Best Vietnamese Hot Pot 2012 | DaLat | Best of Denver® | Best Restaurants, Bars, Clubs, Music and Stores in Denver | Westword

It's no secret that some of the best cooking in town happens on Federal Boulevard, Denver's melting pot of noodles and pho, street tacos and salsas, dim sum and durian. If you aren't willing to duck into a seedy taqueria that's roosting next to a foot massage parlor, or a restaurant adjacent to a liquor store that reeks of stale cigarettes, then you're going to miss out on on some special dishes — including the seafood hot pot at DaLat. This Vietnamese spot has a behemoth menu — make that menus — that can make ordering a challenge, if only because there are so many dishes that beg for your attention. Still, while the pages go on...and on...and on, it's rare that we make it past the hot pot, a seething ocean of broth bubbling with crushed chiles, perfectly cooked seafood, crisp vegetables and astringent Vietnamese basil, one of the most herbaceous scents in the universe.

Saigon Bowl has held down its spot in the Far East Center for more than fifteen years, but it would probably take a lifetime to eat your way through its extensive menu. The kitchen cooks up a vast array of bun and worthy, consistent pho, but it also turns out stir-fried frog's legs, jellyfish salad, lobster tail, a variety of traditional fish preparations — including one stewed for hours in a clay pot — and a particularly excellent seafood soup, served in a flame-shooting pot. The specialty, though, is the restaurant's appetizer combo, a platter piled high with soft-shelled crab, egg rolls, grilled pork and shrimp paste served with a stack of rice papers and a mélange of produce so you can create your own rolls.

Readers' Choice: New Saigon

Hunter Stevens

When we've maxed out our meat quota, the kitchen at City, O' City, one of Denver's few vegetarian restaurants, does a body good, especially at breakfast time. We're bewitched by the joint's savory waffle, a gluten-free marvel made with potato starch and tapioca flour, that's pelted with zucchini, flax seeds and carrots. Ringed with a creamy garlic-and-shallot-scented Taleggio sauce that's richer than Oprah, and topped with a crop of roasted root vegetables — and an egg if you want it — this is the waffle to beat.

If you've ever cooked with store-bought seitan, you know how slimy and downright unappetizing the stuff can be. And while making your own seitan is a relatively easy process, it's tedious and time-consuming. But now Denver Seitan Company has packaged the convenience of store-bought seitan with the taste of the homemade stuff — and the result will have even your carnivore friends drooling. Cooked up weekly in Chickenesque, SmokySpicy, Sicilian and Sureizo varieties, this seitan is delivered to two designated pickup locations in Wash Park and Capitol Hill — and you get discounts if you purchase a membership. When it comes to wheat meat, there's nothing like DSC seitan.

We've visited a lot of wine bars in our time, and despite the fact that we should be their ideal customer — we're obsessed with wine! We have an insatiable thirst! — more often than not we end up disappointed rather than delighted. But that's never the case at Cellar Wine Bar, which is an incredibly comfortable spot with an amazing array of wine. Walking through the front door, you're greeted like family by one of Denver's most passionate wine purveyors, Evan Williams, who practically glows with giddiness over the latest cool pick he can't wait to pour you. And you might be tempted to simply let him choose, because all of the Cellar's ten wine flights look ridiculously good. And then there are the possibilities available by the glass — more than fifty vintages. As Cellar approaches its second birthday, we're starting to suspect that just like a great bottle, this wine bar will only get better with age.

Readers' Choice: Cru Wine Bar

Mark Manger

We fell head over heels in love with Row 14's wine list the first time we laid eyes on it. Curated with a heady mix of precision, nuance and a food-focused viewpoint by owner David Schneider, this list reads like a wine geek's all-star lineup of fantasy bottles, and is definitely edgier than other rosters in this city — edgier, but not unapproachable. Oenophile-worthy bottles of chenin blanc and grüner veltliner cuddle up to familiar pinot grigio; varietal cab franc and carmenère share space with pinots from around the globe. But what truly makes this list so sublime is its ongoing, wholehearted dedication to repping the entire wide world of wine — and that includes paying respect via its "Colorado Proud" flight to some of the best bottles to be found right here in our own back yard.

Though sports bars the world over serve up chicken wings, it's surprisingly difficult to find good ones: If they're not limp and soggy after being tossed in the fryer straight out of the freezer bag, they're smothered in some creative sauce that's no improvement on the original. But at Vine Street Pub, the chicken wings really soar. Large and meaty, the bone-in bits of bird are fried until the skin is crispy and the flesh juicy, then served piping hot, six to an order. Though you can opt for a sweet, sticky barbecue sauce, our favorite slather is the traditional, lip-stinging red hot, well-paired with a cooling side of ranch or chunky blue cheese dressing.

Readers' Choice: Quaker Steak and Lube

Making soup dumplings — especially really good soup dumplings — is a craft, and world-class dumpling-makers even fight over the correct number of folds required for the top of each bun. Tao Tao Noodle Bar goes with eighteen. But consuming soup dumplings is also something of an art, especially at Tao Tao, where we want to start shoving the little morsels in our mouths the second they hit the table, burning our esophagi to a crisp. Instead, we wait for the right moment, when we pluck a dumpling by its twist so that none of the liquid can escape, put it in a spoon with a little pepper and vinegar, then nibble a hole in the side so that the soup gushes out of the wrapper and into the spoon, creating a tart, pungent, garlicky broth that warms our hearts and souls. When we've sucked that down, we pop the doughy wrap in our mouths and savor the herb-flecked, ground-pork meatball inside. And then we do it again and again and again.

The raw material is locally sourced, with milk from grass-fed cows at the historic Morning Fresh Dairy Farm in Bellvue. The recipe (and the owners) come from a little burg in Queensland, Australia, called Noosa. The result is a creamy, full-bodied yogurt that's neither as sour as the Greek version nor as insipidly sweet as the American — and so tasty that it's hard to believe it's good for you. Available at small and large grocers, in blueberry, mango, raspberry, honey, peach and strawberry rhubarb.

The Pinche Taqueria cocktail list is downright cheeky. The tequila- and whiskey-focused back bar serves up clever twists on classic Mexican cocktails, as well as wondrous new concoctions. But before the bar ventured off into wordplay and wacky flavors, it worked hard to make sure that it had nailed its house margarita, which also happens to be the only margarita the place makes. The classic blend of tequila and Cointreau and plenty of mouth-puckering lime juice is sweetened with a squirt of simple syrup. Whether you like it with or without salt, these margs are just about perfect, and they go down easily. So easily, in fact, that our only gripe is that you can't order them by the pitcher.

Readers' Choice: Rio Grande

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