Best Late-Night Tacos 2008 | Mezcal | Best of Denver® | Best Restaurants, Bars, Clubs, Music and Stores in Denver | Westword
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.
Cherry Crest Seafood Market not only serves the best lobster in Denver, but it also has the best lobster deal in Denver. In season, you can get a full lobster dinner for around twenty bucks — easily half the price of the competition. And Cherry Crest is steaming and cracking Maine lobsters — the best — while some of the other guys are making do with coldwater Aussies, or worse. One word of caution: Come very early and be prepared to wait. Fortunately, the lobster's well worth it.
Yes, Smashburger is a small chain — but we don't expect that to be the case for long, not with such a genius concept and excellent execution. At Smashburger, the Denver-born idea of "fast-casual" dining is applied to the Denver-born idea of the cheeseburger, and the result is a culinary mash-up of a Chipotle-style business model, a sleek, modern diner and a burgers-at-the-bar vibe that makes Smashburger an ideal spot for a fast lunch, an easy dinner or even a moderately late-night snack. (All locations are open until 10 p.m.) As long as all its outlets keep turning out great burgers, this chain should be a smash hit.
Molly Martin
While Denver certainly boasts more than its fair share of upscale steakhouses, there's only one Bastien's — a place where people feeling more Humphrey Bogart than Gordon Gekko have been going for great steaks for decades. With its own kind of strange magic, Bastien's pulls everything — service and food, booze, decor and history — into one seamless, inimitable, only-in-Denver whole. The joint has been serving (in one form or another) since 1937, and it looks as though it hasn't been updated since Hugh Hefner banged his first bunny. From the streetside neon to the indoor twinkle lights, the paisley carpets to the battered martini shakers, Bastien's stands as not just a great steakhouse, but as one of the most honest, revered restaurants in town.
Mark Antonation
SAME Cafe owners Brad and Libby Birky have done the impossible. Not only did they open a restaurant with no prices on the menu and no cash register on the premises (just a box into which customers are asked to put a "donation," paying whatever they can or whatever they choose to), but they've managed to keep it open for more than a year. That's an amazing feat, but what's even more amazing about SAME (which stands for So All May Eat) is the food served here: an ever-changing lineup of hot, fresh and mostly organic dishes good enough to grace any downtown cafe, including apple-and-brie pizza, red beans and rice, chickpea salads, fresh fruit tarts and potato-and-bacon soup. Given the philosophy of the place, your karma can decide whether SAME Cafe offers the best free lunch in Denver, or simply the best bang for however many bucks you choose to give.
When Jesse Morreale and Sean Yontz decided to duplicate the success they'd had at Mezcal with Tambien, they actually outdid themselves on the margaritas. Although the house recipe is ostensibly the same here as at Mezcal, Tambien puts a little more care — and a slightly larger tequila pour — into these deceptively simple drinks. There's no sweet-and-sour to make your teeth squeak, no tidy-bowl blue coloring, just good 30-30 tequila, a splash of Triple Sec and, most important, real fresh juice, squeezed that day (if not that hour). Tambien, hit us again.
Mark Antonation
El Tejado's potato tacos
El Tejado doesn't just serve some of the town's best, and most varied, Mexican food — fried snapper that you might find in Puerto Vallarta, street-style tacos and a thick, gravy-like green chile that could only be made in Colorado. During Sunday brunch, it serves that food with a side of mariachi music. The good-humored musicians play all the standards and take requests. Fair warning: When the Broncos are playing in town, the band often takes a break.
There's a twist to the martini at Churchill: You can still enjoy it with a cigarette or cigar. But the fact that this bar in the Brown Palace fits through the anti-smoking law's cigar-sales loophole isn't the only reason a martini here is something to savor. There's the room itself, which is woody, clubby, and filled with leather furniture you can sink into. And then you can sink into the drink itself, mixed to your specifications and delivered in a silver bowl filled with ice, accompanied by a chilled glass. We guarantee a martini here will leave you shaken, if not stirred.
They could be the new breakfast burrito, or maybe the new office sandwich, or even the new family dinner. Kolaches have the potential to be all these things — and more. A novel food idea brought to us by those not-so-waistline-conscious Eastern Europeans, kolaches are slightly sweet, freshly baked meals that stuff a bun with everything from eggs and bacon to ham and cheese to barbecued beef. The Kolache Factory, a Houston company with more than thirty franchises in five states but only one in Colorado (so far), offers versions with biscuits and gravy, mushroom and pepperoni, and even turkey and stuffing (in November). It's time to make your first kolache run; we guarantee it won't be your last.
Cowbobas is a combination cowboy steakhouse and Vietnamese boba tea shop that serves coffee and corn dogs. You can get a cheeseburger and a crystal jelly fruit tea, a ten-dollar steak that tastes exactly like the steaks Dad charred on the backyard grill when you were a kid, a grilled cheese sandwich and a jackfruit smoothie so syrupy sweet you'll think you're having a heart attack. Cowbobas is a fiercely neighborhood spot in a neighborhood where it's easier to find a great taco or a cow's stomach than it is a fifty-dollar porterhouse or a fatted goose's liver, but this socio-culinary melting pot translates into delicious meals.

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