Denver’s Classic Restaurants
Tour by Doug Hrdlicka
Photos by Giles Clasen
Denver is quickly becoming the who’s who in culinary and the competition has sprouted some truly magnificent new local establishments. As proud as we are to see out city become a pillar of unique cuisine, we are equally sad to see the classics left in the wake of this revolution, as more and more Denver staples shutter their doors.
The survivors of a changing industry are peppered throughout some of Denver’s most notable boroughs. Take this tour and relish Denver’s Champions!
1. Bourbon Grill
571 E. Colfax Ave. | (303) 555-3821 | bourbongrilltogo.com
For years Bourbon Grill has been an iconic marker on Colfax and arguably the greatest place in the city to get BBQ chicken. Prior to 2017 Bourbon Grill was housed in an inauspicious small building with one window. Nevertheless, there was consistently a slurry of people awaiting their orders pouring down the sidewalk. Bourbon Grill has since moved to Colfax and Pearl, but the great flavors continue to attract the hordes of hungry BBQ lovers.
Directions: Bike (or stroll) three blocks down Pearl Street to E. 12th Avenue take a right, and it’s just another three blocks to this next historical landmark (and “a place for everybody”).
2. Charlie Brown’s
980 Grant St. | (303) 860-1655 | charliebrownsbarandgrill.com
If you are looking for a softer décor in a quieter part of Denver, Charlie Brown’s is the place to go. It is tucked away on the southeast corner of 10th and Grant behind the assorted trees that help shade its patio. On Fridays during the summer they roast a pig as part of their menu and serve each guest six complementary wings. But what particularly sets Charlie Brown’s apart is the iconic piano bar that is often standing room only. As the night pushes on, the voices get louder and it’s likely you’ll find your own among them.
Directions: Go north just over a mile on 11th Avenue and take a right onto Mariposa St. Follow Mariposa two blocks to 13th Avenue to find the next stop the next stop, which brings a change in pace.
3. Domo Japanese Country Food Restaurant
1365 Osage St. | (303) 595-3666 | domorestaurant.com
On the corner of Colfax and Osage stands Domo, a traditional Japanese ramen restaurant that has brought a different perspective to Denver’s typically Western cuisine for decades. It is more than just a restaurant, though. Decorating the walls is Japanese memorabilia serving as an homage to the culture, which lends itself quite nicely to the traditional Japanese garden, heavy wood tables, and stone walkways. Domo’s unremarkable exterior would never indicate that behind it thrives a rich atmosphere steeped in a master craftsman’s ability to deliver extraordinary food.
Directions: Simply go four blocks south on Osage to complete the quick trip to find Domo’s counterpart and next stop.
4. Buckhorn Exchange
1000 Osage St. | (303) 534-9505 | buckhorn.com
Buckhorn Exchange is noted as Denver’s oldest restaurant, still with the rafters and banisters that date back to before World War I. The walls are caked with taxidermy wildlife — some of which were trophies of Teddy Roosevelt — and more than a century’s worth of photos of famous guest diners. The restaurant has also preserved a significant amount of Native American history. The menu is filled with finely prepared meats and even features a Colorado specialty: Rocky Mountain Oysters. The Lincoln Park neighborhood is filled with Denver history and the Buckhorn exchange is just a start.
Directions: Go a mile east on 11th Avenue until Sherman Street and take a right. About five blocks south, nestled on the cozy corner of 7th and Sherman, you will find the next stop.
650 Sherman St. | (303) 595-0418 | racinesrestaurant.com
A decade long time-lapse would show the rise and fall of many places in this block of Denver, but Racines would remain through it all. During the spring and summer months you’ll want to snag a spot on the patio, where it’s private enough to feel warm and comfortable but open enough to see Denver’s green belt and all the joys of our unique city. The menu features some of the best all-American prepared with a precise and crafty hand, a level of quality that has let this staple survive the many iterations of its neighborhood.
Directions: Get onto Grant St. and head about two miles south, until you hit Ohio. Go West on Ohio just two blocks until South Broadway and Mississippi. Just a block left you will find the tour’s final stop.
6. The Breakfast King
1100 S. Santa Fe Dr. | (303) 323-4806 | facebook.com/The-Breakfast-King
The end of the line for our tour is also the end of the line for most people’s nights. When 2 a.m. rings, The Breakfast King answers. Its yellow sign and décor are hard to miss on the corner of Mississippi and Santa Fe and it hasn’t left that spot since breakfast was first discovered. The Breakfast King is one of the last surviving diners in Denver, serving the standard bottomless coffee and foods like country fried steak and pancakes. Eating here is one of that last parts in becoming a true local.