When you think of Denver, you don’t necessarily think of it as having an exceptionally eclectic food scene, but it most certainly does. After eight years in Charleston, SC, one of the most steadfast gastro-meccas in the U.S., I developed a bit of a snobby palette, and Denver leaves me pleasantly surprised. Here are 10 unique restaurants in Denver that not only have adventurous menus, but also give you a unique dining experience you won’t soon forget.
1. The Buckhorn Exchange
Moose is just about the only creature not on the menu at Buckhorn Exchange. Established in 1893, this taxidermied-wildlife-filled landmark is considered Denver's original steakhouse and serves up buffalo, quail, elk, rattlesnake, alligator, and the infamous Rocky Mountain oyster...if you dare!
2. The Fort
Chow down on juicy buffalo steaks, BBQ'd duck quesadillas, crispy lamb riblets, and other new twists on "authentic" pioneer classics. This frontier-themed replica of historic Bent's Fort in Southeasten Colorado offers an extensive wine list and selection of microbrews, as well as great views of the red rocks and surrounding areas. Snag a seat on their patio and grab a bite before a show!
3. Casa Bonita
Somewhat of an urban legend, Casa Bonita is a weird world you just have to experience for yourself. Suffice it to say, there are fire jugglers, magicians, pirate caves, mariachi bands, and cliff divers plunging from 30-foot waterfalls. See it and believe it. (But, let's be honest...no one goes here for the food. You've been warned.)
4. M Uptown [Formerly Hamburger Mary's]
The name may have changed, but the funky atmosphere is still the same. M Uptown boasts "kitchen, cocktails, cabaret," and serves up tasty burgers with an unforgettable side of drag queen bingo. This is not your mama's burger joint!
5. Station 26 Brewing Co.
This former firehouse turned taproom and brewery has some of the best beer and patio space in town! Grab food from a local food truck (there's a different one every day), or better yet, stop by on the second Sunday of every month and revel in their holy trinity of beer, bluegrass, and brunch. Amen.
6. Ophelia's Electric Soapbox
Ophelia's Electric Soapbox is one of my personal favorites, and not just because of its name. This bordello turned "gastrobrothel" has just about anything that tickles your fancy. They've got stellar cocktails, live music, an outdoor patio, throwback peep shows, and killer brunches and dinners, featuring globally inspired dishes with local, sustainably-sourced and organic products. Do something good for yourself and the planet!
7. Lola Mexican Fish House
With over 200 tequilas, fresh table-side guac, a raw bar, BBQ'd octopus, scrumptious tacos, and house infused liquors, Lola's is sure to sweep you off your feet. Go for brunch and try their chicken and waffles with chorizo gravy or horchata pancakes smothered in sweet cream syrup. Stay for happy hour and live music (every Sunday from 2:30-5pm).
8. Vesta Dipping Grill
Meats. Cheeses. Breads. Sauces. Sold.
9. The Cherry Cricket
Duffy's Cherry Cricket has been a Mile High burger institution since 1945. One of their most charming features is their wide range of toppings which includes items like green chiles and smoked cheddar, as well as the less traditional peanut butter and grape jelly. Wonder if Elvis ever ate a PB&J-banana-bacon-cheeseburger!? It's likely.
This classy, hip retro diner creates some serious comfort food! Try their meatloaf and mashed potatoes, crawfish etoufee, Memphis-style ribs, or gravy cheese fries, then wash it all down with a root beer float or a boozy shake. My waistline expanded just thinking about it!
That sure is a lot of goodness…and we haven’t even scratched the surface! What are your favorite unique restaurants in Denver? Tell us in the comments.