A cement bunker filled with soup: That's Pho 79. It doesn't serve anything more than pho and rocket-fuel Vietnamese coffee and a few boba tea drinks — but then, it doesn't need to. Long a popular breakfast spot for the local Vietnamese community and usually far more populated (at least during the morning hours) by members of that group than by wild-eyed hipsters, East Coast transplants and others of their foul ilk, Pho 79 is nonetheless a miracle for those who feel that nothing starts the day better than a gigantic bowl of noodles, basil, broth, lime juice and various cow parts.
Maybe it's the rock-bottom prices. Maybe it's the authentic fare. Maybe it's that we've got noodle bars on the brain. Maybe it's the freaky little alien-moose thing that stands as the house mascot, because we've always had a weakness for creepy mascots and patron cartoon characters. Maybe (probably) it's all of those things. This year, we kept finding ourselves returning to Oshima Ramen, the only link in this country to a Japanese chain. Everything about this place is awesome and bizarre at the same time — from the giant bowls of fresh-made ramen to the tasty chicken bits and gyoza to the unusual Japanese sodas behind the bar. The walls are sketched with years' worth of graffiti, the history of a thousand love affairs with Oshima Ramen, of which ours is only one.
Sae Jong Kwan
Cassandra Kotnik
Korean barbecue isn't barbecue at all by the traditional definition — but when it's as good as what's called barbecue at Sae Jong Kwan, who stands on ceremony? Sae Jong Kwan (aka: House of Korean BBQ) is almost a gastronaut hideout, a spot where adventurous eaters gather to stuff themselves with meats and vegetables and other odds and ends all cooked on the little barbecue grills built right into the tables. Join the fun: Bring a bunch of friends, order a bunch of drinks (because there's nothing more adventurous than mixing alcohol and an open grill) and let one of the helpful servers be your guide through the long, detailed and very traditional menu.
Izakaya Den
Izakaya Den
Denver has always had a shortage of good late-night restaurants. Most places in town lock the doors around nine or ten and leave the late-night service to the drive-thrus, bars, diners and street-corner burrito vendors. So before the clock strikes eleven, head to Izakaya Den, which has a great menu for late-night snackers: a combination Italian/Mexican/French/American/Japanese board that offers both the lowbrow and the high-tone side by side.
Bastien's Restaurant
Mark Antonation
Bastien's isn't retro. The rest of the world might be leaning in that direction, looking for cool, but Bastien's is something else entirely: It's classic. Looking for the cocktail culture of the '50s? Bastien's has it. Early-'70s swinger swank? It has that, too. Bastien's doesn't change with the times; the times change around it. Like they say, even a broken clock is right twice a day, and while the batteries on Bastien's Timex ran down a long time ago, this is still a great place to go for sugar steaks, sidecars, fried cheesecakes, steely martinis and a taste of Denver's culinary past.
The photos on the wall of the Avenue Grill date back to the '80s, but the feel of this bar dates back much further, to those classic cocktail lounges of the '30s and '40s. And you can taste that golden era in the martinis, which the amiable bartenders mix up big, bold and icy-cold. The martinis here are such a hit that the Avenue Grill even has a martini club, but you don't need to join in order to feel welcome at this bar. Although $5 martinis are a specialty during happy hour, which runs from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. weekdays, the bartenders keep mixing them all night. An evening at the Avenue will leave you shaken, if not stirred.
Marczyk Fine Foods
Courtesy Marczyk Fine Foods
Yes, you're probably going to pay top dollar for your meat at Marczyk Fine Foods. But trust us, it's worth it. If you really care about the quality of your food, you should shop at a place where owner Pete Marczyk and his staff take pride in offering nothing but the best of the best. Just peeking through the glass at the cuts of meat displayed by the butchers is addicting — better than leafing through any high-gloss food mag out there. Marczyk's stocks free-range chickens, makes its own sausage, and even puts some of that meat into sandwiches that you can grab for lunch.
Elway's Cherry Creek
On Wednesdays all through the summer, the scene at Elway's is hot! Aged, but hot. While bands play in the courtyard, cougars prowl through the bar and the patio, looking for fresh prey. And sugar daddies are doing the same, looking for the next sweet young thing. Should they strike out, there's always a consolation prize: real red meat in the dining room.
The Park Tavern and Restaurant
Mark Antonation
Face it, fellas: The Yetis you're meeting on that snatch.com Internet dating site just aren't panning out. And ladies? You want it, but you don't want to give it up to a Neanderthal or have to wear a penicillin wetsuit just to get shagged. It's okay to be horny like rockets. And when you need some booty but have no one to call, there's only one place to prowl: the Park Tavern. There's no surer spot for men or women to score a romper-room buddy. The lays are as cheap and easy as the beer. And should you actually just want some platonic company, the Park has both quality drinks and drunks.
Mexican hamburger.
Mark Antonation
Mexican hamburger.
La Fiesta has won many Best of Denver awards, and it's eligible for so many more. Best Mexican Restaurant in a Former Grocery Store. Best Strictly Colorado-Style Mexican Restaurant. Best Wednesday Special (chile caribe). Best Weekday Lunch-Only Mexican Restaurant. Oops, that no longer applies. Because La Fiesta has now extended its hours on Friday, and Friday only, to 9 p.m., and added special happy-hour deals on both food and drink starting at 3 p.m. On sunny days, the outdoor patio is the perfect spot to watch conscientious business types racing home to pay the babysitter; the capacious dining room is conducive to throwing all manner of impromptu parties.

Best Of Denver®

Best Of