By Jamie Swinnerton
By Mark Antonation
By Lori Midson
By Jonathan Shikes
By Amber Taufen
By Cafe Society
By Juliet Wittman
By Jonathan Shikes
Chicken Teriyaki (6603 Leetsdale Drive) is tiny and slow, but an order of seven beef-filled gyoza for $3.25 is ample reward for your wait. So is the hot meatball sandwich at Mr. Lucky's (711 East Sixth Avenue), which usually has only one person working. That person, though, knows how to put big, round balls of seasoned beef in a fat baguette with provolone and parmesan and run it through the salamander so that the specialty oven turns the bread hot and crusty and the insides become one big molten mass. And I even found a bang-up ethnic joint in Parker, where Joong's Thai Pan Restaurant (10920 South Parker Road) does it right with well-spiced curries and a very tasty pad Thai.
Another also-ran, Swing Thai (301 South Pennsylvania and 845 Colorado Boulevard), has continued to improve on a good idea: fast-food Thai. Uneven when it first opened, Swing Thai now hits the mark pretty consistently. (Skip the fresh spring rolls, which always come out tasting like carrots wrapped in uncooked dough, and go for the tom kha gai, a rich, rich take on the coconut-based lemongrass soup.)
A final contender was the biscotti from Wally Biscotti, whose twice-baked Italian cookies are now sold throughout the Southwest and on both coasts. The company was founded by Wallace Friedlander, and he's been able to get a bunch of local markets to carry his goods, including the Whole Foods Market in Boulder (2301 30th Street) and Cherry Creek North (2375 East First Avenue), and the new one that just opened up in Highlands Ranch (9366 South Colorado Boulevard). The biscotti factory itself started out in Boulder but has since moved to 4850 East 39th Avenue. The difference between Wally's biscotti and others is that Wally's cookies are soooo moist, you don't have to have your orthodontia redone after biting into one -- and the flavors (pistachio-almond, peanut butter, ginger) are intriguing.
But for all the wonderful discoveries during my Best of Denver research, there were also many, many disappointments. I visited one reader's recommendation, Sweetwater Station (9975 Wadsworth Parkway), and came away wondering: "What were they thinking?" To get to Sweetwater, you have to drive almost to Wyoming, and there's nothing about this smoky spot that would entice me to drive there again. The burger was fine, a solid half-pounder nicely charbroiled and served on a fat, crusty-topped bun, but I could have butchered a steer, ground up the meat and cooked it on my own grill in the time it took to get to the place.
On another excursion, I found myself flashing back to the '70s at Mestizo (303 16th Street), in the second-floor space that had once been Beacon Grill. This Latin-themed restaurant and lounge had been touting its free happy-hour buffet, so a friend and I stopped by -- only to be greeted by chips and salsa and a few sad make-your-own- tacos fixin's. Working the singles scene at the bar were several sad-sack out-of-towners, complete with rolling briefcases full of sales materials.Open-and-shut cases: Don't bother calling the number for Panadería & Pastelería Santa Fe (750 Santa Fe Drive) that we offered in the Best of Denver -- and got from directory assistance and the phone book. The only way to reach this warm, wonderful Mexican bakery is by calling 720-904-2088. And the number for Vasil's Euro-Grille, another winner, is 303-799-3600.
Meanwhile, the phone at China Terrace (1512 Larimer Street), a Chinese mainstay in Writer Square for over two decades, is most definitely disconnected and the place closed for good. And I noticed that the odd building that had been Ed Dee's Killer Shrimpand then Pho Parker (1180 South Parker Road) is now called the International European Restaurant, with Russian letters on the sign.
An exciting new urban-style market is now open seven blocks east of downtown. Marczyk Fine Foods (720 East 17th Avenue), owned by husband-and-wife team Peter Marczyk and Barbara Macfarlane (she was one of the Wynkoop Brewing Co.'s founding partners), promises fresh produce, international cheeses, dry-aged beef, baked items, an in-house wine shop and more, including that truly hard-to-find commodity, ample parking.