Vinnola's Italian Market
Walking into Vinnola's Market is like traveling back in time to an East Coast-style deli of decades past. Everyone's friendly and yelling and laughing; deli workers are passing slices of cheese and salami over the counter for inspection by little old blue-haired Italian ladies. Those goods always pass muster: The smallish market carries all of the important imported meats and cheeses -- Asiago and mortadella, mozzarella and prosciutto -- as well as olive oil and balsamico, fresh-baked Italian bread and cookies, and fresh and dried pasta. Stop by at lunchtime, and one of Vinnola's overstuffed sandwiches will see you through the rest of your shopping.
The European Mart
Good things come in small packages, and European Mart proves it. This tiny store is crammed with smoked fish and sauerkraut, kasha and Danish cheeses, even Swiss specialties and Hungarian tidbits tracked down by owner Dmitry Gershengorin -- and the deli case is full of imported meats, pretty cakes and other baked items. Because Glendale boasts a sizable Russian population, the Mart also stocks Moscow's newspapers and Russian dolls. Caviar fans should ask if there's any on hand: Gershengorin often has the best price on fish eggs in town.
Fred Deligio is the quintessential neighborhood butcher, a guy who really cares about his customers, always remembering how you like your steaks cut and when you need pork butt instead of loin. At Fred's Fine Meats, he brings in Choice-grade meat and ages it for three weeks himself; he also makes his own Italian and German sausages and bratwurst. Need a specialty sausage? Give Fred the recipe and he'll custom-stuff it to your specs -- and it will taste just like what your Polish grandma used to turn out. Fred's chickens come from Red Bird Farms (he'll cook them rotisserie-style for you), and he also offers only American lamb -- none of that frozen stuff from New Zealand -- and Boar's Head deli meats. Need elk, buffalo or duck liver? He can get it. And at the end of every transaction, Fred always says, "You take care." We will, because he does.
Want a guy who knows his pesto from his prosciutto? Need a vegetarian woman? Head straight to Tony's, the best meat/meet market in town, a mecca for the lonely looking for a date (or at least dinner). Every weekend, singles converge around the ready-made soups and pasta sauces in the frozen-foods section of this massive gourmet grocery store, checking out both the culinary and cuddling options. At Tony's, it's much easier to narrow down your choices than it is in a bar: You know he likes to cook if his cart is full of spices from the extensive selection here, and you know she's a morning person if hers has plenty of upscale jams and fresh-baked pastries. Sidle up to a cutie by the free samples and ask for her number; if it's a go, you can always pick out dinner together.

Best Meat Market for Knees and Necks

Midopa

Midopa is an excellent Asian market specializing in Korean and Japanese ingredients, with a killer housemade kim chee and inexpensive, fresh sushi sitting in a case near the front counter. But Midopa also stocks the best selection of hard-to-find animal parts we've ever seen. Necks, backs, feet, knees and other odds and ends from a variety of critters are available at all times, just begging to be plopped into a stock for Vietnamese pho or wrapped in rice paper and fried. No one at Midopa speaks much English, so it pays to know your parts -- because when it comes to cooking, parts isn't parts.
Whole Foods Denver West
Fishing for an interesting dinner? Head to any Whole Foods markets and have a chat with the knowledgeable staffers in the seafood section. They'll point out a tip-top fresh specimen, perfectly cut, from their dizzying array and then tell you ten different ways to prepare it, along with what other fish might work just as well in the same dish. On any given day, Whole Foods is swimming in the town's biggest variety of sea creatures, and employees can give you the 411 on any one of them: where it came from, what it ate, how long it'll keep and what it tastes like. The seafood section also has a tempting array of ready-made delicacies, including a fabulous calamari salad and party-worthy dips and spreads. And for those who like it raw, the sushi-grade octopus, eel, salmon and tuna are a cut above anyone else's.
Jax Fish House
Jax Fish House
Roy's, which came to Cherry Creek by way of Hawaii, is once again the catch of the year for its fresh, well-prepared seafood. We're always reeled in by the menu's interesting combinations, including cassoulet made from sea scallops and filet mignon, and broadbill swordfish dusted and pan-fried with mochiko, a rice flour. This classy, elegant restaurant isn't afraid to offer seafood that landlocked Denver doesn't often see, such as butterfish (known as Pacific pompano or sablefish); the kitchen's also adept at turning the tried and true into something new, too, topping Chilean sea bass with grilled eel, for example. Get the net: We're keeping this one.
This hip, Hapa-ning chain now has three links (two in Boulder), but we like Hapa's Cherry Creek sushi bar best. The sushi is always super-fresh, interesting and well executed, offered in cutting-edge combinations that might sound silly but actually work. For starters, there's the "multiple orgasm," a tempura-battered sushi roll filled with cream cheese, crab and smoked salmon, all fried and then smothered in a gooey white sauce. Since they have to serve dishes like that, it's no wonder the sushi chefs are entertaining and friendly, ready to crack a joke or make conversation with the customers (unlike so many knife-wielding crankypants we run into at other places). But Hapa's real selling point is the scene, which is just plain fun: calm and relaxing at lunch, loud and raucous at dinner, with an L-shaped bar that makes for convenient people-watching.
Fujiyama owner Denny Kang thinks big is better, and he proves it by offering sushi that's much larger than you get at other sushi bars for the same price -- and just as tasty. Enjoy your fish while sitting at the red-topped sushi bar decorated with cute little aquariums, right near a massive, lavender-hued mural of the Japanese mountain that the eatery's named for. A meal here isn't quite as massive as Mount Fuji, but it's a culinary high point nonetheless.
At Fontana Sushi, it seems like almost every hour is happy hour, since the $1 sushi special runs from 6 to 10 p.m. weekdays and 7 p.m. to midnight on weekends. The low price doesn't mean low quality, though, and while the sushi chefs can be a little slow, and the sushi isn't always flawlessly assembled, it's unfailingly fresh and flavorful. Put your money where your mouth is at Fontana.

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