Ten best restaurants in the Golden Triangle
If you're going to the Westword Music Showcase -- and why wouldn't you be? -- you'll likely be prowling the Golden Triangle for sustenance and refreshments before, between, and especially after the shows. Luckily, in this neighborhood there is no shortage of options for the discerning palate, the ready-to-snarf, the caffeine addict or the late-night lingerer. Here are ten of our favorites (in no particular order) to stop your belly from rumbling after your ears are buzzing.
Those seeking reprieve from the heat and hustle of the Music Showcase can duck into the cool cavern of Dazzle's bar for a classic cocktail like a New Orleans-inspired Sazerac or a perfect martini (ask for it that way if you value your gin and aren't afraid of vermouth). Known more for its internationally acknowledged live jazz program than for its menu, you still won't go wrong with a plate of immaculately breaded and crisped calamari or almost magically creamy risotto balls. Bonus points for a very late-night happy hour.
What Rooster & Moon lacks in ambiance (unless you like an elementary-school cafeteria vibe), it more than makes up for with deeply roasty coffee brewed from venerable Boulder roaster Allegro, fresh-fruit smoothies and a vast board of breakfast favorites -- we lean toward the PB & J oatmeal on a brisk morning. Showcase wanderers will welcome the special menu featuring two summery cocktails and Korean tacos with kimchi and either kogi-doused pork belly or equally luscious jackfruit -- the perfect vegetarian answer to pulled pork.
Don't expect to see Parsley advertising two-for-one deals on a billboard. Don't even expect anyone to answer the phone there. But that doesn't mean Parsley doesn't care: It just means that this sweet little lunch spot is so busy catering to the needs of its Golden Triangle neighborhood that it's too busy to do anything else. Under the thoughtful guidance of owner Jason Bailey, Parsley has been preparing sandwiches (on City Bakery-supplied ciabatta bread), salads and soups, as well as a variety of veggie juices and smoothies, since 2008. More than a few menu items are veggie-friendly, and more than 50 percent of its ingredients are organic. Enjoy them in a sherbet-bright setting with a spartan, Ikea-like feel.
The downtown empire of veteran restaurateur Kevin Taylor may have dwindled, but this only gives him more time to focus on his mostly-lunch café (although it's open until 8 p.m. on Fridays) located inside the Denver Art Museum. Inspired by the art surrounding the cool, modernist dining room, the menu dances with colors and squiggles and features a light and elegant touch with salads and sandwiches alike; a watercress and endive salad balances sweet candied pecans with tart verjus while a pork schnitzel sandwich belies its heavy-sounding ingredients with a fine panko crust and an airy pretzel bun. A carpaccio appetizer may best capture the collision of composed artistry and sophisticated flavors.
DJ's 9th Avenue Cafe Brothers Devin and Jason Stallings won a lot of fans with their DJ's Berkeley Cafe in northwest Denver, so in early 2013 they brought the same winning concept to the Golden Triangle, where they opened DJ's 9th Avenue Cafe. Like the original, it opens at 7 a.m. every morning and stays open until early afternoon, serving breakfast (pancakes and breakfast burritos), lunch (sandwiches and a daily soup special), lots of good, strong coffee...and six versions of eggs Benedict, including salmon with asparagus, chorizo with poblanos over polenta, and the classic, with Canadian bacon, a sturdy poached egg and a thick, toasted English muffin blanketed with an excellent Hollandaise made with chicken stock. While the menu at this younger sibling is the same as at the original, the space is larger and airier, with more seating and windows along Lincoln that let in the morning light. Keep reading for five more favorites in the Golden Triangle.
When it comes to Italian cuisine, simplicity, craftsmanship and unassailable ingredients are what count; DiFranco's, an unassuming, low-key joint that started as an Italian deli, embraces all of those attributes. It serves a lovely selection of house-made pastas and equally transcendent subs stacked on fresh-baked bread layered with fresh mozzarella, super-high-quality Italian meats and vegetables just plucked from the earth. Even the salads deserve your attention, and don't even think about waltzing out the door without trying the meatballs, cannoli or ricotta cookies.
You don't go to the Denver Diner to dine, you go to eat, to grub, to nosh, but mostly to hang out at all hours and take in the flow of humanity in all its Denver-tinged delight from the acute northeast corner of the Golden Triangle, which pokes in to the heart of Colfax and Speer. Surrounded by neon, steel and glass, you can make a mess with an open-faced roast beef sandwich or pretend to be healthy with battered and fried green beans while absorbing the views of the cooks and their flashing spatulas as they flip burgers and eggs at a dizzying rate.
The building that today houses Gallo di Nero has swallowed up plenty of restaurants, including Fired Up, which suffered an electrical fire in 2013. But Gallo di Nero rose from the ashes, and at happy hour, this comfortable yet classy restaurant offers a smoking deal: small-plate versions of many of the entrees on its evening menu, many under $10, and many big enough to serve as meals in themselves. If you want to stuff your face with cheap nachos, this is not the place for you, but we guarantee that after a bargain taste of the kitchen's ambitious, inventive Italian offerings -- like the savory, ocean-tinged spaghettoni alla bottarga -- you'll be back for more.
Charcoal, which Gary Sumihiro opened in September 2011, takes its name from its Japanese-inspired, charcoal-fueled bincho grill. Unlike typical American charcoal grills, the high heat, specially-sourced hardwood and minimal smoke mean clean flavors and quick cooking, much of which can be seen from seating in front of the open kitchen. The menu emphasizes seasonal ingredients -- morel mushrooms and fiddlehead ferns pop up on the spring menu -- and grilled seafood like Idaho rainbow trout and Alaskan halibut.
The conjoined cabins that comprise this breezy Cuban eatery aren't strikingly island-themed from a street view, but the inside is done up in weathered wood, pastel fabrics and minimalist charm that exudes a laid-back Caribbean aura. And if you can grab a mojito on the back patio, beneath fluttering canvas awnings, you'll almost be able hear the seagulls and breaking waves. Plantain chips are a must, either with mashed avocado and zippy mojos in the mariquitas cubano or with a refreshing shrimp ceviche. Cuba Cuba also turns out some of Denver's best slow-cooked meats; pork lovers can dig into a pile of lechon asado while beef fans will find joy in the creole-inflected ropa vieja.
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