Thank Sool Pocha
Mark Antonation

In an age when dining out is serious business and frequenting restaurants is your patriotic duty, settling down for a meal at Thank Sool Pocha is just plain fun. The place is hopping, with families speaking Korean and English while digging in during the early evening hours before being supplanted by groups of all ages focused on knocking back tiny glasses of soju. There are dishes for adventurous eaters (steamed sea snails and cow-stomach barbecue) as well as those who aren't so interested in investigating intestines as food (mix-your-own rice balls, kimchi pancakes and Korean fried chicken). All of it is served in a lively, convivial atmosphere that's so comfortable you'll feel like a treasured regular by the time your check arrives.

The Porklet
Mark Antonation

The Porklet, with its adorable porcupine logo, is so named because pork cutlets are the specialty, jacketed in an almost painfully crunchy breadcrumb shell and dripping juice with each bite. But you'll also find two kinds of fried chicken on the menu at this little joint that's small on space but big on flavor. There's a chicken version of the house cutlet, called the Chicklet, of course, served sliced and presented on a wire rack to keep the bottom as crackly as the top, but there are also meaty wings that somehow manage to maintain their crunch beneath a sticky layer of sauce. Choose from sweet honey butter, tangy Buffalo, savory Garlic Bomb or the messiest of them all, the Black & White BBQ. It's okay to make a pig of yourself with fried chicken this good.

Tikka & Grill
Molly Martin

Many Americans are stuck in a rut when it comes to Indian food, and if chicken tikka masala and saag paneer are as adventurous as you want to get, Tikka & Grill's takes are exemplary, full of fragrant spices and depth. But you can also dig further into Indian — and Nepali — cuisine here. The street-food section of the menu offers the chance to snack with a newfound appreciation for the textures and bright, fresh flavor of items like bhel puri. Momo, Nepali dumplings, are a draw as well, along with a slew of curries and other dishes that will expand your taste horizons.

If you didn't grow up in a South Asian household, you may not be familiar with the wonders of Indian grocery stores. K Indian Grocery can fix that. It's only been around about a year, but it has become a staple for Indian and Nepali specialty goods, and is one of the rare Indian grocers on the west side of Denver. From fresh produce and bulk dry goods to frozen momo (for which there is a months-long waiting list), this place has all the South Asian goodies you didn't know you needed. Pro tip: Once you see how affordable it is to get herbs and spices in bulk here, you will never spend $15 on another tiny jar from the grocery store.

1422 West 104th Avenue, Northglenn
720-524-4967
k-indian-grocery.business.site

Best Central/South American Restaurant (Not Mexican)

Los Cabos

Los Cabos II
Eric Gruneisen

The longest-running Peruvian restaurant not just in Denver, but perhaps all of Colorado, Los Cabos has been open for over thirty years. Although it recently saw a passing of the baton from founder and pioneer Francesca Ruiz to Noel Plasencia and Lisa Nique, the duo behind Kero Peruvian Food in Aurora, it remains a destination for "puro Peru," or pure Peru, which the original owners adopted as a mantra. From the Peruvian rotisserie chicken to parihuela, a Peruvian bouillabaisse, Los Cabos dishes up specialties that are hard — or maybe impossible — to find anywhere else in the city.

Cafe Brazil
Summer Powell

While Cafe Brazil has been a haven for Mediterranean-inflected South American cuisine for more than thirty years, it’s also a prime destination for anyone avoiding gluten. According to owner Tony Zarlenga, 98 percent of the menu is gluten-free — meaning the wheat-averse can tuck into slow-roasted meats, baked sweet plantains and satisfying seafood stews, like the coconut milk-enriched moqueca de peixe, loaded with large prawns, bacalhau and sea scallops and infused with dendê oil. Wash it all down with a rum flight or a pour of cachaça from the bar and forget all about the bland, gluten-free pastas and rubbery gluten-free breads of meals past.

Brasserie Brixton
Molly Martin

Decidedly un-stuffy, with a fun, modern take on French cuisine, Brasserie Brixton opened in the summer of 2020 as one of the most exciting new additions to Denver's culinary scene. But then pandemic restrictions put a damper on the party, and the restaurant temporarily converted into a pizzeria in order to survive. Now it's back to doing what it does best: offering dishes like steak tartare with truffled egg jam, and duck with radish cake, alongside natural wines and low-key, neighborhood-eatery vibes.

French 75
Bonanno Concepts

When French 75 originally opened in 2017, it was a pretty classic take on a French brasserie, but with its 2021 reboot following an eighteen-month pandemic-related closure, it feels like a completely different place. The decor didn’t change, but the energy and menu sure did. Some former staples remain, but they're offered in a new and improved way — like the French dip now served on a soft roll baked by Milk Market's LoDough Bakery. And it now has a roster of unexpected additions, including the lobster ramen that gained a cult following at Frank Bonanno's now-closed Bones; pork dumplings served in a gochujang butter; an eclectic playlist; and $1 pours of Prosecco flowing during happy hour.

Spuntino
Danielle Lirette

Dining at Spuntino is like poetry. In fact, Elliot Strathmann, who owns the restaurant with his wife, chef Cindhura Reddy, composes playful poems about Spuntino's new dishes that he shares on Instagram. The couple has been running the intimate eatery since 2014, and managed to keep every employee working through the pandemic — quite a feat in an era of mass layoffs. Here, hand-rolled pastas and braised meats are the stars, and Colorado-raised goat and creamy arancini have become signature items. At the bar, Strathmann has amassed a collection of Italian amari (some of which he makes himself) that give diners one more reason to linger.

Restaurant Olivia
Joni Schrantz

Pasta perfection: That's what you'll find at this Washington Park restaurant from the culinary dream team of Heather Morrison (front-of-house hospitality expert), Austin Carson (who heads up the bar) and pasta-making pro Ty Leon. Olivia opened in January 2020 — terrible timing for a fine-dining establishment. But it made it through the pandemic one lasagna to-go at a time, and now it's back to focusing on what it does best — which includes Leon in the kitchen folding pasta into intricate shapes for your wonder and amusement.

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