Best Of :: Food & Drink
Martha Stewart, eat your heart out. The Highlands Garden Cafe is not only a wonder of a restaurant, but its garden comes close to heaven on earth. When owners Pat and Chuck Perry expanded their eatery into the Victorian house next door, they added to their outside patio as well as their inside dining area. And when Pat wasn't in the kitchen (Chuck runs the front of the house), she was out in the yard, filling the exterior space with as many flowers and plants as it would hold. The result is miraculous: a calming, serene setting that looks like something out of a frou-frou gardening magazine and serves as the perfect place to truly enjoy the fruits of Pat's labors. Soak up the scented air while gazing at wildflowers and tasting the fresh herbs in the seasonally influenced fare before you. Pat's talents with food are as impressive as her way with plants; what she does with animals such as salmon and chicken, all awash in delectable cream sauces, will give you glimpses of a whole new luxurious way of eating. What a way to grow!
As fans of the unbelievably good ribs at Brothers BBQ on Leetsdale since it opened three years ago, we didn't think the British-born O'Sullivan brothers could get any better. But then they opened a second location in an old convenience store in central Denver -- a spot where they can serve cold beer alongside their hot 'cue -- and Brothers is now a real double threat. The dry-rubbed, slow-smoked, St. Louis-cut ribs are so tasty, so tender, we could eat a rack plain, but we also love the peppery, vinegary Memphis-style sauce and the sweet, smoky Kansas City-style sauce. Dem bones, dem bones.
You'll be dazzled by the late-night look of Dazzle. Even after the funky dining room closes, the intimate, elegant lounge keeps things cooking, serving up down-home favorites with an upscale twist. Stumble in at midnight on a Friday or Saturday night, and you can still snag a dazzling bar burger: a quarter-pounder on focaccia with your choice of Stilton or smoked Gouda, along with exceptional thin-cut French fries. If your night's been a rough one, add some iron via a soothing salad of spinach with candied walnuts and blue cheese. Better to eat late than never at Dazzle. (Fair warning: On Tuesdays and Wednesdays, the kitchen closes at 10 p.m., and Dazzle is closed entirely on Sundays and Mondays.)
Pete's Pizza makes a righteous pie -- and that's even more impressive since all of the pizzas that come out of this kitchen are completely kosher, right down to the meat toppings. For anyone who keeps kosher but still craves America's favorite food, Pete's is a real garden of eatin'.
While some Japanese restaurants focus on sushi and others concentrate on cooked dishes, Domo offers the entire Japanese experience -- from the folk-art museum that depicts daily life to the Zen garden and aikido dojo to the fabulous, country-style foods. The latter includes nabemono, with many ingredients cooked together in a clay pot; yakimono, with a choice of meats or seafood in one of three sauces; and tojimono, dishes made from meats with shiitakes and seaweed, all sautéed in soy or miso broth before being steamed in an egg custard. The country-style sushi, or wankosushi, is chef/owner Gaku Homma's take on the sushi of his youth: raw seafood topped with special seasonings and served alongside little wooden bowls of rice. Domo also has an extensive sake selection; try one or two or three while sitting in the attractive dining area, which is filled with flagstone-covered tables, tree-trunk stools and delicate Japanese knickknacks.
It's easy to have Thai restaurant ties in a town with so many good Asian eateries. One might have a superb pad Thai, another ambitious curries. But Thai Bistro has something that none of Denver's other Thai restaurants do: chef/owner Noi Phromthong. His cooking is all about the Thai philosophy of balance: sweet coconut milk, spicy chiles, sour limes, bitter herbs, all combined in ways that make the tongue sit up and take notice. And he doesn't curry favor just with his rich, complex concoctions; his modest strip-mall spot is always warm and welcoming.
If you love Lucy, you'll love the chocolates that the Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory turns out in her honor. The brainchild of Lucille Ball's children, Lucie and Desi Arnaz, Lucy's Chocolate Factory was inspired by that all-time favorite I Love Lucy episode in which Lucy and Ethel try to keep up with a speeding conveyor belt covered with chocolate. Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory, the exclusive manufacturer and distributor for the sweet treats, which includes lollipops, too, rolled out the Lucy line nationwide last Mother's Day; a section of its Web site is devoted to Lucy, where both edible and inedible memorabilia are offered for sale.