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.
Toast
Mark Antonation
Bananas Foster pancakes. Strawberry-banana cheesecake pancakes crusted with crushed graham crackers and topped with a strawberry cream-cheese sauce. Lemon-blueberry pancakes spiked with gingersnap and lemon curd, and Oreo cookie pancakes with marshmallow fluff and hot fudge. You'll flip for the flapjacks at Toast, a charming breakfast spot that's reason to rise and shine.
In Vietnam, pho is breakfast, lunch, dinner and midnight snack, both a morning pick-me-up and a comfort at the end of a long day. And at Pho 79's Aurora branch (there are two other locations), regulars have gotten the message that soup is good food. Here, the beef noodle soup — likely the single-most defining flavor of Vietnamese cuisine — gets the full attention of the kitchen, and as a result, it gets the full attention of the customers who flock here morning, noon and night for a fix of the best pho in Denver.
Sam's No. 3
Danielle Lirette
Blueberry, peach, apple and cherry — with a revolving menu of pies made fresh daily, Sam's No. 3 is great spot to grab a slice after a night at the nearby Denver Performing Arts Complex. The only thing flakier than the delicious crust might be the crowd surrounding you — an eclectic bunch that's apt to include hipsters, workers getting off their late shift and opera lovers. And if your snack leaves you hungering for more, you can take home an entire Sam's pie for $7.75.
The Oven Pizza E Vino
Here's the secret of the Oven's success: Everyone from owner Mark Tarbell to the cooks in the kitchen to the servers on the floor understand that they're cooking for friends. And when you're cooking for friends, you want to take care of them. Which the Oven does, turning a simple pizza dinner into an event, full of friends and good times, drinks from the bar and raised, happy voices. And great pizza, of course: artisanal, homemade and rustic, topped with such quality ingredients as housemade mozzarella and smoked ricotta.
D Note
The D Note is many things to many people. Its space is full of art and live music, its newsletters full of poetry, and its menu full of pizzas tagged with musical references, both obscure and not so. Are you a fan of They Might Be Giants? Check out the Particle Man, a combination of pepperoni, black olives, spinach, red peppers and mushrooms over a smear of basil pesto. The Pixies more your speed? Then go for the Debaser, a sausage, portabella and artichoke pie smothered with Italian cheese. And if you opt for the Ballad of a Thin Man, we guarantee you'll get the best high-stacked, Bob Dylan-esque jalapeño, garlic, onion, tomato and BBQ sauce pizza available anywhere.

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