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.
Big Hoss Bar-B-Q
Not only do Hoss Orwat and his crew make some wicked barbecue, but they've made that wicked barbecue the focus of a great neighborhood restaurant — the kind of place that, in a perfect world, would exist within walking distance of every person's home. This joint draws a crowd from every imaginable demographic — from families out for a meal together to drunken hat boys to weird old guys yelling at the televisions to couples on dates to blissed-out restaurant critics with barbecue sauce under their fingernails. The atmosphere is all convivial weirdness and charm, and the kitchen keeps that good feeling going by turning out great grub in large portions. And above it all is Hoss himself — walking the floor, chewing the fat, buying drinks and generally acting the part of benevolent dictator in this small, delicious and ideal kingdom on Tennyson Street.
Izakaya Den
Izakaya Den
Izakaya Den is a beautiful restaurant — dimly lit, with a lovely, blonde-wood sushi bar and huge beams made from imported cedar, set and carved by Japanese craftsmen — but that's not why it's the year's best new restaurant. The menu, designed by Toshi Kizaki and executed by one of the most talented crews in town, is ridiculous, a Japanese-Mediterranean fusion (with hints of northern Spain and France and America shot through it like rogue strands of culinary DNA) that's amazing, awe-inspiring and should never work in a million years but somehow does — but that's not why. Izakaya has wonderful service, a great vibe and a rich crowd of regulars — but none of those are why, either. Instead, Izakaya takes the crown for being an exemplary example of that finest restaurateur impulse, which is to do what you love without compromise and hope that the people come to love it, too. And they do love Izakaya Den, for so many reasons. Denver is lucky to have a restaurant, a kitchen, a crew and a menu as audacious and weird as you find as Izakaya, and we can only hope that its success inspires others to follow the same brave path.
There have been good restaurants in this subterranean space (Bistro Adde Brewster, Sketch), and there have been truly horrible ones. But never before have there been two great restaurants, operating side by side and on completely opposite ends of the spectrum. Defying both real-estate and restaurant law, Tambien and French 250 have managed to make their underground digs and odd shapes pay off — one by pulling in the late-night crowd for lowbrow Mexican cantina food and super-call tequila, the other by drawing down the moneyed status-seekers, frog-leg fanatics and oenophiles. And while one successful address does not define an entire part of the city, the combined success of Tambien and French 250 could spell a return to culinary relevance for Cherry Creek North. Taco by taco, bowl of bouillabaisse by bowl of bouillabaisse, 250 Steele is turning this neighborhood around.
Big Bill's New York Pizza
Molly Martin
Big Bill's is packed with the sort of shlocky, I-heart-New-York paraphernalia that generally makes us run screaming from the premises. But we make an exception for Bill's, because it actually knows a thing or two or three about true New York-style pies. The pizzas here are big, thin and perfectly cooked, redolent of char, covered in sweet red sauce and stretchy, gooey cheese. And, of course, every pie has the magical orange grease that sets a true New York thin apart from the legions of imitators. Bill's has a bunch of other stuff on the menu (including calzones, heroes and salads), but when you hunger for a taste of the Big Apple, look no further than the classic Neapolitan.

Best Nouvelle Peruvian Restaurant

Limón

Limon
Yucca chips, potato salads, causa potato cakes and a spread of ceviches are only the start at Limón, chef Alex Gurevich's love letter to the modern cuisine of Peru, known as "Novoandino." Here the classic dishes of this ancient food culture are reimagined for the modern world, yet made with traditional, imported ingredients and a deep understanding of where the disparate flavors come from. The room where they're served is sleek, the plating undeniably modern, and yet the flavors speak loudly of preparations and combinations that have survived not only the test of time, but also of taste.
Parallel Seventeen
Parallel 17 isn't all nouvelle; in fact, most of the menu is a very traditional and almost historic presentation of small plates that date back to the imperial cuisine of Hue. But it's the modernist touches that set Parallel 17 apart from the vast panoply of authentic Vietnamese restaurants in this city. It's the updated sauces, the modern plating and lounge-y vibe that truly define this place, and give the spark of contemporary buzz.
Phil's Place is one of the neighborhood's last classic dive bars.
Mark Antonation
Phil's Place is one of the neighborhood's last classic dive bars.
The bar might be Phil's, but his mother, Junie Garcia, is in charge in the kitchen. Six days a week, she cooks up a roster of far-from-standard Mexican standards: breakfast burritos, steak tacos, cheese enchiladas and a hot, hot green chile she made famous at the Bamboo Hut. But Junie's best creation may be her tamales, which stuff spicy shredded pork inside light, flavorful masa. The tamales aren't normally on the menu, so when Junie decides to make a batch, run — don't walk — to Phil's Place.

Best Of Denver®

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