Bastien's Restaurant
Mark Antonation
At Bastien's, a retro supper club, it sometimes seems like time has stopped -- back in the days when a steak had to be marbled with fat and no one said a discouraging word about cholesterol. And as if a plain old piece of cheesecake weren't a heart attack waiting to happen, Bastien's wraps the thing in a regular-sized tortilla and then deep-fries it so that the cheese gets all soft and smooshy and the tortilla turns golden brown and crispy. A ball of ice cream -- sometimes it's vanilla, sometimes it's caramel pecan -- comes on the side; the ambulance costs extra.
If you're from Wisconsin, cheese curds need no explanation. For those of you who didn't start out in the Dairy State, curds are the form that cheese takes before it's been aged for sale. These baubles look a little like styrofoam packing peanuts and have a texture that makes them squeak when you bite into one. Tony's starts with cheddar-cheese curds, coats them in batter and deep fries them into a snack fit for the gods -- especially when paired with a side of ranch dressing and some of the kitchen's homemade hot sauce. This quintessential joint, run by some true sons of Wisconsin, takes over where the Flying Dog left off, so you'll find good microbrews on tap. But don't let that deter you from trying another specialty, the Friday-night fish and Schlitz combo. Cheeseheads, unite!
All of those trendy chain doughnut places may get the press, but that's not the hole story. For a doughnut to really touch the spot, it has to come with a history. Carol Lee Donut Shop has been serving up fried treats for over two decades. The doughnuts make great dunkers, the raspberry roll goes cinnamon one better, and the apple fritter will fry you to the moon. Wake up and smell the coffee -- at Carol Lee's.
Aw, shucks. Long before other seafood restaurants realized that Denverites had the raw courage to slurp down oysters, McCormick's was offering a wide selection of the fresh suckers every day. Even fried, these oysters are pearls: tender, tasty flesh encased in a light cornmeal crust. If the kitchen isn't too busy -- and fat chance of that, since the corner bar is one of the town's popular hangouts -- the cook might even blacken 'em on request.
Baseball fans and LoDo regulars alike make tracks to this train-themed brewpub a baseball's throw from Coors Field. As a result, the Denver ChopHouse sports some of the town's best people-watching -- but once we've settled into a cozy, private back booth, we find it tough to take our eyes off our order of calamari. The squid comes coated in sesame seeds, which makes for crunchier, lighter eating than the standard fried rubber rings you find in so many spots around town; the dipping sauce of ginger-spiced apricot goo is another welcome departure from the usual marinara. Here's lookin' at eating you, squid.
We've always known that Jalapeo Mexican Grill makes fab tacos, filling soft tortillas with delish deep-fried fish, but we never expected its squid to be right up there, too. At this fast-food-style spot, the squid are barely dusted with flour, then deep-fried until golden but still soft and pliant, with none of the chewiness or rubberiness you might expect. Ranch dressing provides a sweet side note, but these little beauties are tasty enough to be eaten on their own -- and

with a massive order costing just $6, you'll soon be back for more.

We wouldn't squid you: This salad is one of the tastiest, healthiest (if addictive) things you'll ever eat, a combination of black mushrooms, sesame oil, sesame seeds, ginger, seaweed and fresh, yielding calamari whose flavors run together so that every bite becomes an earthy, nutty, spicy explosion. When we seafood like this, we eat it!
Cafe Berlin doesn't have to fish for compliments over its pickled herring: The fish, pickled and spiced in-house, is tangy, firm and incredibly refreshing. Does the attractive little eatery do as well by other German specialties? You're darn Teuton! The sausages and schnitzels are superb, even better washed down with something from Cafe Berlin's large collection of German wines and beers.
The servers say regulars know the story, but every time a newcomer walks in, they have to tell it again. The divey Cutthroat Cafe used to be an even divier Butcher Block, but the new owner changed the name to reflect the two most important things for him: fishing and his wife, the real love of his life. Cutthroat trout in many forms -- a stuffed pillow, a real stuffed fish, posters, photos, clocks and signs that say "Gone Fishing" -- decorate the little diner, so there's no getting around that explanation of the name. But then you meet the little lady of the cafe (the owners asked that their names not be used) and see that she has a large scar running from one side of her neck to the other. Stories abound as to its source, including theories that she was in an alley fight, got mugged or tried to commit suicide; she lets out a gravelly laugh every time she hears another whopper. Truth is, she had throat surgery a while back, and it left her with the scar and a voice that she admits "cuts glass."
At Dixons, Goodfriends and Racines, three sibling restaurants and local institutions, the fish and chips entree snags us hook, line and sinker. The bait begins with the batter, which is augmented by Dixons Angel Amber beer, a brew made off-premises that Dixons shares with its relatives. Sweet, fresh chunks of North Atlantic cod are dipped in the batter and then plunged into oil in the deep fryer, where the batter quickly caramelizes, thanks to the beer's sugar content. The result is a dark, sweet crispy shell holding in supple, steamy cod. Served with fat French fries, sweet coleslaw and housemade tartar sauce, it's a catch for any day.

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