Tambien
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.
El Tejado's potato tacos
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.
Churchill Bar
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 moved to 940 South Federal Boulevard in early 2016.
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.
Carpaccio di bue dressed in lemon and oil, grilled salmon with roasted potatoes, garretto d'agnello — spring lamb braised in red wine, served with grilled eggplant and potato purée. Those are just a few of the dishes that chef/owner Craig D'Alessandro has in regular rotation on his menu at San Lorenzo. Amazingly, this restaurant isn't some highfalutin' downtown joint, but a simple and unassuming strip-mall suite — the kind of place you'd probably walk right by if someone didn't point it out to you. So we are, because D'Alessandro and his crew at San Lorenzo are worth a stop. They've got the moves of a fine-dining crew and the menu of a Michelin hot spot, but they're executing it in a space that could just as easily have been a hair salon or muffler shop.
Ya Hala Grill
Ya Hala isn't much to look at from the outside — just a squat cement bunker hunkered down on Colorado Boulevard. As a matter of fact, it isn't much to look at from the inside, either. The lobby/bakery is a bit run-down, the dining room looks roughly used. But the food coming out of this place more than makes up for the unsightly digs. The hummus alone is so good that we'd gladly eat it while sitting on an old crate in an alley, if that were our only option. And yet the hummus is just the beginning. Everything Ya Hala makes is superb, from the simple grilled kebabs and chicken to the shawarma, balilla and sambusk. And its baklava is not just the best in Denver, but possibly the best baklava ever made — an unbelievably addictive, honey-sweet and perfectly crispy dessert.
Radda Trattoria
Everyone should be so lucky as to have a restaurant like Radda in their neighborhood. It's a great restaurant, but it's also a comfortable restaurant, an unassuming restaurant, a restaurant where families come to eat penne al cinghiale and rogue CU economics professors argue over plates of golden-brown pressed chicken. The board is made up mostly of small plates, little tastes, brilliant snacks and expert whetters of appetite, and the kitchen crew — led by Matt Jansen and exec Don Gragg — executes everything brilliantly, with a beautiful simplicity and a passionate understanding of ingredient over artifice. In Manhattan, Radda would be wickedly hip and successful. But in Boulder? It's just a little neighborhood spot, with plenty of parking and always room for another customer, another table, another party waiting to sing its praises.
Osaka Sushi isn't easy to find, but it's worth the search. Regulars love this place with a fervor bordering on obsession and even have their own personal sake boxes, stacked like a child's blocks behind the bar. The menu focuses on sushi, but also features other Japanese convenience foods — gyoza and donburi, yaki soba and bowls of multi-colored fish eggs for those who just can't get enough tobiko and ikura. While on the surface, Osaka might seem no different from the dozens of neighborhood sushi bars in this town, its excellence reveals itself in small ways.
Fruition
Mark Manger
Today Fruition is getting play all over the country as one of the best restaurants in the United States, with stories in glossy mags and big awards. But you know what? We loved Fruition before it was cool, when it was a great neighborhood restaurant and the entire town its neighborhood. Fruition wasn't even two months old when we named it Best New Restaurant last year, and since then, it's only gotten better. Still, someday the national attention hoopla will disappear, and we'll still be here — sitting in Fruition's too-small dining room, eating chicken soup and pork belly, appreciating just how good New American cooking can be. Fruition is the sort of place where you want to make sure you get a table on Friday night — and then never leave.

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