Denver's ten best new restaurants of 2011
By our count, nearly 300 restaurants have opened in the metro area since January 1 -- a big increase over 2010, when just over 200 concepts (many of them food trucks) joined the scene. This past year, we saw many of those food-truck entrepreneurs also pick up leases to brick-and-mortar spaces, putting down roots after successfully test-driving their food.
Lori Midson The digs at Trillium, one of the best restaurants to open this year.
There were plenty of other new ventures, too, and many of those were second (or third) spots from seasoned restaurateurs, featuring creative menus in smart spaces. Big-name restaurateurs from other cities also came to Denver, and a few local chefs finally got their own places, as well. We talked to many of the restaurateurs who opened restaurants in 2011 for this week's Year in Review in Westword.
Their efforts paid off with a bumper crop of great places; our list of the best new restaurants in the metro area in 2011 could have included dozens of names. But instead, we whittled it down to ten. Here they are, in no particular order:
Tom Coohill was a celebrated chef in Atlanta, gaining accolades for the French fine-dining restaurants he established in that city in the '90s. When he decided to dive into the Denver scene, though, he scaled back, building a spot that's still French, but less focused on the white linen tablecloths and high check averages. The restaurant overlooks Cherry Creek and features a separate bar area that's decidedly more casual than the dining room.
From the moment it opened, crowds crammed through the doors of Linger, the kitschy morgue-themed restaurant that Justin Cucci put in the old Olinger mortuary. That's because with this restaurant, Cucci filled a niche that Denver didn't even know was empty. The sexy spot features a board of global street food, which is perfect for nibbling with offerings off the killer beverage list. And the bars -- indoor and rooftop -- feature sweeping views of the skyline.
Ryan Leinonen worked the burners in several restaurants in Boulder and Denver, and when he decided to strike out on his own, he drew knowledge from his experience and inspiration from a trip to Scandinavia. His new, sleek Ballpark spot serves dishes that feature cloudberry preserves, aquavit smoked salmon and plenty of seafood and dill. Trillium is also one of the few places in Denver that keeps caviar service on the nightly menu.