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.
The Corner Office
Cassandra Kotnik
In London, the butchers from Smithfield Market celebrate the finish of a long day with a couple pints of Guinness, some beans and a plate of black pudding. In the swing-shift industrial towns of Northern China, men put away bowls of congee rice porridge and yu za kuei (fried crullers) before trudging off to the factories. Here in Denver? We've got the Corner Office, where, no matter how long or how weird your day has been, you can finish it (or, depending on your proclivities, start it) in true American style: with a shot of whiskey and a bowl of Crunch Berries. Cereal not your thing? The kitchen also does waffles, including blueberry cheesecake with graham cracker-maple syrup and a killer Black Forest variety with cherries and chocolate.
Izakaya Den
Izakaya Den
Funny thing about Izakaya Den: Owner Toshi Kizaki didn't write the menu for you. He didn't write it for the market, for the scene, for any specific demographic. He came up with the concept, the cuisine, many of the specific menu items to satisfy the wants and needs of one person only: Toshi Kizaki. See, Toshi, who also owns Sushi Den across the street, loves Denver, but he'd long felt that the city was missing a spot where people who work late (like him and cooks in general) could get something to eat. So finally, he just built that spot himself. And lucky for us he did. Because if the late-night crowds at the bar and in the dining room at Izakaya are any indication, there are a lot of people in this city who want to eat exactly like Toshi does: in great volume, with weird juxtapositions (Japanese-Mediterranean fusion) of flavors, and to do so long after the traditional dinner hour has come and gone.

Best Late-Night Mexican Restaurant

Tambien

Tambien
Tambien is all about the timing. When Jesse Morreale and Sean Yontz realized that Sketch just wasn't going to make it, they closed it up, fast, and turned the basement space into a darker, more sophisticated version of Mezcal. Today, Tambien is a great spot for after-dark boozing and carrying-on, with an uncomplicated menu full of Mexican comfort foods, a kitchen that works late and a big bar stocked with some of the best south-of-the-border intoxicants ever devised by man.
Mezcal
Danielle Lirette
At Mezcal, the talents of partners Jesse Morreale and Sean Yontz combine to create a great bar, a great neighborhood hangout, a great place to go when you're feeling like behaving badly. From the Mexican-soap-opera-and-lucha-libre theme in the dining room to the wondrous collection of tequilas and mezcals behind the bar, there are many reasons to love the place. Our favorite reason? Dollar tacos from 10 p.m. until close — the perfect way to get up for, come down from or suffer through anything that Friday night brings you. And the buck-fifty PBRs don't hurt, either.

Best Of Denver®

Best Of