Super Star Asian Cuisine
Cassandra Kotnik
When it opened early in 2006, Super Star Asian didn't just raise the bar on Chinese cuisine. It took the bar, broke it over its knee, threw the pieces away and then made an entirely new bar that's held so high you can't even see it from the kitchens of most of the Chinese joints in this town. The daily dim sum is amazing -- an ever-changing, never-ending panoply of delicious things to shove in your mouth, the best you're going to find anywhere outside of Chinatown in San Francisco or New York. And even the regular menu (served during the dinner shift, when dim sum is also available) holds its own among Denver's best.
Palace Chinese Restaurant
Dim sum can be daunting for those who haven't learned how to pick through the chicken feet and curried cuttlefish to find the exotic morsels more suited to American tastes. But at the Palace, blessed are the meek. Dim sum dining in this attractive restaurant is pleasant and unhurried, without the chaos and clatter of more authentic dim sum rooms. And while there are chicken feet on the menu (the Chinese call them "phoenix talons"), you can politely bypass them and instead opt for the delicious steamed pork buns, shrimp dumplings, sesame pockets, grilled short ribs or egg-custard tarts. Parents, take note: Kids love this place.
Bistro Vendome
Bistro Vendome
When the crew from Rioja took over Bistro Vendme last year, fans wondered what would happen to the classically French menu. Sure, the restaurant would continue to occupy one of the choicest bits of hidden real estate in the city -- with a stunning patio for warm-weather meals -- but Rioja's contemporary Mediterranean/Spanish/Italian food didn't seem to fit with Vendme's unabashed Frog worship. And then the transition went better than anyone expected -- anyone except, perhaps, then-chef Jennifer Jasinski and manager Beth Gruitch, the now doubly dynamic duo. The new white-jackets made a few subtle changes to the dinner menu, but it was their renewed focus on brunch -- that most abused of meals -- that really paid off, with a smart morning cocktail menu and delicious dishes ranging from cr?pes to delicate seafood presentations. As a result, Bistro Vendme is now the best place in town for a midday meal on Saturdays and Sundays. If you can find a seat, that is.
Brown Palace Hotel Tea Room
For decades, the Brown Palace has served its signature afternoon tea to legions of Denver's blue-haired bluebloods. But while perfectly brewed Darjeeling, tea cakes, finger sandwiches and scones with Devonshire cream may not be your cup of tea, so to speak, take a look around the Brown Palace's lobby atrium any afternoon between noon and four and you'll understand exactly why tea here has become such a tradition. At peak hours, the place is packed with well-dressed ladies and jacketed servers swanning through the press of pearls and chiffon. With things going the way they are in the restaurant world these days, we're frankly overjoyed to see anyone sticking by the old rituals -- even the ones that involve finger sandwiches.
Boulder Dushanbe Teahouse
Boulder's Dushanbe Teahouse is the ideal place to escape the daily grind. From the trellised gardens out front to the fountain inside, every inch of this building (broken down and shipped in pieces all the way from Tajikistan) is designed to comfort the spirit and transport the body. The dress code is Crocs, dreadlocks and pants made of hemp, and though the menu itself is hit-or-miss, the tea roster is huge. A cup of house chai, Ethiopian coffee or any one of dozens of other offerings pairs nicely with a sweet off the dessert menu to transport you from any day-to-day drudgery.
Lucile's Creole Cafe
Courtesy Lucile's Creole Cafe Facebook
The Cajun/Creole fad ebbs and flows faster than the tides. Up in Boulder, however, one place has not only held on, but it's flourished over three decades of service: Lucile's. This New Orleans-style breakfast joint has been serving huge plates of biscuits and gravy, sugar-dusted beignets, thick-cut bacon, fat sausages and the best egg plates this side of the French Quarter to generations of devotees. Though Lucile's has been so successful that it's expanded down into Denver and beyond, the original location -- squeezed into a rambling old house on 14th Street -- is the only one that gets everything just right. The dining rooms are always crowded, the service is brusque and the waits can be long, but one taste of the eggs Sardou and you'll know exactly why Lucile's has enjoyed such a remarkable run.
Tokyo Joe's
Chain restaurants are creatures of convenience: They're the places where you eat when you don't want to think about where you want to eat. The best of them insinuate themselves seamlessly into your world and your lifestyle -- and Tokyo Joe's is definitely one of the best, not just for Denver, but for the fast-food world at large. The Japanese noodle-house concept is both the perfect extension of the modern American fast-casual business model and a working fit for Colorado, with its long history of Japanese immigration. Beyond that, Tokyo Joe's is just good --with a DIY menu long enough to remain interesting over many repeat visits and a staff absolutely committed to making sure that everyone gets exactly what they want and need.
SAME Cafe
Mark Antonation
Owners Brad and Libby Birky started SAME Cafe (So All May Eat) with a simple philosophy: Everyone ought to be able to eat well and affordably in their neighborhood. With that in mind, they decided not to demand money from anyone who comes to eat at their small cafe -- which features an ever-changing menu of healthy pizzas, salads, soups and desserts -- but simply to put a box by the door for donations. The way it's supposed to work, a diner comes in, has lunch (or an early dinner on the weekends), then pays whatever he's able or whatever he thinks the meal is worth. Surprisingly, the system has actually worked, with the Birkys doing a good business even as they do good.
Famous Pizza
Mark Antonation
Famous Pizza was an institution in this town thirty years ago, and this outpost is still a must-stop for anyone in need of a quick lunch. For five bucks, you can get two slices of whatever's in the box -- which is bound to start with a classic New York thin crust, no matter what's on top -- and a Coke and be fed and out in about ten minutes, depending on how fast you can shovel in the food. For those with more time on their hands, well, you're on Broadway, baby. Use your imagination.
Ba Le Sandwich
Mark Antonation
Banh mi -- Vietnamese sandwiches with a distinctively French twist -- are the plats du jour here, every jour of the week. There are a dozen or so varieties available at the counter, from classic pork pt with pork and more pork to spicy pork and barbecued pork and even all-vegetable offerings, all mounted on dwarf baguettes that have the distinctive delicacy of masterful baking. No matter what's on your sandwich, it costs just $2.50, which should leave plenty of change for an iced Vietnamese coffee or lychee soda.

Best Of Denver®

Best Of