Best Sesame Chicken 2002 | Moongate Asian Grill | Best of Denver® | Best Restaurants, Bars, Clubs, Music and Stores in Denver | Westword
Fly us to the Moongate, one of this town's best-kept secrets. The tiny, six-table eatery in a tiny, nondescript strip mall cooks up quality Asian fare with big flavors -- and it's equally adept with the most popular dishes from each of the major cuisines in that region. While the tempura (Japanese), chicken satay (Indonesia) and egg rolls (Vietnamese) are all fine, the sesame chicken really soars. For this quintessential version of the quintessential Chinese dish, sizable chunks of chicken are coated in a thick batter, fried until crispy, rolled in sesame seeds and then glazed with a perfectly balanced sweet-and-spicy sauce -- not sweet enough to coat a candy apple, and not so spicy that you can't taste the moist, juicy meat inside that crust. The sesame chicken comes on the perfect accessory: a bed of steamed vegetables that have been tossed on the grill just long enough to caramelize their edges.
The Dire family has been serving good old-fashioned diner fare at this Bonnie Brae roadhouse since 1934 -- when the road outside was still dirt, rather than today's busy University Boulevard. But not much else has changed since those days. Sure, the pizza toppings have gotten more exotic, and microbrews now sit next to Coors at the bar (oh, yes, and the prices have gone up a bit), but the old family recipes are the same. One of our favorites is for chicken-fried steak, a formula that calls for a very large slab of flank steak to be coated in a floury batter, pan-fried in butter and then smothered in peppery country gravy, with mashed potatoes plopped alongside to soak up any excess gravy and juice. The crust, studded with small blackened bits from the pan, is so tasty that you could make a meal of it -- but then you'd miss the meat inside, which is tender enough to slice with a fork.
At Del Frisco's Double Eagle Steakhouse, the steaks are awesome. The service is gracious. The wine list is impressive. The dining room is classy. The sides are stellar. The prices are up there -- but you get what you pay for. For the best steaks in town, Del Frisco's is the winner and still the chomp.
Saddle up and head south -- into the heart of suburban sprawl, for pity's sake -- for some of the best steaks in town. Texas Land & Cattle Steak House, a link in a chain out of Austin, serves up a heapin' helpin' of food in low-key surroundings; this steakhouse manages to feel like a Western watering hole without hitting you over the head with contrived cowboyisms. The meat of the matter is beef, as it should be: USDA Choice, well-aged and cut right, then hickory-smoked and mesquite-grilled. The cooking process results in charred little bits all over the steak, which has a deep, smoky taste and tender-textured flesh with just the right amount of chewiness. While the flavor -- and portions -- are big, the prices are relatively small, with a sixteen-ounce ribeye coming in at $19.99. And unlike at higher-end steakhouses, the meat comes with several complimentary sides to keep it company: The chile-spiked beans and garlicky mashed potatoes are tops, and the house salad is just fine (or spring an extra buck for the splendid retro wedge, ice-cold iceberg topped with an avalanche of blue-cheese dressing and bacon bits). Desserts are Texas-sized, too, so you'll want to save space for the insulin-injection Jack Daniel's pie. Yee-haw!
Prime rib is such an old-time tradition, it's not surprising to find the town's best version at the Downtown Broker, a thirty-year-old restaurant that has seen more proposals and anniversaries than Mickey Rooney. The elegant dining room -- part of a former bank -- is all Japanese cherry wood, ornate knickknacks, rich fabrics, cozy booths and low lighting. The service is as accommodating as the by-the-glass wine list, which offers more than a hundred choices, including some rare high-end ones. And then, of course, there's the free bottomless bowl of peel-and-eat shrimp. But to make your meal a truly special occasion, order the prime rib: When it roasts this primal rib cut, the kitchen lovingly coaxes out all the flavor while keeping in all the juices. You'll want to savor every bite of the fork-tender meat, which comes with an authentic bubble of Yorkshire pudding.
We're tickled by the ribs at the Rib Crib, which Evergreen native Troy Tyus took over last year from the Crib's original owners, who'd had the place for thirteen years. Along with the restaurant, Tyus got their secret recipes -- including how to rub and applewood-smoke St. Louis-cut pork ribs, baby backs and beef ribs so that they arrive at the table tender and moist, with a deep smoky taste. Although the kitchen has already splashed the ribs with the Rib Crib's signature sauce, somewhat reminiscent of Kansas City style, with some molasses sweetness and a strong tang, more comes on the side. (The Rib Crib also has what it calls "vapor sauce," available on request, that'll blow your socks off.) But despite its name, this joint isn't just about ribs. The soups and salads are good, and the prime rib is finished off in the smoker, which gives it a unique taste. Still, we love them bones.
It may boast the oddest location for a barbecue place we've ever seen, tucked away inside a big, fancy business park, but Rocky Mountain Barbecue & Catering is the real deal. For proof, try the pulled pork: salty and rich, with just the right amount of charred bits, and as tender as the big, puffy bun it sits on. Pour on the thick, burgundy-colored, molasses-sweet and vinegar-tangy Kansas City-style sauce, and prepare to pig out.
Pizza covered with barbecued chicken is all the rage these days, but the first place to offer a BBQ pie in these parts was the N'Awlins-themed Bourbon Street. This fun, lively pizzeria features two dozen funky pies, ranging from the garlic-packed Dracula's Nightmare to the Philadelphia Story, which comes covered with cheesesteak essentials. But our all-time favorite is the Louisiana BBQ Chicken, a medium-thick-crusted pizza topped with barbecue-sauce-slathered chicken, grilled bell peppers and onions, and a combination of smoked gouda and mozzarella for a smoky, sticky-sweet meal.
Summer Powell
Yo! Anthony's serves the most authentic New Yawk 'za in town. Super-thin crackly crust. Sweet sauce. Lots of drippy cheese. Fold a slice in half, and orange grease runs everywhere. Don't argue: You're gonna like it.
Just stepping inside either of the two Meglio's outposts is enough to transport you back to the Windy City: Chicago memorabilia covers the walls, and regulars are always ready to chat about da Bears. But the pizza here is the real deal, too. In Chi-town, pizzerias pour it on thick -- and Meglio's follows suit by serving deep-dish pies so fat and smothered in cheese, one slice is enough for a meal. The sauce is rich and tomatoey, and the perfectly oiled crust is so tasty that, long after your stomach is full, you just can't stop.

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