This excerpt was originally published in November of 2016 by the Zagat staff.

It was an incredible year for dining across the U.S. in 2016. With chefs from NY, Chicago and SF moving to smaller markets like Denver, Charlotte, Seattle and Charleston (among others), culinary innovation is booming in cities big and small. But which food town had the biggest growth spurt this year? For one final look back, we’ve asked editors around the country to make a case for the city they believe had the biggest year in food by assessing the number of exciting new openings, award recognition and national media attention. Then we let some of the top food media brass weigh in on which locales were most exciting. Don’t see your pick on the list? Let us know in the comments.

No. 3: Denver, CO

The best city for singles. For millennials. For entrepreneurs. For outdoorspeople. Over the past few years, Denver has ranked at or near the top of virtually every U.S. index there is; it was only a matter of time before outsiders “discovered” its dynamic dining scene too. This year alone, Nobu Matsuhisa, Gregory Gourdet, Deborah Schneider and Hugh Acheson staked claims here; Jeffrey Wall of Atlanta’s Kimball House is on his way, and so is the team behind New York’s Death & Co.

Meanwhile, there’s no stopping our homegrown talent. Beard award-winners Bobby Stuckey and Lachlan Mackinnon-Patterson (Frasca) will be opening Tavernetta soon; fellow recipient Jennifer Jasinski (Rioja et al.) is expanding her mini empire with Ultreia. Rising stars like Hop Alley’s Tommy Lee, The Way Back’s Chad Michael George, Joshua Pollack of Rosenberg’s Bagels & Delicatessen and Bar Dough’s Mac MacKissock have swiftly garnered national acclaim. The spotlight that was already trained on our impressive field of food halls (The Source, Avanti F&B, Union Station) just intensified with the opening of The Central Market; Stanley Marketplace will be even bigger. And though Denver’s long been at the craft-brewing forefront, it’s poised to break whole new ground (theoretically, at least) with the legalization of cannabis use in restaurants and bars. Innovationwise, this is the wonderfully Wild West all over again.

–Ruth Tobias