Megenagna Ethiopian Restaurant and Grocery
Lori Midson

Many of Denver's Ethiopian restaurants are clustered along East Colfax Avenue and down Havana Street, offering long menus and combination platters of vegetable stews and slow-cooked meats heaped atop broad sourdough pancakes called injera. Big dining rooms with stages and room for dancing are common, since many eateries serve as celebration halls for the city's Ethiopian community. Megenagna, tucked into a shopping strip just off Havana, has a slightly different approach, with its concise menu and cozy cafe ambience. But those are also the restaurant's strengths, allowing the kitchen to display mastery of a few specific dishes while guests receive personalized service. The minced beef dish called kitfo is a house specialty and comes in several different forms — even a meatless style prepared with chopped, seasoned collard greens and soft housemade cheese. Relax with a rich cappuccino after a meal before wandering through the attached market for spices, dried beans and other products to take home. Megenagna is an intimate way to experience Ethiopian hospitality.

Readers' Choice: Queen of Sheba Ethiopian Restaurant

Safta
Danielle Lirette

Safta is proof that Middle Eastern restaurants can rise above their strip-mall homes and draw tourists and locals alike looking to spend big money in swanky, modern surroundings. Chef/owner Alon Shaya, coming off a James Beard Award for his work in New Orleans, interprets the Israeli cuisine of his youth for a Denver audience hungry for superlatives in Mediterranean cooking: the fluffiest pita (baked in a wood-fired oven), the creamiest hummus and the crunchiest falafel. "Safta" means grandmother, so the fact that you're smothered in comfort food at this restaurant in the Source Hotel is no surprise — but Shaya also has a way with chef-ier creations built on sea bass, short ribs and lamb shanks, to name a few. Come during the day and fill up on baked goods at the walk-up counter; it's just like stealing warm cookies from Grandma's kitchen table.

Readers' Choice: Jerusalem

Tiffin's India Cafe
Mark Antonation

Rather than running you through the standard rainbow of Indian curries, Tiffin's focuses on the best street-food favorites of South India: paper-thin dosa rolled around generous scoops of masala; doughnut-shaped vada in spicy sauce; stark-white idli dumplings; and fat samosas bulging with vegetable fillings. The stewed vegetarian dishes are amazing — lentils, chickpeas, eggplant and okra, for example — so Tiffin's is a great stop for a light lunch. But meat lovers will also find plenty to love; the lamb biryani and korma are both noteworthy. If you're a Boulder native, you need only follow your nose — and Denver residents shouldn't hesitate to make the drive up, since Indian specialties this good are few and far between.

Readers' Choice: Little India

Mr. Kim Korean BBQ
Laura Shunk

Restaurants that try to do too much often fail at everything, but at Mr. Kim Korean BBQ, nearly every aspect of Korean cuisine presented turns out well. Of course, the barbecue rises above all: Thin-sliced meats — whether beef brisket or tongue, pork belly or bulgogi, seafood or duck — are all quality cuts that come with well-seasoned sauces. But beyond that, every bubbling stone-bowl soup, kimchi pancake or order of dumplings, noodles or rice dishes exhibits freshness and deep flavor. Short of hopping a plane to Seoul, you're unlikely to find this much variety or depth anywhere else. So crack a bottle or two of soju, pour your tablemates a round, and get sizzling!

Readers' Choice: Dae Gee

Taste of Thailand
Mark Antonation

The warm, welcoming Thai restaurant run by Noy and Rick Farrell doesn't feel old or tired, despite 25 years of business, first in a tiny Englewood storefront and then in new digs on South Broadway, where Taste of Thailand moved in 2015. The secret to keeping things fresh is return visits to Thailand, where Noy is from, to bring back recipes and ingredients to add to the already-vibrant menu. The Farrells are also avid home gardeners, so they enhance dishes with herbs and vegetables from their own garden. Summer dishes shine with fresh Colorado produce, and come winter, it's time for the restaurant's famous "flu shot soup."

Readers' Choice: Taste of Thailand

Denver Pho
Mark Antonation

This west-side Vietnamese eatery won't win any awards for its name, which offers few clues about the variety and beauty of the food found within. There's something here for everyone, from first-time noodle slurpers to experienced international travelers to Vietnamese expats looking for a taste of home. While the pho is as good as any you'll find around town, the much longer list of regional specialties is what makes Denver Pho a real find. Many of the dishes hail from Hanoi, in northern Vietnam, or Hue, in its narrow center, so expect a far more diverse range of ingredients and flavors than at your typical pho shop. Little rice or tapioca dumplings steamed in miniature saucers or banana leaves come with shrimp and sausage fillings or crackly dried-shrimp toppings; a steaming bowl of bun bo Hue is pho's more assertive cousin. And bold, pungent dipping sauces give your tastebuds a real workout.

Readers' Choice: New Saigon

Pho Duy
Mark Antonation

Pho Duy is a perennial Vietnamese standby that's been serving Federal Boulevard for decades, and it only gets better with age (maybe it's the seasoning of its pots). Every bowl here is built with an ideal ratio of chewy rice noodles, greens, and bits of meat or offal, and sided with a generous platter of aromatic basil, crisp bean sprouts, lime and jalapeños. What takes the pho here to transcendent, though, is the broth. The murky beef stock is silken from long-simmered bones, and endlessly layered, deeply savory and redolent of five-spice. Its complexity is haunting; you'll always need one more bite to try to pinpoint an elusive and tasty note, which may be why you'll keep coming back for more.

Readers' Choice: Pho 95

In the last decade or so, upcoming Parisian chefs striking out on their own have veered away from formal dining and prescribed menus of classics in favor of hipper enclaves and inventive takes on their inherently locavore cuisine. It's to these restaurants, collectively bundled under the label "bistronomy," that Morin pays homage, even if the restaurant doesn't use the French-invented term. Steeped in seasonal produce and abundant with delightful surprises, the menu takes diners on a playful romp through well-executed bites and indulgent dishes, none of which are quite as straightforward as they 0x000Aseem. Best to surrender your experience to the kitchen via one of the tasting menus — which will be crafted especially for you 0x000Aand different each time you dine. Don't ignore caviar and foie gras supplements (or spring for the apple-shaped foie gras terrine, an Instagram darling) and make sure to add one of the excellent potato-based sides to your main course. Turn over control of your drink pairings to the bar, too: They'll treat you to natural wines, funky ciders, and well-crafted cocktails that match just right.

Readers' Choice: LeRoux

Mama Sannino's
Mark Manger

Over the decades, north Denver has lost dozens of Italian markets, bakeries and restaurants as the families of Italian immigrants who first settled in what's now the Highland, Sunnyside and Berkeley neighborhoods moved west for bigger houses and newer schools — but not too far west. Wheat Ridge became the beneficiary of some of the city's best family recipes, many of which you'll find at Mama Sannino's. While the restaurant isn't that old (opening in 2005 before moving to its current location in 2013), Jimmy and Karen Sannino serve dishes that their family members cooked after arriving in Colorado in the 1950s, both at home and in several north-side eateries, including the long-gone 3 Sons. Smell the red sauce simmering and remember the old days over meatball sandwiches and plates of ravioli and spaghetti. Old Denver lives on in Wheat Ridge.

Readers' Choice: Gaetano's

Ryan Fletter doesn't need to prove himself when it comes to Italian cuisine and wine; he earned a stellar reputation with his first restaurant, Barolo Grill, which he purchased from Blair Taylor years ago. But Chow Morso is a different kind of eatery — a breezy ride with the top down compared to Barolo's chauffeured Rolls-Royce. The food is taken just as seriously at both restaurants, though, even if Chow Morso turns to the streets of Italy for some of its inspiration, from the puffy little balloons called gnocco fritto topped with shaved prosciutto to creamy arancini wearing crackly coats. But hand-rolled pastas, an intriguing wine list that won't break the bank, and warm service that never approaches overbearing take Chow Morso beyond a simple neighborhood spaghetti joint. And, oh, that carbonara!

Readers' Choice: Il Posto

Best Of Denver®

Best Of