Best Korean BBQ 2009 | Sae Jong Kwan | Best of Denver® | Best Restaurants, Bars, Clubs, Music and Stores in Denver | Westword
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
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.
Molly Martin
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.
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.
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.
Face it, fellas: The Yetis you're meeting on that 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.
Mark Antonation
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 Mexican in a Former Chinese Restaurant

El Viva Villa

The first time we ate at El Viva Villa, we immediately wanted to eat here again. The second time we ate here (roughly six hours after the first time), we knew that it was going to go into heavy rotation on our dining schedule. While there's nothing unique about the space (other than the fact that it used to be a good dim sum restaurant), El Viva Villa serves a spread of amazing Mexican food from early in the morning until late in the evening. Our favorite is the burritos — all deeply flavorful (the al pastor in particular), charry-sweet, just the right size and significantly cheaper than a burrito at the Chipotle across the street.
First things first: The service at Ya Hala Grill is terrible — sometimes laughably so, sometimes maddeningly so. The building itself is little more than a cement bunker on Colorado Boulevard with half a bakery in front and a few tables in back, and the kitchen often seems to be working in its own little world, releasing your dinner in dribs and drabs and often completely out of order. But you've just got to get past all that, because the food at Ya Hala is so good. It's Syrian food, done traditionally and exceptionally well. Gyros for lunch, ballila and fouel and roasted chicken for dinner, the greatest baklava we've ever had for dessert. It's worth putting up with any indignity to get your hands on a plate of that baklava. When a restaurant serves the best Middle Eastern food in the city, you just have to be ready to suck it up — and then eat it up.

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