Best Vietnamese Restaurant 2011 | New Saigon | Best of Denver® | Best Restaurants, Bars, Clubs, Music and Stores in Denver | Westword

After more than two decades, New Saigon is still the indisputable champion of Vietnamese cuisine on the Front Range. And not only is it the best, but it's the biggest — at least in terms of its offerings. The menu here is a veritable tome: page after page of Vietnamese dishes offered by Thai Nguyen and his wife (and chef) Ha Pham. The roster includes such specialties as head-on shrimp stir-fried in spicy sauce; goat cooked with lotus root; whole fish, deep-fried; whole crabs, lobster tails, frog's legs, even jellyfish. And then there are all the usual suspects: spring rolls, egg rolls and a variety of bun — bowls filled with broth, springy vermicelli noodles and grilled meats and fish. No matter what you order, it's bound to be good — and proof that the Vietnamese canon can go far from pho.

Mark Antonation

Braving the twists and turns of Flagstaff Road for dinner at the Flagstaff House is worth every thrill and chill once you're seated at a table in front of the floor-to-ceiling windows or, in the summer months, on the patio. Nestled in the woods on a cliff high above Boulder, this forty-year-old restaurant features expansive views of the valley below, cityscapes stretching to Denver, all framed by the picturesque Flatirons. During daylight hours, it's the perfect spot for admiring the Colorado wilderness. And at night, when the town glitters peacefully below the restaurant, the breathtaking scenery is the background for a perfect, intimate dinner.

Samantha Baker

Why, you might ask, does Oskar Blues Home Made Liquids & Solids, a bustling Longmont restaurant owned by one of Colorado's most well-known craft breweries, offer Coors Light amid a draft lineup that not only includes its own stellar beers, but dozens of other craft-beer treats? Simple. It's an intervention. If you order a Coors, the bartender will bring you a taster of Mama's Little Yella Pils so that you can compare the two. The goal, of course, is to convince you to switch. It's the first step to better beer drinking.

Not all Mexican-style beers are created equal. And according to the owners of the Del Norte Brewing Company, they don't need no stinkin' limes, neither! To prove it, head to the Del Norte tasting room (call ahead first for hours), where the owners will pop the top on a mass-market Mexican cerveza like Corona so that you can compare it with one of the brewery's own lagers: Mañana, Órale, Cinco or Luminaria. The difference will be claro.

Denver is overflowing with wine bars — but when Cellar Wine Bar opened last year, it proved that there's always room for one more. If it's as good as this place, at least. Cellar Wine Bar, tucked into a cool, minimalist space in a triangle-shaped building at the edge of LoHi, has the feel of a favorite New York City enoteca. But you'll soon remember that you're in Denver, thanks to CWB's relaxed, welcoming vibe. Sommelier Evan Williams greets you with near-giddy excitement; he's quick to offer both a generous tasting pour and thoughtful recommendations. The bar serves up a mouth-watering 52 wines by the glass, along with particularly intriguing flights; oenophiles will swoon for sips from lesser-known producers. And in keeping it real with true wine bar credo, CWB's menu is minimal — designed with the perfect assortment of meats, tapas and artisan cheeses to keep you just sober enough to drink more wine.

Molly Martin

Vine Street Pub serves good bar food alongside its line of tapped craft beers, but its chicken wings fly right up to great. Fat with tender, moist meat, they're crisped in a fryer until crackly, then slathered in lip-stingingly spicy hot sauce or honeyed barbecue sauce. The steamy wings come by the glistening dozen or half-dozen, piled high on a plate with a ramekin of sharp, chunky blue-cheese dressing and a couple stalks of celery. They're so good it's impossible not to lick the bones — or your fingers — completely clean.

Samantha Baker

You'll laugh, you'll cry. But mostly you'll cry. Ask the server at Oskar Blues Home Made Liquids & Solids to "weaponize" your order, and she'll bring you two pounds of wings made with ghost peppers — 200 times more fiery than jalapeños, and the hottest chiles in the world. You'll also get carrots, celery, one delicious beer and no napkins. Finish all of it within ten minutes and the wings, the beer and the glory are all free. You also get a free T-shirt and a glass of milk — although neither of those things will be of much help the next day.

Mark Manger

Xiao long bao, or soup dumplings, originated in Shanghai but became so much a part of Taiwan's cuisine that the most famous version in the world is made at a Taipei-based restaurant chain called Din Tai Fung. Dumpling connoisseurs on both sides of the Pacific spend plenty of time debating what makes a great soup dumpling, analyzing everything from the number of tiny folds that artfully close the dough over the contents to the best source of gelatin for the broth. But there's no debating the best soup dumplings in Denver: They're served at a tiny Taiwanese joint on Federal, Lao Wang Noodle House, where doughy rice wrappers encapsulating peppery pork meatballs and pungent broth are served ten to a steamer. Mouth-wateringly succulent, they're best consumed by biting the wrapper and sipping the soup out before consuming the rest. Shoving the entire dumpling in your mouth guarantees you'll scald your tongue.

The Double Rainbow YouTube video that went viral last year was so inspiring to Jason Yester of Trinity Brewing in Colorado Springs that he and his team decided to brew a beer with Black Fox Brewing that was based on the colors of the rainbow. So intense! Double Rainbow Collaborative Saison included ingredients like turmeric, parsley, agave nectar, pumpkin and rosehips. It's enough to make you cry with joy.

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