How to Eat Like a Chef in Denver’s Most Walkable Neighborhood
It’s the perfect area for a food crawl.
Sunset’s Insider Guide series highlights seasonal diversions and secret travel tips from local experts.
Meet the Insider: Tommy Lee, chef-owner of Hop Alley
Location: Five Points, Denver, Colorado
Chef Tommy Lee is a born-and-raised Denver dweller and the chef-owner of both Uncle and Hop Alley. The latter restaurant is located on a stretch of Larimer Street that has become a development hotspot as of late, with top-notch restaurants, breweries, and bars cropping up, making it a perfect walkable neighborhood for a self-guided food crawl. Here’s how to eat like a chef in the RiNo/Five Points area.
When it comes to breakfast or lunch, Lee says, “I lived near RiNo when Crema was a 200-square-foot box serving great coffee, and now it’s grown into the buzzing midmorning hub of Larimer Street. The menu has expanded into solid breakfast and lunch; their quiche is great. The space has expanded and feels like a compound out of Williamsburg, Brooklyn, where you’ll find young hipsters, industry folks, and the real estate developers deciding the fate of RiNo all in one place. It’s truly one of the O.G. businesses that helped shape the neighborhood.”
The chef-owners of Redeemer Pizza have fine-dining backgrounds, and “they bring those sensibilities to their pizza-focused restaurant and slice shop. Their dough is cold-fermented over a few days, making it complex and chewy. Their high-quality toppings are a great mix of traditional and creative combinations. The alley-entrance slice window is one of the best ’secrets’ in RiNo.”
Curtis Park Deli is “one of the best sandwich shops in town. It’s not over-complicated. All the sandwiches are cold, but built with perfect proportions that make a sandwich great. My favorites are the French (Niman Ranch ham, brie, mixed greens, house-made mustard, house-made aioli) and the Fish (smoked rainbow trout, house-made aioli, blue cheese, capers, red onion, arugula, olive oil, lemon juice).”
Brasserie Brixton is a chic but approachable neighborhood-bistro-style spot. “The menu is modern French, with thoughtful global touches. The seasonal vegetable dishes are fun and delicious, but staples like steak-frites, mussels, and duck confit are always solid. They also have a progressive wine list featuring small producers.”
Beckon is an “intimate chef’s-counter, tasting-menu restaurant that has grown and sexy written all over it. The food is sophisticated and delicious, hospitality is top-notch, and the space feels part of a different city.”
“Our Mutual Friend is one of the first local breweries in RiNo. They make amazing, balanced, creative styles of all the ‘cool guy’ beers. And Yacht Club hasn’t won all these local and national awards for nothing. It is the perfect modern dive bar. The cocktails are excellent, the wines are carefully selected, the beer is cold, and the hot dogs are perfect. Along with all that, on Sundays there’s live music, where you’ll find up-and-coming musicians, D.J.s, and even Grammy Award-winning trumpet players performing like it’s your backyard BBQ.”