Best of Denver®

Best Of 2003

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Best Of :: Food & Drink

Best Starters

There's nothing that Clair de Lune doesn't do well, but the one thing Sean Kelly's place does better than anyone else in town is appetizers. Picture the plateau de fruits de mer -- one of the few mainstays on a menu that changes according to the whims of the chef and the winds of commerce -- with its spiced shrimp, half a lobster and immaculately fresh Littleneck clams and Malpeque oysters lying like knobby gems on a bed of ice. Or the antipasti misti -- a wildflower sketched in food with bright-orange persimmon, powerful house-cured sardines, roasted red peppers, caper berries, black olives, tiny cubes of marinated chèvre, homemade bracciole and crisp-fried baby artichokes drizzled with basil aioli. Yes, Clair de Lune puts out some wonderful dinner plates. Yes, it does great desserts. But in his starters, Kelly is painting a picture. To every diner who sees one of these plates in front of him, he's carefully explaining, in the best way he knows how, what that diner can expect from the rest of his meal: excellence, and nothing less.

Best "Always Get Lucky on the Third Date" Dinner Destination
Cuba Cuba

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.

1173 Delaware St., Denver, 80204
MAP
303-605-2822
Best Capitol Education While Noshing Wolfe¹s Barbeque
Wolfe's Barbeque

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.

333 E. Colfax Ave., Denver, 80203
MAP
303-831-1500
Best Freak-Show, Acid-Trip, "I Certainly Didn't Come Here for the Food" Mexican
Casa Bonita

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.

6715 W. Colfax Ave., Lakewood, 80214
MAP
303-232-5115
Best Joint

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.

Best Joint
Skylark Lounge

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.

140 S. Broadway, Denver, 80203
MAP
303-722-7844
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Best Starters: Clair de Lune

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