Eat like a local: Denver’s 8 favorite neighborhood restaurants

A close up of a dish called elk tartare.
Spuntino's Northern Italian dishes and warm service make it an especially inviting gem. | Credit: Spuntino

Denver’s best neighborhood restaurants are like close friends: they’re beloved by families, visited frequently, and dependability is practically their middle name.

A family-owned spot in Wheat Ridge has served a stellar, all-day Mexican breakfast since 1992. In LoHi, Denver’s longest-running Japanese restaurant draws regulars for traditional shabu shabu (hot pot). A Highland duo breathed new life into a popular North Italian place when they took over in 2014, infusing Indian flavors into tartare and gnocchi.

These restaurants won’t just score you some of the best food in the Mile High City, they’ll also deliver distinct experiences not attainable anywhere else in town. Read on for a guide of 9 neighborhood restaurants in Denver, long adored by locals.

Spuntino (Highland)

Antipasti at Spuntino. | Credit: Spuntino

When Elliot Strathmann and Cindhura Reddy opened their Northern Italian restaurant in 2014, they took over the original Spuntino and made it their own. Reddy handles the kitchen, and Strathmann runs the bar program. Thanks to this dynamic duo and their team’s commitment to attentive service, local food, and unique menu items, the spot is now both a neighborhood staple and a destination. After experimenting with a few Indian food pop-ups, chef Reddy has slowly incorporated some of her Indian roots into the Italian dishes. The results are elk tartare spiced with ginger and masala and gnocchi in an Indian-spice tomato sauce. Whether you’re sidled up to the long bar or tucked away at a cozy table, Spuntino is an inventive but easygoing spot.

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Cattivella (Central Park)

When Central Park locals want to gather for pizza, a glass of wine, and wood-fired entrees, they book a table at chef Elise Wiggins’ Cattiavella. They’re drawn to its easygoing vibes and elevated service, which they can experience at the 26-seat chef’s counter or the 70-seat dining room; in the warmer months, there’s also an expansive patio. There is no bad seat in the house, though regulars know to score a spot overlooking the pasta station, in the butcher’s corner where the meat magic happens, or on the wrap-around patio, which offers some of the neighborhood’s most striking mountain views.

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El Paraiso Mexican Restaurant (Wheat Ridge)

The fun and funky Mexican joint has been around since 1992 under the careful hands of the Ochoa family. It’s a neighborhood spot beloved by locals and visitors, whether they are on the hunt for a bright and colorful place to have a meal or craving a sumptuous plate of carne asada gorditas and a giant margarita. The menu is huge, with sizzling molcajete options (served in a traditional basalt rock mortar) such as seafood ceviche. Mexican breakfast favorites are served all day. For nights when a feast is in order, there are four-person party platters featuring grilled meats, fried calamari, crab legs, and more.

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Le French DTC Belleview Station (Greenwood Village)

Beef bourguignon at Le French. | Credit: Le French

Two Senegalese sisters opened this French Senegalese restaurant south of Denver in 2019. Since then, neighbors keep coming for brunch, lunch, and dinner. Owners Aminata and Rougui Dia once lived in France, and they deliver a charming, Parisian-inspired café. Residents can stop by for a coffee and a pastry in the morning, a Senegalese fried chicken sandwich for lunch, and steak frites and wine at night. Le French is a versatile, all-day hangout with just the right dose of transportive flair.

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The Blue Bonnet Restaurant (South Denver)

Arlene and Philip Mobell bought Blue Bonnet in 1968. Today, the casual Mexican joint is run by the couple’s children, Gary Mobell and Marci Rosenberg. While updates have been made, the restaurant hasn’t changed much, especially when it comes to the Southwestern Mexican menu—and that’s exactly how locals like it. Sit back in one of the roomy booths or outside on the covered patio and sip a refreshing margarita on the rocks, fill up on chips and salsa, and dig into a large platter of tamales, chile rellenos, enchiladas, or tacos. Service is quick and you won’t wait long for the food, but to avoid waiting for a table on weekends, be sure to make a reservation.

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Kobe An (LoHi)

Kobe An is all about shabu shabu, a Japanese-style hot pot involving “swishing” the meat in hot broth. Diners choose from miso or homemade dashi as the broth base, then add spices and oils to the pot. Throw in vegetables, noodles, and tofu, and enjoy the beef with a side of rice. The DIY hotpots are unique, but so is Kobe An’s history. This spot has served traditional Japanese food since 1979 and remains one of the oldest spots of its kind in Denver. It was opened by Kimie Loeffler (who hails from Kobe, Japan) and draws a crowd of both regulars and new diners.

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Q House (Congress Park)

Chef Christopher Lin has been immersed in Chinese American food since he was a child, thanks to his immigrant parents and their New Hampshire restaurant. Lucky for Denver, Lin brought his skills to Congress Park in 2018, creating shareable platters such as wok-fried cheung fun (steamed rice noodle rolls), bang bang chicken salad, twice-cooked pork belly, and more. Dishes may sound familiar to any Chinese food lover, though each one tends to have surprising twists. For example, the lo mein has confit duck leg and the barbecued spare ribs are spiced with peanuts. Q House’s setting is modern with thick wood tables, padded chairs, and a row of stools along a wall of windows. There’s also outside seating and a full bar where regulars sip yuzu highballs and glasses of dry Riesling.

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Bon Ami (Washington Park)

There aren’t too many French restaurants in Denver, let alone quaint bistros that channel Parisian streetside retreats. Bon Ami (a sibling to La Merise in Cherry Creek) has served raw oysters, imported French cheeses, escargot, and steak au poivre since 2018. But the Washington Park gem is especially known for its crêpes, served in more than a dozen inventive versions such as prosciutto and brie, lox, and cordon bleu, giving diners plenty of excuses to return. Daily brunch features even more crepe varieties, in addition to classic French toast and omelets.

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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.

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