Denver’s restaurant scene has officially gone rogue. From sex-themed “gastro-brothels” to unapologetic chefs serving up whole animal’s heads, this past year of new restaurants proved that rebellious and raunchy are not off the table in the Mile High City. Instead, we saw Denver chefs push boundaries and even redefine the physical connotations of a “restaurant” by opening collective eateries in the form of incubators and food truck emporiums. Even street food, a persistent trend, brought new value to Denver dining by becoming the vehicle for previously unsung cuisines.

For 2015, dining in our city wasn’t just about good food—albiet there was plenty of that.  This year was about experimentation, adventure, and most importantly—fun. So get hungry and throw those New Year’s resolutions to the wind because here’s our list of favorite new restaurants of 2015, as featured by our past reviews and highlights.

Dos Santos 

Best new restaurants denver, where to eat in Denver, best new restaurants 2015, 303 magazine

Beer-battered Shrimp and Chicken Tinga tacos at Dos Santos. Photo by Camille Breslin.

By Matthew Hedgpeth

What: Mexican street food in the heart of Restaurant Row

Where: 1475 E. 17th Ave., Denver

Neighborhood: Uptown

Excerpt: “At the outset, owner Kris Wallenta wanted to keep the menu accessible, and was specifically mindful of not “overthinking [the] tacos.” This is street food after all. To behold the presentation, though, you may be fooled: each recipe is a spectacular display of ornamented, yet simple ingredients that pop out entreatingly from the wooden slabs on which they are served.” Read more here.

Rebel Restaurant 

Best new restaurants denver, where to eat in Denver, best new restaurants 2015, 303 magazine

Rebel Restaurant owners Bo Porytko and Dan Laisy (right). Photo by Glenn Ross.

By Trenton Reed

What: a RiNo restaurant serving adventurous eats with a rebellious attitude. 

Where: 3763 Wynkoop St., Denver
 
Neighborhood: RiNo

Excerpt: “While the Mile High City’s status as a true food town is still up for debate, it’s clear that the city has embraced the unabashed spirit of Rebel: the spot has earned heaps of accolades from Denver’s press and diners alike. If anything, the city’s restaurant boom has enabled chefs to tinker with possibility—and diner’s perceptions of normalcy. And whether intentional or not, Rebel Restaurant is audaciously spearheading an otherwise quiet revolution.” Read more here.

 Avanti Food & Beverage

Best new restaurants denver, where to eat in Denver, best new restaurants 2015, 303 magazine

Avanti Food & Beverage. Photo by Kyle Cooper

By Brittany Werges

What: a two-story collective eatery in Denver’s Lower Highlands neighborhood that rents out seven micro-kitchens to budding culinary talents.  

Where: 3200 Pecos St, Denver

Neighborhood: LoHi

Excerpt: “Every tenant has an impressive amount of accolades and a uniquely expressed vision. Better yet, they all compliment each other—not only in style but colloquially as well. Speaking with each renter resulted in an ardent exaltation for their neighbor.

“I feel like I am going to be running upstairs after my shift, begging them [for food],” said Thomas Payne of Farmer Girl in reference to Soku Shawarma. Every chef had similarly kind things to say about their fellow renters, expressing feelings of gratitude that they share a space with comparably talented chefs. Their enthusiastic endorsements truly made it feel as if the concept of a “collective eatery” has been actualized.” Read more here.

  

 Ophelia’s Electric Soapbox 

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Ophelia’s Electric Soapbox. Photos by Glenn Ross.

By Brittany Werges

What: the newest concept from Edible Beats, the restaurant group responsible for other eclectic eateries like Linger and Root Down. 

Where: 1215 20th St., Denver

Neighborhood: Ballpark

Excerpt: “Despite being sex the underlying theme, Ophelia’s is largely characterized by the repurposed goods Cucci has hunted and gathered over the years of pillaging various websites like eBay and Craigslist, as well as, estate sales and personal connections. There you’ll find over 1,000 multi-colored yardsticks stuccoed to the bathroom stalls, candy-colored bar tops made of illuminated pinball machine glass, and hundreds of hand-held radios puzzled together to build a wall behind the stage… As a result almost every inch of the space has a story.” Read more here.

 Cho77

Best new restaurants denver, where to eat in Denver, best new restaurants 2015, 303 magazine

Red Chili Pork Dumplings at Cho77. Photo by Glenn Ross.

By Brittany Werges

What: Cho77- a new restaurant focusing on Southeast Asian street food from famed Denver chef, Lon Symensma, known for his award-winning Asian cuisine at beloved ChoLon Bistro.

Where: 42 South Broadway, Denver 

Neighborhood: South Broadway

Excerpt: For the better half of 2014, hints of the forthcoming Cho77 would consistently pop-up on the web. At first it began with photos of a street cart: a shiny, silver bike-like contraption Chef Lon Symensma reportedly purchased on the streets of Vietnam. Rumor had it the cart was one of the many items he and his chef de cuisine, Ryan Gorby, were bringing back from abroad in order to furnish Cho77. But then there was talk of dim sum. Collectively, the stomachs rumbled amongst an increasingly voyeuristic crowd of food writers, magazine editors and savvy Denver diners. Dumplings danced dreamily in our heads until a new grainy image leaked online. The photo showed Gorby leaning over a grandiose plate flashing a taunting smile – cruel.” Read more here. 

Osaka Ramen (RiNo) 

Best new restaurants denver, where to eat in Denver, best new restaurants 2015, 303 magazine

Shoyu Ramen at Osaka Ramen. Photo by Kyle Cooper

By Brittany Werges

What: an “upper-casual” ramen joint from Denver chef and James Beard semi-finalist, Jeff Osaka. 

Where: 2611 Walnut St., Denver

Neighborhood: RiNo

Excerpt: Chef Jeff Osaka has worked in fine dining for over 20 years — that is until he closed his famed Denver restaurant, Twelve, last August. Now Osaka, known for his seasonally driven-cuisine (which garnered him a nod from the James Beard foundation), is finally ready to embark on an entirely different endeavor. And he isn’t thinking small.” Read more here.

Solitaire Restaurant 

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The Oaxacan mojito. Photo by Elisha Knight

By Molly Martin

What: fine dining without the stuffy ambiance

Where: 3927 W. 32nd Ave., Denver

Neighborhood: Highlands

Excerpt: “No matter how swanky the décor or how strong the drinks are poured, the food must be on point for any new restaurant to become a new favorite. Thankfully, Solitaire’s cuisine offers plenty of reasons to visit, and visit often. While seasonally changing menus seem to be the current norm, dishes here will change more often, even daily, as items are reworked depending on what ingredients are freshest that moment. Items offer a wide variety of flavor profiles and playfully presented ingredients.” Read more here.

Finn’s Manor Food 

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Owlbear Barbecue’s owner Karl Fallenius at Finn’s Manor

By Brittany Werges

What: an outdoor food truck collective and a New Orleans style bar in the RiNo Art District. 

Where: 2927 Larimer St., Denver

Neighborhood: RiNo

Excerpt: “Just within the last year, Larimer Street has reached a fever pitch of openings with new restaurants, breweries and businesses popping up almost weekly. As a testament to their love of the area, both Price and Power (in regards to his own concepts, as Power is not involved with Finn’s Manor) aren’t fleeing the area in order to cultivate less-tended pastures. Rather, Price, along with Thomas Taylor and Robert Sickler, who are partners in Finn’s Manor, are looking to further develop the neighborhood by taking a former auto-parts yard, dubbed an “eyesore” by the community, and turn it into a refuge for one of our city’s most diverse and fluid culinary talents: local food trucks.” Read more here.

Note: We have become particularly fond of Owlbear Barbecue at Finn’s Manor and highly recommend checking out its central Texas barbecue.

Nocturne Jazz & Supper Club 

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Nocturne Jazz Club & Restaurant. Photo by Lindsey Bartlett.

By Brittany Werges

What: a modern American restaurant that infuses the art of dining with live musical performances from its resident jazz musicians, as well as, touring artists. 

Where: 1330 27th St., Denver

Neighborhood: RiNo

Excerpt: “Mattson, a man who’s remarkably fueled by unbridled ambition, had to push the envelope further. That’s when the lightbulb came on, and he suggested that Beckner create a tasting menu that is inspired by great jazz albums, specifically “Kinda Blue” by Miles Davis. “He thought I was crazy,” said Mattson. “He didn’t get it at first but I said to him, ‘You got to listen to the album, get it into your bones.’ He listened to it like 40 times and came back with this stunning menu and captured Kinda Blue on the menu page.” Read more here.

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