Best Diner Makeover 2021 | McCoy's Restaurant | Best of Denver® | Best Restaurants, Bars, Clubs, Music and Stores in Denver | Westword
Mark Antonation

Chef Robert Holloway purchased McCoy's in 2007, at which point the restaurant had already been open for nineteen years. And another thirteen years passed before Holloway decided that the all-night diner needed a major overhaul. So he closed the place down to renovate the kitchen and dining room and reopened in spring 2020, just weeks before COVID restrictions shut things down again. But the eatery was looking spiffy, and Holloway was able to show off the renovations to new customers — although at limited capacity and reduced hours — as restrictions eased. McCoy's still isn't back to 24/7 service, but even the current hours are a blessing for the diner's many regulars.

Chef Zorba's

For more than fifty years, Chef Zorba's has served satisfying Greek and American diner food in Congress Park, offering good value to customers who sometimes come in daily. In 2020, owner Karen LuKanic closed up shop for a few days and remodeled, reopening in the fall with a new walk-up window off the front patio for customers who wanted to enjoy their favorites in the comfort of their own homes. So now you can pre-order the gyro wraps and melts, the avgolemono (chicken, lemon and rice soup), and the breakfast-all-day selections, then pick them up while enjoying the fresh air of the tree-lined neighborhood.

Misfit Snackbar

Chef Bo Porytko took over the kitchen at Middleman in late 2019 to bolster the cocktail menu with a few "snacks." But leave it to this chef — who was previously half of Rebel Restaurant — to turn bar snacks into a wide and wild array of unique and tempting creations fit for a multi-course tasting dinner. And when Porytko's not cooking up things like andouille Scotch eggs with crawfish étouffée or burnt leek chawanmushi with crab salad, he's bringing in his chef friends for pop-ups at his pop-up. The inspiration for the dishes comes from typical bar-room popcorn, chips and dip, burgers and chicken sandwiches (all reimagained, of course), but there are also Korean, Japanese, Italian, French and even Ukrainian touches in both small and large plates. Snacks will never be the same again.

Mark Antonation

What better way to repurpose a former Winchell's building than by turning it into...another doughnut shop? Veteran doughnut baker Juan Lopez bought the Winchell's franchise in 2019 with the understanding that he'd be converting it into an independent bakery the next year. In July 2020, he officially launched Wake & Bake with his own recipes, turning out a variety of classic, workingman's doughnuts morning, noon and night. You'll find a few nods to modern trends (some Oreo crumbles here, some bacon there), but old favorites like the buttermilk bars, raised maple doughnuts and cinnamon crumb cake doughnuts are so good, they taste like a revelation.

Tori Buehner

Maybe naming your doughnut business after a worldwide airborne disease is a little irreverent, but Pandemic Donuts was born of the difficult times created by COVID-19 and the ensuing restaurant restrictions. Gabrielle Henning and Michael Milton were laid off from their restaurant-industry jobs when the pandemic hit in March 2020, so they turned to doughnuts cooked up in their cottage-industry kitchen to make ends meet. And the doughnuts, so light and airy that you can eat several, were so good that the two couldn't keep up with demand. Now they have their own brick-and-mortar bakery inside Queen City Collective Coffee in Five Points, and the doughnuts are flying out the door. This business is ready to keep rolling after the pandemic finally ends.

Mark Antonation

Mochi is a traditional Japanese paste made from pounded rice or rice flour. You can eat it plain or as a wrapper around a sweet center — or you can visit Third Culture and try the toothsome mochi muffins and doughnuts sold by co-owners Sam Butarbutar and Wenter Shyu. All of the shop's flavors are made from scratch using fresh ingredients such as black sesame seeds, lychee, mango, matcha green tea and purple ube yams. Don't leave without an iced matcha latte to complete the collision of Japanese and Southeast Asian tastes and cultures.

Courtesy of Cabrona Coffee

During the pandemic, Monica Villalobos had to shift gears on her plans to open a standalone coffeehouse, and instead launched Cabrona Coffee inside Cultura Craft Chocolate, joining the RISE Westwood collective and providing distinctive Mexican drinks alongside the chocolate being made by Damaris Ronkanen. In addition to the standard lineup of cappuccinos, lattes and other espresso drinks, Cabrona offers café de olla, Mexican coffee steeped with cinnamon, piloncillo sugar and other spices to create a warming, comforting drink perfect for sun-drenched Colorado mornings. Villalobos also makes her own horchata from scratch as well as Mexican cocoa, cajeta lattes and a sweet and nutty mazapan latte created with De La Rosa mazapan, a childhood favorite of many Westwood residents.

Mark Antonation

Baker Andy Clark's expertise with naturally leavened breads, airy croissants, buttery kouign amann and other wonderful pastries has become legendary in Boulder County, but Moxie Bread Co. doesn't just sell baked goods. You can purchase the house-milled flour that the bakery uses, or you can just stop in for coffee, sandwiches and snacks — all made with the same artisan skill and attention to detail. Moxie's popularity quickly spread beyond Louisville, so the bakery added a second location at 4593 Broadway in Boulder and is working on a Lyons outpost, as well.

Best Reason to Wake Up Early on the Weekend

Bakery Four

Shawn Bergin

Shawn Bergin's tiny sourdough bakery is only open from 8 a.m. to whenever the goods sell out on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, so a line often forms before 7:30 on those mornings. Neighbors appear quickly to abscond with rustic country loaves, delicate croissants, decadent morning buns and whatever else Bergin is baking that day. So showing up early is key, and you can also grab a cup of coffee once you're in the door. Bakery Four expects to add Thursdays soon, and later this year, Bergin is making the move to a bigger space on Tennyson Street to share the love with more of Denver.

Mark Antonation

This Armenian bakery offers a full range of pastries, cakes, breads and deli products, so you'll find traditional barbari and matnakash breads along with pans of savory manti dumplings. But you don't want to leave House of Bread without ordering a few lahmajun, small flatbreads topped with finely ground beef, or the ajarski, a canoe-shaped bread filled with cheese and eggs in its hollow center. These have their origin as khachapuri in Georgia, but there are several styles of khachapuri, including a flaky, cheese-filled turnover that House of Bread also makes. For a full meal (as if you won't stuff yourself on ajaruli!), there are several kinds of kabobs; just be sure to order them at least two hours in advance.

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