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.


Palm Restaurant
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.


Just about every fast-food joint in the country now has some kind of dollar menu. A buck for some nasty greaseball cheeseburger. A buck for a few French fries of highly questionable provenance. But true gastronauts have always known that for real dining deals, you head to Blank-town -- Chinatown, Koreatown, any of those areas of the city where ethnic immigrants congregate and open restaurants that cater first and foremost to their own communities. In Denver, the best dollar-and-change dinner can be found in Little Russia, just off Leetsdale, where the oddly named California Bakery lays out a spread of traditional piroshkis that cost just $1.19 each. It's essentially an Iron Curtain version of the Hot Pocket: fried dough, about the size and shape of a doughnut-shop Long John, stuffed with whatever the baker has on hand that day. And at the California Bakery, that stuffing always translates to something delicious.

Just about every fast-food joint in the country now has some kind of dollar menu. A buck for some nasty greaseball cheeseburger. A buck for a few French fries of highly questionable provenance. But true gastronauts have always known that for real dining deals, you head to Blank-town -- Chinatown, Koreatown, any of those areas of the city where ethnic immigrants congregate and open restaurants that cater first and foremost to their own communities. In Denver, the best dollar-and-change dinner can be found in Little Russia, just off Leetsdale, where the oddly named California Bakery lays out a spread of traditional piroshkis that cost just $1.19 each. It's essentially an Iron Curtain version of the Hot Pocket: fried dough, about the size and shape of a doughnut-shop Long John, stuffed with whatever the baker has on hand that day. And at the California Bakery, that stuffing always translates to something delicious.


Rioja
Scott Lentz
Chef Jennifer Jasinski has hit the triple bull with her powerhouse new eatery in Larimer Square. One, she's got a great location -- smack in the middle of the hottest restaurant neighborhood in town, which she's made even hotter. Two, the space (some of which was once part of Josephina's, some nonexistent) is a great upscale-casual dining room that's fun to hang out in, no matter how much cash you're dropping. And three, both the menu and the kitchen executing it are top-notch, turning out excellent handmade pastas, innovative Mediterranean-Italian big plates, and a peerless consommé with duck raviolini. On top of all that, chef Jen has managed to keep prices well within hollering distance of cheap, so that a party of two (provided they're not drinking heavily) could easily get in and out of the joint for around fifty bucks. Sure, you could spend more if you wanted to (and odds are you will), but no matter how many dead presidents you're dropping here, one thing's guaranteed: You'll leave knowing it was worth every dime.

Chef Jennifer Jasinski has hit the triple bull with her powerhouse new eatery in Larimer Square. One, she's got a great location -- smack in the middle of the hottest restaurant neighborhood in town, which she's made even hotter. Two, the space (some of which was once part of Josephina's, some nonexistent) is a great upscale-casual dining room that's fun to hang out in, no matter how much cash you're dropping. And three, both the menu and the kitchen executing it are top-notch, turning out excellent handmade pastas, innovative Mediterranean-Italian big plates, and a peerless consommé with duck raviolini. On top of all that, chef Jen has managed to keep prices well within hollering distance of cheap, so that a party of two (provided they're not drinking heavily) could easily get in and out of the joint for around fifty bucks. Sure, you could spend more if you wanted to (and odds are you will), but no matter how many dead presidents you're dropping here, one thing's guaranteed: You'll leave knowing it was worth every dime.


Zengo
Conventional wisdom says that fifty dollars is about the max Colorado diners are willing to spend on a non-destination dinner for two. Birthdays, anniversaries, Flag Day -- at those times, people are willing to part with a little more green, and there are a lot of restaurants willing to take that cash. But say you've got a really special occasion on your hands, something deserving of an unparalleled blowout -- like beating the rap on that corporate embezzlement charge, or being elected executor of your family's offshore trust. Where to go then? Zengo, without a doubt, where it's so easy to drop a couple hundred bucks on dinner, it's dangerous. What with the antojitos, tiraditos (both fancy words for appetizers), ceviches, Latino-Asian sushi, big plates, little plates, killer desserts and family-style service -- which means that every plate is going to be placed in the center of the table and fought over by all in attendance -- the temptation to order big, and then to keep ordering, is nearly irresistible. We suggest you go with your instincts and burn through that gold card. If you've got the money to spend, there's no place better to spend it than Zengo.

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