By Jonathan Shikes
By Alex Brown
By Cafe Society
By Samantha Alviani
By Lori Midson
By Mark Antonation
By Loren Lorenzo
By Nate Hemmert
Most interesting development on the restaurant scene this year: Over the last year or so, I've been happy to see the use of more local and responsibly raised/farmed products. And the reduction of trend-following — in Denver, especially.
Favorite restaurant in town: Twelve, although I haven't been there for dinner — just for their special lunch. I really appreciate Jeff's dedication to his ingredients and making sure his dishes aren't overly complicated.
What should the role of a reviewer be? A food critic should be opinionated and not wishy-washy. Love it or hate it, too many reviews end up being squarely in the middle, which leaves us wondering how the critic really feels. Have an opinion and be clear.
Most interesting development on the restaurant scene this year: The proliferation of good-quality, quick-service concepts like Stick It to Me, Pinche Tacos and Larkburger.
Favorite restaurant in town: The Empress...for several reasons. Tasha, my girlfriend, introduced me to the Empress a few years ago, and I fell absolutely in love with their baked pork buns. In fact, I haven't had a better one anywhere else. The Peking duck display case filled with roasted ducks, chickens and sides of pork rules, and if you get the right angle, you can see back into the kitchen where they often have whole pigs hanging from the ceiling by chains, just waiting to be butchered and roasted. It's really cool. I also love the cheesy irony of the place, like how the servers all wear tuxedo-style black-and-whites, which fools you into thinking it's all fancy...until you realize that you're sitting on what was probably once a cheap rental chair. It's also very quick and extremely affordable, too, plus I haven't had anything there that I didn't like with the one exception of the roasted duck feet; they weren't my favorite. Another plus (kind of) is that you can go around the corner to the absolute worst strip club in Denver, Dandy Dan's, when you're done gorging yourself.
What should the role of a reviewer be? First and foremost, review their experiences as a whole, from the food down to the decor and service, while remaining unbiased and fair. Don't go into a restaurant with high expectations because of what everyone is saying about it: Approach it like you've never heard of the place. The reviewer should have a strong — very strong — food background, and not just be someone who likes to eat. I want to read about a place from someone who has been in the industry — maybe they went to culinary school or worked in a diner through college. I don't care, just as long as you understand what the people in the hospitality business do on a daily basis to ensure that you have a great time. And please keep the review at least a bit interesting or funny. I don't want to read about just the facts, because that shit can quickly make me lose interest. (Insert Jason Sheehan reference here).
Most interesting development on the restaurant scene this year: The proliferation of new restaurants. I feel like people are always talking about the economy and how it isn't so great, yet more restaurants have been opening rather than closing, which is a great thing. A friend of mine once told me what he really liked about cooking, and it made me laugh. He said: "I really like my job because I know I'll always have one; people will always need to eat." Ha!
Favorite restaurant in town: ChoLon is still killing it. I continuously find myself craving the soup dumplings, Kaya toast and the Full Moon margarita.
What should the role of a reviewer be? Reviewers are a delegate of sorts between restaurants and their current and potential guests. The reviewers should be more educated and have access to more inside information than a normal guest.
Most interesting development on the restaurant scene this year: I'm really digging the move to casual food done really well. Throughout the country, the really noteworthy restaurants are becoming more and more casual, and really accomplished chefs are making huge strides in unpretentious, comfortable food, which I think is great. It really opens up what we do to the masses.