Nicknamed the Gateway to The Rockies, Aurora, Colorado is a picturesque city with a vibrant community of restaurants. Though American cuisine abounds, Aurora’s dining scene also boasts German, Indian and Thai dining establishments, plus gastro pubs focusing on handcrafted beer and hearty pub grub. Make sure you don’t miss out on the city’s 10 best restaurants and culinary hotspots.
Looking for some spicy, exotic fare to fire up your palate? Then look no further than Monsoon, a traditional and authentic Indian and Pakistani restaurant located in the grounds of Aurora’s Southlands mall. Despite only opening its doors in late 2013, the restaurant has already established a firm following in Aurora with guests praising the authenticity of its dishes, attentiveness of staff and stylish, airy space. Start with the spicy tandoori wings with Monsoon’s signature chili garlic-lime sauce followed by a vegetarian specialty dish like dal tadka – yellow lentils cooked with onions, garlic, ginger, roasted cumin and topped with butter. Leave room for a traditional Indian dessert like kheer – creamy, sweet basmati rice pudding with almonds, pistachios and coconut.
Opened in 2003, Bent Fork Grill is an independent and locally owned restaurant serving a menu of both traditional and contemporary American fare. This is complemented by an eclectic wine list and a wide range of martinis incorporating unusual ingredients such as pomegranate, chocolate and raspberry lemonade. Bent Fork Grill’s bright, light interior features sumptuous leather banquette seats and booths with walls adorned with works by Colorado-based artists. Enjoy some of chef Michael Walchak’s most scrumptious dishes like the Rocky Mountain salmon fillet marinated in brown sugar, white wine and soy sauce.
An American gastro pub proud of its Colorado roots, Cedar Creek Pub is a firm follower of the ‘support local’ movement and has forged a close relationship with 40 local companies who provide the pub with beer, wine, meat, fresh bread and other goods and ingredients. From its cozy, welcoming interior Cedar Creek Pub serves hearty fare such as soft pub pretzels with its homemade roasted jalapeno and cheese sauce, and the signature entrée of bourbon steak, an eight-ounce coulotte steak with a bourbon glaze and mashed potatoes – perfect when washed down with one of its ten on-tap beers.
Though not a strictly a restaurant in the conventional sense, the uniqueness of the Dry Dock Brewing Company means the venue is nevertheless worth a mention, especially for lovers of handcrafted beers. When it was first established in 2005 by owners Kevin DeLange and Michelle Reding, it became Aurora’s first brewery and its success has seen it scoop two gold medals at the 2013 Great American Beer Festival and the title of Denver A-List’s Best Brewpub on five different occasions. The brewery includes a 180-seat tasting room with 16 beers on tap and though it doesn’t serve its own food, guests are welcome to order in food from local eateries while they sample Dry Dock’s award-winning beers.
While a German restaurant may seem out of place among the plethora of American restaurants Aurora has to offer, the Denver metropolitan area is actually built on a strong historic community of 19th century German immigrants, making Helga’s a befitting local haunt. Both a restaurant and deli, Helga’s allows guests to sit in to eat its wholesome, tasty German classics or buy their own ingredients to recreate dishes at home. To get a real taste of German cuisine, order the bratwurst platter – a choice of two bratwursts (smoked, veal or Thüringer) served with German-style mustard.
Established by two sisters, Sarin and Sandy, who grew up in Bangkok watching their family cook delicious, traditional Thai dishes, Pearl of Siam brings the tastes of the owners’ homeland to Aurora. With its impeccable service, eclectic menu and many past patrons hailing it as the best Thai food in Aurora, the restaurant is the perfect choice for diners looking for something a bit out of the ordinary. Pearl of Siam’s menu is populated with Thai cuisine’s quintessential mix of sweet, sour and spicy dishes. Try the Siamese seafood hot pot – a cilantro and chili flavoured hot and sour stew with shrimp, scallops, mussels, squid and mushrooms.
Rosie’s Diner invites guests to indulge in a sense of nostalgia with its 1950s themed all-American design. Established by owner Sam Dehghani, Rosie’s Diner features an interior full of archetypal diner aesthetics such as retro tiled floors, bar stool seats, neon lights and comfy booths each containing a vintage-style jukebox where a quarter will play two songs. Serving all-day breakfasts and dinner, Rosie’s menu features all the typical diner classics you could wish to find like baby back ribs with BBQ sauce and a number of burgers and hot dogs – perfect accompanied by one of Rosie’s handmade milkshakes. These come in flavors including peanut butter, strawberry banana and chocolate mint.
Something of a culinary institution in the Denver area, the original branch of Sam’s No 3 was established way back in 1927 by owner Sam Armatas. The restaurant was resurrected in 1998 by Sam’s son and grandsons and now includes three locations, including its branch in Aurora. It has also appeared on the TV show Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives where it was cited as one of the best diners in Colorado. Specializing in Mexican fare, but with a number of Greek and American classics too, the establishment’s menu features dishes such as the spicy Tex Mex beef and pork chili, smothered chili cheese hot dogs and Greek salad.
The perfect destination for diners who like to combine juicy steaks and succulent seafood with great music, The Summit Steakhouse and Seafood is a fantastic local haunt with live musical entertainment in the evenings from Tuesday to Sunday. In its inviting candlelit ambiance, The Summit invites guests to try a range of classic American dishes – carnivores will love its black Angus filet mignon medallions with a choice of sauces, while pescatarians will enjoy the flour-dusted, pan-fried walleye with jasmine rice and a fresh vegetable medley. Go during happy hour where half-price cocktails are accompanied by live piano music.
Bar, Cafe, Restaurant, Wine Bar, American, Italian, Wine, $$$
The perfect destination for any self-professed wine connoisseur, the Wine Experience Café is a contemporary wine bar serving wine-friendly modern American cuisine. Established by wine lovers Eldon and Rita Larson, the restaurant offers guests the option of dining inside in its stylish, spacious dining room with street-facing floor-to-ceiling windows or outside on its casual patio. Executive chef Jason Lee cooks up dishes like the tuna tartare appetizer with crispy gyoza, radish, cucumber, sesame seed and pineapple vinaigrette and entrees like seared duck breast with Yukon potato puree, grilled asparagus and sautéed peaches. Next door is the cafe’s World Cellar where guests can pick up a bottle of Wine Experience’s 150 varieties to take home.