Best Happy-Hour Deal 2009 | Lancer Lounge | Best of Denver® | Best Restaurants, Bars, Clubs, Music and Stores in Denver | Westword
In these debilitating economic times, stretching your dollars as far as they can possibly go isn't just frugal; it's the only way to make sure you don't end up in a sleeping bag outside of Jesus Saves. Bless its soul, the Lancer Lounge — already known far and wide for stiff pours and recession-friendly prices — has your back with its aptly titled Panic Bar. "It frightens me," one bartendress told us, and it should. Because every Monday night from 10 to 11 p.m., well drinks and draft beers are free. That's right: FREE. Go ahead and stretch those dollars right back into your pocket. But if you fail to tip, not even Jesus will save you.
Last spring, Deluxe owner Dylan Moore opened Delite right next door to handle the overflow from his excellent restaurant. But on some nights it seems to work the other way around, as Delite fills up early. And while, sure, the bar is the focus here, the menu — an offshoot of the Deluxe board and dosed with the same vaguely Californian sensibility — is incredibly satisfying. The green eggs and ham is brilliant: deviled eggs with bacon and pesto. The Chinese barbecued pork buns re-envisioned as American sliders are so good you'll want to order two plates (they come two to an order, topped with tiny jungles of scallion). And then there's Deluxe's trademark oyster shooters: single oysters, fried, topped with a chipotle rémoulade and served over a spicy salsa in a pho spoon. Moore makes the best fried oysters in town, no doubt, but the best thing about Delite's menu is the happy-hour deal: half off the normal price, which means you'll never pay more than six bucks, tops.
From 3 to 5 p.m. every Thursday through Sunday at Le Central, owner Robert Tournier more or less gives the house away, offering about twenty small plates at two bucks or less. We're talking rillette, chicken-liver pâté e foie, Merguez sausage or pissaldiere for $1.50 each, and moules Provençal, duck confit or salmon fumée for $2. Meanwhile, all well drinks, mulled wine and house wines are just three dollars a throw, and espresso, lattes, cappuccinos and hot chocolates go for two bucks a cup. Le Central has always billed itself as an affordable French restaurant, but this is ridiculously good: fine French cuisine at prices cheaper than a McDonald's value meal.
Just looking at the menu at Venice Ristorante is like reading poetry. Actually eating off that menu is amazing. Some restaurants decline over the years, others reach a mid-level plateau and just hang there forever after. Only rarely does a restaurant continue to improve across the years, though, and Venice is one of those rare finds. From its start as an overcrowded strip-mall joint where every night looked like an open casting call for The Sopranos to its early days in its new LoDo home (formerly occupied by Adega) to today, when no one remembers a time when Venice wasn't holding down that corner, this restaurant has only gotten better. If you haven't been recently, it's time to return to Venice.

Best High-End Neighborhood Italian Restaurant

Il Posto

Molly Martin
There was something about Il Posto that moved us on our very first meal there. It wasn't the food, and it certainly wasn't the staff. No, it was something about the vibe — some indefinable hum of friction between the kitchen and the floor, the customers and the chalkboard menus hung high on the walls, that just made the place seem alive. And since it opened three years ago, the food has improved markedly, the staff has mellowed, the early crush of neighborhood trend-humpers trying to squeeze through the door on a Saturday night has cooled, but that vibe remains — that feeling of excitement that the best neighborhood restaurants must have, regardless of their price point.
Julia Vandenoever
Boulder is blessed with many good restaurants, but the best of all is Frasca. Although it no longer has the three-month backlog of reservations it did in the early years, this deceptively plain-looking spot is still an amazing little Northern Italian restaurant with a strong vein of modernism running through its big heart, staffed by the best crew around and featuring an ever-changing menu offering gorgeous and unpretentious proof that, absent all other modifiers, greatness lives wherever great cooks choose to settle.
We've eaten at every steakhouse in this steakhouse-heavy town, and we've never found anything that tops the Capital Grille. Everything about this restaurant — from the hand-cut steaks and perfectly set tables to the flawless service, cool lunches and killer weekend dinners — is a model against which all other steakhouses might be judged. And thus far, no others have measured up. While there might be better individual steaks, better sides, better drinks, even the occasional better night at another beef palace, no other place in town puts it all together the way Capital Grille does.
Tacos y Salsas is a tough place to miss. It's as bright and shiny and carnival-colored as the street outside is gray and grim and run down by long, rough use. It almost seems like a spot where clowns should go to buy their floppy shoes and hand buzzers, all red and yellow and orange. But this homegrown chain is serious about its food. The Federal outpost, in particular, always seems full of cooks from other restaurants. Cooks and families of cooks and other families and neighbors and construction workers. And dedicated gastronauts, too, who're digging into tacos and enchiladas filled with exotic grilled meats and weird, mushy rellenos that they've doctored up with salsas and toppings from the bar. In a town full of Mexican restaurants, there's always room for another Tacos y Salsas.
Stephen Cummings
The guys at the Old Fashioned know from good hot dogs. Why? Because they're from Buffalo, a city that knows from good dogs. Here, they're Sahlen's brand, boiled to a beautiful, ruddy pink and served on a simple bun, with a little twist of casing that makes a tail at both ends. The standard at the Old Fashioned is "flying with everything," which means topped with Buffalo's own Weber's horseradish mustard, dog sauce and jalapeños and much more, taken to go. But we prefer our dog naked, with just a shot of Weber's. And we like to eat it here, where the setting is as authentic as the dogs: slightly grungy, with walls covered with pictures of Marilyn Monroe, mismatched tablecloths, Sopranos memorabilia, and shelves loaded down with pastas, canned tomatoes and other Italian dry goods.
Danielle Lirette
Denver drinkers used to be content ordering snifters full of ice, cheap tequila, sweet-and-sour mix that made your teeth squeak, maybe a lime wedge, and all sorts of top-secret (and cheap) ingredients guaranteed to give them a big headache in the morning. If they wanted to get really fancy, they might even order their margaritas frozen so they didn't have to taste what was going to give them a big headache in the morning. But then Denver drinkers started studying tequila, differentiating the regional nuances, demanding fresh lime juice and margs served coin-style. While local bars increasingly focus on specialty drinks that quench the ever-growing thirst for better margaritas, they often give scant attention to the house marg. But that's not the case at Mezcal and its sibling, Tambien, which continue to turn out spritely, fresh-tasting, potent house margs that feature plenty of quality tequila, plenty of fresh juice, and just a spritz of carbonation to keep your evening bubbling along.

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