Best Wishes for a Speedy Recovery 2022 | King of Wings | Best of Denver® | Best Restaurants, Bars, Clubs, Music and Stores in Denver | Westword
Linnea Covington

The slow-cooked, grilled wings at King of Wings definitely live up to the name of the place, but the business itself has had a rough go. Two friends with no prior restaurant experience started it as a food truck before opening a brick-and-mortar location in June 2020, in the midst of pandemic uncertainty. Then, as it was gaining momentum, a December kitchen fire forced King of Wings to close. The restaurant is planning a comeback, but in the meantime, owners Eddie Renshaw and Evan Pierce have let other small businesses hold pop-ups in the space.

Molly Martin

This soul-food spot is a hidden gem tucked a block off Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard. The outside may not look particularly welcoming, with its caged-in windows and barred door, but you'll find a comforting vibe (and a bar) inside, along with a menu full of comfort-food classics including — as the name suggests — chicken. And, oh, what glorious chicken it is, fried to order and seasoned to perfection, with a thin but crispy coating giving way to moist meat underneath. Pair it with sides like mac and cheese or slow-cooked collards with shreds of ham hock for a home-style Southern feast with plenty of friendly hospitality thrown in.

Chef Merlin Verrier has experience in Michelin-star fine dining, but when it came time to open his own concept, he opted to create a funky, vibrant spot that specializes in the world's street food. Street Feud got its start at Avanti and later moved into Number Thirty Eight in RiNo, but in late 2021, Verrier finally found the right spot to open his own place, covering the walls in DIY collages and street art. Like a mixtape, the menu is loaded with hits, but the French fries stand out thanks to an extra coating of potato starch that makes them extra crispy (while remaining gluten-free) — even when you opt for toppings like braised lamb and curry aioli or crispy pork belly, kimchi and cheese sauce.

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.

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