In the case for city living, one of the strongest arguments to be made is that you’ll never get bored of the dining scene. In Denver, you’ll find a wealth of choices in just about every neighborhood, but nothing represents our dining options quite like Colfax Avenue.
The Gateway to the Rockies is often described simply as “gritty,” but the neighborhoods surrounding it represent a broad range of economic and cultural diversity, and it’s reflected in the restaurants that dot Colfax across nearly every block.
In a semi-exhaustive search from the western edge of Lakewood to the Eastern edge of Aurora, I found more than 100 non-chain restaurants serving 20 different types of food (though classifying them is an imprecise task). Along that 22-mile stretch you’ll find Ethiopian food, Mediterranean food, Japanese food, Colombian food, Salvadoran food, British food, Polish food, a lot of Mexican food and more.
There’s so much variety that I couldn’t get each cuisine its own color on this map.
It’s a lot to choose from, so like any smart diners would do, we asked the locals where they like to eat.
Of 137 people who responded to our Colfax Avenue survey, almost everyone had an opinion or eight on where to dine. In total, 266 restaurants earned shoutouts. Here’s every spot that got two or more recommendations.
It’s a solid list with strong showings for less flashy or well-known restaurants, like To The Wind Bistro and The Ethiopian Restaurant. It’s also worth noting that one chain, Good Times, made the list, but not a single West Colfax restaurant appears.
To really home in on the best Colfax restaurants — and to get some recommendations on West Colfax, too — we asked people who’ve lived in the neighborhoods along the avenue for their recommendations.
Below, your locals’ guide to dining on Colfax Avenue.
Name: Vicki Taniwaki
Time in Denver: A Denver native and a South City Park resident for 33 years
Favorite East Colfax restaurant: “I have been to a lot of great Colfax eateries, including Annie’s, Pete’s, S.A.M.E. Café, Cheeky Monk, Tom’s Diner, Pho-natic, Tacos y Salsas. However, these are places that serve fare easily found anywhere in Denver — and in most cases, done better. One exception is The Ethiopian Restaurant at 2816 E. Colfax.”
Favorite dish there: “Typical of Colfax eateries, there is nothing fancy about it — no internet connection, no microbrews, not even a wait staff — but their special ribs and spicy lentils are the best in all of Denver.”
Name: Albus Brooks
Neighborhood affiliation: Denver City Council president, representative of Denver’s “Fine District 9”
Time in Denver: Cole resident for 16 years
Favorite East Colfax restaurant: “Pete’s Kitchen on Colfax and Race. I love going to Pete’s for breakfast on the weekends. This place is amazing because it is representative of the history and grittiness of East Colfax.”
Favorite dish there: “I love the classic scrambled eggs, hash-browns and sausage with a glass of OJ.”
Name: Chris Herndon
Neighborhood affiliation: Denver city councilman, District 8
Time in Denver: Nine years in Stapleton
Favorite East Colfax restaurant and favorite dishes: “I enjoy a good burger at The Elm and a really good beer at Fiction Beer Co.”
Name: Jeannene Bragg
Time in Denver: “I live in Park Hill; been there three years … Although I’ve only lived there three years, it’s the home my husband grew up in, so the family has been there more than 40.”
Favorite East Colfax restaurant: Abyssinia Ethiopian Restaurant.
Favorite dish there: “We usually get a meat combo and a vegetarian combo so we get some of everything.”
Name: Mary Beth Susman
Neighborhood affiliation: Denver city councilwoman, District 5
Time in Denver: Lived in Denver for 47 years — Hilltop neighborhood for 43 years, Congress Park for two years, West Washington Park for two years.
Favorite East Colfax restaurants:
Phoenician Kabob, 5709 E. Colfax Ave. “Best, freshest Mediterranean food.”
7 Leguas, 4550 E. Colfax Ave.
Favorite dish there: Beef kabob entree at Phoenician Kabob. Chano’s plate at 7 Leguas.
Name: Cassie Schoon
Time in Denver: Almost 12 years.
Favorite East Colfax restaurant: TacoMex, 7840 E. Colfax Ave.
Favorite dish there: “I adore the tacos al pastor at TacoMex. They make you go outside to the tent for the al pastor, linguiça and chorizo tacos. So delicious.”
Name: Brittany Zuber
Neighborhood affiliation: President, East Colfax Neighborhood Association
Time in Denver: Eight years in Lowry Field and East Colfax
Favorite East Colfax restaurant: “7 Leguas is easily one of my favorite restaurants in East Colfax. The service is always outstanding, and I’m pretty sure I’ll never run out of delicious entrees to try out — the menu is so extensive.”
Favorite dish there: “Carne Tampiqueña (grilled arrachera steak, served with mole enchilada, chicken flauta, rice and beans with guacamole, roasted jalapeño and green onions).”
Name: Jamie Perkins
Neighborhood affiliation: Transportation chair, East Colfax Neighborhood Association
Time in Denver: Lived in Arvada 2013-14 and in the East Colfax neighborhood Denver since 2014
Favorite East Colfax restaurant: “Tacos Acapulco on the corner of Colfax and Yosemite is my favorite restaurant in my neighborhood. It’s dirt cheap, delicious, and just the right amount of greasy.”
Favorite dish there: “All the food is good, but the pupusas are the best thing on the menu and come hot and crispy right off the grill. Add a side of plantains and horchata. There’s only a small bar with a few stools inside, but there’s almost always a seat on the patio.”
Name: Ramey Johnson
Neighborhood affiliation: Lakewood city councilwoman, Ward 1
Time in Lakewood: Most of her life
Favorite West Colfax restaurants: Dino’s Italian, Lakewood Grill and Moose Hill Cantina
Favorite dish there: Moose Hill Cantina has the “best crispy chile rellenos anywhere.”
Name: Charley Able
Neighborhood affiliation: Lakewood councilman, District 1
Time in Lakewood: 28 years
Favorite West Colfax restaurant: Davies’ Chuck Wagon
Favorite dish there: “Anything with gravy, especially the Bull Rider: a chicken-fried steak with eggs, plus a side of a biscuit and gravy.”
Name: Leslie Horna
Neighborhood affiliation: Executive director of the Golden Triangle Partnership.
Time in Denver: 18 years, mostly in northwest Denver.
Favorite West Colfax Restaurant: “Lechuga’s Italian Kitchen because it’s one of the few remaining family-run, classic Italian restaurants in Denver. Northwest Denver had Pagliacci’s, Patsy’s Inn, 3 Sons … — all of which have closed. Lechuga’s is still there, as well as the one on West Colfax.”
Favorite dish there: “Little devils, which are the spicy sausage cannolis.”
Name: Sharon Vincent
Neighborhood affiliation: Lakewood City Councilwoman, Ward 2
Time in Lakewood: 38 years
Favorite West Colfax restaurants and dishes: Chicago Style Beef & Dogs, at 6680 West Colfax near Lamar Station: “Best Chicago dog ever.”
Moose Hill Cantina at 11911 West Colfax, near Union Street: “Best burrito on West Colfax.”
Pho 2 Love, 6593 West Colfax Avenue in Lamar Station: “Amazing.”
Name: Scott Koop
Neighborhood affiliation: Lakewood City Councilman, Ward 2
Favorite restaurants and dishes: “At Chicago (Style Beef & Dogs), I always go for the Italian Beef.”
“Everything I have had at Pho 2 Love has been very good, along with excellent service.”
“Hits the Spot on Colfax at Eaton is a go-to spot for me when I need a large portion of comfort food. I tend to lean toward the skillets; the burritos come in a close second. It’s all good.”
“Casa Bonita for an all around pleasant time. The family was just there two weeks ago and was talking to a young couple from Holland. They were taking a train trip from coast to coast and stopped in Denver just to come to Casa Bonita. Pretty cool they would make a special trip to Casa Bonita in Lakewood!”
“My jeans tell me not to eat doughnuts but sometimes you just need to and I like Winchell’s at Colfax and Pierce. Chocolate Bavarian cream rocks. For a neighborhood hangout, Lakewood Grill (8100 West Colfax) can’t be beat for a great burger and a cold adult beverage.”