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Union Station in Denver

The Mile High city is perhaps best known for her rugged mountain lifestyle, wild west history and craft beer scene but, beyond the stereotypes, the rapidly changing city of Denver is also home to a bourgeoning culinary scene of cool restaurants, trendy bars and hip hangouts. Travel expert and journalist Julia Dimon of Travel Junkie Julia eats her way across Denver and features her Top 5  favorite foodie spots.

From critically acclaimed farm-to-table restaurants in converted industrial spaces, to ethnic pop-ups serving ambitious dishes, Denver has a wide range of culinary options that go far beyond Rocky Mountain Oysters. Here are some of the city’s best spots to dine while in Denver:

Beatrice and Woodsley

Beatrice and Woodsley in Denver

Strolling along Broadway, past tattoo shops and hipster thrift stores, you’ll find the beautiful Beatrice and Woodsley. Step into this unassuming restaurant and be transported into a whimsical world of woodland fairy nymphs and decadent dishes.  With Aspen trees, white sheer drapes, rusted chainsaws and comfy benches, Beatrice and Woodsley’s décor is Colorado chic. It has a sophisticated Zen-like forest feel, with a twist of mountain man and a dash of minimalism. Beyond the cool rustic design, the menu promises mouth-watering morsels through breakfast, lunch and dinner. Warm sticky cinnamon buns called “monkey brains,” red pepper aioli crawfish beignets and apple pie pancakes were among some of my brunch favorites on my most recent trip there. Be sure to wash it all down with an order of blood orange mimosas for a memorable morning meal.

Snooze: an AM Eatery

Snooze: an AM Eatery in Denver - Breakfast Pot Pie

One of several delicious dining options located in the 100-year old historic transportation hub of Union Station (a must-visit when in Denver), Snooze: an AM Eatery – a popular spot among locals living a “brunch so hard” lifestyle – serves up sinfully delicious grub, a lively atmosphere and a line-up to match.  Dishes like the drunk’n monkey french toast (grilled custard-dipped banana bread topped with toffee sauce, whipped cream and a bruleed banana) and the chile verde benny (slow cooked pulled pork over a green chile sauced tortillas, poached eggs and green chili hollandaise) offer creative twists on breakfast classics. Overwhelmed by options, I often default to the pancake flight, where you can choose any three pancake flavors, among them pumpkin, sweet potato, blueberry Danish or peanut butter cup. Serving large portions at a fair price, Snooze: an AM Eatery boats a sustainable/eco-conscious philosophy that let’s you give back to the local community with every bite.

Denver Central Market

Denver Central Market

Located in a restored building in the heart of the up-and-coming hipster hood of RiNo (short for River North), Denver Central Market is a gourmet marketplace where you can sip Chardonnay while browsing for grass-fed prime beef. Stroll this new open-concept food hall, popping between some 13 local vendors. Stop at Creama Bodega for a jolt of craft coffee or Izzo for artisanal bread and baked goods. Follow it up with a trip to Silvas Fish for fresh shucked oysters and ceviche or SK Provisions for a prepared meal of slow-roasted porchetta. Top off your culinary adventure with a five-scoop flight of ice cream from High Point Creamery (Salty Dog Chocolate, Cookies and Cream, Brown Butter Pecan and Basil with Blackberry Swirl are among their mouth-watering flavors).

The Source

Acorn at The Source in Denver. Credit: Adam Larkey

Much like the Denver Central Market, The Source offers foodies a one-stop culinary shopping experience in the RiNo Arts District. A converted iron foundry dating back to the 1880’s, The Source houses some 15 indie merchants, everything from a florist and a cheese shop, to a gallery, a specialty bottle shop and several high end restaurants. One of the most popular dining options is Acorn. Known for its oak-fired oven grill and seasonal family style small plates, this trendy spot serves up contemporary American comfort foods against an industrial backdrop of graffiti art. For dinner, start with the crispy fried pickles and wood fired parmesan pretzels, before moving on to their 18 oz prime cowboy bone-in ribeye made for two. Whoo weee…it’s a hearty, decadent meal, with a price tag to match that’s perhaps best reserved for special occasions or when traveling with an expense account.

Departure Restaurant + Lounge

Departure Restaurant + Lounge: Michael Persico, Sashimi in Denver

Part of the newly opened Halcyon, a hip hotel offering luxury accommodations in the high-end neighborhood of Cherry Creek North, Departure Restaurant + Lounge offers upscale dining in a down-to-earth atmosphere. The vibe is casual-cool with a mixed crowd of patrons: multi-generational families celebrating a special occasion, single ladies on the prowl for girl’s night out, and CEOs, dressed in Patagonia fleece sweaters, talking million dollar deals over Dim Sum.  With complex global flavors, expect a mean menu of authentic Asian dishes, from melt-in your mouth sashimi, to exotic sushi rolls, spicy kushiyaki skewers, to table-side wok fired specialties. My personal favorites include the Departure wings with sweet chili glaze, the shrimp and caviar roll and the lemongrass Tiger prawn, but the Korea rice dish of Bibimbap is the real crowd stopper. With an impressive list of curated sakes and signature cocktails, Departure offers classic Asian cuisine, all without leaving the Rocky Mountains.

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