As much as Denver residents love their football, they also love their brunch. So much so, on the weekends getting into the hotspots has become a sport, itself. Luckily, some quality joints remain under the radar or don't get crowded until 11 a.m., and many of them take reservations. Also, like any game, plenty of people have opinions on who plays the best with eggs, passes the perfect bloody mary, and scores with the green chile—a favorite Colorado ingredient found in almost every meal. From diners to elevated eateries to quick-and-easy take-out spots, breakfast is booming in the Mile High City,—especially if you know where to go and what to order. Here are some spots to get breakfast in Denver that never disappoint.
River and Woods, Gold Miner's Breakfast
Normally I wouldn't get all giddy about a simple plate of bacon and eggs, but chef Daniel Asher has added the perfect twist to this classic combo at his new Boulder restaurant. For starters, you don't just get a boring old chicken egg. At River and Woods, Asher whips up locally-sourced duck eggs with fresh herbs. Then he adds two slabs of smoky, melt-in-your-mouth bacon from Tender Belly, a local company that makes some of the best bacon around. It's so good, you won't want to compromise the flavor by mixing the bacon with anything else. Also on the plate are perfectly-cooked potato wedges, toast from the local baker Grateful Bread, and a dollop of sweet mascarpone nestled into a pool of peach-jalapeno jam.
Adelita's, Huevos Rancheros
Often when I go to Adelita's for breakfast I skip the regular morning fare and go straight for an enchilada. But, when I do crave a more brunchy meal, their huevos rancheros are hard to beat. The restaurant crafts the dish with house-made refried beans, queso fresco, freshly made corn tortillas, fried eggs, and sliced avocado. However, the real crowning glory is Adelita's homemade, Michocan-style mole, which is spooned on top and offers a smoky and warming spiciness makes them stand out from your run-of-the-mill rancheros. Request chorizo for added joy.
Lola Coastal Mexican, Horchata Pancakes
During weekend brunch this LoHi joint works magic with pancakes and horchata, a sweetish beverage commonly made with almonds, rice, or sesame seeds. The result is a heaping pile of fluffy cakes decorated with a cascading blanket of sweet cream cinnamon syrup. Then, chef and owner Jamey Fader tops the meal with pecans and tamarind crumble. Surprisingly the pancakes aren’t nearly as sweet as one might imagine based on the description or photo. They actually prove well balanced and hearty, though definitely on the pastry side of breakfast foods. The other Mexican-style dishes are also worth a try, as well as the michelada pop: a spicy sangrita and lime ice pop that you get to dip into a local lager.
Cafe Mexico, Breakfast Burrito
I discovered this tiny diner after meeting up with the Denver Post marijuana editor, Ricardo Baca. Baca insisted the green chili here was off the hook and one of the best in the city. He was not wrong. But not only that—the breakfast burrito also proves above average. Is it due to the slightly crunchy fried potatoes inside the soft tortillas? Or is it the heaps of egg mingling with melted cheese? All of the above. Get a handheld with chili to go, or settle in for a smothered burrito.
Beatrice and Woodsley, Monkey Brains
For a bit of rustic refinement at brunch, this Baker institution offers white linen tablecloths and a decor that evokes fairy-forest-meets-urban-aspen-grove. Most of the menu features Colorado ingredients, save for their special, must-have brunch starter: monkey brains. No primates were harmed in making this gooey, sweet and luscious tidbit; the name only refers to how the dish looks. Basically, it's monkey bread, that pull-apart pastry that resembles a pecan-covered sticky bun. You won't want to replace your breakfast with this treat, but you will want to start the meal out with an order. It's great for sharing and sure to satisfy any sweet tooth.
Rosenberg's Bagels & Delicatessen, Green Chile Cream Cheese
The bagels at this popular joint may be New York style, but the Hatch green chile cream cheese Rosenberg's whips up totally speaks to the Southwest. Marry the two for the best bagel bite in Colorado, and see why people in this area put green chiles on everything.
The Universal, Biscuits and Gravy
Avoid this Berkley hot spot at peak weekend brunch times, unless you want to spend a good hour or two waiting to eat. It gets packed, and for a good reason: the biscuits and gravy, which is a steaming plate of dense, yet fluffy buttermilk biscuits smothered in a superbly spicy pork gravy. You won't need a ton of pepper or hot sauce to spruce up this dish, that's for sure. Order the full or half, and marvel at how a person could be so stuffed, yet be craving more.
Bar Dough, Bottomless Spritzes
Just about every city has a restaurant that offers some sort of bottomless drink option at brunch, and Bar Dough is one of them. But, instead of the pedestrian mimosa, this Italian restaurant ups the ante by offering unlimited spritzes—a refreshing Italian drink that comprises sparkling wine with something flavorful. In this case it's homemade syrups in flavors such as lemon-rosemary, orange-mint, and grapefruit-basil. Traditional brunch-goers can also get a classic Aperol spritz.
Steuben's Food Service, Chilaquiles
Though chilaquiles is one of the easiest things to make, so many people get it so wrong. This isn't the case at Steuben's in Uptown. In fact, the restaurant serves one of the best in the city, and they make the spicy, crunchy umami bomb of breakfast goodness morning, noon, and night. But what makes these chilaquiles such a winner? To start, the the cooks coat crisp tortilla chips in red chile sauce, then toss them with some tender shredded beef, and layer on ripe avocado. The crowning glory: a sunny side egg, which oozes gorgeously into the whole mess.
Mercury Cafe, Pagan Vegan Plate
When I worked at this strange, magical restaurant at the start of 2000, I had never heard of tempeh, and tofu was something jokes were made of. Yet, when combined with silky grilled polenta, a pile of quinoa, steamed vegetables, and smoky vegetarian green chili, the ingredients made sense. This witchy pagan vegan plate is a signature item that's graced owner Marilyn Megenity's menu for over 20 years. While this dish won't hit the same pleasure domes as fatty bacon and melty cheese, it does satisfy on another, healthier level.