Every year, we foodies at 303 Magazine search for the crème de la crème and become regulars at many illustrious spots. Whether it was the chef’s creations that shocked our tastebuds or an atmosphere that made us feel right at home — each site deserves the utmost recognition. 2022 gave both new and old treasures the time to shine.
A special thanks to all the culinary masterminds and mixologists that keep our Denver food and booze scene buzzing. At long last, here is our curated list of personal favorites that we felt made this year all the better (in no particular order).
Brynna’s Picks —
Where: 233 Clayton St., Denver
Hours: Sunday – Monday 5 – 9 p.m., Tuesday – Saturday 5 – 10 p.m.
The Lowdown: Kini’s is a new greek concept, creating and skillfully serving transcendent dishes inside The Clayton. When entering, its intimate and warming ambiance conjures coastal Greece. The light blues reflect beautifully on the mirrored walls, enabling guests to witness the hustle and bustle around them as dish after dish leaves the pass. The service is admirable and the drinks delicious, but its brilliance lies in the food. Whether you’re stopping in for a light bite or a full meal, you’ll leave with your stomach thankful. Its Flaming Kasseri Cheese ($18) is a star in its own right — a clever, smoky and melty starter. Try its Moroccan Fried Chicken ($72) for date night, finished with harissa honey and lemon yogurt. Its sides include crunchy Lemon Herb Cottage Fries ($10) and buttery Cacio e Pepe Orzo ($10), a melt-in-your-mouth experience that will leave you begging for more than just one taste. Enrich your experience with a cocktail or a wine pairing from its generous list and I promise — you will leave satisfied.
Forget Me Not
Where: 227 Clayton St, Denver
Hours: Monday – Thursday 3 p.m. – 1 a.m., Friday – Saturday 3 p.m. – 2 a.m., Sunday 3 p.m. to 12 a.m.
The Lowdown: Although Forget Me Not opened its inviting doors in 2021, it still holds a special place in this young cocktail lover’s heart. Its thoughtful name is not only an ode to the flower shop that once lived at the location but also mimics the purpose of those who enter — a wish to make lasting memories. Its atmosphere is cozy yet elegant, with pleasing colors contrasted by leafy greens that bring an uplifting and lively sensitivity. Its dignified insides complement its masterly cocktails, fashioned in a comparably dainty manner. A favorite is its 82 Moons ($14) which begins with a vodka base and is then built up beautifully with vanilla, passionfruit, ginger and Campari. However, any choice on its playful menu is worth a try. This choice dances the line between wild and luxury — in the best way possible.
Kristina’s Picks —
Where: 233 Clayton St., Denver
Hours: Sunday – Monday 4-11 p.m., Tuesday – Thursday 5-11 p.m. and Friday – Saturday 4 p.m. – 12 a.m.
The Lowdown: One of the newest concepts from the Quality Branded restaurant group, Cretans is a Mediterranean wine bar and restaurant in Cherry Creek North. Though the space is a scene straight out of a 1970s cocktail lounge, the menu offers a modern take on more traditional Mediterranean-inspired small plates. Some of the most notable bites include a smoked king salmon with creme fraiche ($16) and Tanara 24-month prosciutto with black truffle chips ($21). While the wine list is long and extensive, it’s the pour-over martinis ($16) that garner the most attention. With three brine options from spicy pepperoncini and caper gibson to feta-stuffed olives, these dirty vodka martinis are sneaky good. If you’re a salty, savory eater like me, Cretans will not disappoint.
Necio Mexican Kitchen
Where: 4001 Tejon St., Denver
Hours: Tuesday – Thursday 11 a.m. – 9 p.m., Friday 11 a.m.-10 p.m., Saturday 10 a.m. – 10 p.m. and Sunday 10 a.m. – 8 p.m.
The Lowdown: Although Necio is a superb Mexican restaurant with out-of-this-world Latin dishes, the bar menu is eye-catching and takes traditional margaritas to another level. When you’re going out to grab drinks with friends, a list of overpriced cocktails can be overwhelming. Instead, try ordering its tamarindo margarita ($13) topped with tamarindo strings and rimmed with Mexican candy or the famous Don Julio 70 frozen margaritas that garnished over 6.5 million views on TikTok.
Colin’s Picks —
Saucy’s Southern Barbecue and Cuisine
Where: 2100 S University Suite B, Denver
Hours: Open 11 a.m. – 10 p.m. daily
The Lowdown: While Saucy’s has graced Denver with the cue since 2018, this year marked the debut of its truly stupendous University of Denver area brick-and-mortar. Owners Khristian Matthews and Ki’erre Dawkins serve their take on Mississippi-style meats — think charcoal grilled wings and finger-licking, drip-off-the-bone ribs. What was once a cart with a guaranteed post-lunch sell-out is now a Chipotle-style counter joint with blaring funk, hip-hop and a seemingly endless supply of know-your-name-and-order-style hospitality. It’s been a favorite, and it keeps getting better.
Where: 1616 Market St., Denver.
Hours: Monday – Thursday 7 a.m. – 9 p.m., Friday 7 a.m. – 10 p.m., Saturday 8 a.m. – 10 p.m. and Sunday 8 a.m. – 9 p.m.
The Lowdown: In February, celebrity chef Ludo Lefebvre opened his first restaurant outside Los Angeles. The Michelin-starred chef grew a loyal fanbase for Trois Mec and Petit Trois, which helped guide many Angelenos to understand the very real mystique of classic French cuisine. Chez Maggy — a grand dining room at the base of The Thompson Hotel — continues along the same vein, though Colorado-born-and-raised chef de cuisine Jeff Schwing handles the bulk of the local cooking. Dishes like its Foie Gras Tartine ($32), Burger a la Francaise ($28) and Tenderloin Filet ($55) with Sauce Aux Poivres are just a few pillars of what is currently one of the most splendid dining experiences in the city.
Caroline’s Picks —
Where: 3258 Larimer St., Denver
Hours: Monday-Friday: 5 – 10 p.m., Saturday: 4 – 10 p.m., Sunday: 5 – 9 p.m. (Please note smaller menu on Sunday nights)
The Lowdown: If I could use one word to describe a dinner at The Greenwich, it would be “soul”. From the beautiful murals lining the alleyway entrance to the photographs adorning the teal blue walls, The Greenwich exudes the spirit of New York. Every item on the menu incorporates something unique to put an interesting twist on classic dishes that give the diner a whole new experience, and it’s seriously the best roasted chicken I’ve ever eaten. Go there the next time you have friends or family visiting — they surely won’t be disappointed.
The StockRoom at SWP
Where: 5713 Olde Wadsworth Blvd, Arvada
Hours: Tuesday – Thursday 4 – 10 p.m., Friday – Saturday 4 p.m. – 12 a.m. and closed on Sundays and Mondays.
The Lowdown: If you live in Arvada, you know that good cocktail bars are hard to come by. Olde Town has improved quite a bit over the years and until recently, The Arvada Tavern was one of the only legitimate cocktail bars in the area. That changed in 2021 with The Stockroom. The owners at Spirits Wine Provisions — a wine shop and liquor store in Olde Town — turned their old stockroom into a speakeasy where guests could ask to “help pack boxes in the stockroom” to get escorted inside. After several months and a little more seating room, they made the locale more well-known through signage outside the liquor store. It still feels like a secret though, and their cocktails are superb. The menu consists of classic cocktails, followed by the bartenders’ riff on that cocktail. Think of a classic margarita and the riff as a mezcal marg with a seasonal, herbaceous twist. It’s worth a visit to try their riffs for yourself.
Have a personal favorite of ’22? Let us know in the comments!