Best Dim Sum 2013 | Super Star Asian | Best of Denver® | Best Restaurants, Bars, Clubs, Music and Stores in Denver | Westword
Cassandra Kotnik

Super Star Asian nearly doubled in size last year, but securing a table here — especially on the weekends, when hunger-pained customers line up like dominoes to get their dim sum fix — is never easy. An eclectic mix of Asian families, American groups, couples and intrepid stalwarts with massive hangovers scramble for tables in the chaotic crowd of faces, most of which are buried in bamboo steamers filled with everything from divine shrimp-and-chive dumplings to pudgy lotus-leaf wraps. The dim sum dishes are all wheeled around on darting carts, pushed by solicitous servers who aren't shy about encouraging you to take one of everything. And so you should: Even the chicken feet fly right. Just make sure to hold on to your seat, because the unending stream of cranky customers who want it aren't afraid to stand at your feet and stare you down.

Denver has many restaurants that pimp class and sass, but sometimes nothing soothes the soul like cheap breakfasts with buttery hash browns slapped on the flattop, sandwiches stacked the height of Gary Coleman, pancakes that span the plate and unlimited jolts of java. For all of that and more, there's nowhere better than 20th Street Cafe, an iconic pit stop that opens at daylight and continues plying patrons with throwback eats through the bustling lunch hour. It's a salt-of-the-earth greasy spoon, as every true diner should be, holding down this particular spot of downtown for decades before LoDo even came into being.

Linnea Covington
Combination banh mi from New Saigon Bakery & Deli.

The Vietnamese bakery and deli that New Saigon opened last year locks its doors at 4 p.m., so you'll need to plan ahead. But you can order two banh mi sandwiches and get change back from a ten — so holding onto them until dinner is mostly a matter of self-control. Then, when the moment strikes, that crusty baguette — the freshest in town — filled with crunchy vegetables, pungent cilantro and your choice of marinated, grilled or cured meats will disappear like a guinea pig confronted by a python. The second sandwich is clearly too much food, but saving it for later just means thinking about nothing but banh mi until then. Besides, order two and you'll be able to try more of the meat fillings, which include sweet, fatty pork belly; barbecued beef; grilled chicken; even sardines. You'll only break between bites to quench the fire from the raw slices of jalapeño. And at this price, getting a boba smoothie to do that job won't break the bank.

Molly Martin

Dive bars are drying up in Denver, swept away by tides of development. We've lost many of this city's old saloons over the last few years, which makes the survival of Carioca Cafe — better known as Bar Bar — something to celebrate. Perhaps with a drink or ten. It's fascinating to watch how the clientele at this spot at the edge of downtown changes over the course of a day (and three happy hours). Get there at noon and you can grab a cup of coffee and reading material — or just study some of Denver's finest barflies, a few of whom might have been there since the doors opened at 7 a.m. As the hour gets later, an assortment of hipsters, punks and rockers mixes in with those barflies, the live music starts, and the next thing you know, it's last call. Dive, he said.

It's good to be king, and Falling Rock Tap House has ruled this city's craft beer scene since owner Chris Black opened the place sixteen years ago, serving rare beers from sought-after breweries all over Colorado, across the country and even overseas. If Falling Rock doesn't have the beer you're looking for, it's probably not possible to get it in Colorado. You might have a hard time making a decision when you're staring at eighty taps, so you'll want to take a peek at the frequently updated beer menu before you hit up the bartender for advice. Still, half the fun is trying something you've never heard of. Go ahead, take a sip.

Cassandra Kotnik

Nothing says breakfast (or brunch) better than a plate of eggs Benedict, and no one does them better than Devil's Food, a diabolical morning powerhouse in Washington Park, where the kitchen cooks up a trio of these morning glories: one with ham, another crowned with fresh spinach and ripe tomatoes, and a third slapped with smoked salmon and arugula. Each version boasts two wiggly, jiggly poached eggs plopped atop fresh challah and draped with a lemon-smooched Hollandaise that raises the dead like the morning sun.

Maureen Witten

You'll know you're in the right place when you see the red, green and yellow stripes of the Ethiopian flag lining the windows of this nondescript storefront. Nile Ethiopian's dining room may be run down, and service can be slow, but decor and service aren't the things that families and friends, many speaking African languages, look for here. They come for chicken wot, a thick stew of red peppers, onions and nutmeg with a drumstick and hard-boiled egg; zilzil tibs, chewy strips of sautéed beef; and a vegetarian combo with carrots, potatoes, lentils and the popular berbere-spiced chickpea dish known as shiro wat. Food is served on platter-sized rounds of sour, spongy injera bread, edges folded up like a galette, with more injera on the side so there's plenty to scoop up the often searing food.

At restaurants across town, it's not hard to rack up a big bill: Those small plates add up, and one steakhouse slab can carve out a day's pay. But if the sky — or at least your card's credit — is the limit, you're looking not just for fabulous food, but impeccable service and an upscale ambience to match. And for that, you're not going to do any better than Restaurant Kevin Taylor, the restaurant tucked into a corner of Hotel Teatro, and overseen by Kevin Taylor. The space is intimate and elegant but not overbearing, the service attentive but not obsequious, the wine list comprehensive and the food absolutely stunning. Your bill will be, too.

Root Down Instagram

On the first Tuesday of every month, Daniel Asher, the kitchen magician at Root Down and a certified raw-foods chef, sets out to prove that a plant-based diet is anything but banal or boring, and he succeeds beautifully, turning out vibrant raw vegan dishes, all of which are organically sourced. His hummus is a showstopper, his squash pasta a mind-altering experience — the cashew cream sauce an impossibly perfect substitute for dairy — and the way he treats and prepares his vegetables is nothing short of miraculous. It's cooking steeped in consciousness, but it's also cooking that even a carnivore would crave.

First dates can be make it/break it propositions — and there are rules for getting it right, including minding your manners, wearing the right shoes, forgoing the offensive cologne, covering your private parts with clean underwear and making sure that your socks match. Beyond those, you don't want to be too frugal, nor do you want to come across as one of those flashy types who tosses money around like it's raining gold coins. So it's also important to find the correct place for a first-date outing: a place that has an appropriate energy level, atmospheric tunes, flattering lighting, an exceptionally good menu that accommodates both weird eaters and bona fide gastronauts, down-the-middle prices and plenty of liquid assets. Jonesy's EatBar fulfills all of these requirements, and it scores even higher on the first-date barometer because it's right next door to the Horseshoe Lounge, where, if things go smoothly, you and your date can get down and dirty. And even if the date completely sucks, Jonesy's is the kind of place that you'll want to return to with friends.

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