The historic Larimer Square in downtown Denver is home to amazing culinary delights. Rioja, a Mediterranean-inspired restaurant, is led by James Beard Foundation Best Chef Southwest winner Jennifer Jasinski.
“We also love the Fresh Bacon appetizer. We like it so much that we bought her cookbook and now make it at home,” recounts a raving diner. After you have devoured the gorgeous pork belly, move on to the Rohan Duck Breast served with an applewood smoked orange sauce and five-spice red wine reduction. Oh my.
If you are visiting downtown on the weekend and in need of an amazing brunch, go for the Hangover Cure that pairs the braised pork belly with fingerling potatoes, scrambled eggs, cipollini onions, mushrooms, avocado, and a wonderful green sauce. Add a Tequila Spritz for a little hair-of-the-dog to get your day off to a fabulous start.
Pro Tip: For a wonderful vegetarian option, try the house-made pasta; it is delicious.
2. Recess Beer Garden
Visiting Denver’s hip Lower Highlands, or LoHi, district, you will find fun, quirky little boutiques and restaurants. While you are out exploring, stop by Recess Beer Garden.
Recess Beer Garden offers a wide selection of Colorado Drafts, including the classics like Coors Original and fun brews like the Telluride Brewing Company’s Face Down Brown Ale. Grab a pint, some great pub grub like the Recess Cuban with house-smoked mojo pork pressed with swiss cheese, pickles, beer mustard, and garlic aioli on Ciabatta. On a sunny afternoon, it is a perfect spot for a little day drinking.
Saturday and Sunday brunch is a great way to kick off a weekend and start the day with a chillin’ vibe and sunshine. Tuck into Recess’ House Smoked Salmon joined by scrambled eggs, pickled onions, and cream cheese on a bagel. It will start your day off on the right foot. Pair that with a Breakfast Shot — Jameson, orange juice, butterscotch, and bacon. Yes, please!
Pro Tip: This is the spot to sample lots of great Denver craft brews.
3. The Happy Camper
Pizza is always a good idea, and Happy Camper has some of the best mile-high offerings. The outdoor picnic table seating evokes a fun and camping-casual atmosphere. There are lots of great items on the menu, and they have a great list of pizza options. Combinations like the Peter with pepperoni, blackened chicken, bacon, onions, cheddar cheese, and bbq sauce will open your eyes to a new pizza sensation. They have a good selection of veggie pizzas, too, like the Lance, which has artichoke hearts, olives, spinach, sun-dried tomatoes, roasted garlic, and feta cheese. Eating Happy Camper pizzas without a fork can be a challenge with all the goodies loaded on top. Yum!
Pro Tip: Reservations are encouraged — don’t wait until the last minute, you could be out of luck.