Yazoo Barbeque Company
Cassandra Kotnik
Here's how to tell if a barbecue joint is good: Count how many times you've been disappointed because it's sold out of nearly every damn thing. This is a regular problem at the original Yazoo BBQ location (there's a newer outpost in Greenwood Village), where dinner is often catch-as-catch-can, depending on how many other Deep South barbecue freaks have gotten there before you. But at least the kitchen makes mountains of pork shoulders every day, so it's unlikely to run out of pulled pork — which is handy, because pulled pork is what Yazoo happens to do better than anyone else in town.
Oshima Ramen doesn't just serve the best ramen in Denver, it serves the best ramen in America — because this is where Keiji Oshima's ramen invasion of the United States both began and ended. So we're the lucky inheritors of both Oshima's vision and his unparalleled Super Original Oshima Ramen, which is about as far from those 29-cent packets of grocery-store noodles and dust as you can get while still talking about basically the same food. The ingredients here are sourced from Japan (where Oshima has operated many ramen restaurants), and the broths and noodles are made fresh daily and by hand. The result is a ramen soup that could be the best not just in Denver, not in America — but anywhere.

Best Restaurant for Eating Your Vegetables

Masalaa

Masalaa
Masalaa is a great vegetarian restaurant because it's really not a vegetarian restaurant. Rather, it's a restaurant that just happens to not have meat on the menu — a fact that can easily go overlooked while you're gorging yourself on idly, aloo paratha, kofta curry with vegetable fritters, the most delicious aloo mutter anywhere, channa saag with chickpeas and a dozen kinds of dosa stuffed with anything from fried onions and potatoes to butter, fried vegetables or masala sauce. There's a big difference between working within a canon made up entirely of grains and vegetables and trying to work within a cuisine where all the meat has simply been removed — and that difference is delicious at Masalaa.
There are a lot of places around where you can pick up roasted green chiles; hell, some Wal-Marts roast 'em right in front of the store. But we like to get our bags full of Hatch chiles at Nick's. For one thing, Nick's is a garden center, which means the roasters are set up among the trees, vegetable stands and bedding plants — a setting much closer to nature than, say, a truck-stop sidewalk or highway off-ramp. For another, the smell of the chiles mingling with the smell of the fresh flowers and peaty potting soil is one of our favorite smells on earth. And finally, Nick's roasts a lot of chiles, which means that, on a good day, you can smell the place working from a mile away and just follow your nose.
Los Carboncitos
Courtesy Los Carboncitos Highlands Facebook
At Los Carboncitos, salsa is an elemental part of the meal, and every table is supplied with a caddy full of different varieties. No chips, though: That chips-and-salsa thing is an American invention, and Los Carboncitos is about as far as you can get from an American restaurant without updating your passport. This bright spot operates like a cool, urban Mexico City diner, offering comfort foods, tacos, huaraches and messy breakfast plates — all begging to be slathered with any one of the house's four custom salsas, ranging in heat and flavor from smoothly savory to napalm death.

Best Sandwiches in a Pancake House

Toast

Toast
Mark Antonation
Toast is a real eye-opener. Not only does it serve great breakfasts — including the town's best pancakes — but it offers a terrific lineup of sandwiches. From the simplest apple-and-brie sandwich (made with tart Fujis and a smear of cranberry pecan aioli) to a smartly fusion-y peppered chicken wrap with queso añejo, smoked chile cream and fresh salsa to a stunning curried chicken salad with chèvre, they're all masterful. Now, if only Toast would stay open for dinner...
Although Oceanaire is beloved for the chicken-fried oysters and delightful bacon steaks with which it's slowly murdering a certain restaurant critic, this restaurant is really a classic fish house that looks like a gilt ocean liner from the early twentieth century. Each day, the menu lists the fish that have been delivered fresh from distributors around the world: Loup de mer, mako shark, Arctic char and blowfish have all had their moment on this menu alongside the traditional cods and salmon, and chef Matt Mine's kitchen knows how to handle every single one of them. Whether you order the simplest grilled salmon or sole meunière or the stuffed sole with brie or whole Arctic char glazed in soy, a meal at Oceanaire is sure to go swimmingly.
Fruition
Mark Manger
What? You actually got a second date? Well, good for you. Now the trick is to make the new love of your life think that you're a person of sophistication and taste — the sort who knows not to comb his hair with the salad fork or challenge the hostess to a drinking contest in the middle of the dining room. And where better to prove (or pretend) that you know your stuff than at Fruition — Denver's ultimate melding of casual and upscale sensibilities, of comfort food and classical technique. Chefs Alex Seidel and Drew Inman and partner/FOH man Paul Attardi have used their years of experience to a create a restaurant that serves the kind of food your mom might've made if your mom was Betty Crocker, Julia Child and Alain Ducasse all rolled into one, in an atmosphere that's charming, accessible — and intimate.
Smashburger
Meat candy. That's the only way to describe the thin, crispy, lacy rind of caramelized beef juice that fries up around the edges of a perfectly smashed smashburger at Smashburger — the new, homegrown chain that actually came up with a different way to do burgers, smashing them down on a very hot grill, then letting customers pick from a DIY list of add-ons. In retrospect, it's no surprise that this innovative mix of a Chipotle-style fast-casual operation and gourmet burger-making sensibilities came together in Denver. We are a cowtown, after all, and arguably the birthplace of the cheeseburger, so it's only fitting that the next evolution of the hamburger should occur right here in the Mile High.
Sushi Den
Sushi Den
Sushi is simplicity personified in a culinary tradition that already values the most basic, the most unadorned, the most spare presentation of ingredients imaginable. Yet any meal at Sushi Den is complicated by the fact that owner Toshi Kizaki has worked for the past twenty years to institute a system whereby the sushi we get in Denver is almost as fresh and pure (and occasionally, expensive) as what's being eaten at the same moment thousands of miles away. With a buyer in Japan, an account with FedEx, a team of expert sushi chefs and a commitment to freshness that broaches the bounds of common sense, Sushi Den serves the very best sushi in Denver — a fact that becomes plainly obvious from the first bite of meltingly soft uni, gleaming o-toro or any one of the house's daily specials.

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