Amanda Faison eats out nearly every day of the week. As Food Editor of 5280 The Denver Magazine, she constantly explores restaurants and reports on Denver’s food scene. She recommends restaurants not only in her magazine (named for the number of feet in a mile), but also on the Mile-High City’s radio and TV programs where she is a frequent guest. The Colorado native has extremely good taste supported by her love of cooking and knowledge of food, and she shares her knowledge generously having written for such titles as Sunset, Food & Wine and Cooking Light.
Amanda is Denver’s undisputed, quintessential go-to-dining resource—which is why Sweet Leisure is so excited to learn her top five favorite places to eat in Denver.
WHERE TO EAT IN DENVER
By Amanda M. Faison
Coffee: Crema Coffee House
Ask just about any discerning (and local) java fan, and he or she will likely credit Crema with changing the face of coffee in Denver. Although the Mile High City has long had a plethora of coffee shops and hangouts to choose from, the espresso drinks were clumsy and the drip coffee did its job but nothing more. Instead of going for the product, you went for the place. And then Crema opened. Owner Noah Price made it his mission to brew and pour the best coffee available. He isn’t loyal to one roaster, instead he changes his espresso nearly every day—sometimes multiple times a day—to account for shifts in humidity and barometric pressure. Yes, it’s that kind of dedication that makes Crema a must-visit. Don’t miss pairing your coffee with the sweet potato waffle with candied walnuts. 2862 Larimer St., 720-284-9648, cremacoffeehouse.net
There’s something about brunch at Olivéa that makes me feel like I’m on vacation, even when I’m dining just a few blocks from home. The indoor space is either slammed or empty and in both scenarios I prefer the sun-bathed patio. A half dozen tables fit with handsome, moveable sun shades stretch along 17th Avenue. The thoroughfare isn’t so busy that it overtakes your meal or leaves you coughing in a fit on diesel fumes, instead it gives the restaurant a distinctly urban feel. The menu is the very definition of seasonal with vegetables, fruits, and preserves changing to reflect what’s available (sometimes from the restaurant’s own garden). I almost always order the eggs Olivéa with two sunny side-ups on soft polenta with sage, pine nuts, and a heavenly soffritto. No matter your choice, don’t pass up the basket of breakfast pastries. 719 E. 17th Ave., 303-861-5050 olivearestaurant.com
Sandwiches: Salumeria Cinque Soldi
In general, I find really good, thoughtful sandwiches difficult to come by, but not at Salumeria Cinque Soldi. This Italian-style, New York-ish deli serves primo meats (many of which are cured at Il Mondo Vecchio at couple miles away) and does the lunch staple justice. I’ve worked my way through the menu and my favorites remain the porchetta with braised greens and fried peppers and the tuna with olive oil and vinegar (read: no mayo). The sandwiches are beefy and easily shared, and they come with a bag of thick-cut chips (no wimpy Lay’s here). Don’t leave without ordering a cheese plate—with salumis, cheeses, and accoutrements—for later. 1284 S. Pearl St., 303-996-6400
Cocktails: Williams & Graham
Enter Williams & Graham at happy hour and you’ll find yourself inside a bookshop wondering where the cocktails are. Give your name to the clerk and (if you have reservations), you’ll be granted entrance to a speakeasy-style bar hidden behind a wooden panel. Order from the menu—the Reverend is especially noteworthy with 12-year Bourbon, Colorado peaches, mint, and honey—or ask the bartender to surprise you. For nibbles, don’t miss the bacon beignets with blackberry-sage reduction. 3160 Tejon St., 303-997-8886, williamsandgraham.com/
Southeast Asian cuisine and Denver probably seem like an unlikely pairing. Chef Lon Symensma spent months touring Southeast Asia in preparation for ChoLon’s opening. His research pays dividends in the form of soup dumplings (place an order the moment you sit down), kaya toast with coconut jam, and pork ribs with smoked tamarind barbecue sauce and green papaya salad. The flavors and textures are pure, exotic, and surprising. But as carefully crafted as Symensma’s food is, it’s still fun and lighthearted. The modern downtown space is equally thrilling. 1555 Blake St., Suite 101, 303-353-5223, cholon.com