As impressed as we were by all fifteen of the eateries we selected for our year-end list of the Best New Restaurants in Denver for 2014, we decided to update it — as we narrowed down our choices for our Best of Denver 2015 edition — based on the consistency, staying power and overall quality that some of these restaurants have shown over the past several months.
Shortly after we released our list in December, Glaze By Sasa parted ways with sushi master Wayne Conwell and became simply Glaze, scaling back temporarily to lunch-only service with a creative new menu from chef Kris Padalino, who will be rolling out dinner starting April 2. Across town at Brazen, opening chef Lance Barto was let go at the end of February. While that doesn't necessarily indicate a decline, a change this big in such a small kitchen means the menu needs to be re-evaluated before greatness can be conferred. We'll continue to keep an eye on these two as they adjust to their changes.
And in anticipation of the Best of Denver 2015, we returned to the others to see which still deserved consideration for the Best New Restaurant. Other eateries on the list, while continuing to serve excellent food, have settled into business-as-usual mode after initially wowing Denver diners with an initial burst of freshman enthusiasm.
So we've pared and pruned to present only the best of the best — those which have stuck with their visions and continue to deliver top-notch food and stellar experiences for guests. We've also taken out a couple of fast-casual eateries — they'll have their own place to shine in a separate list. Here they are in alphabetical order, with our pick for the Best New Restaurant in Denver in the number-one slot.
10) Argyll Whisky Beer
We continue to crave Denver restaurant mogul Robert Thompson's ode to the finer points of British cuisine — and if you didn't think there was such a thing, you haven't been to Argyll. This Uptown reincarnation of the Cherry Creek North original sports one of the best new bars in Denver, and we can't get enough of chef John Broening's spot-on fish and chips, to which we bestowed a Best of Denver award this year.
9) Bistro Barbes
Small continues to be big in Denver restaurants, and chef-owner John Robbins and his crew continue to conjure big flavors from the tiny kitchen in Park Hill. With a menu inspired by Parisian bistros and the North African markets of that city, Bistro Barbes earned our Best French Restaurant award this year.
8) Blackbelly Market
Chef-owner Hosea Rosenberg showcases Blackbelly's butchering program with a meat counter up front, but the real show is at the chef's counter, where Rosenberg and his crew present honest plates with hidden layers of flavor. Between the well-conceived menu and the star power on the line, Blackbelly delighted us enough to win Best Chef's Counter.
Gozo isn't trying to be a magnet restaurant on a block full of stars. In fact, there isn't even a sign out front telling you where you are. But the wood-roasted meats, Neapolitan pizzas and a deft hand with tricky risotto and polenta plates earned the neighborhood eatery Best Restaurant on Broadway.
6) Maria Empanada
Maria Empanada was already a great little cafe and bakery, serving up Argentinean empanadas stuffed with a variety of savory delights. But the addition of beer and wine (served in cuted pinguino carafes) and traditional yerba matte service at the end of the year pushed the Broadway favorite onto our list. And the flavors of Argentina emanating from chef-owner Lorena Cantarovici's kitchen were enough to earn it our award for Best Central/South American Restaurant.
5) The Post Brewing Co.
The Post is the oldest restaurant on our list, opening in the first week of January 2014. That extra time has allowed them to earn a reputation for stellar country-style fare, even from its hidden home in Lafayette. Although there are plenty of downhome favorites on the menu, the poultry stands head and shoulders, or wings in this case, above the competition, earning the Post our Best Fried Chicken.
4) Stoic & Genuine
This bustling fish house and raw bar earned our award for Best Seafood Restaurant for impeccably sourced fish and playful presentations like bacon-wrapped cod chowder and scallops with coconut-lemongrass panna cotta. Co-owner Jennifer Jasinski also took the prize for Best Chef in our Best of Denver readers' poll.
3) To the Wind Bistro
In a year of diminutive dining rooms, To the Wind Bistro took the prize, with only 19 seats between the chef's counter and a handful of tables. But on America's longest street, the flavors stood out big against the competition, winning our award for Best Restaurant on Colfax.
2) Work & Class
This little shipping-container eatery from Tony Maciag, Delores Tronco and chef Dana Rodriguez is the kind of place you could walk to for slow-cooked comfort food every night of the week, but you you'd better get there early because the rest of Denver has already discovered just how delicious the menu is. Despite it's status as a destination restaurant, Work & Class still maintains a friendly vibe where the staff knows you by name. And for that, we gave it our award for Best New Neighborhood Restaurant. Readers thought it deserved even more recognition, voting it Best New Restaurant in our readers' poll. But the kitchen certainly thrilled all of us, earning Best Gluten-Free Menu and Best Vegetarian Green Chile.
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1) Mercantile Dining & Provision
By now, the whole city knows about Mercantile Dining & Provision at the base of the Crawford Hotel inside Union Station. But it's more than just a restaurant: Each aspect of the space — breakfast cafe, local foods market, cocktail bar, chef's counter and special-occasion menu — stand out as reason enough to go. That's why we awarded Mercantile Best New Restaurant for 2014, and also gave it top honors for Best Pastry Chef (Lonne Cunningham) and Best Cocktail (the Brom Bones). Readers were savvy too, voting for Mercantile for Best Chef's Counter in our readers' poll.
How do our awards stack up? Let us know in the comments section below what your pick was for best new restaurant, or any of the other honors awarded to these ten favorites.