At Masterpiece Delicatessen, partners Justin Brunson and Steve Allee do some pretty amazing things with a little bread, a little meat, a little this-and-that. Their simplest creations — egg sandwiches, grilled cheese, turkey with pears and cranberry honey — show their command of the artistry of restraint (just enough, never too much), while their more complicated plates demonstrate a high-end, Super Frog cookery gone feral in the service of a soup-and-sandwich board. Their kung fu is strong, no doubt. And here in Denver, we're lucky to have them.
Senor Burritos
So you're planning on getting out there and tearing it up on Saturday night? Well, cowboy, you might want to put a little something in your stomach before you start sucking down the shots — and Señor Burrito is just the place to do it. Or maybe you're thinking about catching a movie at the Mayan. Why not grab a snack at Señor Burrito before the show? What? The boss called you in to work on Saturday and you're just getting off at eight? Time for Señor Burrito, pal. We can't think of a single circumstance when a burrito or pork chop plate at Señor Burrito won't make things better.
What does it take to run a great seafood restaurant a mile above sea level and a thousand miles from the nearest ocean? The kind of system that hums behind the scenes at Oceanaire — a business structure that brings in fresh fish daily, six days a week, following supply lines that run back and forth across the globe, all terminating in a kitchen that actually knows what to do with a glut of great product. Under the command of chef Matt Mine, Oceanaire serves up the best sea critters you'll find this far from the ocean. And the kitchen also hands down some nice non-piscine thrills as well, banging out bacon steaks, salads and more for those who (for whatever reason...) decide to go to the best fish restaurant in the city for meat-and-potatoes fare.
Solomon's Grocery and European Deli
It's a long way from Uzbekistan to Aurora, but Bukharan immigrant Solomon Gurzhiev and his family take the miles in stride at their Russian-Jewish deli, where they feature a compact selection of imported Eastern European foods as well as more than eighty kinds of deli meats, smoked fish, sausages, pickles and cheeses. Authentic is the word at Solomon's, where the proprietors are bend-over-backwards friendly, the coolers stuffed with a dozen varieties of kefir and farmer's cheese, and mom Gurzhiev whips up homemade pelmeni on request. But nowhere is that authenticity more evident than in the small but potent selection of fresh-baked breads offered daily at the counter, including a dense, coriander-laced rye loaf that goes nicely with the deli fare.
Brasserie Felix
There's not much in this world that's as comforting as a perfectly done plate of steak frites. And in this town, there's no better plate of steak frites than the one coming from Brasserie Felix's kitchen. Good thing, too, because if a restaurant calling itself a brasserie can't knock this classic of comfort-French gastronomy out of the park, it had better just lock its doors. Instead, you'll want to hurry through those doors for an order, which includes a beautifully done eight-ounce flatiron with a silky béarnaise that mixes wonderfully with the steak juice, as well as a pile of nice frites, blanched and fried. Though it's nothing more than a piece of beef, a dab of sauce and some fried potatoes, this steak frites is much greater than the sum of its parts.
Elway's Cherry Creek
Everyone in this town serves steaks. Most restaurants serve pretty good ones. But no other steakhouse in the city has a menu like that at the original Elway's, which covers all the traditional steakhouse basics (big whacks of beef, lobster tails, shrimp cocktails and creamed spinach), then turns the whole concept on its ear, fooling with the formalized, high-rolling boys' club feel of the traditional beefery by serving shrimp cocktails over smoking dry ice, offering lamb lollipops, excellent steak tacos and tuna tartare, and even serving Ding Dongs for dessert. A meal here is just plain fun. With chef Tyler Wiard in the kitchen, Elway's continues to score.
Cafe Jordano
Maybe you've heard stories about the little Italian place in Lakewood that won't take reservations because if it did, there'd never be an open table for the neighbors, a place where regulars arrive a half-hour before the start of dinner, jockeying for position and counting heads to make sure they'll get a seat. Welcome to Cafe Jordano. The fare here is classic Italian strip mall done phenomenally well, and the crowds proof that one needs nothing more than talent and pride in good work to make a restaurant successful. Well, talent, pride and a single dish (the pollo alla Roberts) that has become legendary over the years as the single, best-tasting thing on any menu in Colorado.
El Taco De Mexico
Courtesy El Taco de Mexico Facebook
Yeah, it's busy. Yeah, real estate at the counter (bests seats in the house) can be tough to come by, particularly on Sunday, when people are stopping in before and after mass, on their way to work or just going home. The ladies working said counter won't take any shit, and they'll get pissed if you dither too long over the menu. But the Sunday-morning scene at El Taco de México is not to be missed, and the food that's served at this most authentic of Mexican diners is some of the best in the entire city. The menudo is an excellent hangover cure, and every taco is a work of short-order art. We brake for El Taco on Sunday morning — and you should, too.
Sushi Den
Sushi Den
Oceanaire may be the modern embodiment of a system that facilitates swift and stunning deliveries of fish from all corners of the globe to little ol' Denver, but Sushi Den blazed the trail that others would follow. For two decades, Sushi Den has labored toward perfecting a supply line whereby fish that were swimming yesterday could tonight land on the plates of picky eaters in this town. Through contacts in the fish markets of Japan and lots of big FedEx bills, Sushi Den manages to get not only some of the best, freshest fish in Denver, but in the whole of the United States. And while for most people the difference between a piece of baby bluefin that's been out of the water 36 hours and one that's been dead three days might not seem like a big deal, for real sashimi fans, it's huge. And Sushi Den is the place they go for the freshest, most delicately handled fish in the city.
Sushi Katsu
Hunter Stevens
The sushi at Sushi Katsuya is excellent, the service friendly and precise. The restaurant is relatively inexpensive, not too kitsch, not too spare, and fairly quiet on most nights, a place of solace for those whose consolations come more from the East than the West. But you'll never feel alone, because Sushi Katsuya quickly makes you a regular. The employees welcome you in unison, and if you take a seat at the sushi bar, you might not get up for another fifty years or so.

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