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.

Best Sushi in the Last Place You'd Expect It

Mori Sushi Bar

Mori Sushi Bar and Tokyo Cuisine
There are people who have been going to Mori for decades, since long before Coors Field and LoDo existed, people who somehow happened on this sushi bar in the back of an old VFW hall and got hooked. Although Mori has gone more upscale in recent years — even adding a sake bar — it's still a comfortable spot, with booths patched with duct tape and an extensive, inexpensive roster of sushi.
Sushi Sasa
Linnea Covington
Sushi Sasa seemed perfect the minute it opened. Odd, then, that it seems to only get better. Or maybe not, because chef/owner Wayne Conwell is the sort of person who strives to best even himself. From the gorgeous white-on-white dining room (which is usually packed) to the sushi bar at the back and the product of the cooks working behind it, nothing here is less than coolly and confidently excellent. Though not entirely traditional, the menu is firmly grounded in the years of classical training that Conwell went through before striking out on his own. To experience Denver's best sushi restaurant at its best, surrender to the chef, the kitchen and the season, order the omakase tasting menu, then sit back and let the night unfold as it will.
Tacos y Salsas
Mark+Manger
Denver is a taco-lover's paradise. Between all the taquerías and taco trucks, pretty much anywhere you go, you can find a taco within fifty feet. But finding a good one is something else entirely. And that's why when we're craving tacos, we head for Tacos y Salsas on South Federal (which, unlike the original outlet in Aurora, serves alcohol). Not only does this joint whip up a mean barbacoa taco or plate of carne asada, but it does so with style. The meat is fresh (in some cases, carved straight off the enormous meat stick towering over the hot line), the tortillas pressed by hand, the kitchen crew one of the fastest and best in town, and the final product endlessly customizable from the salsa bar at the front of the restaurant.
Naturally, when we're hungry for a great tamal, we head to a restaurant owned by a couple of Brits, with a kitchen commanded by an ex-Floridian just back from France, set in the middle of a privileged suburban enclave. We head for Agave Grill, which is run by the Master family, and where chef Chad Clevenger oversees the creation of a stunning tamal. Achiote-braised pork is wrapped inside a delicately steamed fold of creamy, light, sweet masa, then touched with a New Mexican-style green-chile sauce. Taken all together, it adds up to Denver's least likely best tamal.

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