Crepes with orange and cream on brunch plates

The Top 13 Places for Brunch Around Denver

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The Top 12 Places for Brunch Around Denver

I like to tell people that aren’t from Denver that on Sundays, people here are religiously devoted to one of 3 things: church, football, or brunch. I definitely fall into the last 2 categories — so it’s a delicate juggle between my 49ers and my mimosas in the Fall. Having been all over town for that sacred weekend meal, I want to share my top 12 favorites with you all!

Marcella’s Kicks Off Sunday Brunch Italian Style in LoHi

My favorite Italian place in town is now doing Sunday brunch 10am to 3pm! Marcella’s (right on Central Street in LoHi) has always had fantastic Italian food, a fun atmosphere, and one of the best happy hours I’ve ever seen (50% off almost everything but the entrees, and that includes pizza). Well, they’ve finally launched a brunch menu! I had a chance to try it at a tasting event the other week — and I’ve got to tell you — it’s a must-try.

In Italy, eggs and waffles and all that are less of a thing for breakfast. Instead, you’ve got melon, prosciutto (and other meats), and cheeses. I absolutely did not complain about that when I was in Italy. Or the enormous pitchers of Sangria. (The red and white Sangria are both really good at Marcella’s, by the way. And they go fantastically with meat and cheese.)

Meats, meats, and more meats. Yes, yes, and yes. This also exists on the regular menu (and the 50% off happy hour).

You may be amazed to hear that I loved a vegan dish, but I did. The “Sicilian Caponata” with roasted eggplant and other veggies. This is an app that also exists on the regular menu (and the 50% off happy hour).

Truffle Eggs: poached eggs, toasted ciabatta, taleggio cheese. A fantastic, creamy, flavorful vegetarian breakfast dish.

As the main photo on the post might suggest, this was actually my favorite dish. Ricotta crepes with macerated strawberries and almonds. It’s all just so perfectly paired and fluffy and delicate and just sweet enough. And it reminds me of childhood breakfasts at home in Ukraine where my grandpa would make huge piles of perfectly-thin, perfectly-round crepes with a side of blended fresh strawberries (just picked from our farm) and fresh cottage cheese from the neighbor’s cow.

No brunch is complete without a Nutella option. I don’t know what it is about Nutella. Our neighbors pointed out that apparently my face looks like I’m experiencing some sort of nirvana-like moment when I eat Nutella. I am. Can you blame me?

Yes, it’s an omelette. It not may be particularly unique, other than the caprese salad on the side, but it’s delicious. And I’ve had a lot of mediocre omelettes that weren’t delicious.

Apparently, breakfast pizza is a thing. (I guess I’ve simply never discovered breakfast pizza before.) That’s burrata on there by the way — which goes so well with sunny eggs. And before you dismiss it because you don’t see meat: just know it has N’duja (a slightly spicy spreadable pork). You’re welcome.

More meat! This time, it’s the Short Rib Hash. I’ve yet to be disappointed by any slow-cooked meat at Marcella’s, and this was no exception.

I have no idea how it was possible to fit anything else into our stomachs, but we managed. Because these:

And once we walked out of this brunch, we decided to buy one of the condos in the new condo building going up a block away — so you know it was good 😉

El Five Starts Serving Brunch — Accompanied by Beautiful Rooftop Views and Amazing Mediterranean Bites

Whenever anyone asks me what new restaurant they have to visit while in Denver — or what restaurant is perfect for a date — these days, I say El Five. The views of Denver are just incomparable, the service is always top notch, and the Mediterranean-inspired food and drinks are creative and mouthwatering. So I was so excited when I found out that they have recently started doing brunch! Yes, it’s not cheap — and El Five is generally not cheap. But is it worth it? Absolutely. For $47, you get a cocktail, access to the buffet, and one main entree dish. And before you scoff, read on.

BRUNCH: SUNDAYS 10-2PM (reservations recommended)

You can see the view of downtown in the background below. You just don’t get this good of a view anymore. Not unless you’re at Linger or El Five. And the cocktail is also exceptional, — a mix of rosé, apricot purée, champagne, vodka — if I remember correctly. I could easily drink 10 of these with a smile on my face.

So when I say it’s no ordinary buffet — I mean it. This is an assortment of items from the buffet, which includes spicy mediterranean shrimp, Jamon Iberico on toasted bread, bacon-wrapped dates, tuna-stuffed peppadews, madeleines, beignets, croissants, some sort of cauliflower-in-pastry triangle of wonder, and more. Just the buffet alone would have been worth the price considering how many times I went back. And yes, I’m slightly embarrassed about that.

For my main, I had latkes topped with crab, pickles beats, and dill, eggs — and a bunch of other things I can’r remember. It was tender and flavorful and amazing — and it kind of reminded me of home in Eastern Europe. Maybe the Israeli influence?

All in all, a fantastic experience. Even if you can’t afford to do it every weekend, it’s worth checking out at least once. You’ll probably see me there 😉

thirsty lion pork belly tacos

Thirsty Lion’s Summer Menu: Pork Belly Tacos, Heirloom Tomato Salad, and More

I’ve really liked Thirsty Lion ever since they opened at Union Station (they now also have a Cherry Creek location). It’s a fun, hip bar that’s always happening, has a great patio facing all the bustle of Union Station, offers awesome happy hour deals and an extensive menu — and is in my opinion the best “gastropub” we have in downtown Denver. I recently got a chance to try their summer menu with a friend of mine, and I cannot recommend it enough. Read on for some of the highlights — all available at Union Station or in Cherry Creek.

Before I get into the food, I do want to mention this amazing summer cocktail: The Raspberry Mint Mule-jito (fresh raspberries muddled with mint, lemon, lime, Bacardi rum, Malibu rum, simply syrup, and ginger beer). I love raspberries, so maybe I’m biased, but I always crave a refreshing raspberry cocktail in the summer. Panzano used to have a fantastic one (the R&R), but that’s long gone. This is definitely the perfect replacement to fill the hole in my drinking heart.

thirsty lion summer cocktail

As much of a meat-lover as I am, my 1st love in life is tomatoes. Anything that says “heirloom tomatoes” will get me through the door. So yes, yes, and yes. No summer menu is complete without some generous slices of heirloom tomato. Add some fresh mozarella and basil — and my life is complete.

thirsty lion heirloom tomato salad

If you know me, you know I love me some tacos. Especially pork belly tacos. These have a fantastic Asian twist with the hoisin glaze, daikon, carrot, jalapeno, gochujang sauce (red chili paste), and pickled radish. There are a lot of people doing pork belly tacos all over town, but it’s hard to get the right combination: you definitely need some spice, vinegar, and crunch to balance out the sweet fattiness of pork belly — and these do a great job, if I may say so myself.

thirsty lion pork belly tacos

If you’d told me there was a “summer” pasta dish before this day, I’d be very skeptical. In fact, I was very skeptical when I ordered this Seared Shrimp & Heirloom Tomato Linguini (with garlic, asparagus, olives, red peppers, grape and heirloom tomatoes, fresh basil, spinach, feta, and a parmesan crisp). But in fact, this is the perfect summer pasta dish. No heavy creams or butters or super-meaty sauces here (which are delicious, but not quite suitable for summer). Just some juicy shrimp and a variety of veggie flavors and textures — all piled on top of a simple pasta. A great go-to summer Italian dish!

thirsty lion summer pasta and shrimp

I of course couldn’t leave without managing to make room for dessert in my already-full stomach. It’s a skill I work very hard for. (Some people go to cycling class… I eat and drink.) Introducing the Strawberry Rhubarb & White Chocolate Cheesecake. It’s not quite D Bar dessert quality (then again, what is?) — but still a very satisfying end to the meal and perfect for summer 🙂

thirsty lion summer cheesecake

And if you’re curious about the full summer menu (and happy hour menu, of course) — here they are! Some of my happy hour recommendations include the caesar salad, bacon-wrapped BBQ prawns, and spicy fried chicken sliders.

 

Beautiful Views & Delicious Dishes for Date Night at El Five

This post is long overdue, but it’s been a very busy holiday season for me since Thanksgiving. I got a chance to finally visit El Five right before Thanksgiving, though, and it was absolutely Ah-Mazing. El Five opened in LoHi (right next to Linger) earlier this year, and it’s been a really cool addition to the Denver dining scene. It’s a Mediterranean tapas restaurant from Justin Cucci, featuring both traditional and modern plates inspired by all the different Mediterranean countries — from Spain, to Gibraltar, to Morocco. I rarely love every single dish I try at a restaurant, but this was exceptional. There were 6 of us here, and no one could find fault with anything — drinks and service included.

The rooftop views here also make it the perfect spot for a romantic date night. It’s right across the highway from downtown, so you get a straight shot of the downtown skyline.

As far as cocktails go, there are some really fun, creative options here. Such as the Zombie (amber, dark and overproof rums, lime, falernum, passionfruit, absinthe) — and the Pineapple Mint Collins (vodka, sekanjabin, lime, pineapple, mint, soda). The wine list is also amazing, and I highly recommend chatting with their wonderful sommelier (Kelley Pottle Graham) to find the perfect pairing, or even get something that’s not on the menu.

As a starter, we loved the Mediterranean Sea plate — I believe what’s on it changes, but we had oysters, sardines, lobster, shrimp, mussels, and seaweed salad. It’s a great variety of light seafood to get started with.

The Grilled Mackerel and the Shrimp & Calamari a La Plancha were great seafood follow-ups with bold Mediterranean flavor. And they were perfectly charred/fried on the outside, while still being incredibly tender on the inside.

The Ash Roasted Carrots look pretty much like a masterpiece. As far as vegetarian dishes go, this one was pretty fantastic — and very thoughtful about combining the right flavors and textures (as is every dish here, to be honest).

The Charred Baba Ghanoush (Eggplant) — rich and filling and awesome:

The chicken skewer dish was one of my favorites, but sadly I don’t think on the menu right now. I rarely find chicken this packed full of flavor and this juicy on the inside — which is why you don’t see me praising chicken very often.

The Shawarma Spiced Lamb Ribs pack quite a flavor punch, too. I’m not the biggest fan of lamb — and these are pretty lamb-y — but those at the table who like lamb, loved these:

A little less lamb-y, and perhaps even more delicious, is the Moroccan Lamb Sausage. My husband practically refused to share this after he got his hands on it (he’s a huge lamb fan).

The last of my favorites was the Grilled Hanger Steak. I mean just look at it. There’s clearly a trend with every single dish here: thoughtful, creative combinations; bold Mediterranean flavors; and skillful veggie and meat preparation. All in a fun atmosphere with great service. I’ll definitely be back.

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The Best Fried Chicken & Southern Food in Denver at LOW Country Kitchen

LOW Country Kitchen opened earlier this year in the LoHi neighborhood (in the former Vita space) — and it brought some much-needed Southern food to the neighborhood. Owners Katy and Brian Vaughn are from the South, and their first LOW location was a hit in Steamboat, so I was pretty excited for them to open another one right here in Denver.

LOW describes its food and beverage menu as a combination of “time-honored Southern cuisine using only the highest quality of ingredients” — resulting in “genuine hospitality, serious drinks, and the best fried chicken you have ever sunk your teeth into.” Now that I’ve finally made my way here and stuffed my face, I have to agree. Not only is the food amazing, but the staff really tries to make you feel welcome.

(Full disclosure: the photo of the fried chicken above is from the LOW website, since my photo of the fried chicken isn’t as awesome, as you can see below.)

Pro tip: there is free valet for Mizu, Lola, and LOW right on the corner of Boulder and 16th Streets — which is a life-saver in this busy neighborhood.


THE HAPPY HOUR

LoHi is a hot neighborhood for a good happy hour, and LOW is no exception — especially if you like a good cocktail. For a refreshing option, I highly recommend the $5 Bumblebee (pictured on the left below). Although the $7 LOW Old Fashioned (pictured right) was a delicious classic. They also have a $6 Deep South Limeade, an $8 Classic Sazerac, $3-4 beers, and $5 wines. And food too: $2–7 Southern snacks such as deviled eggs and dry rub wings.


MUST-TRY FOOD

Now I’m normally not a huge dessert person, but you HAVE to leave room for dessert here. This is the most amazing pecan pie I’ve ever had. I still dream about it sometimes. It really is the perfect ending to a Southern meal.

 

My Favorite Hidden Caribbean Gem in Denver: Jamaican Grill

I’m that person who loves all kinds of restaurants and all kinds of food. So just as much as I enjoy going to a swanky, upscale steakhouse (STK is definitely going to be one of my next posts) — I also love me a little hole in the wall Caribbean place. And Jamaican Grill has been one of my top 3 favorite restaurants in Denver for a long time. I have no idea why I haven’t written about it until now.

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