There are a lot of things to love about the T-Wa Inn. In season, it serves great soft-shell crabs, breaded and fried in butter. When the kitchen isn't going nuts with the mint, it makes a great spring roll. And on a good night, the stuffed quail is worth killing for. But there's one thing T-Wa does perfectly every time: Vietnamese coffee. Just stepping through the doors is like walking off a plane and straight into a foreign cafe, making T-Wa the ideal spot for a lunch-break vacation. Watching the thick, strong French coffee drip through the battered filter on top of your glass forces your mind and body to slow down, to adjust to a different tempo. Smelling the rich brew as it slowly fills the glass, mixing in the sweetened condensed milk, pouring the coffee over ice and listening to the cubes crack -- it's like a half-hour of Zen relaxation therapy all for a buck and a half. One taste and we're already gone.


There are a lot of things to love about the T-Wa Inn. In season, it serves great soft-shell crabs, breaded and fried in butter. When the kitchen isn't going nuts with the mint, it makes a great spring roll. And on a good night, the stuffed quail is worth killing for. But there's one thing T-Wa does perfectly every time: Vietnamese coffee. Just stepping through the doors is like walking off a plane and straight into a foreign cafe, making T-Wa the ideal spot for a lunch-break vacation. Watching the thick, strong French coffee drip through the battered filter on top of your glass forces your mind and body to slow down, to adjust to a different tempo. Smelling the rich brew as it slowly fills the glass, mixing in the sweetened condensed milk, pouring the coffee over ice and listening to the cubes crack -- it's like a half-hour of Zen relaxation therapy all for a buck and a half. One taste and we're already gone.
Aside from the name, there's no fusion at Thai Basil. The cuisine of Thailand is the primary focus at this groovy little Wash Park eatery, and while a scattering of Vietnamese and Chinese dishes can be found on the menu, it's the curry -- calibrated for the adventurous eater, with plenty of spice and heat to spare -- that has us coming back again and again. Several varieties are available, with old favorites like panang and massamun sharing menu space with house specials. Thai Basil also offers an excellent grilled chicken satay served with a peanut sauce so thick it's more for scooping than for dipping. And unless you've recently come off a hunger strike, one order of pad thai is usually enough to feed two -- although it's so good you'll be tempted to polish it off yourself.


Aside from the name, there's no fusion at Thai Basil. The cuisine of Thailand is the primary focus at this groovy little Wash Park eatery, and while a scattering of Vietnamese and Chinese dishes can be found on the menu, it's the curry -- calibrated for the adventurous eater, with plenty of spice and heat to spare -- that has us coming back again and again. Several varieties are available, with old favorites like panang and massamun sharing menu space with house specials. Thai Basil also offers an excellent grilled chicken satay served with a peanut sauce so thick it's more for scooping than for dipping. And unless you've recently come off a hunger strike, one order of pad thai is usually enough to feed two -- although it's so good you'll be tempted to polish it off yourself.
Although there's a lot of great Indian food in town, Maruti Narayan's takes top honors. From its humble beginnings as a coffee shop to its current incarnation as a sit-down lunch and dinner destination, Narayan's has consistently impressed Denver's Indian and Nepalese communities and wowed many adventurous local diners along the way. Never straying too far from classic preparations into territory that would be either too hot or inedibly bland, the kitchen puts out perfectly spiced potato and vegetable samosas, well-balanced curries and succulent meats. Like the baby bear's porridge, everything at Narayan's is just right. And the Nepalese additions to the menu -- especially the fun-to-pronounce meat momo -- are a tasty bonus.


Little India
Westword
Although there's a lot of great Indian food in town, Maruti Narayan's takes top honors. From its humble beginnings as a coffee shop to its current incarnation as a sit-down lunch and dinner destination, Narayan's has consistently impressed Denver's Indian and Nepalese communities and wowed many adventurous local diners along the way. Never straying too far from classic preparations into territory that would be either too hot or inedibly bland, the kitchen puts out perfectly spiced potato and vegetable samosas, well-balanced curries and succulent meats. Like the baby bear's porridge, everything at Narayan's is just right. And the Nepalese additions to the menu -- especially the fun-to-pronounce meat momo -- are a tasty bonus.
This University of Denver neighborhood hangout with its ramshackle patio doesn't look like much from the outside, but it's one of Denver's most beloved restaurants. And what's not to love? Jerusalem serves spicy hummus, fat little stuffed grape leaves, crisp and lemony falafel, tender shawarma sandwiches folded up in fluffy pitas that overflow with onions, tomatoes and parsley in tzatziki sauce, and a hundred other Middle Eastern delights. Everything is made fresh, never frozen (it says so right on the menu and tastes that way on the plate), and delivered to your table faster than you can say "baba ghanouj." Considering the slightly claustrophobic closeness of the tightly packed tables and the almost constant crowds on the weekends, a meal at Jerusalem sometimes seems on the edge of dissolving into a chaotic nightmare -- but it never does, thanks to the quick turns, grace and friendly service of the floor staff.


Jerusalem Restaurant
Danielle Lirette
This University of Denver neighborhood hangout with its ramshackle patio doesn't look like much from the outside, but it's one of Denver's most beloved restaurants. And what's not to love? Jerusalem serves spicy hummus, fat little stuffed grape leaves, crisp and lemony falafel, tender shawarma sandwiches folded up in fluffy pitas that overflow with onions, tomatoes and parsley in tzatziki sauce, and a hundred other Middle Eastern delights. Everything is made fresh, never frozen (it says so right on the menu and tastes that way on the plate), and delivered to your table faster than you can say "baba ghanouj." Considering the slightly claustrophobic closeness of the tightly packed tables and the almost constant crowds on the weekends, a meal at Jerusalem sometimes seems on the edge of dissolving into a chaotic nightmare -- but it never does, thanks to the quick turns, grace and friendly service of the floor staff.
Bastilla is a Moroccan party food, but there's no reason you can't use it to celebrate everyday life. Made up of several layers of delicate, crisp phyllo dough filled with saffron-spiced chicken, onions, crushed almonds and herbs held together with an egg batter, bastilla is pan-cooked into a round pie and topped with powdered sugar and an ornamental design drawn in ground cinnamon. You may need to recalibrate your tastebuds to fully appreciate the true depth of these last flavors, which bring so much more to this dish than they would your average slice of French toast. Listed as an appetizer on Cafe Paprika's menu but easily a meal in itself, this is a festive dish worthy of fanfare.


Cafe Paprika
Courtesy Cafe Paprika Facebook
Bastilla is a Moroccan party food, but there's no reason you can't use it to celebrate everyday life. Made up of several layers of delicate, crisp phyllo dough filled with saffron-spiced chicken, onions, crushed almonds and herbs held together with an egg batter, bastilla is pan-cooked into a round pie and topped with powdered sugar and an ornamental design drawn in ground cinnamon. You may need to recalibrate your tastebuds to fully appreciate the true depth of these last flavors, which bring so much more to this dish than they would your average slice of French toast. Listed as an appetizer on Cafe Paprika's menu but easily a meal in itself, this is a festive dish worthy of fanfare.

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