Breakfast King
Mark Antonation
Breakfast King is where we go when we need to commune with the food gods of our forefathers. We come here to be reminded of a simpler time when there was fine dining only on special days and diners for all the others. We come for the chicken-fried steak. At the King, the steak is crisp and wrinkly on the outside, like an old man left out in the sun too long, and tender within from a good pounding with the tenderizing mallet and a soaking in milk; its thick crust holds up even under the weight of a thick, peppery, artery-choking, Southern-style white sausage gravy. And while the chicken-fried steak is undeniably the star of this plate, it comes dotingly attended by two eggs and fresh home fries in munificent proportions.
Food fads come and food fads go, but our love for Little Shanghai remains eternal. This Chinese restaurant has been a Denver institution for close to thirty years, drawing big stars -- the Rolling Stones are reputed fans -- and small-fry alike. Everyone has their favorite dishes at Little Shanghai, but we're partial to its take on fried rice. Its very, very rich take. An order of Rich Man's Fried Rice brings an elegant yellow half-globe to the table, with a shell of egg covering the treasure of scallops, shrimp, broccoli and rice. One bite of this, and baby, you're a rich man, too.

Best Unexpected Chicken-Fried Steak

Lola

The chicken-fried steak at Lola comes as a double surprise. First, who'd even imagine that this upscale coastal-Mexican restaurant would be open for Sunday brunch? Given how packed the place is on weekend nights, you'd think that the staff would want to sleep in -- while their customers sleep it off. Instead, Lola opens its doors at 10 a.m. on Sundays, and while the Bloody Mary cart services the walking wounded, the kitchen cooks up a half-dozen brunch items, from exotic omelets to Mexican-style French toast to an incredibly good chicken-fried steak. Chef Jamey Fader pounds the hell out of a New York strip, coats it in a lightly spiced batter, fries it up and then smothers the whole thing with a sausage gravy made even better because it's based on Lola's homemade chorizo. Rise and shine!
The brand-spanking-new Zengo is so big, so opulent, that we've just started to take it all in -- from the retro-hip decor to the exotic cocktails to the extra-squishy bar stools from which you can appreciate those cocktails. The menu is expansive, so yin-and-yangy that it demands study. Meditation, even. So we've started small, dropping by for a quick meal of sake and the best unexpected fried rice in town. As with everything else about the restaurant, care has been taken with each little tidbit in the dish, so that every bite provides a burst of fresh, tantalizing flavors. You'll leave wanting more. More food, more sake, more Zengo.
Food fads come and food fads go, but our love for Little Shanghai remains eternal. This Chinese restaurant has been a Denver institution for close to thirty years, drawing big stars -- the Rolling Stones are reputed fans -- and small-fry alike. Everyone has their favorite dishes at Little Shanghai, but we're partial to its take on fried rice. Its very, very rich take. An order of Rich Man's Fried Rice brings an elegant yellow half-globe to the table, with a shell of egg covering the treasure of scallops, shrimp, broccoli and rice. One bite of this, and baby, you're a rich man, too.

Best Use of Things Never Meant to Go in a Fryer

Wingin' It

Last year's winner of the Best Fried Twinkie award makes it into the record books again for continuing to milk a fad that never really made it big. Even so, Derrol Moorhead, owner of Wingin' It, just couldn't stop with Twinkies, so this year he's added to his offerings battered and fried candy bars -- everything from Snickers to Milky Way -- as well as deep-fried bananas and even that county-fair fave, funnel cake. No more do you have to wait for that creepy carny in the paper hat to serve you funnel cake on a limp paper plate from the back of a converted Airstream. Instead, you can get the real thing anytime you want from Moorhead and his maniac fryer crew. Oh, and while you're there, remember that Wingin' It fries up excellent chicken wings, too.
Zengo
The brand-spanking-new Zengo is so big, so opulent, that we've just started to take it all in -- from the retro-hip decor to the exotic cocktails to the extra-squishy bar stools from which you can appreciate those cocktails. The menu is expansive, so yin-and-yangy that it demands study. Meditation, even. So we've started small, dropping by for a quick meal of sake and the best unexpected fried rice in town. As with everything else about the restaurant, care has been taken with each little tidbit in the dish, so that every bite provides a burst of fresh, tantalizing flavors. You'll leave wanting more. More food, more sake, more Zengo.
Marilyn Megenity can't stand cars. Most days, she walks to the Mercury Cafe, the restaurant/cafe/community hub she's owned for more than two decades in an assortment of locations, most recently in this comfy two-story building on the edge of downtown. But even this dedicated piéd-ophile has to hit the road now and then. And when Megenity gets motoring, she drives her Peacemobile, a 1982 Mercedes sedan that's fueled by waste, not gas. Megenity uses a fuel hybrid that's processed from reconstituted cooking oil, vegetable products, even fry grease. Painted in bright colors, with banners advertising its eco-friendliness, the Peacemobile is usually parked in front of the restaurant it has come to symbolize. Megenity makes a gas-free life seem easy, practical and worthy of a test drive.
Radek Cerny -- chef, owner and sole motivating force behind the unbelievable L'Atelier -- never does anything small, never does anything simply. His restaurant is a riot of strangeness and color, and his giant plates would be a joke if it weren't for the fantastic stuff that comes on them. Of particular note are his sweetbreads, which arrive in a classic Cerny potato-starch tuile, floored with whipped Yukon Golds, on a plate done up like a Nagel print from the '80's -- triangles of black and white with doodles of pale green and hot-pink infused oils. The centerpieces of all this artifice are the delicious glands, perfectly cooked, tender and swimming in a dark sugarcane sauce that gives them a well-balanced, high, humming sweetness.

Best Use of Things Never Meant to Go in a Fryer

Wingin' It

Last year's winner of the Best Fried Twinkie award makes it into the record books again for continuing to milk a fad that never really made it big. Even so, Derrol Moorhead, owner of Wingin' It, just couldn't stop with Twinkies, so this year he's added to his offerings battered and fried candy bars -- everything from Snickers to Milky Way -- as well as deep-fried bananas and even that county-fair fave, funnel cake. No more do you have to wait for that creepy carny in the paper hat to serve you funnel cake on a limp paper plate from the back of a converted Airstream. Instead, you can get the real thing anytime you want from Moorhead and his maniac fryer crew. Oh, and while you're there, remember that Wingin' It fries up excellent chicken wings, too.

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