Best Places to Eat during Denver Film Festival

36th Starz Denver Film Festival, 2013, Opening Night, Red Carpet In 1978, a group of film loving folks began what would be, the annual Denver film festival. This week kicked off their 36th year running. Like prior year’s, the 2013 film festival schedule will, as the mission of the Denver Film Society itself, “entertain, educate, provoke and persuade, move and motivate.”

This 2013 lineup highlights Dutch filmmakers, the environment and Colorado. It celebrates documentaries on topics ranging from rescuing lions from a Bolivian circus, the infamous New York Times plagiarism scandal, immigration in the United States and even, an unlikely star of Britain’s Got Talent. Women and film are also a focal point of this year’s festival.

The Red Carpet events, opening and closing nights feature three films: Labor Day, a movie which will very likely go on to be a blockbuster and even a potential Oscar contender, staring Kate Winslet and Josh Brolin, Nebraska and At Middleton.

The film festival also means there will be an influx of out-of-towners (and out-of-Denver-ers), and I find nothing worse than when those new to Denver, because of lack of intel otherwise, end up eating at the likes of The Cheesecake Factory or dear God, Bubba Gump’s.

If this was not travesty enough, then people think that was Denver’s food. To give a little assistance to those looking for restaurants that are sometimes a bit hidden or out of the way, here are some suggestions of good and local eats near the major Denver Film Festival venues.

Near SIE Film Center

SIE Film Center – 2510 East Colfax Avenue

Yes, the very location itself has a full bar and comfy lobby seats for adult beverage enjoyment.

Cafe Max – 2412 East Colfax Avenue

The best presented coffee in Denver with a great little menu serving well executed, healthy food with many Mediterranean influences. Breakfast, lunch and dinner are available, as are beer, wine and sake. Their signage is small, so look for the address. It is there. I promise.

Hooked on Colfax – 3213 East Colfax Avenue

An incredible coffee place AND something that doesn’t happen too frequently on Colfax – a quiet terrace in the back.

Tacos, Tequila, Whiskey – 1514 York Street

Pinche Tacos gig is this (if you didn’t guess) tacos + whiskey + tequila, and they do all quite well. Terrace outside.

The Tattered Cover – 2526 East Colfax Avenue

Considered on a national scale one of the best independent bookstores in the country, The Tattered Cover is right across the sidewalk from SIE and has plenty of great coffee and a few pre-made options to eat there or to takeaway.

Udi’s – 2550 East Colfax Avenue

It was hard to adjust to the idea of eating at a restaurant that built its name around pre-made food sold in coffee shops and airports, but I am glad I did. Located within feet of the SIE Film Center, Udi’s offers a great menu with oodles of great tapas, good wine and drink – all at moderate prices. A terrace is also available if Mother Nature permits.

Ethiopian Restaurant – 2816 East Colfax Avenue

Actually it is called Ethiopian Restaurant Inc. It is no nonsense and delicious Ethiopian food. I have gone for eons, and it is always the same scenario – same cute waiter takes care of the customers while a woman, presumably his wife, cooks up amazing Ethiopian food. Try to get there early. Given their staff size things can slow down a bit when it gets busy. Located a few blocks from SIE.

Cheeky Monk Belgian Beer Cafe – 534 East Colfax Avenue

This place does not have a beer menu – it has a beer book. It is so large and overwhelming I ask the wait staff to pick for me. The food is fairly standard pub fare (although they do have fried pickles). For those who fancy a good beer selection there might not be a better place in Denver. Located 1.2 miles from SIE Film Center. The surrounding area has a healthy dose of sketch once the sun goes down. A taxi wouldn’t be a horrible idea if you prefer to avoid the hassle.

Shells & Sauce – 2600 East 12th Avenue

Although I have not eaten here personally, it is in a quiet little stretch of town, and the reviews are good. It is, as you probably guessed, Italian food. If you have a little extra time and want to burn off some calories before or after, head west on 12th street about six or seven blocks, and you will find Cheesman Park. The best park in Denver, in my opinion. A walking path takes you around the perimeter. Shells & Sauce is located .4 miles from SIE.

Uber Sausage – 2730 East Colfax Avenue

Sounds exactly as it is. A very casual place where you order at the counter one of their many creative takes on sausage. Terrace out front. Perfect for those looking for good, quick and inexpensive eats.

Pete’s Greek Town Cafe – 2910 East Colfax Avenue

The classic diner with Greek menu options, Pete’s Greek Town Café is quick, inexpensive, good, and I have never, ever had to wait for a table. A few blocks from SIE.

Sushi Bay 17 – 1728 East 17th Avenue

If you want the best sushi in Denver (and some will tell you the country) go to Sushi Den. (Be prepared to wait well over an hour, if not multiple hours, when it is busy. Go for lunch and arrive when it opens if you want to try it and avoid the wait– which I highly recommend). If you are looking for sushi that is solidly good, very reasonably priced and located .8 miles from SIE Film Center – go to Sushi Bay on 17th and Williams.

Gumbo’s – 1033 East 17th Avenue

Perhaps one of the best happy hours in town with great drink special and $4 appetizers, Gumbo’s did a great job created good atmosphere and Louisana style eats. A terrace awaits you, if you are so interested.

Mez Cal – 3230 East Colfax Avenue

Hipster Mexican food and a good drink menu located less than a half mile from SIE. Terrace out front.

Goose Town Tavern – 3242 East Colfax Avenue

Think: a good bar food menu + The Misfits + pool. This is why people love the Goose Town Tavern.

Near the Opera House and Denver Pavilions

Little India – 1533 Champa Street

Good Indian located right off the, beaten 16th street mall track, on Champa near 15th.

The Squeaky Bean – 1500 Wynkoop

Formerly located in north Denver where more independently owned restaurants tend to reside, The Squeaky Bean recently relocated to Wynkoop at 15th. Their menu is based on the season and is considered, a “veritable feast for the senses.” You can taste the love they sink into their food in every bite. The Squeaky Bean is a bit further from the Opera House and the Pavilions, but not by much, and it is definitely worth the trip.

Anthony’s Pizza – 1550 California Street

Anthony’s is consistently rated some of the best pizza in Denver. One piece is a meal. A few blocks from the Opera House and the Pavilions.

D’Corazon – 1530 Blake Street

I am not sure how I have never been here, but those I trust claim this is the best Mexican food in Denver. Located a  15 or so minute walk from the Pavilions.

Rioja – 1431 Larimer Street

Winner of The James Beard Foundation Award for Best Chef Southwest 2013, the menu at Rioja is, “inspired by Mediterranean ingredients and influenced by local and seasonal products.” It has been around for a long time because locals love it so. Located a 15 or 2o minute walk from the Pavilions.

Crave – 891 14th St #110

I typically steer clear of restaurants super close to the convention center as they tend to be high prices with low taste, but Crave is an exception. My favorite thing about them is having their dessert for lunch. I, of course, chose their chocolate dessert which means I got a small sampling of many extremely creative and delicious chocolatey sweets.

Bistro Vendome – 1420 Larimer Street

Run by the same chef who operates Rioja, the location and atmosphere of Bistro Vendome alone is worth the trip. Tucked away in a courtyard off Larimer, Bistro Vendome serves up, “classic French bistro fare, updated using local, seasonal ingredients.”

Crepes n’ Crepes – 1512 Larimer St #6R

Guess what they specialize in? Yep. And they are good ones at that.


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