Vinh Xuong Bakery
This casual family-owned bakery has roots in Denver stretching back decades, and the city has the Huynh family to thank for providing an authentic taste of Vietnamese cafe culture. Come for the banh mi sandwiches, a traditional Vietnamese breakfast food, built on fresh-baked baguettes made in the shop every morning. Stay for the sesame balls, moon cakes and other traditional baked goods, and wash it all down with an espresso, milk tea or Vietnamese coffee.
BTW: The avocado banh mi and spicy tofu minus the mayo are two solid vegan options.
Vinh Xuong Bakery, 2370 W. Alameda Ave. Denver, Colo. 80223
Little Owl Coffee
This small cafe offers a high-quality coffee experience, serving flavorful espresso and perfectly balanced pour-overs in a bright, cheery space. Be sure to grab a pastry, too — the ham-and-cheese croissant and not-too-sweet banana bread are favorites. The nod toward high-design is subtle but charming, with entryway floor-to-ceiling windows, planed walnut slabs and succulents to boot. There’s limited seating inside, but regulars love sipping on the patio and in the lobby.
BTW: The sign is small and hard to see from the street, so keep an eye out.
Little Owl Coffee, 1555 Blake St. #150 Denver, Colo. 80202
Sassafras American Eatery
Sassafras, a Southern-style eatery for breakfast, brunch and lunch that uses locally sourced organic ingredients, offers not-too-fancy twists on Cajun fare that make all the difference. They’re serving up chicken-fried eggs with buffalo hash, five types of mac and cheese and, of course, po’ boys. Enjoy the extensive selection of another-round-please beverages, including mimosa flights and some of the best smoothies in town.
BTW: There are multiple locations, but the spot in Capitol Hill is a favorite.
Sassafras American Eatery, Capitol Hill, 320 E. Colfax Ave. Denver, Colo. 80203
Tucked inside Avanti Food & Beverage, a popular collective eatery and Denver’s first food hall, this Venezuelan food truck serves innovative bites that set it apart from other gastro-upstarts under the same roof. The roster of street-style arepas — hearty corn pockets stuffed with meat, cheese and beans — is bolstered by an array of sides, salads and desserts. Try the reina pepiada, stuffed with zesty shredded chicken and a creamy avocado sauce, or the arepa pabellon, with beef, sweet plantains, black beans and crumbled cheese (the same ingredients as Venezuela’s national dish). The Venezuelan-born owner uses ingredients from local vendors, so the menu changes often. Gluten-free eaters, delight: The entire menu is GF.
BTW: No matter what you order, ask for guasacaca sauce — a tangy and smooth cilantro-heavy guacamole.
Quiero Arepas, 3200 N. Pecos St. Denver, Colo. 80211
Beatrice & Woodsley
When in Denver, do as the locals do and dine in a faux-cabin in the woods. Entering this elegant, whimsical setting is like walking into an urban aspen grove. Reclaimed trees stretch from floor to ceiling, while log liquor shelves and twinkling lights invite you to stay awhile and become a part of the narrative (a winemaker’s daughter and a lumberjack fell in love, the story goes). The seasonal American menu of small plates is fun and fresh, and the kitchen prides itself on accommodating all dietary needs.
BTW: The bar serves up incredible, innovative cocktails — try the violet vodka concoction, a delicious mix of teas, blueberries and ginger.
Beatrice & Woodsley, 38 S. Broadway Denver, Colo. 80209
Tacos Tequila Whiskey
This is where you’ll find the best tacos in Denver. Full stop. The name changed a few years ago, but locals still lovingly call it by its old name, Pinche’s. Run, don’t walk, to devour the queso a la plancha griddled cotija taco. With buttery, rich avocado, roasted tomatillo salsa and a squeeze of lime, it’s the best $3.50 you’ll ever spend. Sip on a paloma in between bites.
BTW: The York Street location is a local favorite, and it’s popular for a reason. The short wait, if there is one, is worth it.
Tacos Tequila Whiskey, 1514 York St. Denver, Colo. 80206
Frozen Matter and Retrograde
An artisanal ice cream parlor with a hidden cocktail lounge? Indeed. A cow to cone micro-creamery, Frozen Matter is as delightful as dessert shops come. Enjoy your sweet treats and play Connect Four while you wait to be seen into Retrograde, an intimate lounge with retro sci-fi decor. Try the Wicker Man, a citrus-driven cocktail with honey lavender foam, or Braindead, a vodka-based crowd favorite. And just say yes to the bourbon-butter grilled cheese and tomato soup.
BTW: Frozen Matter’s vegan flavors are delicious and change often. Mention that you’re an adventurous taster to see what flavors are being tested — sometimes regulars get to be guinea pigs.
Frozen Matter, 530 E. 19th Ave. #1309 Denver, Colo. 80203
Step off the elevator door and into this Mediterranean-themed tapas restaurant that’s the latest from a well-known Denver restaurateur. Nestled high above LoHi, the restaurant has the panoramic views of the Denver skyline and sprawling highlands at sunset can’t be beat. Come hungry to share and devour the paella. Favorite smaller bites are the cauliflower yufka, matzo ball soup dumplings and goat cheese croquettes.
BTW: Making a reservation and taking advantage of the $5 valet parking are wise moves.
El Five, 2930 Umatilla St. 5th Floor. Denver, Colo. 80211