Il Fornaio's crostini di polenta should go down in culinary history as one of the last, best, most original things anyone has managed to do with polenta, the must-have ingredient of the last decade. Here an order brings pan-fried squares -- like Italian finger sandwiches -- of crisp polenta topped with Italian ham, simple mozzarella, zucchini sliced thin as paper, Gorgonzola, prosciutto or mushrooms kicked up with a lace of black-truffle oil.

They're simple little things, the soft-shell crabs at Chez Thuy -- deep-fried whole, with a beautiful golden batter crisp out of the oil and just a little spicy, the shells inside chewy, yielding and full of juicy meat. The accompanying nuoc mam fish sauce is bright as acetylene, so sharp that a sniff of it is dizzying, like a toot of model-airplane glue. So you can be forgiven if you go a little nuts when the crabs (served two or three to an order) are brought to the table with a whole garden of sides: lettuce for wrapping, rice noodles, mint, basil, what-have-you. Dig in with your fingers and create the ideal bite: It just might be the best crab you'll ever eat in your life.

They're simple little things, the soft-shell crabs at Chez Thuy -- deep-fried whole, with a beautiful golden batter crisp out of the oil and just a little spicy, the shells inside chewy, yielding and full of juicy meat. The accompanying nuoc mam fish sauce is bright as acetylene, so sharp that a sniff of it is dizzying, like a toot of model-airplane glue. So you can be forgiven if you go a little nuts when the crabs (served two or three to an order) are brought to the table with a whole garden of sides: lettuce for wrapping, rice noodles, mint, basil, what-have-you. Dig in with your fingers and create the ideal bite: It just might be the best crab you'll ever eat in your life.


Pim Fitt does two unusual things at Yummy Yummy Tasty Thai. First, she'll occasionally tour customers through her kitchen, showing how the dumplings are crimped, how the spring rolls are rolled. And second, with the exception of the pad thai, nothing her kitchen makes tastes like any Thai food you've tasted before. Odds are good she'll have something knocking around the periphery of her menu that you've never even heard of before but that still belongs to the canon of authentic Thai cuisine. The batter-fried spinach leaves, for example, dipped in sweet Thai peanut sauce. We'd never heard of anyone deep-frying a spinach leaf. And yet here comes Fitt, deep-frying spinach leaves as if it were the most normal thing in the world. And after just one taste, we had to wonder why no one had thought of it before.

Pim Fitt does two unusual things at Yummy Yummy Tasty Thai. First, she'll occasionally tour customers through her kitchen, showing how the dumplings are crimped, how the spring rolls are rolled. And second, with the exception of the pad thai, nothing her kitchen makes tastes like any Thai food you've tasted before. Odds are good she'll have something knocking around the periphery of her menu that you've never even heard of before but that still belongs to the canon of authentic Thai cuisine. The batter-fried spinach leaves, for example, dipped in sweet Thai peanut sauce. We'd never heard of anyone deep-frying a spinach leaf. And yet here comes Fitt, deep-frying spinach leaves as if it were the most normal thing in the world. And after just one taste, we had to wonder why no one had thought of it before.


Table 6
Cassandra Kotnik
Chefs get credit for lots of things. They get props for inventing a cuisine, for refining a cuisine, occasionally for ruining a cuisine. But at Table 6, Aaron Whitcomb gets the nod for stealing. Okay, maybe not stealing, exactly. To be more polite, let's say he gets credit for introducing Denver diners to an addictive taste of the Gulf Coast with his wonderful, chocolate-filled beignets. Since all the food at Table 6 is so good, it's sometimes easy to fill up and forget about dessert -- but don't make that mistake. Fried dough, dusted with sugar, magically injected with a smooth chocolate filling as hot as lava? It doesn't get any better than that.

Chefs get credit for lots of things. They get props for inventing a cuisine, for refining a cuisine, occasionally for ruining a cuisine. But at Table 6, Aaron Whitcomb gets the nod for stealing. Okay, maybe not stealing, exactly. To be more polite, let's say he gets credit for introducing Denver diners to an addictive taste of the Gulf Coast with his wonderful, chocolate-filled beignets. Since all the food at Table 6 is so good, it's sometimes easy to fill up and forget about dessert -- but don't make that mistake. Fried dough, dusted with sugar, magically injected with a smooth chocolate filling as hot as lava? It doesn't get any better than that.


"A rather special hot dog" -- that's what owner Charlie Master calls Brix's straight-up, gourmet-meets-white-trash weiner. It's a Hebrew National all-beef frank, set on a good bun and topped with the kitchen's sauerkraut, then served with homemade red-cabbage-and-red-onion coleslaw on the side. If one of these dogs, along with a couple of cans of Pabst Blue Ribbon, isn't the best picnic-style dinner you've had in years, then, friend, you don't know good eatin'.

"A rather special hot dog" -- that's what owner Charlie Master calls Brix's straight-up, gourmet-meets-white-trash weiner. It's a Hebrew National all-beef frank, set on a good bun and topped with the kitchen's sauerkraut, then served with homemade red-cabbage-and-red-onion coleslaw on the side. If one of these dogs, along with a couple of cans of Pabst Blue Ribbon, isn't the best picnic-style dinner you've had in years, then, friend, you don't know good eatin'.


Saray, right number. Qwest isn't having an easy time of it these days, but employees need only step outside their downtown headquarters building and walk over to a cart on the corner to find quick comfort. The Saray cart peddles a great 75-cent hot dog; double that, and you can get a lightly grilled Sabrett weiner that hangs off the bun at both ends. Polish sausage and a jumbo dog each run $1.50, and for just two bucks, you can get a BBQ brisket sandwich or a bratwurst that's so big it's embarrassing.

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