The Westword Watch List: Ten Top Places to Eat and Drink This Week

The Poka Lola Social Club makes our watch list.EXPAND
The Poka Lola Social Club makes our watch list.
Danielle Lirette

The Denver dining scene is heating up, with hot new eateries joining old favorites that are rolling out fresh ideas. Lately, we've been on an eating binge of barbecue platters, Thai comfort food, savory bakery pastries and out-of-this-world desserts. Join us on a tour of the ten restaurants on our watch list for April  — and what to eat when you get there.

Thai-style comfort food at 9 Thai.EXPAND
Thai-style comfort food at 9 Thai.
Mark Antonation

9 Thai
4122 East Colfax Avenue

Kyla Love took over the East Colfax space last occupied by a Thai Monkey Club outpost, with a goal of serving her favorite childhood Thai comfort food. The menu is small by Thai restaurant standards, but the heart and soul of the kitchen shine big in menu items like deceptively simple Hainanese chicken rice, a dish popular throughout Southeast Asia. Consider it deconstructed chicken soup, with boiled white meat and rice on one side and a profoundly chicken-y broth on the other. A spicy ginger dipping sauce provides a hearty back-slap with typical Thai gusto, but the dish stands out for its singular focus on chicken. For something a little more adventurous but no less comforting, go for a bowl of nam tok moo, a noodle soup loaded with sliced pork, pork meatballs and fried pork rind.

This ham-and-cheese croissant is one reason to head to Hinman's.
This ham-and-cheese croissant is one reason to head to Hinman's.
Facebook/Hinman's Bakery

Hinman's Bakery
4850 East 39th Avenue

Every day is Pie Day at Hinman's, where baker/owner John Hinman and his crew turn out some of the most delicious pies you'll ever sink your teeth into. But breakfast and lunch need to be taken care of first before you can descend on dessert, and Hinman's now offers both from a small but well-stocked retail room. The selection varies, but egg sandwiches and deli-style constructions on house-baked breads are part of the program. Flaky ham-and-cheese croissants and savory flatbreads loaded with cheese, bacon and veggies are a wise choice, too — in fact, they're just what the Park Hill neighborhood needs.

An assortment Navajo fry-bread tacos at Kachina.EXPAND
An assortment Navajo fry-bread tacos at Kachina.
Danielle Lirette

Kachina LoDo
1890 Wazee Street

Kachina debuted at the end of March with a modernized take on Southwestern cuisine, with plenty of turquoise and desert chic in the decor, but nary a howling coyote to be found. Instead, the menu straddles the line between fun and finesse, with elegant seafood crudo and Native American ingredients sharing space with ridiculously craveable Navajo fry-bread tacos. Fluffy, fried rounds hold a variety of fillings, from traditional carnitas and braised beef to tender duck confit with crunchy duck-skin chicharrones. If you can't decide, bring your friends and fire up a dozen so that you can try a little of everything and save a few bucks in the process.

Creamy burrata adds richness to a fresh salad at Little Spoons.EXPAND
Creamy burrata adds richness to a fresh salad at Little Spoons.
Mark Antonation

Little Spoons
1705 South Pearl Street

Spring has sprung, and garden flavors don't get much fresher than at Little Spoons, a four-seater sandwich shop and juice bar inside an Eastern wellness center. Relax and slow down the pace of your day with a burrata salad packed with young spinach, avocado and blackberries and drizzled with a vibrant salsa verde. And don't leave without indulging in one of owner Amelia Di Marco's traditional Italian desserts, like a slice of torta Caprese, a naturally gluten-free treat made with nothing but ground almonds, chocolate and duck eggs. Buon appetito!

Start with some of the best posole in town for dinner at Lola.EXPAND
Start with some of the best posole in town for dinner at Lola.
Mark Antonation

Lola Coastal Mexican
1575 Boulder Street

Chef Jamie Fader likes to mix things up at his pioneering Mexican eatery, which ushered in a thriving dining scene in the LoHi neighborhood — before anyone called it LoHi. A new menu boasts both traditional and innovative small plates and big platters, so go hungry. Start with shrimp and pork-cheek pozole, a humble dish that Lola promotes to star status not by messing with the basics, but by perfecting them. Then hop on the hot-trend train for a little fried chicken — hardly a Mexican classic, but here grounded with a beautiful mole verde that'll have you licking the plate long after the chicken is gone.

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