Update: Denver Restaurant Week is officially over...and we have our winners!

Update: Denver Restaurant Week is officially over...and we have our winners!

You people clearly take Restaurant Week seriously, as evidenced by the 108 comments that came in over the past 17 days of gluttony. Some of you, we found out, are annoying nitpickers who probably pick your nose as much as you pick on restaurants; at least one of you believes that a head can apparently fit in an ass; Mary from Highlands Ranch seethed with sarcasm (we hope it was sarcasm); others, we learned, really do view Denver Restaurant Week as a terrific opportunity to try new places and appreciated the fact that folks in the industry worked their butt cheeks off to make a gazillion diners happy; and then there were the industry people themselves who weighed in with in their own advice.

We wish we could give all of you (okay, most of you) a DINR Deck for your stories, but the deal was that we'd give away two: one for the best story, and one for the worst. But there really weren't any major horror experiences, with the exception of the Squeaky Bean ramble, which had nothing whatsoever to do with Restaurant Week. So, we're going to reward two people whose Restaurant Week experiences were of the warm and fuzzy kind. And those stories came from Daveed, who wrote about his excellent dinner at Panzano, and Hotdog, who obviously made the most of Restaurant Week, considering the number of joints he hit up.

So, Daveed and Hotdog, send an email to lori.midson@westword.com, and we'll get you your DINR decks.

Gullet report from Saturday, March 6 Denver Restaurant Week is officially over, but some restaurants are extending the deal: Solera and Vita (tonight only), Argyll and Ondo's (tonight and tomorrow), Oceanaire (through March 13), the Melting Pot and Jing (through the month). For more details, keep reading.

And eat up!

Gullet report from Friday, March 5

This is it -- the last 24 hours of the 14-day stretch we call Denver Restaurant Madness Week. Nearly 300 restaurants partook in the marathon, some of which performed beautifully, turning out superb menus to tempt initial skeptics and first-timers to return again, while other restaurants begrudgingly participated, herding customers through the door as quickly as they could (and right back out again), while offering generic menus, pee wee size portions and sloppy service.

Because you've only got one more shot at this (excluding the restaurants extending their Restaurant Week menus, which you can read about after the jump), we thought we'd post a few comments from our own blog and others around the internet universe that might give you food for thought before securing tonight's reservation.

Restaurant: TAG From the mouth of: Cafe Society What say they: "When I happen upon food that's impeccably prepared with amazingly realized complex flavors, my first instinct is to cry with joy, and there were many tears flowing last night at TAG. Absolutely everything I put in my mouth was perfect. The sweet, crispy duck fat fries set off the tangy gorgonzola on the Kobe beef sliders. The aggressively shrimpy pot stickers soaked up the spicy butter sauce they came with like little sea sponges. The tender, earthy yet spicy pork dish effectively converted this diner, who always orders fish. And the black cod? When its perfectly blackened flesh flaked apart in my mouth with its sweet miso sauce, I decided that 25 miles away sans car or no 25 miles away sans car, I'd be back at TAG as many times as I could possibly afford it."

Restaurant: Indulge French Bistro From the mouth of: Yelp What say they: "Get DOWN! This place is TOTALLY French! And like, in all of the good ways. It's comfortable yet close-set, the bread is mediocre, and the wine is DAMN good. We came here for restaurant week, and what a nice ending to the week it was. Never had escargot like these, and the shaved fennel accompanying it was absolutely wonderful. The crispy salmon was perfectly balanced. And then the chocolate whatchamacallit, with apricot... good LAWD it was decadent wondrousness. I thoroughly enjoyed my experience here."

Restaurant: Venue From the mouth of: Chowhound.com What say they: "OMG - Venue. OMG....This meal was one of my top five in my life - it was amazingly wonderful from beginning to end! A glass of sav blanc, arugula salad, shrimp and grits and carrot cake with SALTED caramel and decaf french press coffee....omg. All of it was totally heavenly, the service was awesome and though it's very small, it was a VERY memorable experience! My husband and my best friend both went and they loved theirs just as much! We will be going back in April - yum yum yum!!!!!"

Restaurant: Shazz Cafe From the mouth of: Cafe Society What say they: "I, a REAL diner, had the worst food of my life at Shazz on Tuesday night. I'd heard great things about it so I thought this would be a great time to check out the restaurant. Needless to say, I won't be back. Rude servers who were much too cool to actually look in my face while they took my order. The halumi over heirloom tomatoes? If that was an heirloom tomato, I'm Santa Claus. The best part was hearing the people at the table next to ours saying how much they hated their waiter and food and that they would never go back. I don't think they are long for this world if that is the quality of their product."

Restaurant: Duo From the mouth of: Urban Spoon What say they: "We visited Duo for Restaurant Week. Early reservation, solid table service, and reasonable alcohol pricing. My wife enjoyed the arugula salad (although it was not 100% arugula) and we both liked the arctic char. Her plate did have 30% more veggies than mine....We would absolutely go back."

Restaurant: Rioja From the mouth of: Cafe Society What say they: "We just ate at Rioja last night and that was easily the best restaurant week meal I've had in the last few years. Totally blew away Restaurant Kevin Taylor, which we also tried this year. Rioja just earned itself some new, occasional, customers."

Restaurant: Colt & Gray From the mouth of: Yelp What say they: "Warning - only go to this restaurant if you want to wait around for at least 1/2 hour even if you have a confirmed reservation. Warning - noise level is ridiculous. During our dinner there during restaurant week, we were seated next to a table that was so on top of us, we heard their conversation better than we heard our own! We waiting 1 hour for food as well, and the food was mediocrity at its finest. We complained at the end of our meal to the maitre d who gave us his card and said to call him when we were coming back, and he'd take care of us. By doing what? WE WILL NEVER EVER GO BACK THERE AGAIN. Nothing good about the wait for a table, or the actual food. No bread, but we did have a bread plate and butter knife - maybe for the imaginary bread and butter. With so many great restaurants in Denver, skip this one."

Restaurant: Panzano From the mouth of: Cafe Society What say they: "Panzano last night was AWESOME. They're really doing DRW right -- pare down the regular menu to a smaller selection. That way the kitchen staff isn't overwhelmed trying to 800 things on an overly busy night; they can concentrate on 8 things and maintain the great quality of food. Yes, the portions were smallish, but we still left more than sated. The duck liver mousse was amazing, albeit a little hard to eat, served with some savory parmesan "donuts." The mushroom crepe was phenomenal, and while I'm not a huge fan of truffle oil, the overall effect didn't seem to suffer. We enjoyed the shrimp and the eggplant tremendously. The tiramisu was the best I've had in Denver, and it was twice the size of most DRW desserts! They were killing it last night, and yet the service was exquisite, even down to their having our coats ready before we even offered our claim check. This was my first experience at Panzano, and we will definitely be coming back!"

Gullet report from Thursday, March 4

Denver's fourteen days of bargain gluttony, otherwise known as Denver Restaurant Week, concludes tomorrow.

Maybe not.

Seems that several of the participating restaurants have chosen to extend their three- or four-course Restaurant Week menus, which are priced at $52.80 for two, or $26.40 for one, excluding tax and gratuity.

"Restaurant Week has been very smooth for us so far, and we figured we may as well offer it for another week," says Matt Mine, executive chef of Oceanaire, which will continue serving it Restaurant Week menu through Saturday, March 13. The extension was initially for restaurant industry staff only, says Mine, but "we didn't want to say that only certain people could have it and not offer it to everyone."

Encore, Solera, Brooks Steak House and Vita are extending their deals through Saturday, March 6, while Argyll Gastropub is peddling its Restaurant Week menu through Sunday, March 7. The Melting Pot is offering its Restaurant Week menu through Wednesday, March 31, and restaurants like Vesta Dipping Grill will continue to feature a $52.80 menu every Monday evening.

Keep in mind that any extensions, which will no doubt continue to trickle in, are at the discretion of each individual restaurant, so the official Denver Restaurant Week site, which is managed by Visit Denver, the organization that spearheads the two-week dining marathon, won't be keeping a running tab on who's extending and who isn't.

For those of you who are new to Denver Restaurant Week, here's a basic refresher course: From Saturday, February 20 through Friday, March 5, a whopping 281 restaurants - 56 more than last year - will dole out three courses (and sometimes more) at two fixed prices --$52.80 for two, or $26.40 for one, excluding tax and gratuity.

The most difficult decision, of course, is where to go. The Denver Restaurant Week web site lists all of the participating restaurants, along with menus. We have our own ideas about the best places to go -- but who cares what we think?

We want to get the skinny (and fat) from you on which restaurants to avoid, and which places are putting their best fork forward by offering killer deals, food and service that the rest of us should suss out. Let us know where you're eating, and tell us all about your Restaurant Week experiences in the comments section below.

For the two best (or worst) stories, we'll hand out DINR decks, which will guarantee good eating through the rest of the year.

Gullet report from Wednesday, March 3 Denver Restaurant Week ends on Friday, and I've already had wonderful meals at Fogo de Chao, Colt & Gray (for the most part), India's Pearl and Lola. My goal is to hit up Squeaky Bean before the week is over, in part because chef Max Mackissock is offering his entire menu, and if you've been to the Squeaky Bean lately, you already know that it's peddling one of the best boards in Denver.

When I caught up with Mackissock yesterday to ask how Denver Restaurant Week was treating him, he told me that it's been going very, very well: "We have a ton of new faces coming through the door, most of them really cool, and I think people have been really excited about the fact that we're doing the whole menu." Mackissock said, too, that he's met some interesting customers that have helped to ease the stress. "We had this one guy in -- he was a riot -- who said that eating my lasagna was 'like angels peeing in my mouth.'"

Too many restaurants, insisted Mackissock, "treat these weeks like a pain in the butt, when, in fact, it's a great opportunity to get so many new people through the door." In fact, he said he looks at Denver Restaurant Week as "a promotional deal, almost like advertising money, except with this, advertising becomes tangible in the form oaf actual customers coming in the restaurant."

There have been rumors of several restaurants extending Denver Restaurant Week. More on that tomorrow.

For those of you who are new to Denver Restaurant Week, here's a basic refresher course: From Saturday, February 20 through Friday, March 5, a whopping 281 restaurants - 56 more than last year - will dole out three courses (and sometimes more) at two fixed prices --$52.80 for two, or $26.40 for one, excluding tax and gratuity.

The most difficult decision, of course, is where to go. The Denver Restaurant Week web site lists all of the participating restaurants, along with menus. We have our own ideas about the best places to go -- but who cares what we think?

We want to get the skinny (and fat) from you on which restaurants to avoid, and which places are putting their best fork forward by offering killer deals, food and service that the rest of us should suss out. Let us know where you're eating, and tell us all about your Restaurant Week experiences in the comments section below.

For the two best (or worst) stories, we'll hand out DINR decks, which will guarantee good eating through the rest of the year.

Gullet report from Tuesday, March 2

Still not done feeding your face? Good, because there's still four days left of Denver Restaurant Week to stuff yourself into oblivion, or as Charlie Masters, floorman of Solera, says, to "eat exec chef Goose Sorensen's badass yummies."

But Masters also has some choice words for those of you who might be inclined to take advantage of the insanely good deals offered during Restaurant Week. "We've got the new people who are coming in and telling us that it's their birthday, or their anniversary, or that they have a restaurant.com gift certificate -- sometimes it's all three -- and while we want to make tummies happy, we wonder, too, where all these people have been for the last ten years," says Master, who would like to remind folks that most restaurants barely break even during Restaurant Week.

And Masters is no less miffed about the idiots who drag in their posse and insist that they have a reservation, when they really don't. "We had a CEO-type come in who said that his secretary had made a 7 p.m. reservation two days before for six people, and I knew that wasn't true, because we had been booked solid for two weeks," says Master. "Someone fucked up, but it's our job to make sure this person has a good time here, and after a drink or two, he actually apologized."

Still, Masters admits that he "loves this shit," even with problematic customers. "It's like doing a crossword puzzle that only you and your staff know how to make work," he says.

For those of you who are new to Denver Restaurant Week, here's a basic refresher course: From Saturday, February 20 through Friday, March 5, a whopping 281 restaurants - 56 more than last year - will dole out three courses (and sometimes more) at two fixed prices --$52.80 for two, or $26.40 for one, excluding tax and gratuity.

The most difficult decision, of course, is where to go. The Denver Restaurant Week web site lists all of the participating restaurants, along with menus. We have our own ideas about the best places to go -- but who cares what we think?

We want to get the skinny (and fat) from you on which restaurants to avoid, and which places are putting their best fork forward by offering killer deals, food and service that the rest of us should suss out. Let us know where you're eating, and tell us all about your Restaurant Week experiences in the comments section below.

For the two best (or worst) stories, we'll hand out DINR decks, which will guarantee good eating through the rest of the year.

Gullet report from Monday, March 1

The restaurant industry's annual test of survival known as Denver Restaurant Week comes to an end on Friday, which means that you still have five full days to fatten your innards on fantastic meal deals all around the city.

Which is exactly what I did last night at Fogo de Chão, the behemoth Brazilian churrascaria at 1513 Wynkoop Street. The 400-seat steakhouse was more populated than the beaches of Rio during spring break, which, according to exec chef Nelson Piccini, is exactly what it's been like since day one of Restaurant Week. "It's been crazy, crazy busy," he told me.

Fogo has been so swamped, in fact, that Piccini made the decision to open early on both Saturday and Sunday after the phones went batshit with procrastinators bitching that they couldn't get reservations. "People kept calling saying that they were mad because we were booked, and since we want to accommodate as many diners as we can, we opened early on both days," he says, adding that the restaurant served more than 1,300 people on Saturday night.

"We've had a lot of first-timers coming through the door, and I definitely think that they'll be back," predicts Piccini, who's offering the steakhouse's all-you-can-eat salad bar and skewered slices of 15 different meats, plus dessert, at Restaurant Week prices. "We're not holding back on anything," promises Piccini.

And you know what? Despite a ridiculously packed house of people practically tripping over each other, my dinner last night was absolutely faultless. The service? Spectacular. The procession of meats? Unassailable. "I honestly think we're the best deal in town," says Piccini, who brought in an additional five servers from several Fogo stores throughout the country to deal with the crush. "We brought in some great people from some of our other stores, because we wanted everything to go as smoothly as possible," he admits. Trust me, it did.

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