Unlike in this country, where ramen is the subsistence cuisine of slackers, potheads and college students, in Japan ramen is a proper meal, one served both on the street and in sit-down ramen restaurants. More than soba, more than udon, the humble ramen noodle is Japan's most culturally identifiable food -- its Big Mac, its mac-and-cheese. But here in Denver, we can enjoy ramen the way it's meant to be eaten at Oshima Ramen, a small, virtually invisible spot that's the only American outlet of a major Japanese chain. Seven bucks buys a huge, steaming bowl of ramen noodles (rolled and cut each morning) in pork, chicken or bonito broth made fresh to the exacting standards of Keiji Oshima, founder of the Tokyo-based company. Many of the ingredients come straight from Japan, and every bowl is made to order. For two dollars more, you can get a side of fierce-gingered pork gyoza dumplings with soy-daikon dipping sauce, making for a less-than-ten-dollar meal that should keep you full long past dinnertime.

Unlike in this country, where ramen is the subsistence cuisine of slackers, potheads and college students, in Japan ramen is a proper meal, one served both on the street and in sit-down ramen restaurants. More than soba, more than udon, the humble ramen noodle is Japan's most culturally identifiable food -- its Big Mac, its mac-and-cheese. But here in Denver, we can enjoy ramen the way it's meant to be eaten at Oshima Ramen, a small, virtually invisible spot that's the only American outlet of a major Japanese chain. Seven bucks buys a huge, steaming bowl of ramen noodles (rolled and cut each morning) in pork, chicken or bonito broth made fresh to the exacting standards of Keiji Oshima, founder of the Tokyo-based company. Many of the ingredients come straight from Japan, and every bowl is made to order. For two dollars more, you can get a side of fierce-gingered pork gyoza dumplings with soy-daikon dipping sauce, making for a less-than-ten-dollar meal that should keep you full long past dinnertime.


Jay's Patio Cafe
When you're eating out, nothing's that cheap anymore -- but at Jay's Patio Cafe, you pay for what you get. And when you're getting dishes with names like Wasabi Roast Beef and Tuna Nicoise, dishes that sound like they should be part of the smarmy spiel of some Cherry Creek garon, you expect to shell out a few euros. Not at Jay's, though. A delicious bistro sandwich fancy enough to satisfy the most trophy of wives costs less than six bucks, and for a little extra change, you can get half a tasty jerk chicken or a Tuscan veggie panino and a cup of homemade seasonal soup. Patio patrons can even design their own salads for less than six bucks. Jay's bills itself as a neighborhood bistro, and in this neighborhood, that means it draws both the construction workers working to gentrify it and the potential homeowners wishing they'd hurry up.


When you're eating out, nothing's that cheap anymore -- but at Jay's Patio Cafe, you pay for what you get. And when you're getting dishes with names like Wasabi Roast Beef and Tuna Nicoise, dishes that sound like they should be part of the smarmy spiel of some Cherry Creek garon, you expect to shell out a few euros. Not at Jay's, though. A delicious bistro sandwich fancy enough to satisfy the most trophy of wives costs less than six bucks, and for a little extra change, you can get half a tasty jerk chicken or a Tuscan veggie panino and a cup of homemade seasonal soup. Patio patrons can even design their own salads for less than six bucks. Jay's bills itself as a neighborhood bistro, and in this neighborhood, that means it draws both the construction workers working to gentrify it and the potential homeowners wishing they'd hurry up.


Tamayo
Matt Ritscher
Tamayo may have the two best outdoor patios in the city -- one right on Larimer Square, where you can see the dye jobs and hairpieces of pedestrians up close, the other raised up above the throngs, with a fabulous view of the mountains off in the distance. But Tamayo also has a great menu, which means you can spend a couple hours on those patios grazing through the high-end cuisine of Mexico. With three different ceviches (tuna, mahi-mahi and an ever-changing ceviche de la semana), tacos, sopes, Aztec calamari with blood-orange sauce, chips and guac, plus a dozen varieties of margarita and mojito available, it's a wonder anyone would ever want to leave one of Tamayo's tables.

Tamayo may have the two best outdoor patios in the city -- one right on Larimer Square, where you can see the dye jobs and hairpieces of pedestrians up close, the other raised up above the throngs, with a fabulous view of the mountains off in the distance. But Tamayo also has a great menu, which means you can spend a couple hours on those patios grazing through the high-end cuisine of Mexico. With three different ceviches (tuna, mahi-mahi and an ever-changing ceviche de la semana), tacos, sopes, Aztec calamari with blood-orange sauce, chips and guac, plus a dozen varieties of margarita and mojito available, it's a wonder anyone would ever want to leave one of Tamayo's tables.


The world as we know it can be comfortably broken down into several sets of categories. For example, there are diner people and there are coffeehouse people, crme-brlée people and chocolate-cake people, people who enjoy foie gras and people who would never consider eating the swollen liver of anything. And then there are people who like the Palm, and people who can't figure out what anyone could possibly see in this chummy, new money/old boys' club that seems to exist for no other reason than to give the few who still indulge in three-martini business lunches a place to do so, and more abstemious go-getters a place to cut deals around the sodden snoozers. All in all, though, a meal here is quite an event, with deals made on the side of every sirloin salad.

The world as we know it can be comfortably broken down into several sets of categories. For example, there are diner people and there are coffeehouse people, crme-brlée people and chocolate-cake people, people who enjoy foie gras and people who would never consider eating the swollen liver of anything. And then there are people who like the Palm, and people who can't figure out what anyone could possibly see in this chummy, new money/old boys' club that seems to exist for no other reason than to give the few who still indulge in three-martini business lunches a place to do so, and more abstemious go-getters a place to cut deals around the sodden snoozers. All in all, though, a meal here is quite an event, with deals made on the side of every sirloin salad.


L & L Hawaiian Barbecue
L&L Hawaiian Barbecue is a Big Island phenomenon -- a onetime Honolulu locals-only hangout that hit it big in the late '80s by offering Hawaiian plate lunches and hatching a plan for franchise world domination. Today, with over ninety locations nationwide (but just one in Colorado), L&L caters to the Big Hungry Boy in all of us with its chicken katsu plate -- a portion of panko-fried chicken so large it looks like an entire bird beaten flat, sliced, breaded and fried. Included in the $3.95 price are sides of sweet barbecue sauce, sticky sushi rice and backyard macaroni salad. The menu includes close to twenty more of these giant, picnic-style plate lunches -- all fancy enough for dinner, and none of which crack the seven-dollar mark. Be there. Aloha.

L&L Hawaiian Barbecue is a Big Island phenomenon -- a onetime Honolulu locals-only hangout that hit it big in the late '80s by offering Hawaiian plate lunches and hatching a plan for franchise world domination. Today, with over ninety locations nationwide (but just one in Colorado), L&L caters to the Big Hungry Boy in all of us with its chicken katsu plate -- a portion of panko-fried chicken so large it looks like an entire bird beaten flat, sliced, breaded and fried. Included in the $3.95 price are sides of sweet barbecue sauce, sticky sushi rice and backyard macaroni salad. The menu includes close to twenty more of these giant, picnic-style plate lunches -- all fancy enough for dinner, and none of which crack the seven-dollar mark. Be there. Aloha.


Best Of Denver®

Best Of