The fresh air, nearby mountain access and all-around active lifestyle lead many a tourist and transplant to Denver. That air, of course, has pockets of clouds these days, and the Mile High City’s legalization of recreational marijuana has led to more than just a few bad puns on its nickname. For partiers, weed isn’t the only draw: Denver also boasts one of the best craft beer scenes in the world—playing host to the Great American Beer Festival each fall. There’s little doubt that loads of people are getting totally wasted in D-Town. But, for years, there haven’t been a lot of places to satiate those midnight munchies or attempt to stave off the next morning’s high-altitude hangover. Luckily, Denver is starting to offer the kind of late-night eats you’d expect from a bigger city. So, whether you’re stumbling along Colfax Avenue as the sun rises or just getting off a late shift at the office, these places are worth checking out.
Location, location, location: Sputnik boasts one of the best in town. If you’re headed to the fantastic Hi-Dive to catch a concert, you can grab a cheesesteak or Cubano right next door. Sputnik is open until 2 a.m., so post-show barhopping on South Broadway is prime. The place swarms with hipsters, and luckily they love good food. (And, also, in-house DJs spinning everything from the Smiths to MF Doom.) You’ll find vegetarian options like falafel, mac ‘n’ cheese and sweet potato fries, as well as a wide selection of brews, cocktails and drip coffee.
The northwest Denver restaurant scene is hopping and Brazen has recently made its mark. Serving up contemporary American cuisine, the spot was opened by Chris Sargent, who has serious credentials from heavyweights Rioja and Acorn. Brazen is a neighborhood place but has the kind of intricate dishes you’d expect to find at a fine-dining restaurant—not when you’re bleary-eyed after midnight. Serving food until 2 a.m., the kitchen doesn’t sport a full menu, but plenty of great dishes like ramen, meatballs and a signature burger can be found well into the night. And Brazen just might be the place where you can suck down oysters at the latest time in Denver. Whether or not they’ll help or hurt your hangover, it’s hard to say.
8. THE BREAKFAST KING
What’s in a name? Well, you get the point: The Breakfast King does all the classics associated with the morning meal and does them well. Look beyond the usual suspects of pancakes, eggs and bacon to indulge in something more Colorado-centric, like ground buffalo, gigantic breakfast burritos smothered in green chile, or huevos rancheros. And the King does not step away from its throne, ever. It’s open 24 hours a day.
7. MY BROTHER’S BAR
Stepping into My Brother’s Bar, you can feel the place’s history emanating throughout, like its all-Classical music soundtrack. Jack Kerouac and Neil Cassady used to kick it here and you get the feeling those Beat buddies ate hamburgers cooked on the very same flat top that sends smoke rising to the ceiling today. Owner Jim Karagas, one of the titular brothers, still walks around filling water glasses and, every spring, lines the walls of his bar with hundreds of boxes of Girl Scout Cookies. One of the better historic bars in America—it’s been around since 1873 and the Karagas Brothers took it over 45 years ago—serves food on its signature toppings tray till 1:30 a.m. (it’s closed on Sundays) and will be happy to keep your buzz going with a wide selection of dank brews and classic cocktails. And talk about O.G.: Check out their website.
This place is a trip. Sort of a dive bar, sort of a diner, it brings together all manner of characters from the Capitol Hill neighborhood. Down ‘n’ outers, pool sharks, drag queens, frat boys and Juggalos mingle over cheap drinks and fried food. Sandwiches, Southwestern fare and even breakfast items can be found till 1 a.m. on weekdays and 4 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays. The menu is a bit like the clientele: sui generis.
5. FAT SULLY’S
When you’re wasted past midnight, there are few things better in this life than mowing down a pizza slice that’s larger than Elaine Benes’ head. Fat Sully’s happily complies, with two locations—and a third on the way—which crank out oily, gooey slices till 2am on weekdays and 3 a.m. on weekends. Fat Sully’s is a part of the Atomic Cowboy bar empire, so you can wash your ‘za down with tons of craft beer, wine and cocktail options. It should be noted: These slices are the real deal. If Denver has to submit a slice to challenge New York, then this is it.
4. ILLEGAL PETE’S
Illegal Pete’s is a burgeoning empire in Colorado, with locations in Denver, Boulder and Ft. Collins. Next up? The building across the street from the mother of all late-night eateries, Pete’s Kitchen. (Not to mention its first out-of-state move to Tuscon.) Luckily for Illegal Pete’s, its menu and general vibe is quite different from Pete’s Kitchen. Illegal locations boast a robust offering of local craft beers, strong margaritas and even live music. The food? The kind of consciously-farmed, mammoth burritos you’d expect from a Colorado “fast casual” joint. And you can bomb your gut at most locations till 2:30 a.m.
3. JERUSALEM RESTAURANT
A staple of the Denver late-night scene, Jerusalem has been slinging up Mediterranean and Middle Eastern eats to University of Denver students (and their ilk) for more than 35 years. Gyros, kebabs, hummas, fafalel: it’s all here at what has come to be known at the college as “J-Rus.” And you can get them till 4 a.m. (5 a.m. if they’re busy). The food is fresh and spicy; it’s the kind of place where you go for an investigation when you’re not smashed to find you’re pumped that it’s still just as tasty.
2. TOM’S URBAN 24
Opened in 2012, this sleek establishment is named after founder Tom Ryan. The bustling two-floor space on a choice corner of Larimer Square testifies to Ryan’s restaurant bona fides: In 2007, he established burger behemoth Smashburger. You’ll find burgers at Tom’s Urban, sure, but also more adventurous fare like Buffalo chicken sliders, pork belly street tacos, and truffle pizza. You can order drinks until 2 a.m. and food around the clock. Not to be confused with Tom’s Diner (which is also open 24 hours on Colfax), Tom’s Urban 24 has proven so popular in Denver that it has now colonized L.A. and Vegas.
1. PETE’S KITCHEN
The granddaddy of ‘em all—and the yardstick by which all other Denver after-hours haunts are measured. This greasy spoon on Colfax is open 24 hours a day and, each night, the line out the door starts to form ‘round midnight under its iconic sign. Inside, Pete’s serves up solid diner grub from omelets to pancakes. The joint has operated since 1942 and owner Pete Contos has been in the Denver restaurant game since he moved from Greece in 1956. In his honor, get the Greek Breakfast Sandwich: gyros, eggs in a pita with hash browns team up to take aim your drunkenness, Athens-style.