Best Taco 2009 | Tacos D.F. | Best of Denver® | Best Restaurants, Bars, Clubs, Music and Stores in Denver | Westword
Mark Antonation
Sometimes the simplest spots are best, and it doesn't get much simpler than Tacos D.F. Basically a taco truck parked indoors, Tacos D. F. hands you the best tacos in the city, hands-down, through a hole in the back wall. It cooks up plenty of other things (soups and stews, tortas and burritos), but tacos are the kitchen's true pride — filled with meats hot off the grill that need nothing more than a squeeze of lime or maybe a touch of handmade salsa to be perfect. The asada and the carnitas are our favorites, but depending on the day, the hour and the mood of the crew in the back, upwards of a dozen varieties might be available — every one of them fantastic, none with the least bit of pretension.
How sweet it is! Lime, the homegrown chain that started in Larimer Square and now stretches from Greenwood Village to Winter Park, is known for its Tuesday-night tacos, its fresh (flour) chips, its strong margaritas. But our favorite item here is the tamales, offered both as an app and an entree. The tamales are vegetarian and all about corn, corn and more corn. Inside each corn-husk package you'll find a steaming layer of masa surrounding a succulent, sweet corn filling. Smothered in Lime's red (also vegetarian) or green (chicken, not pork) chile, this is one hot tamale!
Mark Antonation
Step into US Thai on a busy afternoon, when both of the small dining rooms are full and the rail of the open kitchen is crowded with dupes, and you can watch the blur of the cooks at work. With the grates popped on the ancient, fire-breathing hot-top and water cascading down the backsplash to keep the whole place from burning down, they never stop moving, never stop tinkering, never stop adding to a plate, a bowl, an oil-seasoned wok, until an entree hits the rail. A dozen combative spices, countless vegetables (done rough-chopped, julienned, slivered, batonnet-cut or shaved, each in their proper way), curry as a paste, curry as a powder, nine proteins, broths and bases held aside, rice in the steamers, noodles in the lowboys, fryers always in use, flames always leaping. It's an incredible dance, with results that are almost infallibly delicious, every flavor true. US Thai isn't just the best Thai restaurant in Denver; it serves some of the best Thai food we've ever tasted anywhere.
You don't get more traditional than the Brown Palace, and the Sunday brunch at Ellyngton's is a completely over-the-top version of the classic, high-society Sunday brunch. Here you'll find everything from egg and waffle stations to carving stations with white-toqued chefs slaving over hot steamship rounds, to salad, sushi, and pastry boards from the in-house bakery. If you want to up the ante, you can go for the Dom Perignon version, which is definitely a nice way to start the day but will set you back nearly two hundred bucks. If you've got that kind of green to blow, though, what better way to do it than by pulling up a chair in front of mountains of jumbo shrimp, wrapping those suckers in rare slabs of prime rib, and then washing it all down with Dom drunk straight from the bottle? Top hat and monocle optional...
The guys in the galley at DJ's Berkeley Cafe really care about their Bennies. They only make them until eleven each morning (mostly because if they offered them all day, they'd never stop), and they make every single hollandaise sauce to order (no small trick on a busy line). They also recognize the difference between a classic Benny (with eggs, Canadian bacon, English muffin and hollandaise) and all the mutant forms that the Benedict has been twisted into over the years. Sure, they'll make you a crab Benny, a vegetarian Benny or one with smoked salmon, but their classic, traditional presentation is the very best in town.

Best Traditional Japanese Restaurant


Not just Japanese, but country Japanese. And not just country Japanese, but country Japanese focusing specifically on the peasant food eaten in the mountains of Japan, with decor to match. Strange as it may sometimes seem (scallion omelets and giant clam sashimi and wonderful, cold buckwheat noodles), each plate that comes from the kitchen at Domo arrives freighted with both history and tradition. Settling down on one of the polished tree stumps that pass for seats and melting into the slow languor of the dining room and Zen garden beyond, you'll find yourself as close to ancient Japan as you can get without flying to the country from which Domo has taken its deep inspiration.
The best vegetarian food is just food that happens to have no meat in it — a dinner served without the sides of guilt, bullying or whining, Be Nice to Animals socio-political rhetoric. And that's exactly what you'll get at Masalaa, a good restaurant that happens to not serve meat. The big draw here are the dosa — enormous Indian pastry roll-ups stuffed with all manner of unusual things — but the rest of the dishes are equally good, offering a full palette of flavors and textures without ever having to resort to wrapping things in bacon.
Kim Ba
Denver has about a thousand Vietnamese restaurants, and most of them are pretty good. But even in this ocean of eateries, a few stand out as truly special, and the best of all is Kim Ba. Virtually every plate that comes out of the kitchen at Kim Ba (and yes, we've tasted almost all of them) is a model against which similar plates might be judged and found lacking. And if that plate is coming off the grill? Nothing beats it. The only challenge to eating here is saving room for the entrees, because the short board of appetizers includes Denver's best soft-shell crab and best Vietnamese fondue.
We love the pho at Pho Fusion. We love the Vietnamese coffee and the noodle bowls, too. Also, we love the lo mein and the sesame chicken, the curries and the idea that all these dishes from all these differing canons can exist so comfortably together on one single, straightforward menu. Owner Tom Bird gleefully tosses out all geographic constraints, cramming competing influences together into a single, coherent, American fast-casual model that every year seems as though it really ought to be the Next Big Thing. No such luck — but after five years, Bird finally got a second location open, introducing the good people of Highland to his very good food.
What's the most important thing to have at a great wine bar? No, it's not the wine.  It's the scene. Because no matter how good the wine might be (and at Lala's, it's very, very good), you don't want to be sitting there drinking it all by yourself. And in just six months, Lala's has become a regular hangout, a great space where neighbors — and in spirit, that includes people from across the metro area — come to unwind and chill out at the end of the day, enjoy a solid menu of snacks and small plates, and be catered to by staffers who know how to handle themselves around a good bottle of grape juice and offer a spread of bottles well-suited to everyday drinking.

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