Best Of :: Food & Drink
Long gone are the days when chefs sliced and diced behind an iron curtain. Today's toques like the limelight — and they love being the center of attention, which is all the better for voyeuristic guests who like to eavesdrop on kitchenspeak while also watching a floor show. And at TAG, Troy Guard's Asian-guided restaurant in Larimer Square, the highly interactive chef's counter offers the best seats in the house. You can kibbitz with the animated cooks — they're all talkers — and also banter with Guard, who's usually right there in the thick of things. And if you're not sure what to order, just ask: You'll be flooded with recommendations, all of which will exceed your expectations.
Readers' Choice: ChoLon Bistro
Joints that operate 24/7 are as American as apple pie and chocolate pudding, but they're also a dying breed, especially in this city, where 10 p.m. — sometimes 9 — is the time du jour for turning off the lights. But not at this fluorescent-lit diner, whose parade of characters is most abundant when the bars go dim. Here you can banter with sassy (but tolerant) gum-smacking waitresses wearing Day-Glo-orange aprons, presumably to keep you awake — or to stop you from doing a face plant in one of the bright-orange vinyl booths. Endearing idiosyncrasies aside, the food, which includes everything from chicken-fried steak and burgers to breakfast burritos to elk sausage (at a diner!), is exactly what your stomach yearns for when you want to feast like a king.
Readers' Choice: Pete's Kitchen
Never had West African food before? No matter. Plop down in a wicker chair at African Grill and Bar, and owners Osei and Adwoa Ford-Wuo will walk your table through dozens of dishes, adding personal anecdotes about Africa, advising you on what kind of meat to order (goat, mostly) and sharing their favorite dishes: jollof rice, their number one; jollof rice with plantain, their number-one number one; and fufu, the only thing they need to be happy. Then they'll step back into the kitchen and cook your meal, turning out dishes that feature such West African staples as plantains, tomatoes, goat meat, cassava and peanut butter. The joint also makes excellent pan-fried chicken, and the brave should try the spot's special infused alcohol, which Osei says is meant to rile up your sexuality.
We may not be totally sober if we're seeking out a meal after midnight, but we're often coherent enough to know that we don't want any old slice of pizza or a foil-wrapped burrito. That's why we often find ourselves at My Brother's Bar in the wee hours. This iconic Denver bar, which for the last forty years has occupied an address that has held a saloon since the 1880s, serves a massive menu of burgers, sandwiches, salads and all manner of fried accoutrements until just before 2 a.m. last call every day but Sunday. That makes it a good bet for a detour on your way home, and an excellent place to end the night, taking down one last pint and loading up on something griddled and greasy before you turn in to sleep off the tipsy.
Readers' Choice: Pete's Kitchen
Since Aaron Forman opened Table 6, his cheeky, upscale homage to American comfort food, the restaurant has been the subject of a lot of hype, and early raves in national magazines led to the predictable onslaught of food tourists. But if anything, the restaurant has only gotten better over the past decade. Exec chef Scott Parker's kitchen cooks up a joke-littered lineup of haute comfort cuisine, drawing influence from all over the country. Taste the South in the buttermilk fried chicken, fast food in a burger inspired by In-N-Out Burger, and California in a hand-rolled pasta studded with succulent chunks of lobster. The menu, which changes frequently, pairs to one of the most unique wine lists in town, culled by wine whiz Forman. And whether you're a first-time diner or a regular, a VIP out-of-towner or a neighbor, Table 6 treats each guest like a good friend.
Readers' Choice: Steuben's
Let's get one thing straight: If you snooze, you lose — literally. Forget what hours are actually listed on the website or the door: Pierre Michel Organic French Bakery Cafe, which is shoehorned into a tight space in a sprawling strip mall, often shuts an hour — sometimes two — before the posted closing times, thanks to the breadheads who hurry to snatch up the French bakery's magnificent fruit pastries, butter croissants, quiches and French baguettes long before you've hit the snooze button. The bakery is a community center in Highlands Ranch, drawing regulars who crave everything that comes from the kitchen — particularly the Croque Madame, thick-sliced ham and melty Swiss stacked between butter-slicked slices of house-baked brioche and crowned with two eggs. Just make sure you arrive early to partake in the bakery's bliss; otherwise, you risk being apologetically turned away at the door.
Readers' Choice: Lovely Confections