Pacific Ocean International Market
Barbecue isn't an exclusively American passion. Far beyond the traditions of this country's pit masters, there's a world full of ropa vieja, churrasco and smoky roasted pig head that drives us just as wild as that perfect shredded pork butt redolent of hickory and slapped with a brush of sweet-hot K.C. mop. To us, barbecue is a global sensation, a borderless pleasure that has the same meaning in Guangdong Province as it does in Greenville. And when we're in need of a fix of international barbecue, we head straight for the counter at Pacific Ocean. Here, Chinese barbecued pork -- along with trotters, pig's heads and all the other carnivorous Asian ephemera -- is laid out in huge slabs and orders measured either in pounds or the space between two fingers, then taken home and sliced or shredded for shameless midnight consumption.
Jim 'n Nick's Bar-B-Q
Hunter Stevens
What's better than barbecue? That's right: fast barbecue. While Jim 'n Nick's has all the trappings of a traditional barbecue restaurant -- tables, menus, waiters and such -- what makes it special is the drive-thru. Not only can you order off the entire menu here, but service is lightning-quick, and the real wood smokers fill every car with the smell of good old-fashioned brick-pit barbecue.
Govnr's Park Restaurant & Tavern
In thirty years, you learn to do some things right. And Govnr's Park, which marked its thirtieth anniversary last summer, does potato chips very, very right: sliced thin, freshly fried, salted and served on greasy waxed paper.
Since chef James Mazzio took over the kitchen at Via, a lot of things have improved. The biggest improvement? Definitely the fries, which are now so good they'd be impossible to improve on. Served in a tall paper cone stuck inside a cool wrought-iron holder, in both presentation and taste these are reminiscent of the award winners that Mazzio served at the late, lamented Triana. They're cut thin, fried just right, hit with a little sugar and a little spice mix, then served with a side of excellent housemade horseradish cream sauce. Fries don't get any better than this.
Castle Cafe
Courtesy Castle Cafe Facebook
This is great chicken, slow-cooked chicken, tender and greasy chicken sheathed in a crisp armor of salt-and-peppered batter, a one-off of the incomparable Kansas City style practiced by places like Stroud's and a hundred and one less well-known fry joints and chicken shacks. It's also chicken that can take more than forty minutes to arrive, because every bird that's ordered at Castle Cafe is split in half, hand-floured and cooked to order in a shallow pan by a guy whose only job is to watch those chickens and turn each piece at just the right moment to make sure each one is perfect. You know what? We love that guy. And the wait is totally worth it.
Fried chicken is not really meant to be eaten in a dining room. It's meant to be eaten around the family dinner table, or sitting on a splintery picnic bench in the sun, or standing on the front porch watching the sun go down. At Joseph's Southern Food, you have no real choice but to take your chicken on the run, since every mess of breasts, legs and thighs is fried in the pot to order and then bagged up to go. But that process takes twenty minutes or so, which leaves you time to order up some sides, peruse the old-fashioned candies and fountain sodas on display in the front room of the old house where Joseph's is located, then have yourself an entire picnic packed for the park.
A makeover, a change of staff, and suddenly this old watering hole has become a real restaurant, where you'll find the best chicken-fried steak in the city. Over the years, the kitchen crew at Reiver's has gone through some serious ups and downs, but the joint is definitely back on top now, with a renovated dining room and a passion for giving the regulars what they want. Lucky for us, the loyalists seem very fond of chicken-fried steak made Reiver's style, with a milk-soaked and pounded steak wrapped in prosciutto, breaded Southern style in crushed Saltine crackers, then fried and served over a mound of mashed potatoes and under a nap of thick chicken gravy.
For decades, the guys working the fryers at Wingman have been perfecting their craft. And it's a credit to the deep appreciation of regional and international cuisines possessed by so many Denverites (natives and transplants alike) that this local chain has been so successful, because Wingman's craft is the art of chicken wings -- one of the three things (the others are snow and a tragic missed field goal) that the city of Buffalo, New York, is famous for. As a matter of fact, Wingman has gotten so good at making chicken wings -- or, more accurately, wing sauce -- that it's taken its game to the home of the chicken wing and twice come home from Buffalo with a first prize from the Buffalo Wing Festival.
Luciano's Pizza and Wings
Luciano's does wings. Luciano's does pizza. And that's pretty much all Luciano's does. At any rate, that's all that matters to anyone who cares about the archetypal flavors of Buffalo, where pizza and wings are the alpha and omega. Here the wings are fried hard, sauced with Frank's RedHot and served to-go in a cardboard box (more important to the smell and flavor than you'd think). The Buffalo-style pizzas are square, touched with a sweet sauce, mounted on a crust that's thicker than you find in New York City, thinner than the pizzas of the Midwest. The result is a pizza that reminds a lot of people of Pizza Thursdays in their high school cafeteria. It's an acquired taste, sure, but nothing about Buffalo is easy.
Fruition
Mark Manger
Of all the things for a chef to be good at, Alex Seidel may be best at making fritters. While still on the line at Mizuna, he did apple fritters to go alongside the autumn presentations of foie gras. Now that he has his own place with Fruition, he starts off the menu with an amazing carpaccio of beets graced by the inclusion of fried goat-cheese fritters that arrive perfectly browned, round as cue balls and filled with wonderfully sour goat cheese turned almost liquid by the heat of the fryers.

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