Belmar has the Oven and Chama. Sixth Avenue has Table 6, Somethin' Else, Barolo Grill and more. Larimer Square is overflowing with great restaurants, and Highland is like a small-plate foodie nirvana these days. And yet this has been Cherry Creek's year -- not for the old dogs pulling new tricks, but for the young blood making this neighborhood a much better restaurant scene. The construction workers and temps crowd Tula for lunch, then clear out just in time for the Creeker contingent to load it up over dinner. Sketch is already getting rave reviews. It's hard to find a seat at Emogne on the weekends, and in May, Ocean will make a fresh run at the crowds that Mao failed to impress (for more than five minutes). Over on Clayton Lane, North changed everything the day it opened its doors. Barely a week goes by without an announcement of something new happening in the Creek, and if we might make a humble suggestion to the neighborhood association, it would be for a new slogan that matches the new scene. Something along the lines of "Cherry Creek: Not Just for Yuppie Dickheads Anymore."
Z Cuisine and A Cote Bar a Absinthe
Over the past twelve months, many great restaurants have opened in Denver. But Z Cuisine is the best. In addition to its intimate room, amazing food, wonderful service and obsessively dedicated chef, Patrick Dupays, it has a special je ne sais quoi -- that indescribable, warm and electric vibe of a house working at its absolute peak. Every dinner here is a celebration of life and love and food and good company, every night a party. For bringing to Denver this joie de vivre, this endless revel and non-stop culinary bacchanal, Z Cuisine deserves to be named best new restaurant of the year.
Chipotle Mexican Grill
Steve Ell's little-burrito-chain-that-could has come a long way in the dozen years since it opened its first outlet at 1644 West Evans Avenue -- all the way to Wall Street, where it raised $45 million on its first day of public trading this year. En route, Ells entered into a partnership with (read: sale to) McDonald's, making Chipotle another chain restaurant in a world that's already more or less owned by chains. But in this case, bigger is better: How else are the good people of Minnesota, Georgia or New Hampshire going to learn what a great burrito is supposed to taste like? Better Chipotle than Taco Bell. Better Chipotle than McDonald's, even. For that matter, better Chipotle than 99 percent of the mom-and-pop stores rolling burritos here in Denver, Colorado.

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