Ever since Avanti Food & Beverage opened its doors in the LoHi neighborhood to enthusiastic Denver foodies back in 2015, families in the heart of the city have started to discover the convenience of food hall dining. The food hall format brings multiple restaurant concepts together in one space; think the food courts of the 80s and 90s, but with healthier, fresher, and more interesting food options, and an elevated atmosphere. The allure, of course, is the endless options. Say you and your spouse are craving tacos with an ice cold brew and the kids are hoping to dive into some pizza and a milkshake. Everyone gets what they want in one place.
“The freedom and the diversity of options that food halls have brought has been a game changer for families,” says Andra Zeppelin, mom of two and former food editor for Eater Denver. “For those of us who care about what we eat, food halls offer the perfect solution. The kids can run around and there’s multiple options for multiple tastes. No need to sacrifice quality.”
Zeppelin says her two daughters love the vibe in food halls, and many of the businesses offer kid-friendly extras. Lucky for metro Denver families, the concept has steadily expanded over the years with a new crop of food halls open this year.
One of Denver’s first, Avanti offers burgers, French-inspired street food, Venezuelan arepas, poke, and a rotisserie. These are some tasty bites. Many of Avanti’s food stalls have launched their own brick-and-mortar restaurants—such as Chow Morso Osteria and Bamboo Sushi—based on their success in the food hall format. Avanti is generally kid-friendly, except as the evening darkens, when it fills with the cocktails-and-bites crowd and tables are hard to come by. They have crayons and activity sheets to entertain little ones, but if that doesn’t keep the kids occupied, head upstairs to take in the view of the city from stadium-style seating—it’s a great place to play “I Spy.” A Boulder location is planned in late 2019.
Denver’s newest, Broadway Market, opened its doors on February 22 just south of downtown. The converted space, which was once a Tony’s Market location, is home to several Denver favorites including Maria Empanada, Pizzeria Coperta, Mondo Mini, and Biju’s Little Curry Shop. With a total of nine eateries, a few newer restaurants are joining the counter service lineup including Mother Tongue and Wonder Press. Families can expect quick service, ample seating, and a dining experience unlike any other on Broadway.
The Denver Central Market, housed in a beautifully-restored, historic building, has 12 individual food counters, each serving something different while also complementing each other’s offerings. Whether you’re hoping to indulge in some wood-fired pizza and a creamy ice cream cone or dive into a bowl of poke and a charcuterie board, there’s something satisfying for every craving. After dining at the market, walk through the surrounding RiNo neighborhood, where you’ll find several eye-catching murals in alleyways and off Larimer Street.
Denver Milk Market is located in the historic Dairy Block in LoDo at 17th and Wazee. The vibrant indoor space is home to several food stalls created by Colorado chef Frank Bonanno, including Lou’s Hot Naked (Chicken), Bao Chica Bao, Bonanno Brothers Pizzeria, Albina by the Sea, Mano Pastaria, Mopoke, and Morning Jones. The market-eatery is as quick as it is delicious, but you may want to avoid lunchtime on weekdays when it’s filled with the downtown work crowd. Finish the meal with a scoop of ice cream from the Moo Bar and stroll in the adjacent light-lined alley that was finished specifically for the Milk Market.
The Source is a Denver staple and some might say it was the first to open its doors to the idea of a food-hall concept in Denver. The one difference with this particular space is that it’s home to individual “dining-in” restaurants including Acorn, Comida, Smok, and Safta. Families can enjoy tasty fare while being served in a more casual setting. So, whether you’re craving tacos or barbecue, this family-friendly market has a spot for every day of the week.
A food-centric marketplace located in Stapleton, Stanley Marketplace is more accessible to the eastern and southern suburbs than other dining halls. The size sets it apart with two stories of restaurants and vendors. Dining includes Glazed and Confused donuts, Sweet Cow ice cream, Denver Biscuit Company, Stanley Beer Hall, and Rosenberg’s deli options. Families can enjoy quick and tasty meals before exploring the shops located inside the building. On-site parking lots add to the family-friendly offerings.
Denver welcomed Zeppelin Station early last year and it has continued to be a memorable addition to the dining scene. The “food stalls” include delicious fare like the banh mi from Vinh Xuong bakery, poke bowls from OK Poke, fried chicken from Injoi Korean Kitchen, and poutine with smoked brisket from Au Feu. Indoor stadium seating is great for families to gather and enjoy a casual meal. Once you finish noshing, grab a cone from Gelato Boy.