Best Outdoor-Picnic Combo 2002 | St. Kilian's Cheese Shop | Best of Denver® | Best Restaurants, Bars, Clubs, Music and Stores in Denver | Westword
With these two stores nestled against each other in the Highland neighborhood, you've got the makings of a perfect picnic. First, stop by St. Kilian's, where Hugh O'Neill and Ionah de Freitas (former owners of Hugh's American Bistro) stock cheeses from all over the globe, including ones made right in our own Colorado back yard. They also have fresh-baked bread, smoked salmon, imported chocolate and dozens of other ready-to-eat items that help make for an instant picnic. Then take your goodies next door, where Mondo Vino owner Duey Kratzer can take one look at your provisions and pronounce the ideal wine to go with them. Stick everything in a big basket and you're off.

Tamayo won the location lottery when it took over the space that had been occupied by Cadillac Ranch and turned the second-floor terrace into a Mexican retreat. Every night that the weather cooperates, you can watch the sun set over the mountains and smell the fresh air, blessedly free of car exhaust, even though the traffic whizzing below on 14th Street and Speer Boulevard is enough to make you feel like you're part of a thriving, if not world-class, city. And when the weather is bad, your consolation prize is Tamayo's groovy interior, complete with a stunning mosaic mural behind the bar.

Over the past five years, Yia Yia's Eurocafe has become a Denver Tech Center mainstay, in part because of its efficient, gracious service and well-executed Mediterranean food (including fabulous crab risotto cakes), and in part because it has one of the best outdoor patios in town. Overlooking a man-made pond, complete with fountain, and facing southwest to catch the last rays of the day, Yia Yia's spacious patio is surrounded by shrubbery. Sit at one of the sturdy tables -- yellow umbrellas fend off the heat of the afternoon sun -- and you'll forget that you're in the middle of an enormous business park in the middle of the suburbs.
As the area's best option for meat-free dining, Sunflower continues to blossom. Even though this tidy, sun-filled spot offers free-range chicken, seafood and hormone-free game meats, the bulk of its menu is vegetarian. The dishes are made from ingredients that contain no preser-vatives, chemical additives or artificial elements -- and they're even prepared in aluminum-free cookware, using non-irradiated herbs and spices. So what's left? Pure flavor. While veg-heads can go for the tofu nori roll, the pesto-stuffed portobello, the pineapple sweet-and-sour tofu and the tempeh scalopini, even the most ardent carnivore should be satisfied by the chicken stuffed with corn and sage. At lunch, the salad bar is one of the tops in town.

Best known for its see-and-be-seen scene where the in-the-know go to snuggle up against the bar and chat with owner Adde Bjorklund, Bistro Adde Brewster is also the town's premier stop for savvy salads. Featuring absolutely fresh ingredients tossed in unique combinations, the salads come in two styles: small plates, such as warm-braised Belgian endive leaves mixed with bacon, or aged chèvre and toasted walnuts in a heart-healthy veggie broth; and entrees that place sesame-seared ahi in a sesame-ginger vinaigrette, or lamb chops coated in citrus-sparked gremolata over mixed greens in a dressing flavored with cumin and oranges. With over a dozen choices available, Adde's customers can live, and relive, their salad days.

At the Hilltop Cafe, a charming, bright-yellow New American-style spot in a house on a hill in Golden, chef Ian Kleinman has made soups a specialty. His repertoire includes nearly a hundred concoctions, most of his own design, that he rotates regularly, and there isn't a loser among them. Kleinman does right by the classics -- a cool, creamy vichyssoise with a hint of chive; silky-smooth, basil-flecked tomato; dark, rich French onion topped with a broiled lid of bread and cheese -- but also stirs up some surprising combinations, such as roasted apple and tarragon and curried pumpkin. At Hilltop, the soup's not only on -- it's right on.
Fungi freaks can stop digging: Aix, a wonderful eatery with the air of Provence, makes the most of mushrooms with its wild-mushroom soup. Part chunky, part purée, this magical elixir tastes of nothing but 'shrooms -- from the pungent, heady broth to the butter-soft bits and a crowning touch of white-truffle oil. For true mycophagists -- you know who you are -- Aix marks the spot.

If Deli Tech served nothing but its pastrami sandwich, it would still be serving the best sandwiches in Denver. The pastrami is totally New Yawk-style, with succulent, fat-edged, well-seasoned beef straight from NYC's Carnegie Deli. Get it on rye -- anything else is heresy, really -- and savor the juice-soaked crusts at the end. Once you're ready for a break from pastrami (impossible to imagine), you can try the corned beef, or the roast beef, or the brisket, or the tongue; almost all of the meats are imported from back East. The egg salad is homemade, as is the chopped liver, and even the whitefish salad is a good catch. In fact, all of these sandwiches are deli to die for, and they're even better when paired with cold borscht and sour cream or crispy latkes, then washed down with an authentic egg cream. Still think there could be a better sandwich out there? Fuhgedaboudit!
Sure, sometimes it seems like it might be easier to drive to Philadelphia, home of the cheese-steak, than to negotiate the weird setup at Heritage Hills. But even back in Pennsylvania, you might not find a cheesesteak as good as the one made at Santoro's Brick Oven Pizzeria. This tidy joint, decorated with hand-painted murals and not-too-cutesy Italian knickknacks, makes an honest-to-goodness -- man, is it good! -- cheesesteak. It starts with a half-pound of thinly sliced sirloin, imported from Philly, that's chopped up on the grill with onions and then topped with plenty of provolone; the delicious mess is piled into Santoro's nine-inch, home-baked Italian roll, a thin, spongy loaf that holds the juices and the sandwich together.

CityGrille, a newly remodeled Capitol Hill hot spot, just keeps getting hotter -- and its burger just keeps getting better. To make its take on the American classic, the kitchen grills up 80 percent lean ground sirloin, then slaps it on a yielding, juice-soaking Bluepoint Bakery bun. The burgers are fine plain, but they're also good gussied up; one particularly successful combo sports an inch-thick blanket of melted Swiss, crisp bacon and a great Caesar dressing. Although the bar's a great place for taking your time over a burger and a few beers, the people-watching is prime in the dining room.

Best Of Denver®

Best Of