Best Of :: Food & Drink
If it isn't K, it's not okay: That's the rule in Denver's kosher households. And that's not always an easy rule to comply with, as anyone up against it can tell you. (You know the ones -- those poor folks often spotted studying labels at the grocery store for the oft-hidden symbol announcing that the food is, indeed, prepared according to ancient Jewish law.) But at Lynn Zwerdlinger's Kosher Konfections, tucked away in a southeast Denver strip mall, you never have to look before you leap for the holiday goodies: All of the candies are certified locally by Scroll K -- Vaad Hakashrus. And, oy, has she got candy: tried-and-true chocolates from Bartons and Barricini, lollipops, mints, nuts and every other sort of sweet imaginable, including a few errant cookies. The place is a veritable nosh pit!
Cuba Cuba has the power to move you. No matter how gray the day or unpromising the night, the big Havana vibe at this little tropical oasis will transport you to more laid-back latitudes the minute you step through the door. The food is fun -- from Cuban picadillo and rum-painted snapper to plantain chips and cigar selections with dessert -- and the shoulder-to-shoulder weekend crowds of smart Denver diners out for a sophisticated mini-spring break give the whole place a humid, sexy edge that's sure to break anyone's ice. And hey, if the lively crowds, spicy Latin music and expertly casual floor staff orchestrated by Kristy Socarras Bigelow don't loosen things up, have the bar mix up a few of its killer mojitos. After a couple of these, luck will have nothing to do with getting lucky.
Wolfe's Barbeque, a jewel-box-sized restaurant on Colfax, feels like a Southern lunch place. But head cook and bottle washer Louis Wolfe is a Kansan by birth and a Denverite by choice. So much so that his walls are lined with collectible postcards of area buildings that date back to the 1900s -- and he can tell the story of each one. The Section 8 housing at Colfax and Grant used to be the Grand Argonaut Hotel, for example, and Temple Emmanuel was stunning in its early glory. As Wolfe gives his colorful and entertaining history lesson -- served up with a slice of great pecan pie -- you can stick your head out the door and still see the remains of what he's describing.
Hunter Thompson once said of Circus Circus in Las Vegas, "This is what the whole hep world would be doing on a Saturday night if the Nazis had won the war." Well, that was then -- and today, Casa Bonita is the place to see what would really become of the world if the radical fun police ever had their way. Sure, we all know the food is, er, questionable. But that can be said of a lot of places where there aren't strolling mariachi bands and teenage cliff divers, so everyone just give Casa Bonita a break, okay? Will anyone who's ever been there soon forget the smell of the swampy, chlorinated backsplash that could grace your gooey tacos if you're lucky enough to get a seat behind the waterfall? For sheer "I can't believe this place is real" thrills, nothing beats Casa Bonita -- the closest thing in Denver to a Terry Gilliam film come to life. And hey, any place where you can buy Coronas by the bucket can't be all bad.
A true joint has a little funk, a little style hidden underneath whatever else it is. And while on most nights of the week the Skylark Lounge is simply a great bar -- and a neighborhood hangout for nearly sixty years -- on those evenings when they pull back the tables and wire up the mikes for some live rockabilly, the 'Lark really takes wing. Sure, its age is beginning to show in the scuffed bar top and the patched vinyl booths, but come the weekends, when the crowds are packed leather-on-leather tight, the Skylark proves that age really is nothing but a state of mind.