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.
Other people eat this. Just keep telling yourself that other people eat this every day and enjoy it a lot. They must, because otherwise why would fried intestine be on Mee Yee Lin's 75-item-strong dim sum menu? So be brave. Be resolute in your desire to sample the true cuisines of other lands. Now taste. See? It's not as bad as it sounds. Mee Yee Lin's fried intestine is crisp and crunchy and tastes something like pork rinds, something like the meat in menudo. In fact, it tastes exactly like fried intestine. Like how you'd think that something's guts, cooked until crunchy, would taste.
Mercury Cafe
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.
At more raucous dim sum restaurants, you order your meal by shouting and pointing at a favored plate on a passing cart. At Mee Yee Lin -- a bright and busy little dim sum restaurant in the same neighborhood as its more cavernous competitors -- the service works sushi-bar style, with every table getting a paper menu and pencil so that diners can pick precisely what they want and how much of it they'd like. And while that eliminates some of the adventure, it also guarantees that you have no one but yourself to blame if you wind up with chicken feet. Our advice: Concentrate on meats that come from above the ankles, as well as the many variations on buns and dumplings.


L'Atelier
Courtesy L'Atelier Facebook
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.

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