Those visiting Denver for the first time might not place it in the same class of previous ONA host cities (Atlanta, Chicago, Los Angeles, oh my!), but it only takes a short stay to realize that the Mile High City is maturing into a true metropolis. What better way to explore a city that is “having its moment” than with a fork in your hand?
Right Next Door…
Conference goers would be remiss not to take the elevator to the Hyatt’s 27th floor, where sweeping views of downtown and the Rocky Mountains greet you at Peak’s Lounge. The high-altitude cocktail lounge serves classic drinks made with local liquor, like an Old Fashioned made with Stranahan’s Colorado Whiskey, or a Rocky Mountain Mule — a Moscow Mule made with Wilderness Trail Distillery vodka.
Just across the street, Stout Street Social serves up seafood, sushi and savory bar food in a hip, sports-bar-esque setting. Take advantage of $4 glasses of wine and $2 off sushi orders during happy hour.
Pizza Republica, directly next door to the convention center, dishes up wood-fired Neapolitan pizzas, housemade pastas and plates of fresh burrata starting at 11 a.m.
Just off 16th Street Mall…
For a quick, wallet-friendly lunch:
The Protein Bar — a fast-casual joint on the north end of the mall — serves up healthy, quinoa-loaded bowls, wraps and salads.
The nearby Honor Society (a favorite of 5280’s digital editors!) offers a drool-worthy selection of fixings for salads, sandwiches and Thanksgiving-style plates. An order of the mashed sweet potatoes is non-negotiable.
The best way to explain Illegal Pete’s is as the local chain version of Chipotle (which, fun fact, also started here in Colorado), but with more of a bar vibe. We’re not complaining — especially after one of their house margaritas, just $4 during happy hour.
For a sit-down affair during lunch or dinner:
Denver’s newly renovated Union Station is a site to see in its own right; luckily it also hosts plenty of places to refuel. Seafood lovers will find solace — and $2 oysters during happy hour—in this landlocked state at Stoic & Genuine, a culinary ship manned by James Beard award-winner Jennifer Jasinski. The Terminal Bar in the main lobby is a lovely place to stop for a local draft and enjoy top-notch people watching. And just a few yards away, The Kitchen Next Door at Union Station serves up farm-to-table “comfort food” plates in a relaxed but sleek atmosphere.
A bit south on 16th Street Mall from Union Station sits The Kitchen, a decidedly more upscale sister restaurant to the Kitchen Next Door. Don’t miss the burrata crostini.
At the adjacent and elegant ChoLon Modern Asian Bistro, the Korean fried chicken sliders and lobster Saigon crepes shouldn’t be overlooked.
Last but not least, out-of-towners can’t go wrong in Larimer Square — a small thoroughfare chock-full of restaurants — just a 12-minute walk from the convention center. I’m partial to Osteria Marco, an Italian eatery with an upscale vibe that mismatches its affordable menu; Euclid Hall, a sausage-centric eatery with a fantastic local beer list; and Green Russell, a subterranean speakeasy where the art of mixology is in full force.
A short Uber or (weather-permitting) stroll away:
For a range of inexpensive food options all in one place, head to Avanti Food and Beverage. Avanti is home to seven different eateries, each of which is located inside a refabbed shipping container. You’ll find falafel, arepas, artisan pizzas and more — and one of the most stunning rooftop views in the whole city.
For street tacos and a short adventure off the beaten path, try La Abeja on the infamous Colfax Avenue. Order the carnitas.
Find traditional, Japanese country dishes and a lush outdoor garden at Domo, a tucked-away gem perfect for refreshing after a long day of sessions.
A short taxi ride to Acorn is worth it. It sits inside The Source — a small, indoor artisan marketplace — and is arguably Denver’s hottest/best restaurant right now. (‘Nuff said.)
What sort of host would we be if we didn’t send you in the direction of Denver’s finest local suds? Here, downtown Denver’s most walkable breweries:
- Great Divide Brewing Company
- Wynkoop Brewing Company
- Denver Beer Co.
- Jagged Mountain Craft Brewery
- Falling Rock Taphouse—not an actual brewery, but home to an expertly curated yet expansive tap list, so you can try many local beers all at once
Jerilyn Forsythe is a key member of 5280 magazine’s digital department, and an instrumental player in all of its digital functions and initiatives. In addition to the daily editing and publishing of articles, she also manages the magazine’s social media presence; helps maintain 5280.com’s editorial calendar; authors service packages and features for 5280, its ancillary publications, and 5280.com; oversees the digital production of both print and online-only stories; and hires and manages the digital-editorial department’s interns. She studied political science, justice studies, and African American studies at Arizona State University as an undergraduate, before earning her master’s degree in journalism from the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism. Jerilyn is a native Phoenician who moved to Denver in the fall of 2012.