Best New Restaurant 2017 | 12@MADISON | Best of Denver® | Best Restaurants, Bars, Clubs, Music and Stores in Denver | Westword

When twelve shuttered a few years ago and Jeff Osaka went off to pursue casual ventures (Osaka Ramen, Sushi-Rama, Denver Central Market), we weren't sure he'd ever make a return to fine dining. Thank goodness he did, because 12@MADISON offers something this town — well, every town — needs more of. Tucked in the heart of Congress Park, 12@MADISON is that rare blend of impeccable and approachable, making it the perfect neighborhood restaurant. With a menu of small plates clustered in categories — soup/salad, vegetables, pastas, seafood, lighter proteins, heavier meats, etc. — there are a hundred ways to craft a meal, all of them affordable, all of them delicious. One night, you might start with grilled rainbow carrots with labneh and dukkah, a fragrant Egyptian spice blend, before sharing a bowl of curried quinoa congee and short rib raviolo in brodo. Another night, the hamachi with grapefruit and oranges catches your eye, followed by five-spice skirt steak with tatsoi. Menus change with the seasons, so even if these delights are no longer available, whatever you happen to find surely will be, with flavors that are global without being trendy, smart without being pretentious, and seasonal in all the right ways. Wisely structured desserts and a solid bar program — think gin over ice cubes made of beet juice — mean that this neighborhood gem won't stay a secret for long.

Readers' Choice: Avelina

Molly Martin

It's not often that you find the perfect balance of juicy, spicy and salty in a chicken dish, but that's exactly what chef Paul Reilly has created with his pollo allo diavolo. Inspired by a classic recipe from the Lazio region in Italy, each chile-infused, pasture-raised bird is marinated for 24 to 48 hours and then cooked on the restaurant's wood fire grill over Colorado white oak. Don't chicken out: For $21 at lunch or dinner, you can grab a plate (with sides) and renew your love of poultry.

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