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.
Bistro Vendome
Bistro Vendome
Bistro Vendôme has a number of things going for it: the best location in Denver, tucked in the back of Larimer Square with a lovely garden; the buzz of a wildly (and deservedly) popular restaurant; and the sort of weekend breakfast menu that makes unabashed Francophiles weep into their French press coffee. There are gueles de bois hangover drinks, crepe specials and a variety of benedicts, a killer pain perdu drizzled with citrus honey, Belgian gaufre, croques monsieur and madame, and the simplest option of assorted croissant and brioche with rose jam. But the clincher is a quiche stuffed with black truffle, smoked ham, chanterelles and scallions, which is so good that you could be forgiven for stabbing Nicolas Sarkozy if he were standing between you and the last order in the house.

Best French Breakfast in an Italian Restaurant

Radda Trattoria

Radda Trattoria
Everyone knows the classic French breakfast is half a pack of Gauloises chased with two café au laits and the dregs of last night's wine. The second-best French breakfast? That would have to be a brioche, a little butter, a little bacon...and the dregs of last night's wine. While Radda is technically an Italian restaurant, it lets you dine in fine French fashion in the early hours. Radda features a brunch menu every day, with à la carte offerings fit for any young foodie: brioche, eggs, bacon (only it's pancetta here). And while we're sure someone behind the bar would be willing to pour a glass of last night's wine, you might as well go for the house bellini, made with very Italian prosecco and white peach juice.
Encore on Colfax
When Encore opened last December, it came equipped with some cool history, since it occupies part of the old Lowenstein Theater, and great neighbors — Twist & Shout and the Tattered Cover. Encore also has a classic long bar, an interesting menu and savvy owners (the folks who brought us the Black Pearl). But what Encore really has going for it are its french fries: perfectly cooked, heavily salted shoestrings that are unbelievably addictive — particularly hit with a drizzle of spicy mustard that's just one step (heat-wise) below that stuff you get in Chinese restaurants and about ten times more delicious than a squirt of French's could ever be.
Everything about French 250 — from its jewel-box subterranean space to its long and luxurious menu of hard-core French classics to the uncompromising work being done by the brigade that makes everything from scratch, in the proper French style — speaks directly to our love of classicism and the old, the storied and the traditional in the French canon. Here, the gigot of lamb is so old-school it might as well have Escoffier's fingerprints on it, the cuisses de grenouille superb, and the cheese board the stuff of foodies' dreams. While Denver has other great French restaurants, none are as adamantly French. Which, even in Denver, Colorado, is what a French restaurant should be.
A few things that are good early in the morning: breakfast burritos, blow jobs, strong coffee, forgiveness for last night's sins, that first cigarette of the day — and the banana lumpia at Tropical Grill. These tropical pastries are wickedly addictive, and we've found ourselves driving to Aurora for another fix as soon as the last grease-and-sugar high wears off.

Best Of Denver®

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