If any one place in town captures the essence of New American cooking, it's Potager. Chef/owner Teri Rippeto shops local farms, puts the ingredients together in interesting and often daring ways, and when they don't work, she moves on. If that isn't the American way, new or old, what is? Try her innovative cooking in the funky dining room that's at once chaotic and urban-smooth -- dining here is sometimes like being in the eye of a hurricane -- or head out to the delightful backyard patio filled with lush foliage (potager means "kitchen garden"). Rippeto's menu changes frequently, but you can always count on it matching up with both the weather and what's fresh that day. In the summer, expect cool salads, such as the arugula with hazelnuts and pecorino in a lemon vinaigrette, and light fish dishes; in the winter, it's cassoulet and hearty soups. No matter what time of year, go for the chocolate pudding, the most tummy-soothing, palate-pleasing chocolate dessert around.

Sam's No. 3
Courtesy of Sam's No. 3
Sam's No. 3 is the American dream come true. Just ask Sam, Alex and Patrick Armatas, who own the place. The three brothers are the grandsons of Sam Armatas, who started the town's infamous -- and now long-gone -- Coney Island eateries in the 1920s; Sam's son, Spero, still runs the thirty-year-old Newbarry's. And now this next generation is carrying on the tradition at their friendly family-style diner, where they offer an ambitous mix of Greek, Mexican and American food. Not only does Sam's serve breakfast any time -- good breakfasts, too, like hefty omelettes and thick, fluffy pancakes -- but it also offers such Mexican favorites as smothered burritos and chicken enchiladas, as well as Greek specialties like gyros and souvlaki, and domestic dishes, including fried chicken and meatloaf. And then there are creations unique to the Armatas family, like the Haystack, a Coney Island tradition that involves chili, jalapeos, pinto beans and heaven knows what else poured over a bowl filled with Fritos and layered with cheese, lettuce and tomato. Wash that down -- if you can -- with one of Sam's thick, frothy milkshakes, and if you can still move, nail down a bowl of the best rice pudding on the planet. Sam's makes us proud to be American.

Sam's No. 3 is the American dream come true. Just ask Sam, Alex and Patrick Armatas, who own the place. The three brothers are the grandsons of Sam Armatas, who started the town's infamous -- and now long-gone -- Coney Island eateries in the 1920s; Sam's son, Spero, still runs the thirty-year-old Newbarry's. And now this next generation is carrying on the tradition at their friendly family-style diner, where they offer an ambitous mix of Greek, Mexican and American food. Not only does Sam's serve breakfast any time -- good breakfasts, too, like hefty omelettes and thick, fluffy pancakes -- but it also offers such Mexican favorites as smothered burritos and chicken enchiladas, as well as Greek specialties like gyros and souvlaki, and domestic dishes, including fried chicken and meatloaf. And then there are creations unique to the Armatas family, like the Haystack, a Coney Island tradition that involves chili, jalapeños, pinto beans and heaven knows what else poured over a bowl filled with Fritos and layered with cheese, lettuce and tomato. Wash that down -- if you can -- with one of Sam's thick, frothy milkshakes, and if you can still move, nail down a bowl of the best rice pudding on the planet. Sam's makes us proud to be American.

At his ultra-funky, relaxing bistro, chef/owner Hugh O'Neill has always been committed to locally grown produce and regionally raised meats. But in the last year, O'Neill has upped his efforts to secure all-organic ingredients from the major growers in the north Boulder area. He then takes those ingredients and treats them with respect, dousing the baby spinach with grapefruit vinaigrette and combining the season's first tomatoes with eggplant and onions in a well-melded ratatouille. The wine list makes sense, and the servers moving around the intoxicatingly colored dining areas know their stuff. This is New American meets Colorado, and it works.
At his ultra-funky, relaxing bistro, chef/owner Hugh O'Neill has always been committed to locally grown produce and regionally raised meats. But in the last year, O'Neill has upped his efforts to secure all-organic ingredients from the major growers in the north Boulder area. He then takes those ingredients and treats them with respect, dousing the baby spinach with grapefruit vinaigrette and combining the season's first tomatoes with eggplant and onions in a well-melded ratatouille. The wine list makes sense, and the servers moving around the intoxicatingly colored dining areas know their stuff. This is New American meets Colorado, and it works.
Since Tony and Marla Zarlenga opened Café Brazil a decade ago, a few other South American eateries have appeared in the Denver area. But none have come close to duplicating the intense flavors that Marla cooks up in the kitchen or the warm hospitality that emanates from your host, Tony. Step into this tiny, colorful storefront and prepare to have your tastebuds danced on by some of the most vivacious cooking in town: chile-fired, coconut-sweetened fish dishes, smoked meats in citrusy stews, perfectly fried, greaseless calamari rings with a zippy marinara, even a zesty mango dressing on the salads. The entrees all come ringed with herb-infused rice and steamed and sautéed vegetables; sweet tortes made from mangoes and the lulo, a hairy Colombian fruit similar to a kiwi, make for exotic finishes. Don't miss the concentrated black-bean soup or the moist banana bread, either. In fact, the important thing is not to miss out on Café Brazil at all.

Since Tony and Marla Zarlenga opened Café Brazil a decade ago, a few other South American eateries have appeared in the Denver area. But none have come close to duplicating the intense flavors that Marla cooks up in the kitchen or the warm hospitality that emanates from your host, Tony. Step into this tiny, colorful storefront and prepare to have your tastebuds danced on by some of the most vivacious cooking in town: chile-fired, coconut-sweetened fish dishes, smoked meats in citrusy stews, perfectly fried, greaseless calamari rings with a zippy marinara, even a zesty mango dressing on the salads. The entrees all come ringed with herb-infused rice and steamed and sautéed vegetables; sweet tortes made from mangoes and the lulo, a hairy Colombian fruit similar to a kiwi, make for exotic finishes. Don't miss the concentrated black-bean soup or the moist banana bread, either. In fact, the important thing is not to miss out on Café Brazil at all.

Fans of the vibrant cuisine of the Caribbean finally have reason to jump up and dance. Rhumba is a fun, noisy restaurant, popular not just for its rum-soaked drinks -- the wicked mojito, a blend of rum, mint, lime, powdered sugar and soda, will put a spring in your step -- but also for its colorful, flavorful dishes. Owner Dave Query and partner/chef Joe Schneider have assembled a roster that reads like a history of the islands: Spanish-influenced stews, African-spiced chutneys and Indian-style curries all vie for a diner's attention like beach vendors purveying the colorful blankets of the West Indies. Athough it's all good, the fish is particularly special. And don't go so wild on the lively appetizers -- coconut-basil sauce on dumplings, yam-filled tamales -- that you can't make it to dessert, which sometimes includes the to-die-for passion fruit meringue pie. ¡Arriba!
Fans of the vibrant cuisine of the Caribbean finally have reason to jump up and dance. Rhumba is a fun, noisy restaurant, popular not just for its rum-soaked drinks -- the wicked mojito, a blend of rum, mint, lime, powdered sugar and soda, will put a spring in your step -- but also for its colorful, flavorful dishes. Owner Dave Query and partner/chef Joe Schneider have assembled a roster that reads like a history of the islands: Spanish-influenced stews, African-spiced chutneys and Indian-style curries all vie for a diner's attention like beach vendors purveying the colorful blankets of the West Indies. Athough it's all good, the fish is particularly special. And don't go so wild on the lively appetizers -- coconut-basil sauce on dumplings, yam-filled tamales -- that you can't make it to dessert, which sometimes includes the to-die-for passion fruit meringue pie. ¡Arriba!
Be here. Aloha. When Denver netted a link in a first-rate restaurant chain out of Hawaii, we knew the fish was bound to be good. But this good? Roy's Cherry Creek, the sixth in chef Roy Yamaguchi's group, made a big splash when it opened this year inside the Cherry Creek Shopping Center, and it continues to make waves by offering service and food so good that few other restaurants in town can match either. And then there's the food Roy's offers, including such unusual catches as wahoo (also known as ono, it's a saltwater mackerel that's used in sushi) and monchong (also called a pomfret, it's a Pacific Ocean fish with a mellow flavor and oily texture). The kitchen even takes special care with more standard seafood, doing it in ways no one else does. The sea scallops, for example, are soy-charred, which leaves the centers soft and squishy and the flavor heightened. Tiger shrimp are sesame-encrusted and placed atop a ginger-infused plum-lime vinaigrette; swordfish are virtually steamed inside a package of nori until just cooked; and blue nose snapper gets a very light steaming and a delicate Thai-style mushroom broth. There's plenty fishy about the appetizers, too: parmesan-crispy calamari, rare ahi gently blackened around the edges, ceviche made with the freshest of white fish and scallops and enhanced with freshly diced tomatillos. Roy's is a keeper.

Readers' choice: Jax Fish House

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