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: From the inside looking out, it seems to me there a whole lot of local chefs who are branching out, opening additional joints and trying new concepts. From Bob Blair's new place at the TAXI complex and Justin Brunson's Church of Swine to Jensen Cummings's balls, Mark DeNittis's beginning of an empire, and all the rumored second and third places some chefs around town may be starting, there seems to be a coming wave of new, great places run by the tried and true of Denver's culinary scene.
Jorge de la Torre
Johnson & Wales University
Favorite restaurant in town: I love the Federal-Alameda area in general: JJ's Chinese, Lao Wang Noodle House, Saigon Bowl, Baker's Palace and Columbine Steak House.
What do you think the role of a reviewer should be? To give fair, constructively criticized reviews of all restaurants and to remain anonymous.
Most interesting development on the restaurant scene this year: I'm optimistically impressed by how restaurants keep opening in these uncertain economic times and how the level of quality keeps improving since I got to Denver ten years ago.
Favorite restaurant in town: Aside from my wife's restaurants — Rioja, Euclid Hall and Bistro Vendôme — I really love Frasca Food and Wine, in Boulder. I love going up there to celebrate special occasions or just to have a casual dinner, and I love that we have a restaurant that can cover both ends of the spectrum like that.
What do you think the role of a reviewer should be? I hope the person is informed about the food community and doesn't just focus on trends and everything — and everywhere — that's new. A review can make or break a restaurant that's teetering on the edge in their early days, and critics need to remember that it's people's lives that are at stake. I find that there's a way to inform the public on whether a restaurant is on the level or not without ruining — or trying to ruin — someone's livelihood.
Most interesting development on the restaurant scene this year: The number of great concepts opening in Lower Downtown, as well as all the prospects at the Union Station development. I'm pretty sure this area is really going to continue to grow and attract serious talent from all over the country.
Culinary director, Big Red F
Favorite restaurant in town: Always a tough question to answer, but since we typically dine out with our six-year-old daughter — who's an adventurous eater, for sure — our favorite spot is the Bagel Deli and Restaurant. The owners, Joe and Rhoda, are always there with Jared in the back somewhere handling biz, and that family presence makes for a great family atmosphere. The hospitality, earnest nature of their tableside visits, homemade vittles, endless possibilities for ordering — from the sublimely salty and rich to light and fresh — make for a great mainstay for our family.
What do you think the role of a reviewer should be? A reviewer is a reporter, by my standards, and because of that, they should do just that: report. While stories about their vacations and outings, parents and boyfriends/girlfriends might make for easy reading, the main points get lost, which are: As a diner, what will I be getting into when dining at the reviewed establishment? What is the service like, the decor and flow, rhythm and vibe? How is the wine/drink/beer list, and what's going on behind the bar? What does a snapshot of the menu look like in terms of offerings, theme and pricing? In the end, a reviewer should use their knowledge and experience to relate to their readers the experience they had while reviewing. A review should never be an opportunity for self-ingratiating horseshit that does nothing for the review but everything for the reviewer. And while they should be friendly, they should never be friends with the chefs. And it would be refreshing to not set the precedent that it's the reviewer and dining community against the chef and restaurateur community.
Most interesting development on the restaurant scene this year: What intrigues me the most is that in many cases, a new generation of chefs are opening restaurants. While I love seeing iconic chefs and owners/operators who've been around a while still growing and expanding, the cooks-turned-chefs-turned-owners are really thriving and starting their own legacies. That's not only cool, but beneficial to all of us. Their new visions, energy and passions are bringing better ingredients into town, which means more exposure for our amazing culinary scene and progressing the work we all do. New, fresh ideas melding with the old, and everyone wanting to maintain the mellow vibe and mutual respect that's been cultivated for decades is a great recipe for awesome things to come. I'm stoked.
TAG/TAG|RAW BAR/Madison Street
Favorite restaurant in town: I love Marco's Coal-Fired Pizza. It's family-friendly, Mark and Kristy Dym are great people, it's an independent restaurant in a cool neighborhood, the atmosphere is comfortable, and the food is always fresh and on point, with lots of imported ingredients; it's food I can eat a couple times a week, although I always get the Abruzzo pizza...it's so fucking good. And I know it's my own restaurant, but TAG|RAW Bar is still my fave. There are just a ton of great places to eat in Denver.