29 Best Lunch Restaurants in Downtown Denver

The Mile High City is full of delicious eateries with a range of cuisines and atmospheres. Given so many options, our local food tour company has spent much of the past six years sampling countless restaurants, from Union Station and 16th Street Mall to the bustling downtown area and beyond. We only point our readers and tour guests to our personal favorites, and in our opinion, these 29 spots are the best lunch restaurants in downtown Denver.

A salad from Mercantile Dining and Provision

As one of the best restaurants to visit in Denver, it should come as no surprise that Mercantile Dining and Provision serves a stellar lunch. Though James Beard award-winning Chef Alex Seidel is the star behind the scenes, you wouldn’t guess it by the unpretentious atmosphere. But, you might upon tasting the menu. 

Artisan sandwiches, salads, and flavorful bowls should precede a visit to the pastry case. Before leaving its Union Station location, grab an almond croissant, macaron, or another indulgent treat.

The upscale interior of Ultreia

Spanish tapas and carefully paired Iberian wines make Ultreia easily one of the best lunch spots in Denver. Along with that, the ambiance is unbeatable. Set inside the recently renovated Union Station, the restaurant’s atmosphere is both upscale and full of character. Spanish tile, Renaissance murals, and an impressive wine wall are all part of the décor. The outside patio is more modern, offering city views that rival even those at top rooftop restaurants

Tapas on the menu include pan con tomate, croquetas de jamón, and bacon-wrapped dates. Ultreia also serves a delicious sandwich selection, including a fried chicken bocadillo and crispy trout on a potato bun. To end your memorable meal, order churros with chocolate ganache — one of several delicious eats at Union Station.

A smiling group of people on a Delicious Denver Food Tour.

Taking a food tour is one of the best things to do in Denver, whether you’re a tourist or a long-time local. During this 3-hour experience, enjoy good company while lunching at five of the city’s top restaurants. Generous portions, drink pairings, and a variety of cuisines are part of what makes this the #1 Denver tour on TripAdvisor. 

Along with that, you have the attention of a knowledgeable local guide. They’ll accommodate any dietary restrictions and share insights into each unique establishment. Plus, with stories of the city’s past and present, you may even walk away with a fun fact to share at the dinner table.

Various bowls of ramen noodles served at JINYA Ramen Bar, a local's favorite for lunch in Denver.

So much of what makes ramen flavorful is its broth, and JINYA Ramen Bar is well-familiar with this secret. Made in-house and simmered for twenty hours, these stocks are then paired with fresh noodles, vegetables, and seasoned meats. Several vegan, vegetarian, and gluten-free options are also available. 

Though the interior is sleek and portions are generous, the prices are very reasonable — especially for Union Station. Head here for a great budget-friendly lunch in downtown Denver.

A breakfast burrito and coffee from Onefold

Onefold strikes a beautiful balance between sophisticated and cozy. Its interior features floor-to-ceiling windows, bistro chairs, and heavy wood tables. Similarly, much of its fare is elevated yet completely approachable. 

Expect modern takes on globally-inspired dishes, each scratch-made with quality ingredients. Here, savory congee appears alongside croissant sandwiches, breakfast burritos, and huevos rancheros. In addition to all-day brunch, Onefold serves lunch entrées like slow-braised barbacoa tacos, pozole, and duck fried rice, plus espresso beverages and craft cocktails through 3 pm.

The interior of Tavernetta, one of the best lunch restaurants in downtown Denver

Found across from Union Station’s railway platform, Tavernetta is a stylish Italian eatery by the Frasca Hospitality Group. Masterful dishes by Chef Lachlan Mackinnon-Patterson are paired with a stellar ambiance. Think an open kitchen, an outdoor patio, and a fireplace lounge. It’s one of the city’s most romantic restaurants, but also the type of place you take clients to when you’re looking to impress. 

Monday through Friday from 11:30 am – 2:00 pm, a two-course prix fixe menu is served for $35 per person. Select soup or salad, then a main course featuring house-made pasta and local ingredients. Attentive servers ensure your wine selection will pair perfectly with your meal and of course, dessert. A la carte options include espresso-based affogato and tiramisu, as well as seasonal gelato and sorbet.

Oysters from Stoic & Genuine

Seafood restaurant Stoic & Genuine offers an impressive lunch within Union Station. Take a seat near its open kitchen or enjoy a warm afternoon from its shaded patio. Then, order from its eclectic menu that accommodates both casual and celebratory outings. 

On the menu, you’ll find a variety of salads and bowls which allow you to add seared or raw salmon, Gulf-caught shrimp, and ahi tuna. Tofu is available for vegetarian diners. There are also sandwiches, tacos, and several shareables like fried calamari and Thai green curry mussels.

Additionally, Stoic & Genuine offers crab legs, sashimi, sea scallop crudo, and tins of caviar, plus sparkling wines by the glass for a special occasion.

A French dip sandwich from The Pig & The Sprout

As its name implies, The Pig & The Sprout accommodates all diets and preferences. The menu is split with meat-centric dishes appearing adjacent to options for pescetarians, vegetarians, and vegans. At a glance, you’re likely to spot something that suits your needs and whets your appetite. 

Nosh on popular choices like green chile poutine, a pulled pork sandwich with Brussels-apple slaw, truffled gnocchi with oyster mushrooms, and much more. The bi-level space also features multiple bars and similarly, their cocktail menus are split based on flavor. Sip on something rich or pair your meal with a light and floral bevvy.

Various empanadas from Maria Empanada

All three Maria Empanada locations are busy during lunch hour, as their Argentinean specialty is great on the go. With half-dozen and dozen boxes available, it’s also an ideal spot when you’re looking to feed a large group.

More than ten tasty options, including vegetarian flavors, mean there’s something for every preference. And don’t skip on dessert — its six-packs of alfajorcitos, shortbread cookies with dulce de leche, are incredible!

Various Thai dishes from Daughter Thai Kitchen & Bar

Daughter Thai Kitchen & Bar celebrates Thai culture in its vibrant interior and authentic menu, which well accommodate both solo diners and large groups. Bar stools, sunny booths, communal tables, and patio seating are all available, and there are plenty of lunch options, too. 

Savor shareable small plates like shiitake mushroom gyoza and Bangkok-style ribs, along with entrées spiced to your preference. Classic pad thai and fried chicken over fried rice are popular selections, but don’t look over its specialty: khoa soi kai, an egg noodle curry with shredded chicken, hard-boiled egg, vegetables, and a generous crispy shallot topping.

The vibrant interior of Kachina Cantina, a Denver downtown lunch spot located within the trendy Dairy Block micro-district.

Not only does Kachina Cantina offer some of the best happy hour specials in Denver, it knows how to draw a lunch rush, too. Set within the Denver Milk Market, this vibrant eatery blends Southwest and Mexican cooking styles. The result is a fusion of flavors worth celebrating — maybe even with a mid-day margarita. 

Seven styles of tacos are on the menu. Corn and flour tortillas are available but trust us, the fry bread option is the way to go. Salsa flights, sizable mains, and sweets are also available to order.

Whether you’re out solo, connecting with co-workers, or even a client, Kachina Cantina is a solid spot for lunch in Denver. Get the VIP experience by booking a downtown food tour which includes a stop here, as well as several other local restaurants.

Two diners at The Original, home to some of the best lunch in downtown Denver.

The Original is set within McGregor Square, one of the top attractions near Coors Field. And like baseball, few things are more American than a hearty breakfast. This spacious diner captures a sense of nostalgia, as does its menu — for the most part. Classics like chicken fried steak and cheeseburgers appear alongside modern favorites like avocado toast and a shaved Brussels salad. 

Regardless of your tastes, the food is sure to impress, as will the cocktail menu which features bottomless mimosas! But maybe on a weekday, you’ll hold on that and instead, opt for “the business lunch.” On Tuesdays through Fridays from 10 am to 2 pm, $20 gets you a sandwich, two sides, and a soft drink or iced tea. But keep those mimosas in mind come the weekend.

A barbecue lunch plate from Kealoha's BBQ

Shopping at 16th Street Mall is one of the best things to do in downtown Denver and you’re sure to work up an appetite. The promenade features all kinds of eateries but if you want something quick and delicious, few area food stands rival Kealoha’s BBQ.

Its traditional Hawaiian plates receive rave reviews, especially when it comes to the spam musubi. The same goes for its lilikoi BBQ ribs and kalua pork served with Hawaiian-style macaroni salad. Pair your meal with pineapple or coconut-infused lemonade, and understand why this lunch in downtown Denver is a local favorite.

The interior of Asian-fusion restaurant ChoLon, one of the best lunch spots in Denver.

Created by owner and Executive Chef Lon Symensma, the lunch menu at ChoLon is a weekday treat. Daily from 11:30 am – 2:00 pm, the kitchen creates Southwest Asian cuisine with a twist. French onion soup dumplings, a flagship dish, is a perfect example. Other sharable small plates include wagyu beef skewers, kaya toast, and Thai Brussels sprouts. 

Lunch plates are also available, like Korean hot fried chicken sliders and stir-fried Malaysian noodles with your choice of protein. Spiced doughnuts with Vietnamese coffee ice cream round out the meal which you’ll enjoy in a stylish atmosphere. Find locations in both the Union Station and Central Park neighborhoods.

Various French dishes from Chez Maggy

Chez Maggy, the Thompson Denver hotel’s signature restaurant, offers an elevated brunch menu every day of the week. Naturally, the upscale French eatery creates an indulgent French toast — a thick slice of perfectly golden bread with cinnamon and chantilly cream. The croque madame is another top choice. 

For a lighter lunch, opt for the onion soup gratinee or Tuscan kale salad with a side of buttery escargots. A lengthy wine list guarantees you’ll find an ideal vino to pair with your meal, which is served on white porcelain in a sophisticated setting.

The exterior of D'Corazon Mexican Restaurant

For a lively ambiance and an authentic meal, head to D’Corazon Mexican Restaurant. Its vibrant interior and comfortable booths accommodate groups of all sizes, and a large menu ensures options for every preference. 

First-time guests can’t go wrong with its claim to fame: slow-cooked carnitas, which appears in quesadillas, crispy chimichangas, and other entrées. Pricing at D’Corazon is surprisingly reasonable, especially for lunch in downtown Denver. The large majority of items are under $15 — meaning extra funds for housemade margaritas.

A ramen bowl from Dragonfly Noodle

The clean, though simple interior of Dragonfly Noodle greatly contrasts the bold flavors coming from its kitchen. Just over a year ago, James Beard-nominated Chef Edwin Zoe opened the Pan-Asian eatery’s second location along 16th Street Mall given the original shop’s popularity in Boulder. 

Fans of Dragonfly Noodle rave about its ramen, especially the black tonkotsu bowl with cherrywood-smoked pork belly and a vegan-friendly miso ramen topped with marinated tofu. The restaurant also serves five mouth-watering flavors of housemade bao, including a panko-crusted eggplant option and another inspired by lobster rolls.

Various Italian dishes from Osteria Marco, one of the best lunch restaurants in downtown Denver

Italian eatery Osteria Marco suits any occasion. This mainstay on Larimer Square features patio seating and a cozy basement-level dining room. Exposed brick, an impressive wine wall, and delicious lunch options make it ideal for celebratory outings, as well as a casual bite while exploring downtown.

Top picks on the menu include housemade burrata, meatball sliders, fresh-rolled fusilli with wild mushrooms, and all of its hand-tossed pizzas — the fig and gorgonzola is especially recommended. Signature cocktails, a curated wine list, and local craft beers round out the selection.

Burritos, chips, and margaritas from Illegal Pete's

Some compare Illegal Pete’s build-your-own entrée concept and approachable Mexican fare to Chipotle. But this local fast-casual chain differs in its cool, offbeat vibe, along with its menu. 

While burritos, bowls, and tacos may be expected, there are several ingredient components that speak to both quality and the eatery’s Colorado roots. These include Coors Banquet-battered fish, Mexican Coke carnitas, poblano pesto, and both pork and vegan green chile. Amplify these flavors with a bevvy from its full bar, which offers happy hour specials and killer margaritas.

A chicken entree from The Kitchen American Bistro

While some restaurants benefit from a particular focus, The Kitchen American Bistro thrives off its diverse, yet curated menu. Here, miso-dressed broccolini and crab fried rice appear alongside seven-spiced lamb arayas, a classic Cubano, and a Southern fried chicken sandwich. 

These and other lunch items are served from 11 am – 3 pm on weekdays and on weekends, an equally impressive brunch is available from 10 am – 3 pm. This stylish 16th Street mainstay also has a tempting drink list, which includes modern takes on classic cocktails, plus several non-alcoholic options. 

Communal seating makes this a great pick for large groups. Bar seating and a seasonal patio are also available.

Two piled-high burgers from 5280 Burger Bar

5280 Burger Bar is a great spot to refuel along 16th Street Mall. It’s set on the bottom level of the Denver Pavilions, a complex also featuring a bowling alley, a movie theater, and several retailers. The restaurant’s fun, lively atmosphere complements its surroundings. There’s an outdoor patio and inside, you’ll find several screens, perfect for catching mid-day games. 

Its lunch menu includes tavern favorites like fried pickles, truffle fries, and more than a dozen burger options, each featuring generous toppings. Opt for the jumbo slider duo if you’re struggling to decide, and save room for dessert from its adjacent ice cream shop.

A chicken dish from Liang's Thai Food

Though Liang’s Thai Food recently launched a brick-and-mortar space in Broomfield, it continues to operate its original food stand on the corner of California Street and 16th Street Mall. Open since 2007, the locally-owned eatery specializes in traditional Thai dishes like drunken noodles, pad see ew, and pad thai. 

Curries and rice plates also appear on the menu which, though concise, accommodates all dietary preferences. Patrons can also choose their spice level — but remember, this spot is authentic, so consider taking things down a notch if you aren’t accustomed to Thai flavors’ heat!

Shrimp mac and cheese from Nola Jane Restaurant & Bar

Enjoy Southern hospitality and Cajun fare at Nola Jane Restaurant & Bar, a snug eatery in historic downtown Denver. It has a dive bar vibe with its extensive drink list and flat-screen TVs, but its Louisiana-inspired menu surpasses standard pub grub by far. 

Savor fried okra, jalapeno hushpuppies, and flavorful mains like jambalaya, crawfish étouffée, and mac and cheese topped with New Orleans barbecue shrimp. Po’boys are also popular with options including smoked alligator sausage, soft shell crab, and a vegan Creole eggplant version.

The upscale interior of Water Grill

Seafood fans looking to celebrate a special occasion should look no further than Water Grill. Chandeliers on elevated ceilings and leather booths create a sophisticated atmosphere, while tasteful decor speaks to its maritime theme. 

Even during lunch service, this upscale restaurant offers an extensive menu of sushi, succulent crustaceans, charcoal-grilled whole fish, and several surf and turf entrées. There’s also an impressive raw bar with chilled shellfish available individually, as half and whole dozens, and by the platter. Groups of all sizes are well accommodated at Water Grill.

A steak dish from Guard and Grace

Guard and Grace offers a modern steakhouse menu with hamachi sashimi, oak-grilled octopus, and black truffle mac and cheese served alongside hand-cut steaks. The filet steak flight is especially popular, providing three four-ounce portions from its prime, wagyu, and grass-fed selections. 

Granted, the elevated offerings and ambiance come with a higher price tag, but few Denver lunch restaurants are as suitable for celebrations. Plan for its “casual elegant” dress code and note that lunch is strictly available on Tuesdays through Thursdays from 11 am – 2 pm.

A sandwich and salad lunch combo from Panzano

The Kimpton Hotel Monaco’s signature restaurant, Panzano, has an atmosphere that’s as warm and inviting as its Italian fare. On weekdays from 11:30 am – 1:30 pm, it serves a la carte lunch plates like a daily rotating risotto, classic Bolognese, and piadina flatbread with prosciutto and creshenza cheese. There’s also a three-course prix fixe menu priced at $30 per person. 

On weekends through 2 pm, Panzano becomes one of Denver’s top brunch spots. Highlights include its eggs benedict, chicken hash, and “spritz towers” — large format cocktails that serve four, six, or eight. Apéritif options include its St-Germain, Aperol, and flavorful Campari.

Street tacos and a cocktail from La Loma

La Loma serves vibrant Mexican dishes in a stylish, contemporary space. Think exposed brick, rustic features, and warm wood accents alongside salt-rimmed margaritas and colorful entrées. 

Carnitas tacos, tequila shrimp, and brisket burritos are all tempting. But first-time visitors might want to go for its “Anniversary Plate,” offering a sampling of La Loma specialties like its stuffed sopapilla, chile relleno, and chicken flauta. Guacamole, sour cream, and grandma’s green chile round out the meal. 

Note that lunch is available on weekdays starting at 11 am. On weekends from 11 am – 3 pm, brunch features are also on the menu.

Multiple brunch plates on a platter at Sam's No. 3

Established in 1927, Sam’s No. 3 has long served downtown Denver for good reason. This kitschy, casual diner is loved for its comfort food and extensive selection — and we’re talking extensive.

Visitors can choose from more than a hundred food options including American, Mexican, and Greek breakfast staples. Fans of Sam’s No. 3 are especially big on its “kitchen sink” omelets, skillets, and burritos, each packed with veggies, gyro meat, and its famous green chile. 

Burgers, sandwiches, and salads are just a few of the lunch categories available, and don’t even get us started on the drink list (it’s also extensive). While the menu may be a bit overwhelming, know that whatever you choose will be delish.

Various Indian dishes from Mint Indian Restaurant and Lounge

Starting at 11 am daily, Mint Indian Restaurant And Lounge serves authentic favorites from various regions of India. Order mouth-watering variations of vindaloo, biryanis, housemade curries, and much more, including an entire section dedicated to vegetarian entrées. 

To sample several of its popular dishes, opt for the weekday buffet, available from 11:30 am – 2 pm. Priced at just $18 per person, it’s an absolute deal, especially given the quality. Complete the experience with a large chai tea or refreshing mango lassi.

All of these lunch restaurants in downtown Denver are worthwhile stops. If you want to experience even more of the city’s food scene, join us for a downtown Denver food tour! We’d love to show you around town and share more of our favorite spots.