12 special-occasion worthy restaurants in Denver

Brass and leather accents add a ship-like feel to the dining room at Water Grill. | Credit: Water Grill - Denver

Supersized fajita platters, dainty high tea spreads, and spectacular sushi—there’s so much special-occasion food to salivate over in Denver. Despite its famous mountain backdrop, the city’s celebration restaurants are anything but rugged.

Whether you’re marking a game-changing promotion or the next phase of a relationship, these places are fluent in all things festive. Read on for a guide to 12 celebration-worthy spots to book in Denver right now.

Water Grill – Denver (Downtown)

Wild Alaskan halibut with fire-roasted yellow corn at Water Grill - Denver.

The seafood options like this wild Alaskan halibut are flown in fresh daily at Water Grill – Denver. | Credit: Water Grill – Denver

Ring in just about any milestone at this brassy California transplant. A meal inside Water Grill’s leather-clad, ship-like dining room is as special as it gets. The seafood options—flown in fresh daily—are endless, but nothing says celebration quite like the restaurant’s shellfish platters, stacked with hard-shell lobsters from live tanks. Water Grill gets brownie points for sustainable sourcing—the massive oyster selection (a live bar stocks 16 to 20 different kinds) is harvested in a way that restores reefs.

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El Five (LoHi)

This sceney Gibraltar-inspired restaurant opened in 2017 but still draws Denverites for its IG-worthy skyline and mountain views (come at sunset). Not to mention its gorgeous Mediterranean dishes. The tapas-style food is best for groups, so bring a hungry crew to celebrate over hits like harissa eggplant fries, Lebanese garlic dip, and four kinds of paella, including an excellent vegetarian version. Mid-century Egyptian movie posters dial up the glam factor, and there are even a couple of pretty patios in case your party moves outside. 

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Afternoon Tea at the Brown Palace (Downtown)

One of Denver’s most historic hotels is also a special-occasions superstar. The ultra-luxe Brown Palace Hotel has poured afternoon tea since 1892, which explains its old-fashioned energy. Celebrations here mean gazing at a stained-glass ceiling, listening to a grand piano, and snacking on scones, Devonshire cream, and a properly brewed pot of tea (add a glass of bubbles to take things up a notch). If you’re eyeing the Brown Palace for holidays like Mother’s Day, plan well in advance, because its iconic atrium is a very sought-after celebration spot.

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Beckon (Five Points)

Meet Denver’s first chef’s counter-only restaurant. Chef Duncan Holmes masterminds one of the most out-there tasting menus in town, influenced by the seasons and his whims. A celebration dinner at this MICHELIN-starred bungalow spot could feature seared pork belly with rutabaga and apple or snapper with shiso. A meal here is playful and breathtaking, just like an epic night out should be. But it’s the details, like blankets for outdoor diners and gift bags for taking home, that set this contemporary American spot apart. Beckon can only seat 18 inside its intimate dining room, so plan accordingly.

Fruition Restaurant (Cherry Creek)

Alex Seidel’s tiny but mighty New American restaurant can turn a midweek dinner into a full-on celebration feast. The acclaimed chef is known for beautiful farm-to-table dishes like roasted half-chicken with heirloom tomato panzanella salad. But if you’re craving adventure, get the Kitchen’s Choice menu, made up of five mystery courses. Add a thoughtful wine list—one of the most food-friendly selections in Denver—and you’ve got a winning formula for a low-key night out. 

Spuntino (Highland)

A striped black-and-white awning tops the red-brick exterior at Spuntino in Denver.

Spuntino is a rustic Italian restaurant with global influences, ideal for romantic dates. | Credit: Spuntino

Spuntino is one of Denver’s favorite date-night spots. For starters, it’s run by a sweet wife-and-husband team, Cindhura Reddy and Elliot Strathmann. Rustic wood and copper interiors make it just as great for an early-in-the-game date as an extra-special anniversary. Linger over outstanding Indian-accented Italian plates (a shout-out to Reddy’s heritage) like masala-braised Colorado lamb shank. Then stretch your night by hanging out at the bar for a crash course on amaro, Strathmann’s other great love. 

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Mimosas (Five Points)

There’s no reason brunch can’t be a special occasion-meal, especially when mimosas are involved. This roomy comfort food staple can do it all, from New Orleans-style beignets to a knockout avocado Benedict. But back to the mimosas: Choose from over 10 kinds including the OG, or get creative with watermelon and pink bubbles. If you’re not into the sweet stuff, Mimosas—despite its name—also serves a legendary bloody mary loaded with extras like bacon, shrimp, and Andouille sausage.

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Matsuhisa Denver (Cherry Creek)

A meal curated by world-renowned chef Nobu Matsuhisa is reason enough to celebrate, well, anything. You’ll find lots of his Japanese-accented standbys at this sprawling Cherry Creek sushi bar (Matsuhisa’s Denver debut) including uni shooters and miso-glazed cod. Stunning design touches are salutes to Matsuhisa’s home country and Colorado—look out for the Japanese hemp leaf-inspired wooden screen and a sloped ceiling that channels the Rockies, for example. Let the super-attentive staff know what you’re here for and they’ll add celebratory messages to your dessert. 

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Tamayo Restaurant (LoDo)

An array of modern Mexican dishes including chicken tinga enchiladas, guacamole, and colorful cocktails at Tamayo Restaurant in Denver

Chef Richard Sandoval’s modern Mexican restaurant Tamayo Restaurant remixes traditions. | Credit: Tamayo

A buzzy rooftop deck gives Richard Sandoval’s modern Mexican spot its party cred. But so does the prolific tequila collection—over 100 kinds—and group-friendly fajita platters. Book one of the larger indoor tables by the floor-to-ceiling windows for your supersized Mexico City-inspired spread, which could include beer-marinated skirt steak or guajillo aji shrimp. For a celebratory happy hour, get comfy at the al fresco bar, grab a fresh fruit margarita, and gaze out over the Rocky Mountains.

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Barolo Grill (Cherry Creek)

The festive vibes run deep at this old-school Italian charmer, and little has changed since it opened in 1992. It could be the crisp white tablecloths, massive wine cellar, or luxe add-ons like shaved black truffles, but the Cherry Creek fixture is firmly a special occasion go-to. Each seasonal Northern Italian dish comes with a wine pairing suggestion, making toasts especially easy. And no celebration here is complete without the lavender honey-drizzled cheesecake. 

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Guard & Grace (LoDo)

If your occasion calls for pitch-perfect steaks, head to Guard & Grace. The downtown institution is high-roller central and loved for its steak tasting plate (one four-ounce filet each of prime, wagyu, and grass-fed steak), plus signatures like French onion soup and duck-fat fries. Weekday lunch service draws the business lunch crowd, but a private dining room promises the airy steakhouse is just as equipped to host a rehearsal dinner or birthday party. 

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ChoLon Modern Asian (Downtown)

Buckle in for a Southeast Asian-style celebration when you book one of ChoLon’s plush banquettes. Chef/owner Lon Symensma (whose resume includes a stint as executive chef at Buddakan in New York City) was inspired by his travels and designed a shareable menu with cross-cultural hybrids like French onion soup dumplings, octopus cornbread fritters, and more. If you’re drinking, don’t skip the craft cocktails featuring cameos from Asian ingredients like makrut lime and shiso.

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Freelance journalist Linnea Covington lives and eats in Denver, the best place for green chili and epic hikes with fantastic sandwiches.

Tried them all? Check out other options here.