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Since getting laid off, my cooking game has been on point. Certainly I’ve been applying to jobs, interviewing, networking, etc, but there’s only so much of that you can do before you go crazy. So, I’ve embraced my stay-at-home-girlfriend status and have really ramped up meal planning and preparing.

Each morning, I brew coffee and whip up a smoothie for Garrett before he bikes off to work, and each night, I put something tasty, healthy and creative on the table. Or at least I try to. (Last night I made this for dinner and it was delicious!)


A recent meal on our dinner table: dry rub smoked ribs, smoked salmon, rosemary roasted potatoes, asparagus and Caesar salad (with anchovy dressing and homemade croutons!).

But sometimes we just have to go out. There’s only so much dining in I can do before I go stir-crazy and beg Garrett to take me out for happy hour on Friday.

These are the places we go when I just need to get out of the house.

Please note that there is no way I can possibly do the dining scene in this expansive city justice (luckily 5280 does a pretty great job – I love love love this new monthly feature in their Tuesday Table Talk email!), but I can recommend a handful of tried and true restaurants that keep me coming back meal after meal. My tastes trend towards the casual, reliable and moderately healthy, with some cheap beer and wine thrown in for good measure.


After driving by for years and saying, “We should eat there!”, Garrett and I finally made the wise choice to stop into this oyster joint for happy hour after a crappy day a few months ago. And we are so glad we did. Their happy hour oysters are cheap ($1 each!), tasty and better than any we’ve had at fancy schmancy restaurants around town. They have wines on tap, toasted ravioli, and the best service I’ve experienced in all of Denver. (It’s worth noting that, overall, servers in this town aren’t really up to my snuff.) In the dozen or so times I’ve been back, our table has received a free app or glass of wine, each and every time. Most recently, one of the managers brought out an order of balsamic glazed ribs for our table to sample, and they were were top notch. Whether you dine by their busy bar, in the comfortable dining room, or out on the spacious patio, Angelo’s is absolutely not to be missed.

Nola Voodoo Tavern and Perks

When I moved in with Garrett, I did so very begrudgingly. I mean, my condo is located in the single best neighborhood in Denver and is walkable to a mind-blowing number of great restaurants – Annie’s, Stella and Tommy’s Thai just to name a few. So I was thrilled to learn that the one, single, only restaurant within walking distance of my new home was a totally awesome, authentic New Orleans-style neighborhood bar. Since our first visit, Garrett and I have been back almost weekly, walking over in a blizzard, on lazy afternoons and late at night for cheap beers, and each time we have been greeted warmly by Henry, the kind and generous owner. We’ve brought friends, neighbors and family to the casual spot to dine, and no one has ever left dissatisfied. If you’re looking for the best étouffée, red beans & rice or gumbo, and hoping to wash it down with some Abita on tap or a hurricane, this is the place to go.

Vine Street Pub

Part of the larger Mountain Sun business, this cash-only brewpub serves up literally the best wings in town. Hot wings + side salad = my perfect lunch. I first dined at this local chain in Boulder over four years ago and had an incredibly positive experience. The servers are hyper-friendly and happy, french fries and quesadillas are passed around to keep hangry folks waiting for a table at bay, and the beers are interesting, tasty and well-priced. Since I don’t make the trek to Boulder often, I was thrilled to learn about Vine Street Pub, located a short bike ride away. I’m not sure if it’s the casual atmosphere, the fabulous patio or the reliably good menu, but Vine Street is a dining location that my exquisitely picky group of friends will generally say yes to any time of day. You should too.

Kiki’s Casual Dining

Ever since my beloved sushi joint, Shintomi, closed in Nashville years and years ago, I’ve struggled to find a suitable replacement for their exquisite nabeyaki udon. Well, after an incredibly bland dining experience at a newly opened ramen joint, Garrett resolved to find an authentic and better option that led us right to an unassuming strip mall on South Colorado Blvd where Kiki’s is located. It did not disappoint. But while their ramen is tasty, their sushi is fresh and the ambience is straight from a Japanese ski resort, what sold me was their nabeyaki udon. Complete with shrimp tempura, thick noodles, fresh bok choy, fish cake and lots of mushrooms, this is only place I’ve found in Denver that rivals the soup from my childhood. I highly recommend this place, particularly if you find yourself in a winter snowstorm. It will not disappoint.

Pepper Asian Bistro

Americanized Chinese food is basically my comfort food. Whether for pajamas-only takeout or a casual date night, Pepper serves up the best pan-Asian cuisine in town. The location opened in a ratty old restaurant that I barely remember, and I was pumped to see it get renovated – it gave the whole rundown block a serious facelift. We showed up for dinner pretty much the first day it opened, we were so excited. After a great meal, we returned nearly every Sunday after Jazz in the Park for an easy dinner. We’ve never been disappointed in the dozens of times we’ve eaten there. Our current favorite meal is the wildly economic choice of a shared bowl of hot and sour soup, and a shared entree of Sizzling Black Pepper Beef. Dinner for two for $15? Don’t mind if I do. Again and again and again.

What are your favorite Denver neighborhood haunts?