Best Pho 2017 | Pho 79 | Best of Denver® | Best Restaurants, Bars, Clubs, Music and Stores in Denver | Westword

You never forget your first love, and Pho 79 was one of our first deep dives into the world of pho. Back then (before years began with a 2), the noodle house was just a hole in the wall with a few booths and wall murals, but over the decades, Pho 79 on South Federal has expanded and gained polish suitable to a veteran in the area's pho game. The quality of the broth remains a constant, though, with subtle beef flavor and warming star anise in the background. Pho fans might argue about the benefits of a light and delicate broth versus a richer, heavier soup; here the pot simmers all day so the pho gets more flavorful as the day goes on. It's packed full, too: Pho 79 doesn't skimp on the meat, so there's always plenty of quality steak, brisket, flank and other cuts. A tip from Pho 79 old-timers: Order a salty limeade with your pho for a curiously refreshing beverage that brings out the best in the broth.

Readers' Choice: Pho 95

Mark Antonation

Head for Edgewater if you like your Thai spicy. US Thai Cafe brings the heat with force and flavor, but it's not just a gimmick. Thai chiles enhance and balance massive amounts of other spices — galangal, lemongrass, garlic, kaffir lime leaf and ginger, to name a few. Curries are thick with the pulverized pulp of said seasonings (get the brick-red massaman if you doubt us), while dressings on papaya salads and larb assert themselves with lime and fish sauce. Of course, you needn't destroy your tastebuds to get a taste of great Thai here; just order lower than usual on the sliding scale of heat. Or go all out — and then go jump in a lake. Sloan's Lake, that is.

Readers' Choice: Taste of Thailand

Courtesy Ras Kassa's Ethiopian Restaurant Facebook

For years, Ras Kassa's was the only Ethiopian option for folks in Boulder County — but then the quaint eatery, run by chef Tsehay Hailu, was forced to close in early 2015 because of redevelopment (you can thank the new Google office campus for that). Hailu limped along for more than a year in a temporary location at Boulder's Broker Inn with a takeout-only menu, and while the food was still great, we're glad to see Ras Kassa's settle in at its new permanent home in Lafayette. Customers who've followed Hailu for nearly thirty years can once again enjoy Ethiopian hospitality with honey wine, tangy injera bread and some of the best vegetarian offerings around — no small feat in Boulder County. Meat lovers will also enjoy the spicy kitfo with collard greens, housemade cheese and rich lamb stew. Welcome back, Ras Kassa's.

Readers' Choice: Queen of Sheba

Mark Antonation

As the name of this restaurant suggests, the specialty at Bawarchi Biryani Point is a rice dish called biryani, the pride of Hyderabad, India. While Bawarchi is part of a large chain of restaurants that stretches throughout the U.S., the company's origins are in Hyderabad, and the aromatic rice served at this Centennial outpost will make you forget for just a moment that you're sitting in a strip-mall eatery somewhere southeast of the Denver Tech Center. Goat and chicken biryani both deserve high praise here, but consider adding an order of dosa — giant, crispy crepes filled with your choices of curries — or a bowl of vegetarian malai kofta loaded with pillowy meatless meatballs. The restaurant is usually packed with homesick Hyderabad natives and Centennial residents who have followed their noses to the cloud of spices wafting out the front door, so be patient if you have to wait for a table — you'll be glad you did.

Readers' Choice: Little India

Mark Antonation

The designation "Middle Eastern" is a vague and shifting notion that doesn't exactly encapsulate the spectrum of cuisine cooked from Morocco to Pakistan, from Turkey to eastern Africa. So forgive us if Sudan Cafe doesn't fit neatly into standard notions of where the Middle East begins and ends; you'll understand once you try the kitchen's spice-laden ful — soft-cooked beans served as breakfast with eggs or at lunch on a crusty baguette — or Egyptian-style koshari, a hearty dish of lentils, rice and pasta topped with tomato sauce and onions fried to a crispy dark brown. While the dishes seem new and different, they have familiar flavors and spices, including cumin and garlic; you'll also find lamb and falafel on the menu. But you'll also be reminded of Ethiopian cooking if you order molokhia, a slippery green soup made with jute leaves and served with housemade injera flatbread. Herbed coffee and sweet mint tea are a great finish to a warm and filling meal at this friendly cafe; just leave your map at home.

Readers' Choice: Jerusalem

If the charming dining room of Cafe Marmotte doesn't win you over from the moment you walk in, the creations of chef/co-owner Mark Reggiannini will. The menu is French to the core but displays originality in execution. For example, the French onion soup isn't the standard brown broth topped with soggy toast, but is presented as a light and frothy purée with a single deep-fried square of Gruyère floating on top. Coq au vin is stained deep burgundy from its red-wine bath and sits atop bacon mashed potatoes that somehow remain light and airy. Duck — as breast and confit of leg — comes with tart kumquat jam and berry agrodulce, both of which cut right through the rich duck fat. For a special night out, Marmotte's wine list goes deep, but you can also go cheap if you grab a stool at the four-seater bar; there you'll find coq au vin and a glass of wine for $25 nightly. A great deal? Mais oui!

Readers' Choice: Bistro Vendôme

Molly Martin

When Andrea Frizzi moved Il Posto from its cubby on East 17th Avenue to a sleek bi-level cube in RiNo, we held our breath: Would the new address be a good home for this restaurant's semi-chaotic charm? We needn't have worried. Il Posto 2.0 presents some of the team's best cooking yet, from new meditations on its always-stellar risotti to a masterful pappardelle with pork ragu to a showy and delicious beef tallow candle (impossible at the old address, says Frizzi, because there just wasn't enough space to make candles). And despite its more grown-up vibe, this space is infused with the old Il Posto magic: Frizzi bobs around frenetically kissing the cheeks of friends and strangers alike, wine from an expertly curated list pours freely and easily, and the energy of the kitchen spills out from an open window beneath a sign that suggests sending the cooks a six-pack...of Jack Daniel's. As a bonus, Il Posto now has one of the best tables in Denver, a second-level corner seat that looks out on the Denver skyline. Trying to impress someone? Request it.

Readers' Choice: Gaetano's


They don't make them like they used to — but Lechuga's marches on anyway, an old-school Italian joint where you can order pasta by the bucket and square pizzas (with green-chile strips, like a true Denverite!). Lechuga's is one of the last red-sauce joints left on Denver's Northside, in a section once known as "Little Italy." Newcomers to Denver, please understand that "canoli" means something different here; Lechuga's signature dish isn't a dessert, but rather your choice of a meatball, sausage or sausage-and-jalapeño combo wrapped in dough with a little bit of cheese in the mix, baked and then smothered, if that's how you like it. Make it a meal with the famous "spanoli" plate — two mini canolis and a side of spaghetti. With a $4.95 all-you-can-eat Tuesday night spaghetti special and lunch deals every weekday, Lechuga's is a tasty reminder that here in the Mile High City, we like our Italian food greasy and cheap, served up hot in a place that feels suspended in time.

Readers' Choice: Gaetano's

Best German/Eastern European Restaurant

Rhein Haus

Brandon Marshall

Seattle import Rhein Haus took over the former Old Chicago space in LoDo in late 2015, adding a second floor, beautiful Teutonic bars in dark, ornate woods and indoor bocce for those who can't sit down with their stein of German lager. But you should sit down, whether at the bar or a booth, for a full-on meal of northern European specialties, including a handful of housemade sausages, cheesy spaetzle or the intimidating Schweinschaxe. No, that's not the name of your towering, blond-braided waitress; it's an oven-roasted pork shank the size of your head that even the most robust Gunters and Gretels will have a tough time finishing.

Readers' Choice: Rhein Haus

Antojitos Colombianos Facebook

The tiny Antojitos Colombianos isn't polished or glamorous, but the service is genuine and friendly, and the cheery dining room rings with laughter and the sound of forks hitting plates. Antojitos, the "little desires" of Latin American street food, are the specialty here, from crunchy empanadas to fat arepas to unusual aborrajados oozing hot cheese and guava paste from their deep-fried plantain shells. Go early for pandebonos, perfectly spherical yuca-flour buns with a cheesy surprise inside; return at lunch for a platter of bandeja paisa, loaded with beans, rice, chicharrones, steak, sausage and plantain, that will hold off hunger for the rest of the day. But as soon as a new day dawns, you'll crave another round of these little desires.

Readers' Choice: Cafe Brazil

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