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.
Big Hoss Bar-B-Q
Of all the things that man has invented over the course of history — the wheel, zombie movies, the interweb — fried cheese has to be in the top ten. And no one in Denver does fried cheese better than Hoss Orwat and his crew at Big Hoss Bar-B-Q. Their version is a decidedly Midwestern take — batter-dipped curds of cheddar, perfectly fried, dusted with parmesan cheese and salt and that dried green parsley dandruff, then served in a portion large enough to clog every artery in a grown man's body. It's a wonderful dish, completely over-the-top white-trash decadent. And for our money, there'd be no better way to go than a massive, four-barrel heart attack brought on by over-ingestion of Hoss's fried cheese.
The difference between good fried chicken and bad fried chicken is a narrow margin — a few degrees of heat on the pan, a few millimeters of breading or batter. But the difference between good fried chicken and great fried chicken is huge, often measured in things like generations, miles and state lines. And while the Rocky Mountain Diner is physically far from Kansas City, the hot, greasy center of the fried chicken universe, it's very close in spirit. The fried chicken here is as close to the skillet-fried KC original as you're going to find in Colorado. The chicken is cooked to order in old, heavy skillets, served hot and in huge portions. The batter is just crispy enough, the meat never dry, the sides (mashed potatoes, gravy, forgettable vegetables) comfortingly classic, and the Rocky Mountain Diner itself as cool a place to eat chicken as you're likely to find outside the Paris of the Plains.
The British Bulldog
Teal Nipp
The British Bulldog is an odd duck even for a city like Denver, which is full of odd ducks. Here you'll find the British tradition of mixing bangers-and-mash comfort food with Indo-Pakistani tiffin tin in full swing, so you can get an expertly pulled pint, a side of Scotch sausages and a plate of Peshawari chicken or chappli kebabs all in the same place. The Bulldog also does English breakfasts, shows a lot of soccer, hosts a wild crowd of locals and regulars, and exists in a space with such a long-lived bar-room history that there are scars on the long oak far older than most of the customers.
Red Tango
Cassandra Kotnik
Red Tango does a lot of things very, very well. The menu includes excellent arepas, rellenos, enchiladas with cocoa mole, potato cakes and potato soup and fried potatoes. But what this kitchen does best (and it's not an easy task) is plantains: fried, thick-cut and buttery, crisp at the edges and gooey in the middle.
Cebiche
Lomo saltado. Hot empanadas and a sweating bottle of Cristal or Quilmes beer. Chupes de this and chupes de that, a small plate of ceviche clásico or ceviche mixto and then, of course, the ubiquitous papas a la huancaina. At Cebiche, most of the menu might seem old hat to anyone who's already discovered the joys of Peruvian cuisine. But for those wise enough to save a little room for dessert, there's something rare and wonderful: picarones. This is kind of like doughnut soup: four deep-fried pumpkin fritters shot through with little pieces of sweet, earthy pumpkin flesh, served swimming in a bath of mile de chancaca, which is like maple syrup without the maple, just pure, raw, glorious sugar. For a normal person, half of one fritter would be plenty; a whole serving is enough to instigate an instant (and well-earned) diabetic coma.

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