Kim Ba Vietnamese Cuisine
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.
Pho Fusion
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.
Lala's Wine Bar + Pizzeria
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.
There are great French wine lists in town. Great Italian ones, too. There are lists that stick to certain countries, certain growing regions, certain tastes; ones made for pairing and ones made for impressing the wine snobs. But the list at Solera has a different goal: It simply wants to get good bottles into the hands of those who need them, and is more than willing to cross borders and price points to do so. So Solera offers both Perrier-Jouët champagne and Italian prosecco from Lunetta. Its list has Oregon chardonnays and Spanish Albarino, Argentinian malbecs, German pinots and classic French Rhône blends from Châteauneuf-du-Pape. And while you might be able to get yourself a twenty-dollar bottle of American cabernet, that bottle of Verite La Joie from Sonoma will run you $190 — proving that the Solera cellars have you covered no matter your style, taste or bank balance.
Z Cuisine and A Cote Bar a Absinthe
We love a place informal enough to list its bottles on a chalkboard — even if we're cowed by the fact that we can't correctly pronounce most of them. But at Z Cuisine and its sibling wine bar, À Côté, we have no doubt that anything we drink will be delicious. Z Cuisine has stayed true to its concept as a neighborhood bistro by offering some fantastic (primarily French) wines at reasonable prices. By the glass, they generally run between five and ten bucks, with a couple (like the new, Denver-born Infinite Monkey Theorem sauvignon) cracking twelve. And the bottles usually stay in the thirty-dollar range. A Domaine la Garrigue 2006 Côtes du Rhône for $33? That's not a bad deal on any list, and at Z Cuisine, it's just the start.

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