allows everyone to try a little bit of everything without spending a fortune. More than that and you become a hassle for the restaurant. It works fine with the more intimate two-person date; just be careful not to overdue yourself, as there is going to be a lot of food.

Step 4: Sit at the bar or a bar top; it’s usually quicker, often doesn’t have as much of a wait and is easier to get in and out of.

Step 5: Enjoy yourself. Don’t fret over having to wait or missing the place you wanted to go. The best food is often at the least expected place. Get outside, walk around, get lost for a little bit and get acquainted with a new neighborhood.

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Island-style Poke   Photo by Justin Barbour

Recommendations for Denver

Denver isn’t as condensed as many of the larger cities, but restaurant-hopping is still possible as long as you don’t mind walking a little bit. Below are a few streets and neighborhoods we recommend trying accompanied by a few sample routes. There are obviously a dozen more in Denver and the best ones are always the ones you find yourself.

RiNo 

Photo courtesy of Glenn Ross Photo

Finn’s Manor   Photo courtesy of Glenn Ross Photo

Just north of downtown, River North has exploded in the past year.

Route #1 The Populist > Bar Fausto > Finn’s Manor > The Central Market > Work & Class.

Route #2 Osaka Ramen > Nocturne > Sushi Rama > Los Chingones > Acorn

32nd Street West Highlands

Photo courtesy of Sweet Cow

Photo courtesy of Sweet Cow

West of Downtown, in a quieter neighborhood, is 32nd street.

The Route  Solitaire > El Camino > Sera Ramen > Tacos Tequila Whiskey > Sweet Cow

Highlands

Old Major, Royal Rooster, Chicken Sandwich denver

Old Major   Photo by Brittany Werges

Just north of Speer on the other side of the highway, the highlands is the spot for some of the best restaurants in Denver.

The Route Avanti > Old Major > Williams & Grahams > Uncle > Root Down > Little Man

Uptown North Cap Hill 

Photo courtesy of Stueben's

Photo courtesy of Stueben’s

Dubbed “restaurant-row,” this neighborhood obviously has some impressive names.

The Route Park & Co > Ace Eat Serve > Steuben’s > Beast + Bottle > Dos Santos > D Bar

South Pearl

Alec Tremaine, Ototo

Photo by Alec Tremaine

South of the highway, this very eclectic street has a wealth of crave-worthy spots.

The Route Uno Mas Taqueria > OTOTO > Sushi Den > Fourteen Seventy-Two > Kaos Pizzeria

South Broadway

Photo by Lucy Beaugard

Leña. Photo by Lucy Beaugard 

Just north of the highway, South Broadway offers the additional challenge of finding the great restaurants hidden in between the hipster hangouts.

The Route  Lena > Gozo > Beatrice & Woodsley > Cho 77 > Adrift > Sweet Action

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