Denver may be famed for its brewery scene, but there is a culinary world beyond the brews. Part of that culinary world is centered in Cherry Creek, a walkable, upscale neighborhood southeast of downtown. Its lush accommodations and various restaurants serve as a restful spot for visitors to get acclimated to the altitude before heading into the mountains for skiing or summiting 14ers.
If you’re staying in Cherry Creek during your trip to Denver, you won’t even need a car to access some of the neighborhood’s best restaurants, bars and cafés. And with such a wealth of options to choose from, you’re guaranteed to eat well during your stay. These are some of the top spots in the neighborhood you have to try during your next visit.
Around the turn of the 20th century, Japanese immigrants arrived to Peru due to a variety of socioeconomic factors. Through the coming-together of these cultures came a new cuisine: Nikkei. Toro Latin Kitchen & Lounge, housed in the luxurious Hotel Clio, captures this cuisine beautifully while incorporating larger Latin American influences. Choose between the Amarillo or Peruvian ceviche to start, and if you’re still craving seafood, make sure you try the flambe salmon roll. I am literally still dreaming about the juicy, achiote-marinated Cusco half chicken, but the lomo saltado is a must-order if you prefer beef. It’s hard not to leave this place feeling absolutely stuffed, but if you’re staying at Hotel Clio, you’re luckily only an elevator ride away from your bed.
As someone who has lived on the East Coast for almost two years now, I have to admit that I was skeptical of the kind of oysters I would find in a city as land-locked as Denver. But I was blessedly not disappointed by the quality of the shellfish at Blue Island Oyster Bar. The restaurant works closely with Blue Island Shellfish Farms in Long Island, New York, to source super-fresh East Coast oysters, but they also offer some West Coast varieties as well. But even if you’re not an oyster person, they’ve still got you covered. I’m not usually a fried calamari girl, but the calamari here is fresh, spicy and anything but boring. The steamed mussels with yellow coconut curry are surprisingly filling but unsurprisingly briny and flavorful, and the togarashi fries with hot mustard might be some of the best fries I’ve ever had.
If you’re looking for something a little more relaxed, a little more laidback, you need to head to the neighborhood’s must-try burger spot: Cherry Cricket. The main draw here is the shocking number of toppings you can add to your burger. Stick with conventional options like pepper jack cheese and pickled jalapeños, or experiment with peanut butter, sauerkraut or even grape jelly. The grande burrito, fish tacos and nachos are solid options for diners looking for something on the slightly lighter side. Don’t forget to snag some of the crispy mac and cheese bites, and finish it all off with a strawberry milkshake with toasted coconut flakes.
Finishing off the night with a cocktail? You’ll want to head to Forget Me Not, a lush cocktail bar that also offers small plates, tinned fish and even caviar service. From easily sippable, unfussy cocktails like the La Pina to the more complex options like the Bikini Bottom, there is no shortage of fun and creative combos at this neighborhood hot spot. I also love the fact that this place offers large-format cocktails that you can easily share with friends. Additionally, Forget Me Not has gotten in on the zero-proof wave with three separate alcohol-free cocktails that are actually thoughtful, interesting and, most importantly, delicious. Plus, there’s beer and wine for the non-cocktail lovers out there.
Whether you desperately need some caffeine the morning after a night at Forget Me Not or you’re just looking for somewhere comfortable to relax between meals, you can’t go wrong with a trip to Aviano Coffee. The cozy but well-lit space is instantly welcoming and makes you want to hang out for a while after you’ve gotten your drink. If you’re hungry, it’s definitely worth it to snag a pastry—the croissants are delightfully light and fluffy without inundating you with overwhelming sweetness. But if you’re hungry and need some caffeine, you can’t turn down the affogato. You can try a range of other drinks and snacks while reading a book inside or enjoying the breezy patio.
Samantha Maxwell is a food writer and editor based in Boston. Follow her on Twitter at @samseating.