Ten best new Denver restaurants of 2014 -- so far
In 2013, more than 250 restaurants opened in metro Denver, everything from ambitious crowd-pleasers like Old Major and Best of Denver winner Lower48 Kitchen to a smattering of out-of-state doughnut houses. While 2014 might not be quite on pace to top last year's opening numbers, there's been no shortage of new establishments. Trends lean toward neighborhood bistros and cafes with small dining rooms -- some with twenty seats or fewer -- and comfort-food menus abound. But most newcomers are not content to recycle old ideas: Goat appears in various forms; elaborate pastries star alongside meticulously crafted sushi plates; touchy techniques like braising and notoriously tricky seafood cuts are handled deftly by new and pedigreed chefs alike.
Here's our list, in no particular order, of the top ten new restaurants to open in the first six months in 2014 -- one of which opened in the first week of the year and several of which have barely turned the page on the wall calendar.
Gluten-free fried chicken at the Post Brewing Co.
10) The Post Brewing Co. 105 West Emma Street, Lafayette 303-593-2066 One of the first new eateries to hang its shingle in 2014, the Post got off to a running start thanks to guidance from Big Red F, the restaurant group behind Lola and the growing stable of Jax Fish Houses along the Front Range. Drawing families and beer lovers alike from bucolic Lafayette and further afield with picnic-worthy delights like fried chicken, deviled eggs and pimento spread, chef Brett Smith and his crew aren't content to settle for ordinary renditions of Midwestern standbys. That chicken wallows in buttermilk before getting an herb-flecked coating of gluten-free flour for a serious crunch; the deviled eggs come topped with crispy shreds of pork cheek; and the pimento spread, served warm, features goat cheese instead of the scary orange stuff. Beers, like a malty-if-style-boggling session barleywine by former Dogfish Head whiz Bryan Selders, add to the fun. Daily blue-plate specials, like Saturday's thin-pounded chicken fried steak, mean you can work your way through the regular menu or come back each week for your favorite.
The Western-themed interior of Range.
9) Range 918 17th Street 720-726-4800 Hotel restaurants are not always the best indicator of a city's trends and food obsessions, but Range, located in the new Renaissance Denver Hotel, hits all the right notes in terms of style and menu. Heavily armored in woods of different finishes (yes, that includes barnwood) and highlighted with splashes of orange, Range even sports an uber-hip wood-slab community table. The hotel is geared toward business travelers, tourists and conventioneers, of course, so a Colorado-themed menu with touches of the Old West seems like a good bet to keep guests spending dollars in-house. But locals, too, might be drawn to wood-fired inventions like flatbread with bacon jam and appetizers spiked with heat from padron and habanero peppers. The kitchen also dabbles in pickling and preserving to up the chuck-wagon grub theme. Colorado lamb competes for attention, in the form of shank and sausage, with other bacon-smacked dishes.
The open kitchen and chef's counter at To the WInd Bistro.
8) To the Wind Bistro 3333 East Colfax Avenue 303-316-3333 With a dining room as small as at this precocious bistro (with little more than a dozen chairs), the focus is necessarily on the kitchen, even more so when the chef is cooking in plain view behind a chef's counter. Early fans have certainly been focusing on the excellent dishes of Royce Oliveira, formerly of Mizuna, Axios and the Village Cork, whose playful menu traipses easily across old- and new-world inspirations. Empanadas, for example, come stuffed -- like some childhood nursery rhyme -- with earthy escargot and mushrooms, while crisp-edged duck confit and shaved foie gras ride together on a waffle made with stout from Epic Brewing. Desserts by pastry chef Leanne Adamson, including moist pineapple upside-down cake and cherry clafoutis, also bridge French and American traditions. A beer-heavy beverage menu, the inspiration for the bistro's tipsy moniker, is built to emphasis the food's flavors. With or without booze, though, this little eatery has us drunk with delight.
Bistro Barbès holds down a quiet corner in Park Hill.
7) Bistro Barbès 5021 East 28th Avenue 720-398-8085 Bistro Barbès (pronounced "bar-bess," according to the staff) recently took over the space formerly occupied by Parry's and Satchel's before that; it's named for a Parisian neighborhood and market heavy with North African immigrants and culinary influence. As in that neighborhood, chef Jon Robbins perfumes his rotating menu with the spices of Morocco while keeping grounded in French technique. An interpretation of vichyssoise might make an appearance one week, while harissa and baharat might show up in potato dishes or composed salads. The little bistro, boasting about thirty seats, is part of a welcome wave of small, chef-driven neighborhood restaurants with equal parts tight focus and loose charm.
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