As is tradition with Eater, our end of the year is a poll of friends, industry types and bloggers. This year we asked the group eight questions, spanning the gamut from restaurant stand-bys we’ve covered to the biggest restaurant complaints. All will be answered when we turn off the lights in late 2016. The answers are related to each other in no particular order; all are cut, pasted and (mostly) unedited here. Readers, please include your survey responses in the comments.
Q: What were the top restaurant newcomers of 2016?
Denise Mickelsen, food editor for 5280 magazine
I loved the Ohana Island Kitchen (new to their digs anyway), Avelina, Matsuhisa, Sushi Ronin, and Coperta.
Brittany Werges, editor-in-chief of 303 magazine
Though it technically opened in December 2015, it would be remiss if I didn’t mention Hop Alley. I spent the better half of 2016 learning about traditional Chinese cuisine from my significant other (who is Chinese and a great cook) so I was really curious how it would be fair. Luckily the food was awesome. They managed to keep traditional styles and flavors while introducing something new. Besides that, Coperta really impressed me. I think it was the first time I ate pasta in Denver that really reminded me of Rome. So simple, but absolutely exquisite – it tasted like magic on the plate.
Rebecca Gart, Colorado Homes & Lifestyles Food Editor
Boulder’s Arcana has a stylish, lounge-like dining room with an upscale menu and exquisite bread; Although I don’t like the name, I can’t stop praising Mister Tuna and his truly memorable cuisine; After years of longing for our own food hall, we finally have Denver Central Market in Denver with 11 local suppliers, including bread, meat, fish, produce, cheese and much more; Finally, Kevin Morrison’s new restaurant, Fish N Beer, is truly one of a kind, from its oak grill for seafood (OYSTERS!) I also heard applause for River and Woods, although I haven’t been.
Adam Larkey, Eater Denver photographer
Departure (and B&GC), Avelina, Mister Tuna, Matsuhisa
Andra Zeppelin, editor of Eater Denver
For me there is a tie for first place between Avelina and Departure. They are completely different and yet both stand out in themselves. Chef Broening’s commitment to simplicity and laser-sharp precision in balancing flavors, combined with Chef Yasmin Lozada-Hissom’s dessert program, makes Avelina a winner. The creativity and originality of the dishes at Departure as well as the first-class service and fun cocktail program made me go to Cherry Creek more often than I had imagined. There are two areas that have made great strides for Denver: sushi and bars. Matsuhisa, Sushi Ronin, and more recently Mizu Izakaya have raised the bar for our sushi scene. On the bar side, B&GC, Retrograde, The Way Back, and Hudson Hill are great additions to the cocktail scene.
Laura Shunk, Westword contributor
Avelina. Coperta would make this list for me just for his Cacio e Pepe. I think Hop Alley’s popularity says incredible things about what can happen in Denver restaurants and what eaters are willing to embrace. I love all of Denver Central Market, but I especially like Vero (those pizzas) and Culture (that ham stool sandwich).
Gigi Sukin, Eater Contributor, CoBiz Editor
Definitely Coperta, Torchy’s, Denver Central Market, Matsuhisa
Justin De La Rosa, Denver Post contributor
I feel like I’ll just name each restaurant that opened this year, but I’ll try to keep a short list. Coperta, Hop Alley (as it opened so late in 2015), Denver Central Market, Mister Tuna, Departure, The Way Back, and (the return of) Rosenberg’s.
Lori Midson, food editor for Denver Life Magazine
Despite a few glitches during my review meals, Avelina was hands down the best new restaurant for me this year. Great props to chefs John Broening and Yasmin Lozada-Hissom for decorating Denver (once again) with a beautifully designed restaurant that will nourish your soul and lift your spirits. It’s not a perfect restaurant, but it comes close enough to excellence that an evening here is one of the most enjoyable and enjoyable dining experiences in town. Honorable Mentions for the super fun Fish N Beer; Denver Central Market for its wide variety of restaurants; Sushi Ronin for its immaculately fresh fish and delicious coating; and The Way Back for its ambitious food and stunning cocktails.
Rachel Greiman, Eater Associate and Photographer
I loved everything I tried at Coperta and I will order their spicy chicken every time I go there. I also love all the marketplaces and the new spots that go in and out (rest in peace Poco Torteria). But the restaurant I’m obsessed with is Departure. The entire menu is absolutely superb and I think about it all the time.
Callie Sumlin, assistant food editor for 5280 magazine
The Denver Central Market is a nice addition to the dining scene. The market with 11 suppliers offers something for every taste and at any time of the day.
Grace Boyle, contributor to Eater Denver
Departure, Hop Alley and The Denver Central Market
Josh Dinar, Editor of DiningOut
I’m sticking to the underrepresented bouldering scene here. We loved Wild Standard with all of its changes and love where it ended up. The Rayback is the coolest and most overdue concept in years. And it feels a little dirty to promote yourself, but River and Woods, which Daniel Asher and I opened at old John’s House this fall, was definitely a regular destination for me, even for dinner at times.
Amanda Faison, freelance writer, former editor of 5280 Magazine
It’s not a restaurant in and of itself, but the Denver Central Market brings a much-needed facet to the Denver scene, and specifically to the RiNo. The space can be used in so many ways – meet for coffee, order ice cream, get pastries and bread, hang out at the bar, choose meat and fish, enjoy chocolate, eat a pizza, shop for groceries, rummage through cheese and cured meats, devour meatballs – Sandwiches – that it has quickly become indispensable.
Lauren Rapp, Westword Contributor
I think Sushi Ronin is a wonderful addition to LoHi and I’m really in love with DioM. Plus, it doesn’t really count as a restaurant, but I’m easily obsessed with the Denver Central Market.
Rebecca Treon, DiningOut editor
Avelina, Mister Tuna, Departure, Comal, 12 in Madison, Que Bueno Suerte and Coperta, but my favorite was Post Oak Hall.