Olivea
Cassandra Kotnik

Sugar sultana Yasmin Lozada-Hissom is arguably Denver's top pastry chef, and her deeply delicious desserts, created in the kitchen of Olivéa, where she shares space with husband and executive chef John Broening, make our veins rupture in rapture. Indulgent, innovative and wholly gratifying, they're culinary masterpieces of art that have been recognized — and heralded — by the James Beard Foundation. Her desserts aren't child's play; rather, they're impassioned, unrepentant creations that make us happy to be grownups — even if they do speak to our childhood fantasies. Her sweets change with the seasons, as does the rest of the menu, but no matter what's up her sleeve — a chocolate and fleur de sel caramel tart, sugar-powdered Italian doughnuts with ricotta and lemon or the honey-almond semifreddo — it'll take you on a sugar-fueled carpet ride that never stops.

Star Kitchen
Molly Martin

It's high noon on a Saturday and, predictably, there's a crowd of hungry people pushing through the door, speaking in English and foreign tongues, wondering how long the wait might be for a table. It's just another dim sum day at Star Kitchen, a brightly lit utopia of imaginatively prepared, vibrant dumplings and steamed barbecue buns, floppy shrimp rice-noodle rolls and fried sesame balls. The servers wheel shimmering silver carts through the dining room, offering anything — and everything — you could possibly want from a dim sum (and then some) experience. Bonus: There's beer!

The Denver Restaurant Week deal lives on at Vesta Dipping Grill, one of the sexiest, best-dressed feedlots in the city. While many restaurants shutter on Mondays, Vesta, the Goddess of the Hearth, flaunts her prowess by offering a three-course meal — which changes every month, and often features past Vesta favorites — at the DRW price of $52.80 for two. And Vesta isn't serving any rubber chickens: A recent Monday menu featured duck leg confit with tomato jam; skewered scallops with fingerling potatoes, fennel and bacon aioli; and a Riesling-poached pear dolled up with caramel and cinnamon ice cream. That's a cheap date that delivers.

Pho Duy
Mark Antonation

Tucked into a dilapidated shopping area on Federal and flanked by an impossible-to-maneuver parking lot, Pho Duy has somehow managed to keep slinging pho for nearly two decades. Every seat in the sparse dining room is almost always filled, as staffers scurry through the crowd to take orders, unceremoniously deliver dishes and then clear away the remnants just in time to seat the next group of diners coming in. Save for a few appetizers and specials, this shop simply hawks pho, which starts with dark and pungent beef broth, with depth added by slices of onions cooked soft, their flavor infused into the liquid. The boiling broth is poured over a nest of rice noodles and your choice of peppery, tender flank steak, chewy chunks of tendon, textured strips of tripe and other meaty combinations; the diner tosses in fresh basil, bean sprouts, lime and spicy sriracha to taste. So pho, so good.

The Kentucky Inn reopened in December 2017, after a five-month remodel.
Mark Antonation
The Kentucky Inn reopened in December 2017, after a five-month remodel.

Dive right in! An utterly unceremonious spot that we'd never want to see in the light of day, the Kentucky Inn is a classic dive that's never been anything but. A jukebox serves up drinker's picks, which range from Eminem to Miles Davis to Metallica, depending on who's in control. A pool table occasionally plays host to a group of Wash Park neighbors who wander in for drinks. But most regulars just cozy up to the bar, where amiable bartender Red pours all sorts of alcohol (including PBR, cider and fernet), engages everyone in conversation, and keeps us coming back when we've got nothing but time on our hands.

It's hard to argue with an entire wall of taps representing some of the best breweries in Colorado, the country and the world — unless you're drunk. Which you might be, since many of the rare and hard-to-find beers here have a nice, hefty alcohol level. For years, the tap list made Falling Rock Tap House the only place for beer geeks — local or visiting — to gather in Denver for a pint, before a Rockies game, during the Great American Beer Festival or for a special event. Thanks to Denver's burgeoning beer culture, Falling Rock is no longer the only place. But with 75 brews on tap, some of which are nearly impossible to find elsewhere in Colorado, the beer list still makes it your happy place.

Devil's Food Cookery
Cassandra Kotnik

How do you make really excellent eggs Benedict? Perfect each element and then combine for peak perfection. Devil's Food starts with a base of slightly sweet, lightly toasted, spongy challah bread, topping it with thick cuts of ham and a couple of quivering poached eggs, the yolks simultaneously runny and thick. All of that is smothered in the tangy, housemade, paprika-specked hollandaise, a sauce so bright, hearty and savory that we could eat it with a spoon. On the Benedict, though, it mixes with the yolk, creating a decadently rich and creamy combination — and you'll want to use every morsel of bread you can spare to sop it up.

Queen of Sheba Ethiopian Restaurant
Mark Manger

Save for a few maps of Ethiopia, the decor at Queen of Sheba, an East Colfax storefront, is modest. But the food? As owner Zewditu (Zodi) Aboye's daughter puts it, "Some people just have a gift for cooking, you know?" From a partially visible kitchen, Aboye turns out stellar renditions of her home country's cuisine: stews of earthy lentils, gamey yebeg wott thick with chunks of lamb, and tender legs of juicy, roasted chicken, all infused with the piquant smoke of berbere, the spice that's ubiquitous in this type of fare. Those stews come on a platter, hemmed in with tart, spongy injera (like a flat sourdough) used for scooping everything up between fingers. To wash it all down, Aboye pours Ethiopian honey wine and Harar beer, of course. Denver is lucky to have many Ethiopian restaurants, but Queen of Sheba rules.

Fruition
Mark Manger

When cost is no object, there's one restaurant in Denver that will consistently deliver on your expectations, no matter how high, and that's Fruition. Chef Alex Seidel turns out flawlessly executed dishes, course after course, from the crisp, tender duck confit to the fat-laced pork belly and egg-topped housemade cavatelli to a soft, flaky cut of bass; a carefully constructed wine list offers the perfect wine for every plate. The staff is incredibly efficient and solicitous, catering to your every need in the tiny, cozy dining room. All told, Fruition is the ideal place to whip out the company credit card and impress the boss — or to use your per diem to do something nice for yourself after a very hard day.

Fruition
Mark Manger

If you're going to bill yourself as a farm-to-table restaurant, then you'd better make damn sure you're following in the footsteps of Alex Seidel, whose enlightening little restaurant walks the walk and talks the talk. A couple of years ago, Seidel bought himself a ten-acre farm just outside Larkspur, where he raises Nebraska-bred sheep along with chickens that pop out beautiful eggs. He also cultivates herbs, harvests vegetables and makes his own small-batch cheeses, including a sensational ricotta, then trots his bounty to Fruition, seducing diners with plate after plate of New American comfort food straight off the farm — and straight from the earth.

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