Originally published Saturday, May 29th 2021
It’s no secret that Denver has a mouth-watering food scene. Between food halls, farm-to-table digs, global fare from every corner of the world, and the ever-present brewery, Denver’s got it all. Denverites, transplants, and tourists alike can all find something to love about the city’s restaurant options, and there’s enough variety to please even the pickiest eater.
While we’re always ready to gush about Denver’s talented chefs and beloved restaurants, the pandemic has made it even more important to support these small businesses. With that in mind, we’d love to share with you some of our team’s favorite locally-owned restaurants!
Potager is a wine bar and farm-to-table restaurant in the Capitol Hill neighborhood, specializing in seasonal and local food. Founded in 1997 by father-daughter team Tom and Teri Rippeto, the restaurant is a labor of love with an unshakable vision: to “serve really satisfying food and do whatever it takes to make it” (from the Potager website). While it follows no particular school or style of cooking, the food at Potager could be considered approachable fine dining, elegant without being pretentious. According to our founder Alexandra LittleJohn, they have the best souffle (and customer service) in town! The Potager team values seasonal ingredients and the people who produce them, which is why their website proudly lists all of their current suppliers for meat, fish, produce, and cheese/dairy. Swing by for curbside pickup, or make a reservation for their indoor dining room or outdoor patio seating.
1109 N Ogden St, Denver, CO 80218
Part Jewish deli, part Mediterranean restaurant, part caterer, and part wine bar, Leven does it all and then some. The restaurant is a self-described “new type of deli,” offering new flavors combined with old techniques - like The Rachel, a modern take on the Reuben served on traditionally-baked rye. Once late afternoon hits, the casual deli transitions into the home of “Denver’s Best Happy Hour,” serving up discounted tapas, cocktails, and wine from 4pm-7pm. Located in the Gold Triangle neighborhood, the restaurant has a killer outdoor patio and is walking distance from the Denver Art Museum. Additionally dining options include lawn and indoor seating, as well as curbside pickup or Denver-area delivery (which includes regular menu items, take-and-make family meal kits, and even bottles of wine!).
123 West 12th Avenue, Denver, CO 80204
With an atmosphere described as ““Palm Springs meets Miami in the 1980s” by owner Sam Maher, the bright and airy Somebody People is a must-visit spot on South Broadway. The restaurant has only been open since the fall of 2019, but it’s already made a huge splash in Denver’s vegan scene (and restaurant scene in general), with its 100% plant-based menu, light cocktails, and gorgeous handmade pastas. Somebody People offers indoor seating and takeout, as well as their Sunday Supper, a stellar dining experience that offers a rotating five-course menu for $30 per guest, along with discounted wine carafes and exclusive cocktails. In addition to their vegetable-forward menu, Somebody People also runs on a vision of sustainability, providing compostable packaging for all takeout meals and encouraging guests to bring their own leftover containers - although they do sell reusable tiffins as an alternative!
1165 S Broadway #104 Denver, CO 80210
ALJ says it best when she calls Sexy Pizza the “best pizza in Denver” and the “closest thing to NYC pizza you can get.” This pizzeria offers pies and pizza by the slice (including gluten-free crust and vegan cheese options), along with salads, wings, and even dough you can purchase and bake at home. And while the locally-famous Sexy Sheikh (pepperoni, cream cheese, and jalapeno) is to die for, this Denver mainstay is known for a lot more than just its mouth-watering deck-oven pizzas. Sexy Pizza positions itself as a center of “civic and community engagement,” with several community-based initiatives, including a philanthroPIE program that donates a percentage of pizza sales to five Colorado nonprofits in line with the company’s values. They donated over $28,000 in 2020 through this program. Additionally, they have an incredible benefits package for their team, including PTO, no-cost mental health services & health insurance, 401k matching, employee ownership, and more. Check out one of their four Denver locations, all open late!
1018 E. 11th Ave., Denver, CO 80218 (Cap Hill location)
U.S. Thai Cafe
Nestled in the Edgewater neighborhood on the outskirts of West Denver, U.S. Thai Cafe is the place to go for authentic, high-quality Thai dishes. The no-frills restaurant offers delicious and reasonably priced meals, including a range of vegetarian options, but be warned: while many places claim their food is spicy, U.S. Thai Cafe really means it. They offer five levels of spice ranging from mild to “Thai hot,” and they provide the disclaimer that meals can’t be taken back if they’re too hot. LJPBP team member Matt recommends trying the larb, a traditional Thai meat salad that comes with your choice of chicken, pork, or beef. The restaurant currently offers indoor dining, delivery, and takeout options — we suggest getting takeout and having a picnic at Sloan’s Lake across the street!
5228 W 25th Ave, Edgewater, CO 80214
Watercourse get’s its name from the “water course way,” a philosophy based in Taoism that encourages taking the path of least harm. The name is fitting for this North Capitol Hill restaurant that serves 100% vegan dishes, although you wouldn’t automatically guess it on first bite (their Cuban made with seitan “ham” could easily be mistaken for the real deal, and the cauliflower wings are always a hit). Additionally, they partner with local vendors and source seasonal ingredients in order to create their fresh, flavorful dishes. Beyond their food, the Watercourse team also focuses their attention on creating a more inclusive, equitable community - not only do they pay their employees a liveable wage and offer hot meals for homeless individuals, but they also support & donate to a variety of local organizations in Denver. Swing by Watercourse for brunch, dinner, or a delicious handcrafted cocktail during their fabulous happy hour.
837 East 17th Avenue, Denver, Colorado 80218
If you are looking for unique dishes that draw on flavors from the Middle East, Europe, and North Africa, look no further than Safta. Founded by Israeli-born Chef Alon Shaya, this RiNo restaurant (named for the Hebrew word for “grandmother”) is a culinary homage to Israel, offering beautiful small plates, delicious wood-fired pita, and a whole section of the menu dedicated to hummus varieties. “I am Jewish, and this is some of the best Jewish-inspired food I have ever had,” says Claire, our Director of Content and Social Media at LJPBP. Like many of the other restaurants on our list, Safta’s work goes beyond just serving tasty food — when the pandemic hit in Spring of 2020, Shaya’s organization Pomegranate Hospitality worked with Safta in order to provide free meals for restaurant and hospitality workers. Safta is currently open for indoor dining, weekend brunch (did someone say bagels and schmear?), takeout, and local delivery.
3330 Brighton Blvd #201, Denver, CO 80216
Walking into Steuben’s feels like walking into an upscale, mid-1900s diner - and that’s exactly what founder Josh Wolkon intended. Wolkon named Steuben’s after the historic Boston restaurant his uncles owned from the 1940s until the 1960s, and that classic Americana vibe is felt throughout the two Steuben’s locations. The restaurant serves up regional American dishes, offering everything from Nashville Hot Chicken to Maine Lobster Rolls to a Southwest Green Chili Cheeseburger (and everything in between). Beyond the classic comfort food, Steuben’s also boasts talented bartenders, world-class service, a reduced carbon footprint, and a fantastic philanthropic mindset — they support a number of nonprofits as well as cater charitable events with their traveling Steuben’s Food Truck, which is also available for private events. Both the Olde Town Arvada and the Uptown Denver locations are open for indoor dining, patio dining (Uptown only), curbside pickup, and delivery.
523 E 17th Ave, Denver, CO 80203 (Uptown)
7355 Ralston Rd, Arvada, CO 80002 (Olde Town)