By Jonathan Shikes
By Alex Brown
By Cafe Society
By Samantha Alviani
By Lori Midson
By Mark Antonation
By Loren Lorenzo
By Nate Hemmert
If you're anything like us, even the most pressing concerns — Is there life after death? By what percentage will Obama beat Romney in the presidential election? How much longer till Lindsay Lohan gets caught with hoisted diamonds in her bra? — are kicked to the asphalt at the mere mention of dinner. Where should we eat? That's the real question, the one that most of us ask ourselves nearly every day around five or six, when our bellies begin to burp with hunger pains.
Lucky for us, the choices in Denver are almost endless — even top chefs and restaurateurs have a hard time narrowing down their favorite spots for a meal. But we prodded them anyway, and their answers, much like ours, span the spectrum. And we weren't done questioning them: We also asked them to give us insight into the trends that have shaped this year's culinary climate.
Herewith their quirky, serious and, at times, eyebrow-arching answers.
Steuben's/Vesta Dipping Grill/Ace
Your favorite restaurant in town: I love going to Il Posto. The kitchen staff is doing some really great things right now with fresh seasonal foods and a bit of progressive technique. I really like the space, too, and the entire staff is amazing and makes you feel right at home. Not only did I spend my daughter's fifth birthday there — her choice — but also my 35th, and both evenings were exceptional.
Westword has a new restaurant reviewer. What do you think the role of a reviewer should be? Like all reviewers, they should give a fair, unbiased review, as well as be a person who explains or interprets the restaurant scene to the non-restaurant worker. A middleman of sorts, I suppose.
Most interesting development on the restaurant scene this year: Denver has really continued to blow up this year. There are great places, big and small,
everywhere you turn, in every part of town. It's great to see so many independent restaurants find success and not feel like there's a big air of competition, but just one of camaraderie and support.
Your favorite restaurant in town: ChoLon. I love Lon's cooking, and his dedication and hard work are showcased in every dish he serves.
What do you think the role of a reviewer should be? A reviewer should help the reader get excited about new restaurants, warn us when they think a place is less than good, and entertain and enlighten the reader.
Most interesting development on the restaurant scene this year: Breakfast joints seem to be all the rage. There aren't enough really good breakfast places, but those that are good are killing it. Oh, great — now I want pancakes.
Vesta Dipping Grill/Ace/Steuben's
Favorite restaurant in town: Right now it's Strings. While I haven't been in for food, I do know that Tammy is carrying Noel's torch and that the Strings family is recovering more and more every day. Nothing but love for the past, present and future of Strings.
What do you think the role of a reviewer should be? The role of the reviewer should be to educate and entertain, but to do so in a way that understands and respects the livelihood of the restaurateur.
Most interesting development on the restaurant scene this year: That once again Denver had a huge year of restaurant growth with very few closings. Denver continues to grow, and its food scene just continues to get better and better.
Cellar Wine Bar
Your favorite restaurant in town: Lao Wang Noodle House. I love it for its simplicity and authenticity. It's just two people who love what they do — and they do it so damn well. I think it's representative of something that's rarely seen in American dining but is often the general rule elsewhere in the world: someone doing something very specific — in this case, noodles and dumplings — and doing it extremely well. All too often, restaurants try to do too many things rather than using restraint and focusing on doing just one thing perfectly. Perfect noodles and dumplings — that's what I crave.
What do you think the role of a reviewer should be? In this age of blogs and apps and Yelp and Urbanspoon, the professional — and hopefully trained reviewer — is actually more important than ever. It's awesome that anyone can go to a restaurant and immediately write a review, but that immediate reviewing privilege is often misused or simply used inappropriately due to ignorance or naiveté about the realities of our industry. The professional reviewer or critic serves a vital role as a standard-bearer — someone whom the general public, as well as the industry, can look to as a reputable measurement among all of the online reviews written by just anyone.
Most interesting development on the restaurant scene this year: I'd love to say that the proliferation of food trucks has been a good and interesting development for the food scene in Denver this year, particularly because Denver has always been lacking in street food. But just the other day, I saw an Applebee's food truck, and with it, I witnessed the death of everything good about that trend. On a better note, I think the sheer talent in this town, combined with the number of wonderful restaurants — new and old — putting out good, wholesome, made-with-love thoughtful food, is a tremendous development. The fact that Denver is finally starting to get a little bit of national recognition as a serious food town is pretty awesome.