Denver has arrived on the national dining scene. Long before Top Chef spent a season here — and long before the Michelin Guide finally trained its sights on our restaurants — a culinary renaissance began centered on the city’s active lifestyle, booming economy and a desire to be as compelling as Los Angeles, San Francisco and even New York. The end result? An upscale dining scene that is as dynamic as any.

As much as things change, however, there are several places who’ve anchored the upscale scene for years. We’ve included some of the mainstays of Denver’s upscale dining scene below, starting with those closest to Limelight Denver.

Citizen Rail

Call us biased (after all, Citizen Rail is right here at the Limelight Denver) but this grill-centric social-club-meets-steakhouse continues to get better and better with each season. The kitchen sources as much as they can from Colorado’s best farms. When you have components like this, it’s best to keep it simple and let the ingredients do the talking. Case in point, the smoked short rib with a black garlic miso demiglaze. Fair warning: you will agonize over whether to order a side of duck-fat potatoes or sage-rosemary fries with that. A “tough call” never felt so delicious. Reservations:


There is something indelible about the hospitality at this high-end Italian restaurant adjacent to the Limelight Denver. The cuisine is on-point and the wine list is the envy of any Italophile wine lover, but what makes this MICHELIN Bib Gourmand selection so memorable is the highly attentive and amiable staff who genuinely take care of each and every guest. Director of Wine & Beverage Carlin Karr presides over one of the most thoughtfully curated wine lists in the West, making Tavernetta a popular stop for vignerons looking to host special event wine dinners.  Reservations:

Stoic & Genuine

After a night at Union Station’s Stoic & Genuine, you might need a quick geography reminder that yes, Denver is still landlocked. That’s because the fresh seafood on offer here is second only to something pierside. James Beard award-winning chef Jennifer Jasinski is also a “Smart Catch” leader meaning she sources from only ethical and sustainable sources to create her dazzling menu. Reservations:


Remember when we used to debate if the whole chef’s counter concept was merely a passing fad? Restaurants like Beckon are proof that guests will always enjoy watching a chef’s creation come to fruition. Of course, it helps to have a chef like Duncan Holmes at the helm, whose innovative and seasonal menu changes quarterly based on lunar phases. When the MICHELIN Guide released its first-ever canvas of Denver, Beckon was one of three restaurants to earn a star of distinction.

Because there are only 18 seats four days a week, this is one of Denver’s hardest reservations to procure, so plan ahead. Reservations:

Wolf’s Tailor

Another highly sought-after reservation is a table at Wolf’s Tailor, the kind of restaurant that could have never existed in Denver just 10 years ago. Relying on its own garden in the summer, and a “fermentation program” in winter, this restaurant’s highly seasonal focus is spun into artful, multi-course dishes that could easily be from any of the highest of the high-end restaurants in New York, London or Tokyo. It is no wonder then that they joined Beckon as one of three restaurants to score the city’s first MICHELIN star. (The team’s sister restaurant, Brutø, earned the other one). Reservations:


One of the most talked-about new restaurants in Denver is this upscale restaurant in LoHi (just across the highway from Limelight Denver’s Union Station neighborhood). Centered on Japanese cuisine with innovative twists, the restaurant continues to surprise. What seems simple on the surface is actually bolstered with substantial flavor (like the “steamed egg” which has a lovely earthiness from roasted cauliflower and a slight sweetness from an apple shiro dashi broth). Reservations:

Worth a Little Drive

Barolo Grill

Denver’s dining scene is riddled with the novel and innovative, but there is also room for the classic and traditional. No one in town can match the exacting obsession for pitch-perfect cuisine duplication than Cherry Creek North’s Barolo Grill. Their commitment to the unique cuisine of Piedmont, Italy includes an annual summer trip for the whole staff to the region, where they study the food ways and fine wines of the Langhe Hills. It’s a tradition that has lasted for much of the restaurant’s 30-plus-year run on 6th Avenue. Sommelier Erin Lindstone presides over one of the city’s greatest wine cellars — Barolo fanatics, be warned: you’ll be tempted by some outstanding selections, including one dating back to 1974. Reservations:


Food halls have popped up left and right across the Front Range, but one of the originals — Stanley Marketplace — continues to define the category thanks in large part to its mainstay fine-dining restaurant, Annette Scratch-to-Table. Head chef and owner Caroline Glover came to this renovated ejection-seat factory (yep, you read that right) in the fall of 2016 to start her dream restaurant after stints at New York City’s Spotted Pig and Denver’s Acorn. Since then, she’s won Food & Wine Magazine’s Best New Chef as well as a James Beard Award. 

An ode to her beloved great-aunt, the restaurant has been thrilling Front Range diners with locavore perfection and innovative cocktails. The team also recently opened an oyster bar upstairs at Stanley called Traveling Mercies. Reservations:

About Julia Aldrich