Best Vegetarian Dish in a Non-Vegetarian Restaurant

Chinook Tavern

When we eschew meat, we like to sink our teeth into the sun-dried-tomato polenta at Chinook Tavern. Sharply flavored tomatoes fill the creamy-centered, crunchy-crusted polenta; a garlic-packed pesto and velvety housemade mozzarella add depth; and roasted red bell peppers and sautéed mushrooms bring sweetness and earthiness into the mix. The dish is so big, it's almost enough for two very healthy meals; it's so tasty, you won't even miss the meat.

At too many sports bars, the chef is a former high school quarterback who thinks he should be in the kitchen because of his great touchdown pass of '76 -- a glorious moment he re-creates every time he turns out another imitation pigskin burger. But Lazy Dog Sports Bar and Grill has a real star in front of the stove: Bill Clifford, a Culinary Institute of America graduate who turns out winning fare that's long on flavor and short on price. Clifford scores with appetizers ranging from crispy, cheese-gooey potato skins to warm, sweet crabcakes with homemade tartar sauce; he scores with entrees that include meat-dripping baby-back ribs and crackly crusted pizza; and he scores again in the end zone with housemade apple crisp and banana cream pie. Lazy Dog isn't just a one-man show, however: All of the staffers here go the extra distance to make sure diners get a great meal.
At too many sports bars, the chef is a former high school quarterback who thinks he should be in the kitchen because of his great touchdown pass of '76 -- a glorious moment he re-creates every time he turns out another imitation pigskin burger. But Lazy Dog Sports Bar and Grill has a real star in front of the stove: Bill Clifford, a Culinary Institute of America graduate who turns out winning fare that's long on flavor and short on price. Clifford scores with appetizers ranging from crispy, cheese-gooey potato skins to warm, sweet crabcakes with homemade tartar sauce; he scores with entrees that include meat-dripping baby-back ribs and crackly crusted pizza; and he scores again in the end zone with housemade apple crisp and banana cream pie. Lazy Dog isn't just a one-man show, however: All of the staffers here go the extra distance to make sure diners get a great meal.
Luigi's Bent Noodle
Hunter Stevens
The menu at Luigi's Bent Noodle issues a challenge: "If this isn't the best minestrone recipe you've ever tasted, we want your recipe." Hey, we surrender -- we know we don't have any-

thing to beat this minestrone, and we doubt anyone else this side of Italy does, either. Luigi's minestrone is a thick, hearty tomato-based stew of vegetables, super-soft beans, melt-in-your-mouth bits of pasta, and sausage that's just spicy enough to bring it all together, but not so spicy that it takes over. This bewitching brew is available by the cup, the bowl and the really big bowl. Bigger is better.

The menu at Luigi's Bent Noodle issues a challenge: "If this isn't the best minestrone recipe you've ever tasted, we want your recipe." Hey, we surrender -- we know we don't have any-

thing to beat this minestrone, and we doubt anyone else this side of Italy does, either. Luigi's minestrone is a thick, hearty tomato-based stew of vegetables, super-soft beans, melt-in-your-mouth bits of pasta, and sausage that's just spicy enough to bring it all together, but not so spicy that it takes over. This bewitching brew is available by the cup, the bowl and the really big bowl. Bigger is better.

Busara deserves praise for its dedication to authentic, spicy food. But it should also be commended for its open-mindedness when it comes to more personal matters. This trendy Thai restaurant in LoDo features three privies -- one for men, one for women, and one for men and/or women. So if you're part of a couple that enjoys doing everything together, or you can't wait, or you simply can't decide whether to sit or stand, Busara has the loo for you.

Busara deserves praise for its dedication to authentic, spicy food. But it should also be commended for its open-mindedness when it comes to more personal matters. This trendy Thai restaurant in LoDo features three privies -- one for men, one for women, and one for men and/or women. So if you're part of a couple that enjoys doing everything together, or you can't wait, or you simply can't decide whether to sit or stand, Busara has the loo for you.

Although the career waiter has gone the way of the Studebaker and the eight-track, that sad fact doesn't slow John Carl one bit. After fifteen years as the most graceful, attentive server at one of the town's most graceful, attentive restaurants, Carl still loves his job at Tante Louise. "It's not what I went to college for," admits the Iowa native, whose first job in Denver was at Top of the Rockies in the early '70s. "But I do like to say I'm in the business of marketing escargot." First, though, he sizes up the mood and sensibilities of the diners at a table, then suggests just the right dishes -- escargot or no. After that, he goes about serving the meal with seamless, invisible efficiency; items appear and disappear from the table with barely a movement of air. You won't realize that Carl's at work unless you make it a point to watch him -- and then you'll be rewarded with quite a show. Watch Carl handle a difficult table with the greatest of ease. Watch Carl float like a butterfly without stinging like a bee. He's pure poetry in motion. "I was pretty green when I got to Tante Louise," Carl admits. "So I guess I've come a long way." And how, baby.
Although the career waiter has gone the way of the Studebaker and the eight-track, that sad fact doesn't slow John Carl one bit. After fifteen years as the most graceful, attentive server at one of the town's most graceful, attentive restaurants, Carl still loves his job at Tante Louise. "It's not what I went to college for," admits the Iowa native, whose first job in Denver was at Top of the Rockies in the early '70s. "But I do like to say I'm in the business of marketing escargot." First, though, he sizes up the mood and sensibilities of the diners at a table, then suggests just the right dishes -- escargot or no. After that, he goes about serving the meal with seamless, invisible efficiency; items appear and disappear from the table with barely a movement of air. You won't realize that Carl's at work unless you make it a point to watch him -- and then you'll be rewarded with quite a show. Watch Carl handle a difficult table with the greatest of ease. Watch Carl float like a butterfly without stinging like a bee. He's pure poetry in motion. "I was pretty green when I got to Tante Louise," Carl admits. "So I guess I've come a long way." And how, baby.
Flagstaff House Restaurant
Mark Antonation
The Flagstaff House has been a special-occasion destination for three decades now, and its coffee service goes the extra distance for diners who've made it up the mountain -- and must still find their way back down. Rather than the usual stuffy coffee presentation, the Flagstaff offers a fun "Sugar Tray," its compartments filled with colorful, squeal-inducing tidbits used to flavor a cup of java that tasted pretty good to start with. Choose from licorice or mint "lentils"; butterscotch, chocolate or white-chocolate chips; raw, regular or brown sugar (loose or cubed); and orange-flavored sugar and candied limes. Then top it off with a blob of unsweetened whipped cream. We guarantee one cup will be a stirring experience.

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