Best Of :: Food & Drink
Denver is home to an estimated 10,000 people of Ethiopian descent — and nearly as many Ethiopian restaurants, or so it seems when you're driving east on Colfax through Aurora. Choosing one that reflects the diversity and nuances of Ethiopian cuisine can be a challenge for those unfamiliar with the smells and spices of East Africa. But the native, the initiated and the adventurous can all be found at Africana Cafe, where the city's Abasha community meets to eat. Africana offers the usual array of traditional Ethiopian food: spongy injera bread, platters of vegetables and meats accented with the earthy berbere chili spice, as well as really traditional dishes such as kitfo — raw or rare ground beef served with lots of fire. But Africana stands out for its perfect rendering of a few simple but beloved staples, including shiro wot, a stew of chickpeas puréed with garlic. This is comfort food for those yearning for Addis Ababa — and anyone who just loves simple, tasty and good.
Rise and Shine Biscuit Kitchen and Cafe, a pioneering little enterprise that shares the same Crestmoor quarters as Basil Doc's Pizza, buzzes with a heavy trade of moms toting toddlers in state-of-the-art strollers, java guzzlers and bread heads who show up bright and early for the flaky, fresh-baked buttermilk biscuits — pudgy, warm in the center and delicious on their own or slathered with butter, jam or honey. Naked, they're just $1.25; add jam or honey for another two bits. Owner and master biscuit-maker Seth Rubin always offers a biscuit of the day — bacon cheddar, Nutella, smoked Gouda and rosemary olive oil have all been recent offerings — and on Fridays, he bakes batches of beer biscuits with brews from Great Divide Brewing Company.
The champagne just keeps flowing at the Dom Perignon Sunday Brunch, offered from 10 a.m. until 3 p.m. every week in Ellyngton's, the elegant corner dining room at the Brown Palace. And the brunch buffet spread is just as sumptuous as the surroundings: There are stations that make waffles and omelets to order; stations that carve up huge haunches of meat and dish up fresh fish; salad and sushi stations; pastry stations overflowing with incredible confections. The buffet alone will run you $46.95, but since this is food fit for a king, you might as well treat yourself royally and fork over the $186.95 that will let you brunch with Dom.
Rosa Linda's Mexican Cafe marked its 25th anniversary this year — 25 years of serving up some of the city's best Mexican food in a northwest Denver neighborhood that was beyond sketchy when Rosa Linda's first opened and is now the hottest restaurant neighborhood in the city. To celebrate this big birthday, the Aguirre family decided to give the entire city a present: weekly specials that roll prices back to 1985. In honor of the restaurant's very first Best of Denver win, through April 7 the special is the Best of Denver Combo: one shredded beef or chicken burrito, one chile relleno, both smothered in green with a side of rice and beans, for just $5.95. But even ordering off Rosa Linda's regular menu, you can get a big dinner for under ten bucks — and the incredible hospitality from this friendly family is all free.
Put this in your pipe and smoke it: If you like your coffee strong and the atmosphere in which you drink it just as pungent, head for Gypsy House Cafe. The specialty here is Turkish coffee, which is a leap for the Starbucks connoisseur, but it's well worth the plunge. The food is good, the wi-fi is free — and they'll hook you up with just the right tobacco for your hookah.
Happy has made a number of adjustments since it opened in early 2009 as Happy Noodle House, most of them very smart (and earning this Big Red F venture a nod from Forbes in its "America's Best New Restaurants" lists). But none of the developments have been as happy as the evolution of the Bitter Bar, Happy's "late-night alter ego," where mixologist and partner James Lee (named one of the country's top ten mixologists by Playboy Magazine) has turned the handcrafted cocktail into a contemporary art form. At the Bitter Bar, what's old is brand-spanking-new again, as the staff gives an original twist to traditional cocktails, using local, organic, fresh ingredients — and very fresh thinking. Lee shares that thinking at regular cocktail classes that have become one of the hottest tickets in town.