In 2004, Bobby Stuckey and Lachlan Mackinnon-Patterson opened the much lauded Frasca Food and Wine in Boulder. A restaurant of such caliber—uniting Friuli-Venezia Giulian cuisine with fine dining service in an environment devoid of pretense—forever elevated Colorado’s culinary landscape. That ambitious but warm gastronomic spirit now flourishes in the state’s capital, Denver, whether in a neighborhood such as the restaurant-clogged LoHi, or the one-time industrial, RiNo.

As things like smoked short ribs and confit carrots dominate the conversation, divey ethnic joints don’t get as much attention as they should in the Mile-High City. But there are many spot-on ones—props to the Mexican scene in particular—and it’s what Denver chefs often seek out when they’re not in their own kitchens. From tacos to Ethiopian fare, here’s what eight local chefs like to eat when they are ready to clock out and call it a day.


Kelly Whitaker

Chef/owner at Cart-Driver and BASTAkelly
Favorite under-the-radar spot: My Brother’s Bar (2376 15th St, 303-455-9991)

Whitaker says: “When I moved here, the first thing I noticed was that I could not eat anything decent late at night. There were some diners and pretty bad bar food, but I couldn’t find much else until I stumbled upon My Brother’s Bar. A few chefs and I were on a mission one night. Somehow Siri guided me there, where I found the right kind of service, the right kind of burger, and a great tucked-away patio.” (Photo: Yelp/Andrew H.)


Frank Bonanno

Chef/owner at Bonanno Conceptsfrank
Favorite under-the-radar spot: Tacos Jalisco Mexican Food (4309 W 38th Ave; 303-458-1437, original-tacosjalisco.com)

Bonanno says: “I like to take my family to Tacos Jalisco. It’s just super authentic. While they definitely fill up in the evenings, they still don’t get the taco love they deserve. It’s all about the salsas and carnitas.” (Photo: Yelp/Matthew G.)


Paul C. Reilly

Chef/owner at Beast + Bottlepaul
Favorite under-the-radar spot: Steve’s Snappin’ Dogs (3525 E Colfax Ave; 303-333-7627, stevessnappindogs.com)

Reilly says: “It’s just a no-frills, roadside hot dog stand where I get the Chicago Dog with spicy mustard and green relish, as well as the Panko onion rings.” (Photo: Yelp/Eliza M.)


Dana Rodriguez

Chef/owner at Work & Classdana
Favorite under-the-radar spot: Lao Wang Noodle House (945 S Federal Blvd, 303-975-2497)

Rodriguez says: “I love that there is an old couple running the place and that they make everything from scratch. I order the potstickers and the spicy red-chile dumplings because they are made the right way. They are only open for two hours each night—when they run out, they run out, and it’s over.” (Photo: Yelp/Xubge H.)


Alex Figura

Chef/partner at Lower48 Kitchenalex
Favorite under-the-radar spot: Ethiopian Restaurant (2816 E Colfax Ave, 303-322-5939)

Figura says: “It’s really my favorite restaurant in Denver, period—laid-back, affordable, run by a husband and wife, and always great. We order the mixed meat and vegetable platter. It’s meant for three, but my girlfriend and I can eat the whole thing. It’s stewed lentils and lamb, cabbage and potatoes, chicken and eggs, split peas, and injera bread.” (Photo: Yelp/Ashlae W.)


Jennifer Jasinski

Chef/owner at Rioja, Bistro Vendôme, Euclid Hall, and Stoic & Genuinejennifer
Favorite under-the-radar spot: Patzcuaro’s Restaurant (2616 W. 32nd Avenue, 303-455-4389, patzcuaros.com)

Jasinski says: “In one of Denver’s hottest dining neighborhoods, it’s definitely under-the-radar. The family—the son now runs the place—has owned it since 1978 and everyone knows our names and our drink orders. The cabeza tacos are so yummy, and the carnitas Michoacan is one of the best in town. A few years back they expanded and now have a great patio.” (Photo: Yelp/David S.)


Olav Peterson

Chef/owner at Bittersweetolav
Favorite under-the-radar spot: Uno Mas Taqueria (1585 S Pearl St; 303-777-2866, unomastaqueria.com)

Peterson says: “I worked with Uno Mas owner, Patrick White, 20 years ago, and everything here is just really, really good. Some favorites include the pork belly and the queso y frijoles tacos, but again, everything they serve is stand-out.” (Photo: Yelp/Andrea K.)


Jonathan Power

Chef/owner at the Populistjonathan
Favorite under-the-radar spot: New Saigon (630 S Federal Blvd, 303-936-4954)

Power says: “It’s just fantastic—the right amount of rough-around-the-edges. Orders may get occasionally lost in translation (ask for spring rolls, you might get a Sapporo instead) but it never fails to be delicious. I’ve been eating here on a somewhat regular basis as long as I’ve been in Denver. I’m a sucker for the Bún Đặc Biệt, a cold rice noodle bowl with grilled shrimp, pork, beef, and chopped egg rolls. Super tasty.” (Photo: Yelp/Jonny T.)