Best Traditional Vietnamese Restaurant

Ha Noi Pho

Jellied blood. Fishscale mint. Unpronounceable soups filled with unidentifiable ingredients. Sound like your kind of dinner? Then you need to get down to Ha Noi Pho for a taste of the authentic peasant/market/street-corner cuisine of Vietnam. This spot doesn't boast much in the way of decor, and on a slow night, the staff might be sitting around playing cards. But once you get past the brief culture shock, you'll find a meal unlike any in the city. From the simplest pho to the more complicated soups of Hue and Hanoi, from plainly grilled meats and noodle bowls to plates of completely alien flora, every dish here is an adventure — and a chance to get a taste of what comfort means to one of Denver's largest expatriate communities.
Danielle Lirette
Though we've never been crazy about restaurants that self-identify as vegetarian (believing that starting from such a limited culinary position can only serve to strangle any creativity or free thinking in the kitchen), WaterCourse Foods has been in the game long enough to overcome any such restrictions. The result is a restaurant that has the vegetarian and vegan ethos worked into its DNA, that creates meatless cuisine simply as a matter of course, not as a reaction against anything external. And while the tempeh bacon, scrambled tofu and seitan Buffalo wings still drive us bonkers, the kitchen does a good stack of pancakes, excellent (if bacon-free) breakfasts, and surprisingly flavorful tamales, fried-potato tacos and vegetable-centric pastas. And it's all served in a brand-spanking-new space with lots of room for the crowds WaterCourse draws.
Not everyone has the time, the taste or the temperament to forgo their morning bowl of Muesli or Chocolate Frosted Sugar Bombs in favor of the flavors of Southeast Asia. But for those who do, there's Ha Noi Pho, which offers not only traditional breakfast pho and a tall glass of Vietnamese coffee thickened with a shot of sweetened, condensed milk, but also the beautifully simple and incomparable banh mi op la: eggs sunnyside up with a French baguette. It kicks the hell out of an Egg McMuffin.
Kim Ba
Denver has many good Vietnamese restaurants, but our favorite is Kim Ba. There may be better places for pho, for frogs' legs, for other individual dishes. But no crew works the grills better than the one at Kim Ba, and there's no other Vietnamese kitchen in Denver that does everything with such simplicity, confidence and excellence as Kim Ba's.
Before any of you dedicated drinkers of the Irish dew get all up in arms, we'll admit that the whisky list at Pints Pub, though unbelievably deep, broad and inclusive, is primarily a list of Scotch whiskys. And while there are a few Irish whiskeys-with-an-e listed toward the bottom — Bushmills, Clontarf, Connemara and Tyrconnel, as well as pop-cult classics like Japanese Suntory and Colorado's own Stranahan's — they are not the primary draw here. But who needs 'em when you can get a glass of thirty-year Laphroaig, a vintage 1966 Balvenie from the cask or one of the rarest Scotches from Banff, where the distillery itself has been demolished?
Patrick Dupays already operated one of the city's best French restaurants, Z Cuisine, so when he announced that he'd picked up a second spot just two doors down from his original restaurant and was planning on turning it into a wine bar, Denver's francophiles were (literally) beside themselves with joy. And with good reason, too, because Z Cuisine À Côté stands as its own destination — a warm, beautiful tribute to the Parisian wine-bar culture of the 1900s, offering plenty of wines by the glass, cheeses, charcuterie and a selection of small plates (like frisée aux lardons, petit chèvre and asparagus quiche, and onion soup gratinée) made to the same high standards of rustic Frenchiness exemplified by Dupays's original restaurant. From A to Z, this is one class act.
Julia Vandenoever
It helps to have the right help in a restaurant. You want well-trained and passionate people working at every stratum — from chef to dishwasher. That's the ideal situation, and while many restaurants fall short of the ideal, one does not: Frasca. Everyone here knows his job, is passionate about his job, does his job as best he can. And nowhere does this show more than in the wine department, because Frasca is one of only a couple of restaurants in the country that has not just one, but two certified master sommeliers on the floor. And they're not just strolling around with a silver cup, reverentially pouring bottles of Petrus; they're ardently pimping the small, the weird, the bargain and the interesting. They're pouring tajuts and giving out free samples, attempting to educate their customers while they coddle them with this unusual Spanish vintage, that killer bottle from Argentina, or a glass of something that's not going to be found anywhere but at Frasca.
The Brown Palace
A Penfolds shiraz from 2000. La Tache Burgundy, 1999. A Château Ausone Bordeaux, 1995, and a '98 Cheval Blanc. Need we go on? Okay, how about a bottle of 1990 Petrus? An '89 LaTour? Bottles of Lafite-Rothschild from (almost) every important year dating back to 1978, a cellar full of Mouton-Rothschild. Then there's the Haut-Brion Bordeaux, the '28 Château Margaux? Save your pennies, oenophiles, and make your reservations. The Palace Arms is justly legendary, and its wine list full of classic vintages is one reason why.

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