DENVER (KDVR) — Whether you want to grab a burger or a giant bowl of pasta or even a mouth-watering cinnamon roll, the Centennial State has food options for every palate.
Colorado also has several iconic restaurants that have stood the test of time and can’t be found anywhere else in the world.
Here’s a look at eight of the iconic restaurants only found in our state:
The Buckhorn Exchange is located at 1000 Osage St. in Denver. It opened in 1893 and features a unique menu, with offerings like rattlesnake, fried alligator tail and Rocky Mountain oysters.
Here’s a look at some of the history of the Buckhorn Exchange, according to its website:
Denver’s most historic eating and drinking establishment was founded in 1893 by Henry H. ‘Shorty Scout’ Zietz, one of the most colorful figures of the Old West.
In 1875, at age 10, wide-eyed Zietz met Col. William F. “Buffalo Bill” Cody and by age 12 was a full-fledged member of his hard-riding, straight-shooting band of scouts. During those years, the great Indian leader, Chief Sitting Bull, dubbed Zietz “Shorty Scout,” in reference to his diminutive stature.
President Theodore Roosevelt was among early visitors when in 1905 his Presidential Express train pulled up in the Rio Grande yards. Roosevelt strutted in in presidential style, asked Zietz to be his guide and hunting partner, and after dinner and drinks, the pair took off by train to hunt big game on Colorado’s Western Slope.Buckhorn Exchange
The restaurant has 4.4 stars on Google for 3,525 reviews.
Sam’s No. 3
Sam’s No. 3 has three locations in Colorado: Glendale, Aurora and Denver. The diner opened in Denver in 1927.
“Sam’s No.3 name and foods have been a Denver staple since 1927 when Sam Armatas, an immigrant from Lefkada Greece, opened on Curtis Street in Downtown Denver. Spero (son of Sam), Alex, Patrick, and Sam (Grandson’s) re-established their first brick and mortar Sam’s No.3 in Aurora in 1998, in Downtown Denver—back on Curtis Street and across the Street from the original location, in 2003, and in Glendale in 2013.”Sam’s No. 3
Sam’s No. 3 has a menu featuring over 100 items to satisfy every appetite. The diner has 4.6 stars for 8,031 reviews on Google.
Gaetano’s is an Italian restaurant located at 3760 Tejon St. in Denver’s Sunnyside neighborhood.
Sunnyside United Neighbors said Eugene, Clyde and Clarence Smaldone opened Gaetano’s in 1947.
Gateano’s was said to have been an old mob hangout because the Smaldone’s were a family involved in organized crime and bootlegging.
“The Smaldone family, Denver’s version of the Mafia, was low key, unlike their more high-profile brethren in New York, Chicago and New Jersey. They wore big hats and spiffy suits, but they didn’t race around town in big cars, mowing down rivals,” Dick Kreck said in a story for the Denver Center for the Performing Arts.
Gaetano’s has 4.4 stars for 2,046 reviews on Google.
The Cherry Cricket
The Cherry Cricket has two locations in Denver and is opening another location in Littleton.
The restaurant first opened in 1945 and was named “Mary Zimmerman’s Bar.” In 1950, Lloyd Page bought the bar and renamed it to “Cherry Cricket.”
“No one really knows where the name Cherry Cricket came from, and we like it that way. We do know that the Duffy’s addition to our nostalgic sign came from Bernard Duffy when he owned the bar in the 1960’s. It was during that time that Cricket became one of Denver’s first sports bars and gained a reputation as the black sheep of Cherry Creek. Like your crazy aunt, we might have been a little rough around the edges back then, but we meant no harm. We just wanted to fill your belly with the city’s favorite burgers and Colorado craft beer.”The Cherry Cricket
The Cherry Cricket has 4.5 stars on Google for 5,071 reviews. It is known for having some of the best burgers in Denver.
Johnson’s Corner is a restaurant located at the Johnson’s Corner truck stop at 2842 SE Frontage Rd. in Johnstown.
The restaurant opened in 1952 and is known for its giant cinnamon rolls.
“Johnson’s Corner is the home of the World Famous Cinnamon Roll – sweet, delicious and as big as your plate. But our menu includes much more than cinnamon rolls,” Johnson’s Corner shared on its website.
Johnson’s Corner has 4.2 stars on Google for 1,387 reviews.
Casa Bonita is located at 6715 W. Colfax Ave. in Lakewood.
The highly anticipated reopening for Casa Bonita is expected to happen in May.
The restaurant, which has been around since 1974, hasn’t been open since spring of 2020 due to COVID-19 pandemic restrictions.
In September 2021, Trey Parker and Matt Stone, the creators of “South Park,” entered into a purchase agreement to buy Casa Bonita.
The previous owners of Casa Bonita filed for bankruptcy in April 2021.
Casa Bonita is known for its cliff diving entertainment and was also featured on South Park. While its current rating on Google is 3.5 stars for 7,167 reviews, the restaurant has hired Dana “Loca” Rodriguez as the new executive chef.
In 2021, Rodriguez told FOX31 that she plans to “improve everything, but change nothing.”
My Brother’s Bar
My Brother’s Bar is located at 2376 16th St. in Denver. The bar itself has been in the Mile High City since 1873. However, it has changed names over time.
“While the names have changed over these 145 years, “Brother’s” has been in operation since 1970,” the business shared on its website.
“Fifty years ago, Jim and Angelo Karagas took a journey west, from their hometown of Detroit, Michigan, to Denver, Colorado. After looking around for an affordable business they could purchase, they settled on Whitey’s, now known as My Brother’s Bar.
The story of the name comes from the early days, when it was basically a two-man operation: Jim and Angelo would share the job duties, one behind the bar, the other in the kitchen; then they would swap places the next day. When a vendor would come by to collect payment, it became a catch phrase: “Don’t look at me, it’s my brother’s bar”.”My Brother’s Bar
It is also a top-rated restaurant with 4.5 stars for 2,193 reviews on Google.
Beau Jo’s has six different locations in Colorado and first opened in 1973 in Idaho Springs.
According to Beau Jo’s website, Pete ZaPigh carved the recipe for the pizza on a shell of a box turtle known by Beau Jo.
“Beau Jo, the turtle wandered the Colorado landscape for 75 years before being rediscovered by a local fellow named Chip. Once Chip realized that Beau Jo was carrying Pete ZaPigh’s beloved pizza recipe, the world rejoiced, and Beau Jo’s Colorado-style pizza was born,” Beau Jo’s said on its website.
Beau Jo’s is known for its Colorado-style pizza, which has a thick, braided crust that is made for dipping in honey.
The restaurant has 4.6 stars for 8,726 reviews on Google.