Super Star Asian Cuisine
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.
Rosie's Diner
Hunter Stevens
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.
Tin Star Smokehouse
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?
Le Central
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.
Patsy's
Beyond the homemade pasta and authentic decor, Patsy's has something special going for it: consistency. For decades, Patsy's has soldiered on — always dependably good, always serving exactly what you want when you're craving a big plate of spaghetti dotted with clams and a glass of something cheap, red and fruity. Patsy's may not be breaking any culinary ground, and it certainly won't be getting a center spread in Food Arts any time soon, but that's okay with us. As long as it keeps charging us reasonably, treating us decently and sending us home full, we're happy.
Begin with the massive plateau de fruits de mer — that'll run you $79, shaved ice included. Then there's whatever fish is fresh that night, prepared in a way that could be plain, could be fancy, but is guaranteed to be stunning: real Dover sole wrapped around a stuffing of crab meat and sauced with a simple, elegant lemon beurre blanc; line-caught Colorado striped bass, fried and sauced with Asian flair; the exotic skate. You won't want to miss the sides, either, including corn on the cob and great spuds. And what's better to wash it all down than a couple of vintage martinis? Dinner at Oceanaire isn't cheap — but this is an amazing, gorgeous, decadently good restaurant. So find someone else to pay for your dinner, and then proceed to enjoy the cruise.
Elway's Cherry Creek
As annoying as the phrase "Let's do lunch" has become, we love hearing it when the destination of choice is Elway's, a Cherry Creek mainstay that defines the power lunch — as well as the power brunch, the power dinner, the power nightcap, the power getting-smashed-at-the-bar-and-hitting-on-the-cocktail-waitresses. But this nexus of new money and old-fashioned indulgence also happens to be a really good restaurant, where Tyler Wiard's kitchen, with its lamb lollipops, lobster cocktails and Asian-inflected grace notes, has been given license to operate well beyond the bounds of the traditional steakhouse. Even at lunch, though, Elway's is pricey, so we suggest you make the boss pick up the tab. As often as you can possibly manage it.
So, there's this girl or guy you really like. You've been pursuing (read: stalking) him or her for months now — courting in the most old-fashioned way. You've bought flowers, burned your name on his or her lawn, taken a page from Tom McGuane and nailed your hand to his or her front door, even successfully fought off three restraining orders. And now, against all odds, the object of your affection has consented to have dinner with you. So where do you go? The 9th Door. With its sexy-as-all-get-out bar vibe, slinky lounge music, red-wine-and-Orange-Fanta Tinto de Verano and comfy couches, this place is a culinary come-on, the gastronomic equivalent of showing up at your intended's apartment with no pants on. And the grub is all tapas, which means it comes fast — and you'll be able to eat plenty before the marshals come crashing through the door to drag you away.
The lunch buffet at this comfortable LoDo spot is an impressive spread. But the more impressive sight comes at dinner, when the North African dishes — soups, tagines, grilled meats — are spiced up even further by the addition of live belly dancing.
Patzcuaro's
Summer Powell
The once-ubiquitous free chips and salsa at Denver's Mexican restaurants have become harder and harder to come by lately. But Taquería Patzcuaro, one of the city's most venerable joints, continues this proud tradition, gifting every table with a basket of freshly made chips and Patzcuaro's extra-hot green salsa. What makes this salsa so good is a secret, but we've been assured that it's tomato-based. Be sure to pick up an ice-cold Mexican beer, margarita or fresh fruit licuado to wash down the salty, spicy treat. You might also want to try the chile relleno burrito — a soft, Mexican style relleno piled with refritos, wrapped in a tortilla and smothered with red or green chile. Patzcuaro also offers crispy Colorado-style rellenos, wrapped in an egg-roll wrapper and fried up so the cheese gets nice and gooey. The free chips are just a hint of the great meal to come.

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