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Denver's ten best new restaurants of 2012

Squeaky Bean bartender Nick Touch plays mad scientist. Slide show: Scenes from Squeaky Bean
Squeaky Bean bartender Nick Touch plays mad scientist. Slide show: Scenes from Squeaky Bean
Mark Manger

With new restaurants popping up left and right, Denver's food scene is as exciting as it's ever been. Over 200 restaurants opened in the metro area in 2012, featuring everything from globally inspired cuisine to American classics. In the Best of Denver 2013, we'll unveil our pick for the Best New Restaurant. In the meantime, here is our list (in no particular order) of the top ten to open in Denver in 2012.

See also:

- First look: An Italian feast at Amerigo

- Presentation matters at Squeaky Bean

- The 2013 Best of Denver Readers' Poll

Denver's ten best new restaurants of 2012
Lori Midson

Amerigo

When Ian Chisholm opened 10) Amerigo Delicatus Restaurant & Market in Denver's Ballpark neighborhood this summer, he hit it out of the park. This small, inviting neighborhood eatery makes every dish from scratch. The menu includes such Italian classics as bruschetta, linguini and lasagna. But for dessert, there's the decidedly untraditional doughnut sundae, a house-made buttermilk doughnut and vanilla ice cream topped with chocolate ganache and walnuts.

Denver's ten best new restaurants of 2012
Mark Manger

9) Squeaky Bean

Squeaky Bean was a surprise hit in Highland, but the cramped quarters ultimately convinced owner Johnny Ballen to close his place. But he resurrected the concept with an entirely new Squeaky Bean that opened this past June in LoDo. The space is much, much larger -- and this time, he even has a kitchen where Max Mackissock turns out incredibly innovative fare, featuring fresh produce from the Bean's mini-farm in Lakewood known as "Bean Acre."

Denver's ten best new restaurants of 2012
Lori Midson

8) The Populist

Jonathan Power and Noah Price already had a hit with Crema Coffehouse, but they wanted to do more. And so this past November, they opened a hip (very) American eatery called The Populist on Upper Larimer Street. The chic, recycled space has just the right intimate atmosphere for diners to enjoy a menu full of adventurous dishes and unusual flavor combinations.

Denver's ten best new restaurants of 2012
Lori Midson

7) Central Bistro & Bar

This past summer, Isiah Salazar opened his place on the edge of LoHi -- with a great view of the city -- as a neighborhood restaurant. But Central Bar & Bistro is redefining what a neighborhood restaurant can be, serving creative cuisine and cocktails that draw diners from all over the city.

Denver's ten best new restaurants of 2012
Lori Midson

6) True Food Kitchen

This past October, Fox Restaurant Concepts opened aTrue Food Kitchen in Cherry Creek North. The funky nature-themed decor is the perfect backdrop for True Food Kitchen's health-conscious, globally inspired cuisine.

Denver's ten best new restaurants of 2012
Lori Midson

5) Taita Peruvian Cuisine & Bar

Brothers Pepe and Gianfranco Aparicio had dreamed of owning a restaurant in an old, beautiful building since they were kids. This past August, their dream became a reality when they opened Taita Peruvian Cuisine & Bar in Capitol Hill. The menu focuses on Peruvian delicacies, but the atmosphere is both cozy and upscale.

Denver's ten best new restaurants of 2012

4) The Universal

For breakfast and lunch with a Southern flair, head to The Universal, which Steven Sharp and Kourtnie Ray Harris opened this past summer in northwest Denver. The space is sleek and contemporary, but still feels cozy. And whether you're craving sweet or savory, The Universal has what you need to get your day started right.

Denver's ten best new restaurants of 2012
Lori Midson

3) Pho Lee

While working at the original Pho 95 on South Federal Boulevard, Dung Anh Le learned all about what it takes to run a restaurant. In late 2012, Dung, along with his wife and mother-in-law, finally opened his own restaurant in Greenwood Village called Pho Lee. The menu includes several Thai dishes that are a superb addition to the traditional pho noodle bowls that are already bowling over suburban diners.

Denver's ten best new restaurants of 2012
Mark Manger

2) Uncle

Uncle, which Tommy Lee opened in LoHi last fall, was a hit with neighbors even before it opened...and in response to their request, Lee added ramen to a menu that already included sliced tofu, steamed buns and other noodles. Uncle's menu changes occasionally, but you can always expect the offerings to be fabulous -- and for the place to be packed.

Denver's ten best new restaurants of 2012
Mark Manger

1) The Kitchen Denver

The Kitchen, a Boulder institution, added a second location in Denver this March, bringing a hefty reputation along with it. And the Kitchen Denver lives up to the hype, serving up exceptional food in a stunning setting. The best deals are during the community hour, which runs from 3 to 6 p.m.

Have other favorites that opened in 2012? Post them below -- and be sure to vote on our Best of Denver 2013 Readers' Poll.