Plates by the Pound
Plates by the Pound BBQ/Instagram

With encouragement from his wife, Sherrita, Aaron Gonerway started selling barbecue out of his home during the pandemic and quickly gained a following for his plates piled with ribs, pulled pork, chicken and more. A grant from Kingsford Charcoal's inaugural Preserve the Pit program helped Gonerway fund the opening of a takeout spot, where he serves up 'cue on Saturdays starting at 11 a.m. until it sells out.

Best Barbecue Food Truck
Molly Martin

Mandolin-playing pitmaster Alejandro Barbosa moved to Denver in December 2019 after gaining a following in Baton Rouge with his barbecue pop-ups business venture. Now he's on a similar path in the Mile High, serving up meats cooked over live fire from his food truck, which regularly rolls up at places like Banded Oak Brewing, Zuni Street Brewing and music festivals. Along with smoked meats available on sandwiches and by the pound, look for such specials as beef cheek barbacoa tacos, wings, pozole, gumbo and more.

barbosasbarbeque.com
NOLA Voodoo Tavern and Perks

Mardi Gras happens every night at Henry Batiste's New Orleans-themed bar and eatery. Beads and masks adorn the walls, fleurs-de-lis decorate the bar top, and housemade pickle shots pour freely alongside pints of Abita beer. Batiste was born and raised in the Big Easy, and he ran restaurants there before moving to Colorado. That's why you can trust the tavern to serve up rib-sticking gumbo, rich crawfish étouffée and the best red beans and rice (with real red beans, not inferior kidney beans) outside of Louisiana. You can even get those sausage-studded beans atop fries, if you don't mind straying from tradition a little. NOLA Voodoo Lounge is a Creole dream for Southern-fried fare (don't skip the alligator!) and bons temps.

Konjo Ethiopian Food
Michael Emery Hecker

For years, Denver's best Ethiopian restaurants have been clustered along a slightly dilapidated stretch of East Colfax Avenue, or even farther east in Aurora. Now west-siders can finally get the same quality of Ethiopian fare without the trek. Konjo is nestled inside Edgewater Public Marketplace, and the counter-service setup means you'll be able to load up in mere minutes on tangy, springy injera flatbread (a gluten-free version is available, too); succulent beef, chicken and lamb tibs imbued with the flavors of niter kibbeh (a spiced, clarified butter); and vegan sides including a knock-your-socks-off misir wot seasoned with the perfect jolt of berbere. That's a vast improvement over the extended wait you'd face in some sit-down spots — though if you decide to linger over your meal, it certainly won't be a hardship, thanks to Edgewater's other offerings: people-watching and a roster of excellent drinks from Roger's Liquid Oasis, the food hall's bar.

Three Saints Revival
Molly Martin

Walking into Three Saints Revival, which opened in November 2021, feels like stepping into a dream, with its pink-hued design scheme and whimsical touches. But even if you're eating with your eyes closed, executive chef John Broening's tapas-heavy menu, which pulls influences from all over the Mediterranean, is stellar. Dishes like patatas bravas, creamy croquettas and shrimp and chorizo swimming in a broth so good you'll sop up every last bit are executed with restrained simplicity. The beverage program, which includes cocktails made with ingredients like drinking yogurt and Aleppo pepper and wines from various regions in the Mediterranean (which even beginners can explore easily, thanks to the map on the menu), is the perfect complement.

Best Syrian Shawarma
Molly Martin

You won't find the Syrian shawarma listed on the online menu for this no-frills strip-mall spot. The offerings there include standard Greek and Mediterranean options like kabobs, hummus and falafel on a typical round, slightly thick pita. A laminated card on the counter is the only sign that shawarma is an option at Gyros Town, but despite its low-key billing, it's a thing of beauty. Available in beef or chicken, it comes tightly wrapped in a much thinner, almost flaky oblong-shaped flatbread loaded with toum (a garlicky condiment), hummus, pickles and tomatoes. Sliced into enough pieces to share (though you won't want to) and served with fries or a sumac-dusted salad, it's a top-notch meal at a budget-friendly price.

gyrostownrestaurant.com
Best Hummus and Pita
Danielle Lirette

Alon Shaya's Safta, which means "grandmother" in Hebrew, has been considered one of the best restaurants in the city since it debuted at the Source Hotel in 2018. The chef/restaurateur's first eatery outside of Louisiana is inspired by his grandmother's recipes and the cuisine of Israel, where he was born. While it's nearly impossible to find a miss on the menu, the biggest hit remains the pita and hummus. The bread is pulled from a wood-burning oven and arrives hot, puffed and slightly sour from its 100-year-old starter. The only thing better than ripping off a piece and dipping it in za'atar-spiced olive oil is pairing it with Safta's impossibly smooth hummus, available in several styles including one topped with a savory, slow-cooked lamb ragu.

Farmhouse Thai Eatery
Mark Antonation

Freshness and balance are the keys to great Thai cuisine, and this low-key Lakewood eatery, which opened in 2019, serves up both — though not from a voluminous menu. Instead, it offers a smart selection of house specials bold with herbs, spices and other imported ingredients, such as the Floating Market noodle soup with its rich, brown broth, and northern Thai kao soi that balances sweet coconut milk with complex curry and has both soft and crispy noodles. The standards, from pad thai to pineapple fried rice, are solid, but order something new to you for a truly transportive experience.

Kiki's Japanese Casual Dining
Molly Martin

Filled with knickknacks, Kiki's is cluttered in the way your favorite aunt's house might be — but that just adds to the homey vibes of this casual, under-the-radar eatery that specializes in authentic country-style Japanese food. There is an entire ramen menu to explore as well as sushi offerings, but Kiki's also serves up dishes like agedashi tofu, karaage (Japanese fried chicken), takoyaki (fried balls made with wheat batter and octopus), tonkatsu (pork cutlet) and a lineup of noodle dishes.

Best Sushi
Stephen Werk/Werk Creative

When the pioneers of Denver's sushi scene open a new restaurant, it's something to see — and Temaki Den, from the team behind Sushi Den, is certainly worthy of a closer look. This sleek sushi bar inside the Source has quickly gained a reputation that lives up to its much older sibling's legacy. It specializes in aburi, or flame-seared sushi, and hand rolls (temaki) assembled in front of diners who are instructed to eat quickly and efficiently so as not to upset the delicate balance of the perfect bite — crispy nori, warm rice and cool fish. Although the bar setup has limited seating, Temaki has an expansion in the works, so that more people can soon get a taste of its standout sushi.

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