10 new eating places in Denver price testing that opened in 2020

Editor’s Note: Due to potential restaurant policy changes due to COVID-19 and the Delta variant, please check each restaurant website and the Colorado state guidelines at covid19.colorado.gov.

In 2020 the “big” restaurant opening was anything but. First impressions were nonexistent – or worse – for the food companies presented to the public during a year of closings, reduced seating and early final calls.

“It took us 18 months to open because as soon as we got our work permit, COVID arrived,” said Allan Torosyan, who runs the eight-month-old House of Bread & Pastries on South Parker Road with his family. “When we opened, we were allowed to dine at maximum capacity, and a few weeks later there was another mandate.”

The House of Bread finally opened in November 2020. Since then, Torosyan has said that he and his family were only trying to get the word out through their Armenian cafe and bakery. It’s a small establishment with an impressive selection including rare Armenian pastries, kabobs, and street food like the addicting ajarski.

The latter has its origins in Georgian cuisine, but was adopted in Armenia, where “we like to acknowledge credit because it’s so good,” Torosyan said with a laugh. It is a boat-shaped dish with a bread base and a baked feta filling, topped with two eggs that are too light and sometimes diced tomatoes for breaking and dipping.

Then there are desserts like the layered puff pastry and cream Napoleon: “On the weekends we put out two trays at the same time, and both hold about 20 (slices), and every 30 minutes to an hour we bring a fresh batch,” said Torosyan and confirmed the popularity of the cake.

In fact, finding pastries with an established fan base among restaurant newbies like House of Bread can be just as enjoyable months to a year after you start serving. With dining rooms open and restrictions (for now, at least) more relaxed than ever, it’s a good time to experience what these new food destinations have to offer.

So here are 10 restaurants that have promised so much since they opened at the height of a global pandemic that it’s worth revisiting now or finding your first time so many months later.

Rachel Woolf, Denver Post special

Julia Duncan-Roitman, left, and Andrew Templar, owner of Joy Hill, in their bar in Denver on March 12, 2021.

Joy Hill

This cozy rooftop bar and pizzeria has pretty much everything you could want in a nighttime South Broadway neighborhood. But thanks to the expertise of owners Andrew Templar and Julia Duncan-Roitman, it’s much more than that. The couple moved from Brooklyn to Duncan-Roitman’s hometown in Denver in hopes of opening an accessible bar with good design and quality dining options. They hired Roberta’s Anthony Falco to advise on the cakes, and now their pizza is a real stunner, making Joy Hill a destination for all of Denver.

1229 S. Broadway, joyhilldenver.com

Olivia restaurant

Co-owners Ty Leon, Heather Morrison and Austin Carson really make Olivia what it should be: an Italian neighborhood restaurant that invites you to sit down at a bar or a festive dinner. After opening in early 2020, the team had to make a big swing about a month later. But they took it calmly, offering takeaway packets and meeting offers to build camaraderie. Now they serve inventive cocktails and handmade pasta in an intimate Wash Park dining room, where this trio really shines: in service and hospitality.

290 S. Downing St., oliviadenver.com

Brasserie Brixton

From a French brasserie to a pizza-to-go counter and back, this corner restaurant in the Cole district is reinventing itself again and again during the pandemic. Fortunately for us, the restaurant is operating as usual and there is just so much to love here. 1. The setting is quirky and enchanting (see: French hip-hop game and stormtroopers on a mural). 2. Chef Nick Dalton’s compact menus are delicious, as are the wine lists. 3. The brasserie’s latest comeback offer is reason enough to stop by again: a weekend brunch filled with ricotta donuts, ham biscuits and French omelets.

3701 N. Williams St., Brasseriebrixton.com

Kelsie Bernes packs food for ...Kelsie Berens is packing take-away food for customers to pick up at Fox Run Cafe, 3550 East Colfax Ave., March 18, 2020. Fox Run owner Lucien Reichert opened the restaurant during the restaurant’s forced closure at the start of the pandemic.

Fox Run Cafe

First-time restaurant owner Lucien Riechert and his team opened Fox Run shortly after the restaurants closed in March 2020. And like others on this list, they were only able to sell their food to take away for months. Good thing cookie sandwiches and pastries for breakfast and fried chicken and burgers for lunch are some of the things we’ve craved the most in the past year and a half. But Café East Colfax, its eager young team, and its lemon ricotta pancakes are even sweeter in person.

3550 E. Colfax Ave., foxruncafe.com

Seoul Mandoo

King-size Wang Mandu are the house specialty at this Korean dumpling house in Aurora, which opened last spring and quietly sells these massive steamed buns or “giant dumplings” with meat, kimchi, shrimp or beef grill filling. You can also stop by for regular dumplings or dessert jjinppang (steamed buns filled with sweet red bean paste). But the big buns are the stars here, and a decent meal at $ 9 for a mix of three. (For reference, I could only eat one in a single session.)

2222 S. Havana St., seoulmandoo.com

Hyoung Chang, The Denver Post

People work at the Nest Cafe on the first floor of Nurture in the Highland. (Hyoung Chang, Denver Post)

Nest at Nurture

This beautiful Highland destination is less of a restaurant than an entire communal space with shops, spa services, exercise classes, and a café. Well worth exploring in its entirety, but the cafe is the center of attraction for our purposes. Nest serves a variety of drinks, snacks and plates throughout the day that are healthy and tasty in equal measure. The dining room is full of light and plants and is perfect for working on the laptop or for meetings. And even for health reasons, the place doesn’t take itself too seriously. Try the happy hour Wednesday through Friday for $ 5-7 USD of wine, beer, and cold-pressed juice cocktails.

2949 Federal Blvd., visitnurture.com

Bellota

Chef Manny Barella and bartender Max Alicea steal the show in this no-frills but super-refined Mexican cuisine that is replacing Acorn (“Bellota” is Spanish for acorn) at Source Market Hall. Barella brings dishes like esquites, costa de ribeye tacos, and pollo en mole negro to an art form. (He previously worked at Uchi and Frasca Food & Wine.) Meanwhile, Alicea is mixing wonders from his tequila and mezcal lists. Try the Oaxacan marigold with espadín mezcal, reposado tequila, cognac, walnut liqueur, and agave.

3350 Brighton Blvd., denverbellota.com

Gross / BOH

These two are cheats because they weren’t technically opened in 2020. But they changed so drastically in 2020 that we decided to include them here together. Late last year, Bruto had used a secret weapon in the Dairy Block in downtown Denver: the new chef Michael Diaz de Leon, who served multi-course fixed-price dinners four nights a week. For just a taste of Diaz de Leon’s Latin American cuisine, diners can try his tacos, tortas, and tostadas, which are served next door at the Back of House (BOH), which has mezcal drinks and patio seating.

1801 Blake St., brutodenver.com

Work Creative, provided by Temaki Den

A selection of hand rolls with seaweed, vinegar rice and raw fish is the focus of Temaki Den’s menu.

Temaki Den

A reader recently told us that her children’s favorite restaurant in Denver is Sushi Den. And we would like to take this opportunity to tell their children about their next favorite restaurant by the same owners: Temaki Den. When in RiNo, choose a menu that mainly includes hand rolls (temaki), as well as aburi or flame-fried sushi. Both are delicious. Temaki comes in a dozen or so varieties – including a handful of vegetarian buns – and is easy to fill up ($ 4.25-10), while Aburi nigiri are single bites (try Wagyu, lobster, or ootoro for $ 7 each Piece).

3350 Brighton Blvd., temakiden.com

House of Bread

Finally an Ajarski, Khachapuri, and Khinkali destination in Denver. And if you don’t already know you need these groceries, go to House of Bread right now and order one at a time. But all of the Armenian and Georgian dishes in this family-run bakery come from generations of home and street kitchens. So try everything: the strong coffee, the hearty specialties and a selection of desserts to take away, starting with mille feuille. (Note that there are Halal menu items and a full list of offers that are not in the online order display case.)

2020 S. Parker Road, houseofbreadinc.com

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