Royal Peacock
For more years than we can remember, Royal Peacock has been serving not just the best Indian food in the area, but some of the best Indian food anywhere — the kind you can eat once and dream about for years after, or eat every day and still crave at midnight. There's no gimmickry here, no flash, no bizarre international fusions or misguided attempts at modernization. Instead, the menu is full of brilliant and full-flavored versions of somasa, murgh chaat, boti kebab, Goan masala and more, a humble offering of honest, delicious dishes passed down through generations of a restaurant family who have long been the best at what they do.
East Side Kosher Deli
Courtesy East Side Kosher Deli Facebook
For almost twenty years, Michael and Marcy Schreiber have overseen this large kosher oasis that stocks everything from candies and snacks to Hanukkah candles and kosher ramen. There's a bakery, a very busy deli counter (complete with an old-fashioned plastic-number dispenser to keep an orderly flow), a fish department (specializing in lox, natch) and, all the way in the back, a small, add-on restaurant that serves up deli sandwiches, blintzes, knishes from the bakery, herring salad and chopped liver, as well as short ribs (beef, of course), fish tacos, fish and chips, Louisiana gumbo, North African lamb stew and such "Oriental specialties" as sweet-and-sour chicken and beef stir-fry. True, most people seem to stick to the basics: scrambled eggs with salami, matzo ball soup and bagels with lox. But nowhere else in Denver will you find taquitos, tongue sandwiches and blackened ahi with wasabi sharing space on the same menu.
Cabin Creek Smokehouse BBQ
Courtesy Cabin Creek Smokehouse Facebook
Okay, so there really isn't anything called Irish barbecue. But if there were, it would probably look just like the BBQ masher at Cabin Creek Smokehouse. This is the ultimate barbecue-junkie hangover food: a bowl of mashed red-skin potatoes topped with pulled pork, topped again with cheese and again with sour cream. And while you can continue on from there — adding brisket, chili, barbecue sauce and whatever else is close at hand — we believe that nothing more is needed to make this a perfect meal. Except maybe a couple pints of Sir Arthur Guinness's best.

Best Italian Restaurant in the Last Place You'd Expect It

Osteria Marco

Osteria Marco
Scott Lentz
Okay, so maybe not the last place you'd expect to find a great Italian restaurant. That would probably be Antarctica, on the moon or in the men's room of the Greyhound station in Provo, Utah. But still, finding a great Italian restaurant in Larimer Square — once home to the awful Josephina's — and in a basement space at that, is pretty surprising. With Osteria Marco, chef/owner Frank Bonanno has created a cozy little hole in the ground with handcrafted pizzas, tons of little snacks and an unparalleled board of artisanal meats and cheeses that Denver foodies would've murdered for five years ago. Start with a glass of anything from the short, tight wine list of Italian wines, chase it with a plate of prosciutto, coppa and fresh-made burrata, move on to a small, hand-thrown pizza, and finish with a bite of something sweet from the simple dessert menu.
Founded in Denver by Mareo Torito, Kokoro has specialized in speed, low prices, freshness and healthy ingredients — with a Japanese accent — for twenty years. The South Colorado Boulevard Kokoro is the best of the three still operating (the others are in Arvada and at 555 Broadway). It looks like an old Woolworth's lunch counter taken over by a mob of Japanese line cooks who turn out exactly what you'd expect to find at a Tokyo noodle shop. There are rice bowls and noodle bowls, sushi that isn't really sushi (five choices, all cooked), gyoza and edamame and salads, all made and delivered incredibly quickly (three minutes, order to plate). When you have a tight schedule and budget but still hanker for a taste of Japan, Kokoro delivers.
Domo
Year after year, Domo never fails to impress with its rigid adherence to the traditional cuisine of Northern Japan, its unwavering commitment to authenticity in ingredients and preparation, and the fact that we somehow can sit, stuffing our faces, for two hours on what is essentially an old tree stump and still get up at the end of dinner without feeling crippled by the experience. From the serenity of the Japanese garden in the back to the usually raucous (but occasionally weirdly quiet) dining room, Domo is a half-meditative, half-sensual place — and a meal here can either calm the spirit or excite the senses, depending on what you order and what you're in the mood for. Although the service varies between charmingly informal and coldly standoffish, the food is never less than excellent, never anything but true to the tastes and flavors of the culture it celebrates.
Sae Jong Kwan
Cassandra Kotnik
What's called "Korean BBQ" isn't really barbecue by the traditional American definition, but grilled meats (and assorted other things) served family style and generally cooked on a tabletop grill. But it's just as addictive as the American version, and when we get a hankering, we head for Sae Jong Kwan — aka House of Korean BBQ. From the outside, the restaurant looks dark and alien, but inside, the dining room is loud and bright, with a demographer's nightmare of regulars ordering up round after round of barbecue. But don't overlook the excellent Korean soups, Korean fish dishes, Korean bacon and such dishes as "black goat meat with assorted vegetables and spicy."
As you wait to fly out of Denver, load up on liquid memories of your time here. High above the A Concourse you'll find Mesa Verde, an eatery named for one of this state's most historic sites — and a spot where you could make some history of your own. Mesa Verde promises that here you can "drink up, eat up, light up," and not only does it feature one of Denver International Airport's rare smoking lounges (you can avoid the cigarettes by sitting on the deck overlooking the concourse), but it also stocks two dozen made-in-Colorado beers — six on tap and many more in bottles, ranging from Avalanche Amber Ale (Breckenridge Brewery) to Third Eye Pale Ale (Steamworks Brewing Company). Praise the Lord! (And you might get to if you have the server we did over the holidays, listed as "Christ" on our receipt.)
Osteria Marco
Scott Lentz
Never mind that this restaurant has great food. When it comes to dumping a date, it's all about location, location, location. And the subterranean pork palace known as Osteria Marco is just the spot to ditch someone. Why? Because at one end of the room is a staircase leading to street level, and tucked off to the side are the bathrooms. So here's how you do it: Drop the let's-just-be-friends bomb, wait for your now-former significant other to excuse him or herself and go off to cry in the bathroom. Then make a dash for the stairs. Within thirty seconds, you'll be up and out, lost in the Larimer Square street traffic. True, you'll be running out on the check, but after what he/she did to you that warranted such a harsh, public dumping in the first place, doesn't he/she deserve to get stuck with the bill?
Steuben's Uptown
Cassandra Kotnik
Denver remains a tough place to find a great meal late at night. Enter Steuben's. With a kitchen that serves until midnight on the weekends and eleven on school nights, Steuben's is your best bet for a real late-night dinner, whether you're looking for good, alcohol-absorbing grub, beating back a savage attack of the munchies or simply want a solid meal. And while Steuben's has an extensive menu, the night creatures here come for the American regional classics, hearty fare such as gravy fries, macaroni and cheese, deviled eggs and green-chile cheeseburgers.

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