Escape the ocean with these 7 Denver Seafood Spots

There are only so many ways to relax in the blazing heat of the summer sun. An apartment pool or Cherry Creek Reservoir turns Denver from being a complete desert, but those who crave the scent of the ocean breeze will sadly miss it at Mile High. Fortunately, even without the sight of the blue mosaic in the ocean or the touch of toasted sand, the Denver chefs provide the taste and smell to keep guests on the beach for at least a while. The variety will bring your palette to any vacation that comes to mind, from docks in the upper northwest to the island of Japan. For those who crave the ocean, we’ve rounded up some of the best local seafood spots to help relieve the itchiness.

Oyster Wulff

Peeled perfectly intact oyster from Ben Wolven. Photo courtesy of Ben Wolven.

Where: Don’t forget me 227 Clayton St, Denver

The low point: Ben Wolven is a beast when it comes to bringing a new breed of gold nugget to Denver. Having been a Maine man since he was born, his connections with oyster farmers means he can go straight to them when importing these little gems into town. His little booth at Forget Me Not is likely as humble as an oyster itself. Wolven’s intent is to endorse the cocktail, but unaware that he could likely steal the show. Each oyster belly is perfectly intact, as if the top shell never existed. A lemon wedge, glittering mignonette sauce, and freshly shaved horseradish threads are the only acceptable accessories for the oyster army. His following continues to grow, although only one dish appears in his repertoire. With a constantly new batch of oysters, however, guests are spoiled with a new tasting menu every time. But when the lobster cronch wrap returns, get everyone out of the way. Wolven embodies what it means to be an oyster lover as he improved the Denver food scene after peeling here.

READ: A new pop-up is bringing fresh oysters straight to Denver from Maine

Manzo lobster and oyster bar

A duo of their signature steamers. (Left) mussels and (right) small neck mussels.

Where: 500 E 19th Avenue, Denver

The low point: Instead of a flashy stove in an exposed kitchen, Manzo has a marble counter that displays all catches on ice. Guests can expect to make eye contact with at least one fish during dinner or happy hour. It confirms the freshness of the range offered daily – Manzo changes its selection at the same time every day. Owner Rich Manzo designed this spot to bring the essence of every coast to the Colorado Midlands. The raw provisions embody the west coast with dishes like Ahi Tuna Poke ($ 15) and Scallop Crudo ($ 14). The cracking of clams and clams popping in large metal pots is an east coast harmony. So Manzo turns up four clam pot preparations ($ 16) – one red curry, creamy bacon, white wine, a tomato base, and one with lobster bisque inspiration. There’s a clear love of seafood, so much so that the lobsters live in tanks modeled on the ocean. If the sea could be brought to Denver, it would be Manzo to make it a reality.

READ: Manzo Lobster & Oyster Bar is Denver’s best new source of seafood

Fish N beer

Scottish salmon paired with crunchy gnocchi, kale, mushrooms and in a light butter bath. Photo by Haley Paez.

Where: 3510 Larimer St, Denver

The low point: The front end of Larimer Street in RiNo is filled with the constant turmoil of restaurants, bars and exuberant artwork. The treasures don’t end, however, as it begins to calm down at the end of the road. Instead, the hidden treasures are waiting to be explored here. Fish N Beer is a quaint, nautical-themed spot that has the shimmer of a white boat on the water. The menu sets sail for all parts of the ocean with a Mexican-inspired shrimp cocktail that steps the waters of a tomato-based ceviche. His version of guacamole and chips resembles a poke bowl with peppery tuna cubes – which are seared nicely on the outside but remain a little raw in the middle – over an avocado smear. As all poke bowls must have, a dash of spicy mayo provides a creamy kick. When it comes to notable seafood favorites – for example, the giant lobster mac and cheese that has a split lobster that practically weighs a sticky bowl of mac – Fish N Beer attracts new customers with exotic dishes like puffer tails and full of squid Spices from Chili de Arbol. The name may be simple, but the attention to detail with new menu items and careful sourcing add to the complexity of any dish.

READ: Fish N Beer – The Freshest Catch That Arrives In RiNo

From the ocean

Calamari with a cornmeal crust paired with a spicy aioli instead of tartar sauce and on a selection of fresh vegetables. Photo by Haley Paez.

Where: Inside Avanti Food Hall, 3200 N Pecos St, Denver

The low point: The indecision that lives at Avanti is already numerous with a wide variety of food styles tempting guests. Del Mar is one of the latest additions to complete the crew, and its vision comes to life as the oceanic version of the vision of the farm-to-table area that Del Mars’ sister restaurant – Rooted in Avanti Boulder – has. Reading off the menu, the dishes all sound manageable, but that’s even more fun when the presentation or taste comes as a surprise. Fried calamari is an Italian staple, crispy delicacy, and a close friend of marinara, if not at Del Mar. You trade the ring and tentacles for flying squid from Japan. Each piece is long and slim with an even layer of cornmeal hidden inside the pearly white interior. The texture and taste are more like a scallop shell. The Oyster Po’boy looks more like a lobster bun with the split-top bun with golden toast. Inside, it’s paired with all of the BLT essentials and a glaze of yum-yum sauce instead of mayo.

READ: Del Mar serves slow food seafood at Avanti

Sushi Den

Nigiri with fish flown in directly from Japan. Photo by Glenn Ross.

Where: 1487 South Pearl Street, Denver

The low point: Talking about fish in Mile High City and forgetting to include Sushi Den would be criminal. As one of the most famous restaurants in Denver, Sushi Den has been a hot spot for fresh fish for almost 40 years. While chef and owner Toshi is in Denver, his younger brother Koichi ventures into Japan’s largest fish market – Nagahama – to find Sushi Den’s selection for the next day. It’s like going to a farmers market where the artisans sell their best supplies to hopeful buyers. Wholesale takes between 48 and 72 hours, but Sushi Den’s fresh fish inventory is delivered directly within 24 hours. The menu is based on what Koichi finds in the market and how Toshi best presents it. Toshi shows his versatility best with Omakase, where the guests place their orders in the hands of the chef. Each dish is chosen by the chefs, and diners often feel relieved knowing they wouldn’t have been smart enough to order this fountain themselves. With Sushi Den, Denver never has to worry about a seafood drought.

READ: Sushi Den’s RiNo outpost arrives at the source and delivers the expected brilliance

Maine hut

The lobsterado has an additional full lobster tail on its already packed roll. Photo by Haley Paez.

Where: 1535 Central St, Denver

The low point: Some of New England’s best food comes from the little huts at the end of the dock. Though Maine Shack has to forego calm ocean views for the congested freeway, it manages to preserve the integrity of what is in these east coast restaurants with what is served inside. With Maine in the name, the main course had to be lobster. Despite its battle-scarred lines, Maine Shack serves Connecticut and Maine-style lobster rolls. Many Maine Rolls toss pieces of lobster into a light mayo, but to incorporate as much of the Maine as possible, the Maine Shack adds a dash of seawater for that extra bit of saltiness. While these two roles are sufficient for most, they don’t hesitate to step up either. If you roast the butter a little longer in the pan, nutty brown butter drips over it. The unusual roll nestles against lemon herb mayo lobster in a bib salad with the crispness of celery and cucumber. Lobster lovers will be delighted with the ultimate bun – that Lobster ($ 43) – that has a full lobster tail lying on an already filled brown butter bun. For a break from the lobster, the salty fried whole-bellied mussels are a different take on traditional steamers.

READ: Lobster Roll Tour De Force Maine Shack Opens in LoHi

Stoic and real

Ice city with enough seafood for a king. Photo courtesy of Stoic and Genuine.

Where: 1701 Wynkoop St, Denver

The low point: Jennifer Jasinski developed the Denver food scene with the Mediterranean-inspired restaurant on Larimer Square – Rioja – and the sophisticated tapas bar – Ulteria – whose shine makes you feel like it’s time for a midnight snack at any time of the day. Jansinski is also known beyond Mile High City for demonstrating her skills to attract top chef and to be recognized with a James Beard Southwest nomination. Her ability to select ingredients and formulate a concept has not gone unnoticed in the local scene. From there, her next step was to bridge a direct connection to the sea on both coasts. A single layer of oysters over ice is a common order, a fancy order could be a tower of shrimp, lobster, and crab. But the one that towers above the rest includes both snow and king crab legs hanging over the edge, a whole lobster looking at you, oysters, and their sashimi and caviar note to fully embrace the ocean. The menu changes with the seasons, so the set includes a scallop and corn for the summer. The sweetness of the corn puree offsets the slight saltyness of the scallop. The charred corn succotash, however, brings the necessary grilling element to enhance the taste of summer. Instead of a BBQ roast pork, the seafood-filled summers include whole fish. The haddock has a crispy skin that can be crunched like a bag of potato chips. Breaking that through, the effortlessly flaky white meat stays in flavor. The roar of the ocean can be heard after the first bite. Maybe it’s real, or maybe the Union Station fountain is inches away.

READ: First Bite – Stoic and Real to Open in Union Station

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