Five best new-old restaurants in Denver
Yasmin Lozada-Hissom's orange olive-oil cake is a fine finish to a meal at Spuntino.
In anticipation of the Best of Denver, we've already shared our list of the ten best new restaurants in Denver -- spots that opened in 2013 that are all contenders for the Best New Restaurant award. But last year, we also saw many restaurants close and then reopen -- sometimes in new places, sometimes with new formats, sometimes with both -- but always with the same name. Keep reading for our five best new-old restaurants (listed in alphabetical order).
See also: The ten best new restaurants in Denver
4044 Tejon Street
Derek Dietz, the one-man show behind Bocadillo, has a fine-dining background, but you wouldn't know it from the decor at his restaurant in northwest Denver, which is decorated like an artist's bachelor pad. "We don't have too stuck-up of an ambience," says Dietz. "If you've got a baby crying or you're not dressed up, that's okay." But while Bocadillo may not look formal, Dietz's experience shows in both the professional service and the kitchen's absolute dedication to seasonal, local ingredients. Dietz originally opened Bocadillo in 2012 as a sandwich shop; after a year's hiatus, it reopened in summer 2013 as a more ambitious restaurant, with dinner service and a liquor license. The menu is ever-changing, with dishes hearty enough to satisfy the neighborhood regulars who come for the Philly bocadillo at lunch, the pinxtos -- dollar-per-piece bar snacks -- at happy hour, and more complex fare at dinner, when entrees may range from lamb vindaloo to Mexican pork soup.
4) Chile Verde
2311 Federal Boulevard
Heading up Federal Boulevard, you might drive past the demure entrance to Chili Verde, an elegant (for this neighborhood) but still relaxing Pueblan eatery. But once you make your way inside, you'll find more on the menu than the tacos and Colorado-style, starch-thickened green chile so popular on this stretch. Exposed-brick walls and an espresso-dark bar may be chic and modern, but the service and style are warm and inviting -- from the complimentary chips with salsas and frijoles refritos to the knowledgeable staff eager to be your tour guides through the menu's more obscure corners. Before it left its original home on Tejon Street in late 2012, Chili Verde had made a name for itself with its rich, complex moles -- available in chocolate-hued mole Poblano and tangy mole verde -- but the entrees featuring crepes (a traditional alternative to corn tortillas in Puebla) and stuffed poblano chiles also deserve their stellar reputations. A full bar tempts with beers and wines, but a margarita made with tepache (fermented pineapple juice) may be the perfect pairing.
3) El Chingon
4326 Tennyson Street
A year after Gloria Nunez and her grandson, David Lopez, closed the original El Chingon, a tiny Mexican restaurant that resided in an Arvada strip mall, their new El Chingon finally opened in an old house on Tennyson Street in December 2013. "We had to go through a lot of hurdles with the city," says Lopez, who shares the cooking with Nunez, a native of Mexico City, "and even before we unlocked the doors, there were people waiting for us in the freezing cold." Many of them were loyal customers from the Arvada location, who love the the tacos, tostadas, burritos, sauces and salsas that had made El Chingon one of our favorite Mexican restaurants in the city. And now there's even more to love, since this El Chingon has plenty of seats, as well as a hefty selection of tequilas and an inventive cocktail list. But the food that's delivered from the kitchen follows the philosophy that El Chingon has always followed: It's simple, absent of flashy flourishes and devoted to the Mexican food that Lopez grew up eating.
Keep reading for more of our favorite new-old restaurants in Denver.
2) Izakaya Den
1487 South Pearl Street
When Izakaya Den opened in 2008 in a brand-new, Japanese country-style building on South Pearl Street, it snagged our Best New Restaurant award. Now, six years later, Izakaya Den is bigger and better than ever. After a one-year construction project that carved out the original home of the Pearl Street Grill and replaced it with a stunning, modern, multi-level structure, the new Izakaya Den opened last June right next to its sibling Sushi Den, a mainstay on South Pearl Street for close to three decades. The two share a big basement storage area and workspace, but the stunning look and menu of Izakaya are all its own. There is still sushi on the menu, and a roster of sake offerings more than a hundred varieties deep, but there's also an increased emphasis on izakaya-style dishes, small plates that you might order in a sake bar in Japan. At the same time, master chef Toshi Kizaki has put a greater focus on global cuisine, merging Japanese techniques and traditions with contemporary flavors.
2639 West 32nd Avenue
Spuntino is Italian for "snacks," but this Highland restaurant has grown far behind snacks since it was taken over by owners/spouses Yasmin Lozada-Hissom and John Broening in 2012. This past May, the restaurant closed for a brief renovation, got a full-fledged liquor license and added a bar program, expanded hours to include (and emphasize) dinner, loaded the dessert list with the kinds of treats that have earned Lozada-Hissom four James Beard Award nominations, and updated the menu with medium-priced Italian dishes that emphasize local, seasonal ingredients and make it a reliable grill next door for northwest Denver.
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