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14 Restaurants That Have Stood the Test of Time

Staying relevant in the tough restaurant business for decades and more

As Denver and Boulder’s food scenes continue to explode, we spend most of our time talking about what’s new, what’s hot, and what’s trendy. As hard as it is to open a successful restaurant, it’s even harder to keep it successful and relevant over the long haul—most restaurants don’t live to see their fifth birthday. We wanted to take some time out from our coverage of all that is new and hot in our crazy, exciting restaurant scene to pay homage to 14 restaurants that have been serving our community for 15 years or longer.



Buckhorn Exchange

Buckhorn Exchange: part museum of sorts, part restaurant

The Buckhorn Exchange {1000 Osage Street, Denver; 303.534.9505}
Part museum, part steakhouse, The Buckhorn Exchange has been around for over 120 years and is the proud owner of Colorado’s first liquor license—it’s also reportedly haunted (no surprise there). Locals and tourists can get a taste of old Colorado while sitting at red-checkered tablecloths surrounded by stuffed elk heads and Wild West memorabilia. The menu items match the taxidermy on the walls: elk, boar, bison, steak, and, of course, Rocky Mountain Oysters.


Cherry Cricket

A burger done right at Cherry Cricket

The Cherry Cricket {2641 East Second Avenue, Denver; 303.322.7666}
When the Cherry Cricket started slinging burgers back in 1951, Cherry Creek North was not the home of fashionable boutiques and high-end restaurants it is today; if was, in fact a sanitary landfill (aka a dump). Now, 70 years later, they are still serving up classic burgers—the way burgers used to be—with a seemingly endless choice of toppings and, of course, french fries.


The Fort

The Fort

The Fort {19192 CO-8, Morrison; 303. 697.4771}
Another Colorado institution, The Fort, is a replica of Brent’s Fort, which Elizabeth and Sam’l Arnold built as a family home. In 1963, they transformed the downstairs into a restaurant in order to keep up with mounting expenses. The menu is much the same as it has been for 50 years, serving food inspired by the cooking traditions of the old west; using all parts of the animal from bone marrow as well as a Historians’ Platter filled with appetizers of yesteryear, including Rocky Mountain Oysters and bison tongue.


Wazee Supper Club

Wazee Supper Club {1600 15th Street, Denver; 303.623.9518}
Five years after opening My Brother’s Bar, Detroit Natives Angelo and Jim Karagas purchased the old plumbing suppy house at 15th and Wazee and transformed it into their first restaurant. They have been serving award-winning pizza ever since. Located near Denver’s original city hall, it attracted its fair share of local and visiting politicians. Perhaps that is why President Obama visited the restaurant for a slice on his 2014 visit to Denver.


Racines {650 Sherman Street, Denver; 303.595.0418}

In 1983, Lee Goodfriend, David Racine, and Dixon Staples—former restaurant co-workers—realized their dream of opening their own community-based restaurant, serving fresh, from-scratch comfort foods. Racines quickly became Denver’s destination for the power lunch crowd and now serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner to a legion of local fans, who pack the house almost every day.


Sushi Den

Chef Toshi Kizaki with an array of fresh fish at Sushi Den

Sushi Den {1487 South Pearl Street, Denver; 303.777.0826}
Toshi Kizaki has been quietly serving some of Denver’s best sushi for over 30 years. The line of restaurant-goers that stretch down the block are a testament to the quality of the food at Sushi Den. Serving a “market-based menu,” Kizaki flies in fresh seafood daily from fish markets on his native Kyushu Island in Japan.


The Avenue Grill

Chef Andrew Lubatty outside the Avenue Grill

The Avenue Grill {630 East 17th Avenue, Denver; 303.861.2820}
The Avenue Grill was established in 1988 as a traditional San Francisco-style neighborhood restaurant and not much has changed in this ever-popular neighborhood hangout. Much of the staff has been with them for more than a decade, including Executive Chef Andrew Lubatty and General Manager Shelly McCandless. The “Avenue,” which is what regulars call this 17th Avenue fixture, has consistently delivered top-notch service, imaginative food, and award-winning martinis to happy regulars for over 30 years.

Wynkoop Brewing Company {1634 18th Street, Denver; 303.297.2700}
Wynkoop Brewing Company was at the forefront of Denver’s, now explosive craft beer movement. It was the city’s first brewpub and first microbrewery. Governor John Hickenlooper, along with a group of brave entrepreneurs, purchased the building at the corner of 18th and Wynkoop with the intent to brew beer and foster community and they have been doing just that ever since.


Barolo Grill {3030 East Sixth Avenue, Denver; 303.393.1040}
Restaurant veteran Blair Taylor opened the Barolo Grill in 1992, and this Northern Italian Cherry Creek institution has been on every “Denver’s Best” list ever since. Executive Chef Darrel Truett—and new owner, Ryan Fletter (who purchased the restaurant from Taylor last year)—continue to raise the bar with a fresh, modern take on this classic cuisine, exemplary customer service, and the best Italian wine list in Denver.



Oysters at Jax

Jax Fish House {multiple locations}
Since 1994 in Boulder, and 1996 in Denver, Jax Fish House has been delighting landlocked diners with fresh sustainable seafood. They fly in dozens of oysters, clams, crab, and lobster daily to stock their ever-popular raw bar. Customers gather around the bar to feast on delectable snacks and fine-crafted cocktails alike. Owned by Boulder local Dave Query’s Big Red F Restaurant Group, many of Jax’s sister restaurants have stood the test of time, too—guess it pays to be a Colorado Native!

Carmine’s on Penn
 {92 South Pennsylvania Street, Denver; 303.777.6443}
Carmine’s on Penn has been the place to go to feed a crowd for over 20 years. Recently purchased by long-time General Manager Brad Ritter, this family-style neighborhood joint continues to serve large platters of hearty Italian fare. Untold amounts of sparks have presumably flown inside this cozy restaurant, since the chefs can also serve dishes in portions for two for lovebirds interested in dining “Lady and the Tramp” style on their spaghetti and meatballs with vodka sauce.


Potager {1109 Ogden Street, Denver; 303.832.5788}
Long before most of us had even heard of farm-to-table restaurants, Chef Teri Rippeto and her father Tom opened Potager, serving locally sourced, seasonally driven, New American cuisine. The garden behind the restaurant provides much of the seasonal herbs and vegetables found on Rippeto’s ever-changing menu. Her delicious food; the homey, eclectic atmosphere; and warm, welcoming service are all part of the charm that keeps us returning time and again.

Vesta Dipping Grill

The buzzing atmosphere within Vesta

Vesta Dipping Grill {1822 Blake Street, Denver; 303.296.1970}
Owner Josh Wolkon was a trailblazer in Denver’s Ballpark neighborhood when he first opened Vesta Dipping Grill, serving skewered grilled meats and exotic dipping sauces. The restaurant has evolved over the years to embrace Chef Brandon Foster’s seasonally focused cuisine, but the list of over 30 dipping sauces and the grill remain at the core of restaurants menu.


Devil's Food

Sweet things at Devil’s Food

Devil’s Food {1020 South Gaylord Street, Denver; 303.733.7448}
Devil’s Food started as a bakery in 1999 and has grown up and out over the past 16 years. The bakery has expanded into a fun, funky restaurant that serves homey, comfort food for breakfast, lunch, and “supper.” The restaurant space is filled with kitschy artwork and knickknacks, and mismatched tables and chairs, and feels much like the back of a grandmother’s home.

By Elizabeth Woessner | Online Editor