Yanni's Greek Restaurant
Yes, there are things besides BBQ on the menu of Yanni Stavropoulos's Greek restaurant: dolmades, mezedes, souvlaki, ouzo and all the other stuff you'd expect. But why would you want anything else when you can have barbecued lamb? When the wind is right and the outdoor rotisserie grill is fired up, the odor of roasting meat and garlic and wine will draw you from a mile away. And as you reach Yanni's, you'll see Stavropoulos standing over that grill like some kind of minor laughing spirit from an expurgated chapter of The Iliad: The Lamb God, bringer of great barbecue.
Until everyone gets it through their heads that real green chile means roasted, chopped green chiles, a little liquid and nothing else, Jack-n-Grill is going to keep winning this award, because it remains the only place in Denver where you can get authentic New Mexican-style green chile — along with killer vaquero tacos, giant breakfast burritos and cups full of roasted, cheesy corn. What's more, during chile season, owner Jack Martinez (who began his career as a green-chile importer) and members of his family are standing right out there in the parking lot, tending to the jet-fuel tumblers, roasting bushel after bushel of the good stuff for anyone wise enough to stop by and pick up a bag.
Steuben's Uptown
Cassandra Kotnik
The green-chile cheeseburger was a fixture at Steuben's back when the restaurant was just a glimmer in the eye of partners Jen and Josh Wolkon and Matt Selby. They recognized that the green-chile cheeseburger is a unique example of Southwestern Americana — a dish with deep roots that inspires the kind of fanatical devotion generally only seen among religious fundamentalists and English soccer fans — so they knew they had to go directly to the source for inspiration: to the Owl Bar in San Antonio, New Mexico. And while it's taken some time to get it right, the green-chile cheeseburger at Steuben's is finally a commendable copy of the Owl original, from the soft bun to the shredded lettuce to the way the roughly chopped chiles melt into the cheese.
El Taco De Mexico
Courtesy El Taco de Mexico Facebook
There's a flighty kind of magic in the air at El Taco de Mexico on its best weekend mornings, something frail and almost inexplicable, moments when the swirling white church dresses and the tock of cleavers in the kitchen and the fast, hard-edged patter of Spanish at the counter all come together. The spell can easily be broken by a wrong word, a wrong order, just a momentary lull in the action. But even to someone coming down from a long drunk, the magic is discernable — particularly when that someone is returning to the living with each spoonful of menudo. This dish could be the world's greatest hangover cure. Hot and spicy, done soup-style with a thin, red broth full of soft tripe that turns electric with a spritz of fresh lime, this stuff can not only burn off the worst of last night's sins, but will get you back in shape to start sinning again.
Kiva Restaurant
With $2 happy-hour beers — including imports — and a happy hour that actually stretches for three hours, until 7 p.m., this Southwestern joint is already a winner. But the purchase of two happy-hour beers or two of Kiva's signature blue KivaRitas (also $2 each) also buys you free rein at the taco bar. The plates and shells are small, but there's plenty of meat, cheese, veggies, chips and salsa, so if you don't mind making a few trips, it's not hard to make an entire meal out of happy hour here. And there's always a surprise appetizer — like deep-fried tacos — thrown in for good measure.
Venice Ristorante & Wine Bar
As far as Italian food goes in Denver, it doesn't get any better than Venice. As a matter of fact, as far as Italian food goes just about anywhere outside of Italy (and possibly parts of New York and Philadelphia), it doesn't get any better than Venice, the restaurant that Alessandro Carollo opened in the massive space vacated by Adega. The menus here are like dreams of Italian menus for landlocked gourmands who've never had the good fortune to travel to Italy themselves, featuring beautiful, artful and, ultimately, simple Italian cooking. From fresh mozzarella dimpled by grains of salt to ravioli parmigiana stuffed with almost liquid mozzarella, puréed tomato and parmesan to the silkily decadent lobster ravioli and Roman gnocchi, every dish is superb and served with style.
When the Capital Grille came to Denver, people doubted that it would make a dent in a city already fat with high-end steakhouses. But those people were wrong. Capital Grille came to Denver with a deep understanding of what a steakhouse customer wants, and a sharp awareness of what it takes to thrive in an overcrowded market. The managers, chefs, cooks, servers, hostesses, busboys, even the contract valets all knew exactly how good they had to be, because Capital Grille told them how good they had to be, then trained them to be that good. The result? From the minute the door opened, no restaurant in Denver had food like the Capital Grille, served in the most impeccable yet friendly way imaginable.
Tacos DF
Mark Antonation
Tacos D.F. began its life as a taco truck — a great taco truck that worked the fertile territory along South Parker Road. Although it now has a roof, walls and a real address, it isn't anything more than a great taco truck with a roof, walls and a real address. In keeping with a neighborhood lonchera, all orders are taken through a literal hole in the wall — a window crudely hacked through the back wall that divides the dining floor from the small kitchen. Through this hole, you ask for your tacos, you pay your money and you pick up your order.
Old Fashioned Italian Deli
Stephen Cummings
The guys at the Old Fashioned know from good hot dogs. Why? Because they're from Buffalo, a town that long ago went to the dogs. Here, they're Sahlen's brand, boiled to a beautiful ruddy pink and served on a simple bun, with a little twist of casing that makes a tail at both ends. The standard at the Old Fashioned is "flying with everything," which means topped with everything from Buffalo's own Weber's horseradish mustard and dog sauce to jalapeños. But we prefer two simpler versions: either naked with just a shot of Weber's (the Apollonian ideal of hot-dog topping, as far as we're concerned), or dirty with hot sauce and slivered onions. The setting is as authentic as the dogs: slightly grungy, with walls covered with pictures of Marilyn Monroe, mismatched tablecloths and tables, and shelves loaded down with Italian dry goods. In fact, the deli is so reminiscent of a million Back East joints that sitting here for an hour is almost as good as a trip home for those born and bred at sea level.
Biker Jim Pittenger is still our top dog. No other vendor shows the kind of careful dedication that he brings to Biker Jim's Gourmet Dogs, his cart parked in Skyline Park. He's got a cool portable grill, offerings ranging from Alaskan reindeer sausage laced with sriracha to white veal brats to serious grilled dogs with mustard-and-nothin', and crowds lined up three deep at lunch every day.

Best Of Denver®

Best Of