By Jonathan Shikes
By Alex Brown
By Cafe Society
By Samantha Alviani
By Lori Midson
By Mark Antonation
By Loren Lorenzo
By Nate Hemmert
What do you think the role of a reviewer should be? I think of a reviewer as a well-versed entertainer. By that I mean I want to read a review by someone who has a legit culinary background combined with the wit and wisdom to provide keen insight into the workings of the reviewed establishment. I've read enough quotes about how tasting a certain dish evoked thoughts of...blah, blah, blah (fill in region or past restaurant of your choice). Tell me about the subtle clues you perceive by watching the staff work together. Or open it up and ask the chef/owner/manager questions about what they're trying to achieve. Make it fun, but have humility.
Most interesting development on the restaurant scene this year: I'm not much of a trend spotter, and I'm a little too busy to glean a theme for the Denver scene, but I'll admit that I'm amazed by how full and busy our numerous restaurants are. Many of our quality establishments raise the bar for all — so cheers to the Denver restaurant patrons and their love of good food. Without them, we'd all be screwed.
Williams & Graham
Your favorite restaurant in town: That's going to depend on the day, my mood, where I am and how much time I have — all that. But overall, speaking to design, service, food and drink quality, and fruition of concept, I have to say the Squeaky Bean. It's a beautiful blend of elegance and irreverence, culture and kitsch — much like Johnny and Max themselves. Plus, I love ogling that French top range.
What do you think the role of a reviewer should be? Foremost: To be, or at the very least appear to be, honest and knowledgeable. Secondly, to actually review restaurants. That means commenting on good and bad things about food, drink, service and ambience. Get people going to new and/or great places, or knock the wind out of someone's pretentious sails. It doesn't mean continuing campaigns of food politics, helping a friend or stroking some "Denver Big Dog." Lastly, like everywhere else in the industry, I don't care if it was raining and your pretty hat got wet, or if you've had a bad day. And I certainly don't need to hear about it. Just do the job.
Most interesting development on the restaurant scene this year: Love, or a resurgence of energy. There are a lot of new places out there putting out great things, because they care, and there are a lot of new spots with familiar faces changing it up or feeling a breath of fresh air. And I appreciate the established icons that are sticking to their standards of service — not getting complacent. These things make me happy. I love having two great new breakfast spots in my neighborhood, neither overrun with hipsters or douches. I love seeing friends out there with new menus, new spaces and new toys. And I love going somewhere I've been going to for years and having it feel like the same great place I remember.
Your favorite restaurant in town: Based on the sheer frequency that I eat there, it's probably Jerusalem. I live nearby and usually end up eating here at least a few times a month. I've been going late-night ever since high school, and it's definitely become comfort food to me. Sometimes their consistency lacks, but when it's right, it's incredible.
What do you think the role of a reviewer should be? To be honest, I don't think I should know that a restaurant reviewer is a restaurant reviewer until after they've reviewed me — so, anonymity. After that, the role of a reviewer should be to report their experience from the standpoint of a customer. If I'm a guy choosing where to take a date and I'm relying on Westword to point me in the right direction, I want the review to have the upsides and downsides of each place. Every restaurant has both, even if they're closer to one side than the other.
Most interesting development on the restaurant scene this year: For me, it's the fact that there are a lot of new places opening — and even better, they're independent places with some character. Guests seem to be going out on a limb and trying new things, and I think Denver has a lot of chefs with great ideas and a willingness to push the envelope. Everybody's been beaten over the head with the recession since 2008, but I think it's turning out small-business owners who are more willing to invest in themselves than leave it up to somebody on Wall Street to play with their money.
Elway's Cherry Creek
Favorite restaurant in town: When I need to get a break from the beef world, Jen, my wife, and I go to Sushi Den. We're fortunate to have an amazing friendship with owners Yasu and Toshi, so they create an awesome tasting menu for us every time we come in. They're gifted and talented chefs who always blow us away with their passion for food.