Grab a coveted outdoor table to enjoy views of downtown at Root Down, which opened in 2009. The surrounding area, known as Lower Highlands (or LoHi), has since exploded, though this spot maintains its edge with its focus on local, organic ingredients and eye-catching décor (salvaged basketball-court flooring, a gas station pump as the host stand). The weekend brunch crowd is particularly rabid, so show up early for the “Root Down” Benedict ($10), topped with a Hollandaise flavored with Iberico cheese and sun-dried tomatoes.
Bite into a succulent pork-belly bun ($12 for a plate of four) at ChoLon Bistro, whose co-owner worked a four-year stint at New York’s Buddakan before opening this popular spot in 2010. Though many of the share-friendly, Southeast Asianinfluenced dishes could have come from a bustling Singapore street market, the presentation is fine and the dining room fashionably outfitted. Be sure to order one of the cocktails that complement the heat of the dishes, with cooling ingredients like pineapple, basil, and cucumber.
Pull up a stool at the orange, rusted coffee bar, or cozy up in the back room at City, O’ City, a vegetarian restaurant that doubles as an art gallery on the first Tuesday of each month, when local artists exhibit their work in the main dining room. Located next to the state capitol, the eclectic clientele here ranges from suit-and-tie legislators to tattooed vegan hipsters dining on seitan wings ($8) and quinoa-and-pinto-bean burgers ($11). Come between 2 and 6 p.m. for the longest happy hour in Denver, featuring $5 appetizers and $2 sides.