Best Colorado-Style Mexican Restaurant 2008 | La Fiesta | Best of Denver® | Best Restaurants, Bars, Clubs, Music and Stores in Denver | Westword

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.
Go for the homemade corned beef hash and eggs, stay for the lox 'n latkes. Zaidy's serves the kind of breakfast that makes you want to move in right across the street from this deli so that you can visit every day — or possibly kidnap one of its cooks and make him live in your closet, cooking potato pancakes for you whenever you demand. As you might expect for a place that attracts such a loyal following, the Zaidy's in Cherry Creek (which we prefer over the downtown spot, for its years of history) has big crowds and service that can sometimes be brusque. But no matter. Whether you're a Member of the Tribe or just a fan of the Tribe's breakfast prowess, Zaidy's has you covered.
Best corned beef sandwich, best international ham-and-cheese, best Cuban, best one-shelf market in Denver — we could easily heap kudos on this tiny Bonnie Brae deli and market. But they all add up to one thing: Fisher Clark is the best lunchtime deli destination in the city. All of the bread is brought in fresh from Bluepoint Bakery, and everything else — from the pastries and desserts that fill the bakery cases to the heat-and-serve entrees on the wildly diverse catering menu — is made in-house by a talented and versatile crew that moves effortlessly from the rigors of lunch-rush sandwich-making to the somewhat more esoteric skills of dry-curing, sauce-making and beef-corning. While you're waiting for your Serrano ham-and-Manchego sandwich with pear-onion jam, you can also stock up on all manner of high-end and luxurious dry goods — from truffle oil and saffron to canned Italian tomatoes and dry specialty pastas.
Cassandra Kotnik
We've lost count of how many different versions of dumplings are served at Super Star; of how many different ways pork can be prepared; of how many huge plates of delicious salt-and-pepper shrimp we've seen disappear just before the cart makes it to our table. But an unexpectedly delicious dish is always just a cart away. Taro balls, for example — who would've thought taro balls could be so good? And even the simplest plate of steamed greens is a treat, Chinese collards redolent of smoke and garlic. Yes, the wait for a table on the weekends is extreme — an hour, easy, sometimes longer — when every inch of floor space is packed and the ladies pushing the carts can start to get overwhelmed by the demand for food on the floor. But those carts still move quickly, and the kitchen keeps them well-stocked with a fascinating array of tiny bites and tastes that changes up day-to-day and sometimes hour by hour.
With its ridiculously cheap prices, massive portions, high-volume galley, vintage candy counter and '50s malt-shop decor that manages to come off as more sincere than shlocky, Rosie's is a great diner. Just about everything on the menu is award-worthy — from the malts and thick shakes to the chicken-fried steak. The only thing distinctly un-dinery is the bubbly service staff that bends over backward to make every customer happy. But in the case of Rosie's, we're willing to overlook that.
Cassandra Kotnik
Tin Star does only two things — barbecue and doughnuts — which means it comes very close to any sane person's idea of how heaven might smell. When he took over the longtime doughnut joint four years ago, owner Andrew Schutt — a trained chef and veteran of several of Denver's biggest-name kitchens — tried adding a deli to the doughnuts, then sandwiches. Two years ago, he hit on the magical combination of doughnuts and barbecue, and he hit the jackpot. Where else can a man get a pound of smoked pork, some ribs and a killer apple fritter as big as a cat? What else could he possibly need?
Most haute cuisine is too heavy to eat every day. But Le Central practically cries out for you to return each afternoon for a bowl of Denver's best French onion soup, a plate of snails and a glass of wine (or three). The menu here is huge and very traditional, full of French comfort foods and specials. The moules et frites choices alone can keep us amused for weeks at a time, and when we're feeling a little more extravagant? Well, there's always the loup de mer, the entrecôte or the new "Feasting" menus meant for groups to share. The board at Le Central changes daily, but you always know that there will be good reason to return tomorrow.

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