Best Corn(flake) Dog 2022 | Ginger Pig | Best of Denver® | Best Restaurants, Bars, Clubs, Music and Stores in Denver | Westword
Molly Martin

There are a lot of reasons to visit Ginger Pig. With no background in the food industry (and prior careers in both sportscasting and law), Natascha Hess started the business as a food truck with the guidance of mentor and Top Chef alum Carrie Baird. In 2020, Hess debuted her brick-and-mortar location, where she cooks food inspired by her time living in China, including menu hits like arancini-like Bangkok Balls, sous-vide char siu and the Korean cornflake dog — real street food-style snacking. A Nathan's all-beef frank (the top dog of hot dog brands) is coated in a yeasty dough, crispy panko breadcrumbs and cornflakes. Served on a stick with a drizzle of ketchup and mustard plus sesame seeds and scallions, it may not be traditional, but it sure is fun to eat.

Molly Martin

How many pickles is too many pickles? At Split Lip, which has found a home inside Number Thirty Eight in RiNo, the limit does not exist. This venture started as a series of pandemic pop-ups from longtime hospitality pros who've now turned to creating a menu of crave-worthy, hyper-regional dishes full-time. While Split Lip offers several burger options, the Mississippi Slug Burger was the OG fan favorite from its pop-up days and remains a lesson in cheeseburger perfection, dressed simply with American cheese, "sawse" and, yes, a fuck-ton of housemade pickles on a soft sesame seed bun.

Molly Martin

Owner Michelle "Meesh" McGlone and her business partner, Nate Collis, are both from Minnesota (the birthplace of the molten-cheese-stuffed Juicy Lucy), and both have a background in touring — McGlone as an aerialist and Collis as the longtime guitar player for hip-hop group Atmosphere. Now they're putting their energy into this small burger joint that opened in August 2021. Here the cheese spills out in a satisfying river of orange American mixed with beefy juice from the cooked-to-a-perfect-medium-well patty. Red ketchup bottles and baskets of yellow mustard packets are readily available for those who want to add a condiment — but try it without first, in order to get the full impact of the simple yet supremely tasty combination of flavors. Just remember to take one bite, then put it down and nosh on some fries or sip your drink while the hot interior cools to a palatable temperature.

A great veggie burger doesn't have to pretend to be meat (we're looking at you, Impossible and Beyond patties). At So Radish, a plant-based eatery with an '80s video-game theme, the house burger is a quarter-pound housemade black-bean patty served on a wheat bun with lettuce, tomato, red onion, dairy-free American cheese and barbecue sauce. It's tasty enough on its own without any mock-meat gimmicks. So Radish also has a rotating "burger" of the month, so even if you visit often, you can expect fresh flavor options.

Molly Martin

You won't find the words "vegan" or even "plant-based" anywhere at Tricia and Sam Maher's Mediterranean-style eatery (named for lyrics in a Davie Bowie song), which opened in 2019. Instead, you'll find what they call a "vegetable-forward dining experience," with housemade pastas and small plates built without meat, dairy or eggs. In fact, there are no animal products in the building; even the barstools are upholstered with a pineapple-based textile that emulates leather. A solid list of creative cocktails and biodynamic wines, along with a beachy decor, make Somebody People a welcome stop for anybody, and its affordably priced, prix fixe Sunday dinners are a tasty tradition that has thankfully survived the pandemic.

Danielle Lirette

While most barbecue joints in Denver these days specialize in Texas-style ’cue, Roaming Buffalo stands out for rooting itself firmly in Colorado culinary history with pulled lamb, huge bison ribs and venison sausage. It also serves more traditional meats such as pork ribs and brisket, available by the pound, heaped onto sandwiches or on plates, with sides like smoked poblano cheddar mac and Southwest potato salad. While purists may bemoan Roaming Buffalo’s use of pellets, that’s also fitting for Colorado ’cue, as we don’t have a natural supply of hardwoods for smoking — and pellets are more eco-friendly.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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