Best Chicken-Fried Steak 2008 | Davies Chuck Wagon Diner | Best of Denver® | Best Restaurants, Bars, Clubs, Music and Stores in Denver | Westword
Davies Chuck Wagon was built in 1957, maybe one of the best years for diners, definitely one of the last. It's a Mountain View, constructed in Singac, New Jersey, and the name is appropriate, because from the street out front, you can see the foothills rising over a hump in the land. It's doubly appropriate, in fact, because of all the diners bolted together on those grimy East Coast assembly lines, Mountain View #516 traveled the farthest — to Lakewood, Colorado. The classic exterior makes a fitting setting for another classic: Davies' chicken-fried steak, the best version in town. The steak may be nearly an inch thick, but inside its jacket of crisp breading, it's tender enough (after having been soaked in milk and beaten into pudding with a mallet) to be cut with a cheap tin fork. The steak comes with a scratch-made white gravy (just flour, butter, cream, pepper and sausage grease) that's pure white death — and deliciously decadent. We brake for Davies.
While we're firmly of the opinion that, like jazz or summer blockbusters, barbecue is an American art form, plenty of international practitioners come up with some pretty good versions all on their own. The Chinese, for example. They have one of the oldest food cultures on the planet, and at the center of the canon is Chinese pork barbecue — that slick, super-sweet red stuff offered on just about every Chinese takeout menu in the world. For a taste of the real thing, head to Pacific Ocean International Market, where you can order it by the pound or by the length (usually measured by the space between two fingers — or two spread hands if you're hungry) straight from the butcher's counter.
Chopsticks is a strange restaurant: It's one of the city's most authentic Chinese spots, yet it also serves some completely inauthentic dishes. At Chopsticks, you can eat Chinese pocket sandwiches full of delicious, saucy, shredded meat or completely non-threatening chicken lo mein — and then, halfway through your meal, decide that what you really want is a little cold jellyfish salad or a plate of flaming pig intestines, and then get that, too, without having to change restaurants or neighborhoods or do anything more than ask. Here the competing impulses toward satisfying the local populace and satisfying those far from home are brought into perfect balance on a huge menu filled with dumplings, porridge, hot pots and barbecue, a document that sees no contradiction in offering both beef in garlic sauce and haggis-like shredded lamb stomach.
Randy Schoch, owner of the Ling & Louie's chain, is making a real effort at gastronomic decency, redefining an already redefined culinary gestalt (quote/unquote Asian cuisine) and taking it through the stages from Asian to Asian-American to family-friendly yuppie-Asian. And somehow he manages to raise the bar by aiming lower than the competition. His best ideas? Offering children's bento boxes and Chinese party food, American takeoffs on Asian street dishes carefully calibrated for the mid-range palate. While that food may not rise much above solidly decent, what sets Ling & Louie's apart is how it treats kids as people, not just as unfortunate by-products of family dining attached inseparably to their parents' wallets.

Best Chips and Salsa — Non-Traditional


We know that pappadum isn't exactly a tortilla chip, and that spicy greenish-red stuff that's served alongside it at Tibet's isn't exactly salsa. But we don't care, because we also know that this stuff is addictive and free.

Best Chips and Salsa — Traditional


Reiver's, which got its start with the sniffles-and-Steely Dan crowd, became an entirely new restaurant last year with a top-to-toes remodel of everything from the menu to the interior by owner Dan Shipp. It's still a neighborhood hangout, but now it's a comfortable place where anyone would want to hang out. And you could hang out for a long time over an order of the best chips and salsa in town. The chips are thick, multi-colored and delicious, the salsa a savory, chunky and wet mess that ideally balances sweetness, spice and a razor blade of late-hitting heat. It's the perfect accompaniment for a couple of cold beers at the bar, or a good appetite-whetter before your chicken-fried steak arrives.

Best Colorado-Style Mexican Restaurant

La Fiesta

Mark Antonation
There was a time when our favorite Korean restaurant was in a huge, ex-McDonald's space. There's a Chinese restaurant we really like that grew in a space vacated by a Taco Bell. And our favorite outpost for Colorado-style Mexican grub is a joint that opened forty years ago in a former Safeway: La Fiesta. Here, the fine and traditional cuisine of Mexico gets a norteamericano makeover that puts Colorado's Mexican food in a class by itself. The burritos come smothered under a green chile that's a medium-thick, medium-hot mess of roasted chiles, pork and thickening agents that sticks like napalm to anything it touches. The rellenos are done egg-roll style — wrapped in wonton skins and stuffed with bright-yellow cheese product. But hands down, the best thing on the menu is the Thursday special (La Fiesta is only open for weekday lunches) of chile caribe — a stone-simple conglomeration of pork, potatoes, red chile and nothing else.
Jax Fish House
When we walk into Jax, the LoDo outpost of a fish house that got its start in Boulder, we still get a twinge of nostalgia for the old Terminal Bar that once occupied this building. But after ten years, Jax has proven itself more than see-worthy. And the great horseshoe-shaped bar — a holdover from the Terminal days — is one of the main reasons why. Settle onto a stool here, and you can order up a plate of oysters or the best burger you're ever going to find in a seafood restaurant. But the real draw is behind the bar, where Tim Harris leads a crew of inventive bartenders all creating incredible new cocktails featuring infused alcohols and fresh ingredients generally found in a kitchen rather than a bar. And even if you don't want basil in your martini, you won't be disappointed by whatever the bartenders mix up. When they pour, you reign.
Crêpes 'n Crêpes
A crepe, when done correctly, is simple — just a wrapper that holds all the good stuff in one place. But while it's simple, it can also be delicious. And no place in town makes more correct, simply delicious crepes than Crepes 'n Crepes. That's because Crepes 'n Crepes is uncompromisingly, unabashedly and unstintingly French. The cooks are French. Owners Kathy Knight and Alain Veratti have imported all their iron crepe griddles from France. The ingredients and preparations — the camembert and Chambord, ratatouille and sauce aux champignons — are French. And even the space itself — the ramshackle, patched, plastered dining rooms, the cramped back bar — gives off the honest vibe of café-along-the-Seine frugality and charming disorder.
Molly Martin
Paul and Lola Weiner opened their first Bagel Deli in 1969 and ultimately consolidated operations on East Hampden Avenue, where for decades this deli has been the go-to spot for a thick egg-salad sandwich, salt bagels, matzo brei or chicken liver. Today the Weiners' daughter, Rhoda, and her husband, Joe Kaplan, run the Bagel Deli. It's a distinctive spot, full of character and characters, with ancient, dusty dry-stock shelves piled with boxes of matzo, bags of bagel chips and sixers of Dr. Brown's soda. It's not a pretty place, never a quiet place — but it's definitely the best deli in the city.

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