If you’re still making room for restaurants this month, we’re still compiling the ones that we’ve tested and approved. That means COVID-safe (when we visited), with friendly service and quality food. This month, we’re enjoying non-alcoholic cocktails and pescatarian menus, comforting pasta dishes in the mountains, churrasco grilled meats to-go, Mongolian-style dumplings and pretzels and beer, of course. Read on for five new spots to venture out and support.
Del Mar by Rooted
A healthy alternative for the start of the year, Del Mar offers vegan dishes, a number of seafood preparations — from raw to roasted, grilled and fried — and non-alcoholic mixed drinks to go with them. The whole setup is slightly different from your typical food hall stall (find it on the first level of Avanti F&B in Highland). Those looking for a light lunch should go for the farmers market meal (MP) or the tuna poke bowl with pineapple mango salsa ($14). Heartier fare includes a grilled Colorado trout with root vegetables ($18) and fried Alaskan cod tacos with pineapple cilantro rice ($15). Don’t miss the drinks, which are surprisingly intricate and refreshing. See: yuzu juice with pickled Fresno chiles, rice wine vinegar and Mediterranean tonic ($6).
3200 Pecos St., 720-269-4778, avantifandb.com/restaurants/del-mar-by-rooted/
A coffee and pretzel tavern in a converted mid-century building tucked away in Lakewood? Yes, please. The food menu is no-nonsense: Bavarian pretzels, pretzel bagels and pretzel-wrapped cheddar brats ($2.75-$6), plus regular and pecan sticky buns for $4-$4.75. Add on a cocoa, coffee or beer to drink ($2.50-$4.50), and you’ll be transported any time of day. Owner Brock Coffman has been making soft pretzels for years, using the old Bavarian technique that involves dipping the pretzel in a food-grade lye and water solution (and then baking it off) for that perfectly browned external shell. Come spring or summer, he’ll open an adjacent beer garden so you can enjoy a pretzel and a pint in the sunshine.
6340 W. Mississippi Ave., Lakewood, 303-935-8935, brockmeyers.business.site
Longtime Denver chef Matt Vawter (of Fruition and then Mercantile Dining & Provision) this year left the city for his hometown in the mountains. And just this season he’s opened his first restaurant, Rootstalk, inside a lovely cottage on Main Street in Breckenridge. Vawter’s experience shines on a menu of handmade pastas — mafaldine with beef cheek ($19) or agnolotti with parsnip, ricotta, hazelnut and squash ($17) — and large plates of diver scallops ($34) or bavette steaks ($39). Reserve assured that inside the warm dining room, the team is following COVID rules to a T. But you can also go for après ski with cocktails and snacks and heated seating outdoors.
207 N. Main St., Breckenridge, 970-453-9124, rootstalkbreck.com
This food hall success has moved out on its own and into the Hilltop neighborhood on a delicious corner that is already home to Park Burger and High Point Creamery. Chef Don Gragg is a Denver native with quite the resumé: He got his start at beloved local spots Barolo Grill and Mel’s. Then he went on to work at California’s Chez Panisse and New York’s Gramercy Tavern. You wouldn’t know any of that by The Rotary’s family-friendly and neighborhood-focused setup, though. Gragg and partners Brian and Scott Boyd always create a welcoming atmosphere. Then the food is where you’ll taste that fine-dining difference and Gragg’s more recent experience cooking Brazilian-style churrasco over open flame. Order a plate of his rotisserie chicken thighs and slow-roast pork shoulder, some chimichurri to drizzle on top, and sides like blistered green beans and smashed potatoes ($14).
217 S. Holly St., 303-537-5327, therotaryeats.com
Larimer Square’s Euclid Hall closed at the very start of the pandemic, but a new restaurant has taken over that space with a very different concept. Bao Brewhouse serves up a variety of Asian fusion dishes with different offerings planned for each floor of the multi-level concept. The first floor, splashed with graffiti and neon signs, is designed to be the “brewpub” portion, serving up Colorado riffs on Chinese street food and offering easy take-out. This is the only floor that was open during our visit (We should know more about plans for the sprawling second floor in coming weeks), but it offers plenty to explore. Try the Colorado Lamb Bansh ($13), Mongolian-style lamb dumplings, or the indulgent and perhaps somewhat plagiarized In-N-Bâout ($10), a bao bun stuffed with an “Animal-style classic cheeseburger.” Bao isn’t brewing its own beer just yet, but there’s a solid canned beer list and cocktails. — Beth Rankin
1317 14th St., 720-949-1345, baobrewhouse.com
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