Best New Restaurant 2023 | Noisette | Best of Denver® | Best Restaurants, Bars, Clubs, Music and Stores in Denver | Westword

An elegant French eatery could easily feel out of place in Denver, a city that happily embraces a decidedly laid-back lifestyle. But Noisette fits right in while also raising the bar when it comes to ambience, service and fine-dining fare. Tim and Lillian Lu, who both graduated from the French Culinary Institute in New York, opened the restaurant in August 2022 in a revamped space that's definitely upscale, but not in a stiff, white-tablecloth kind of way. The white decor with pops of pastel and a mix of modern and vintage is inviting and transportive. Small vases of flowers on each table add a romantic touch, as do the mismatched flatware and floral antique plates. The menu is an elevated take on cuisine bourgeoise, or French home cooking, with entrees like braised beef shank and crispy duck breast along with decadent, showstopping desserts. You can also swing by during the day, when the bakery cafe is open, offering a selection of pastries, sandwiches, coffee and other noshes in a more casual setting.

Brandon Marshall

Meanwhile, back at El Rancho... Seventy years ago, a couple from Wisconsin bought a roadhouse that stood alone on the road leading to Evergreen, turned it into a bakery/eatery, and five years later passed it on to their daughter, Donna, and her husband, Paul McEncroe. Together they transformed it into such a classic Colorado destination restaurant that when Interstate 70 was built right outside, El Rancho got its own exit. In the 35 years since the McEncroes sold the place, it has gone through many owners and incarnations, but the current revival looks like a winner: Bonanno Concepts is running the operation, treating tourists and locals alike to updated versions of traditional Western dishes as envisioned by chef/entrepreneur Frank Bonanno and his wife, Jacqueline.

Molly Martin

No opening, restaurant or otherwise, is as highly anticipated as the upcoming reboot of the iconic pink palace under new owners Trey Parker and Matt Stone. That means the pressure is on for one of the main characters in this South Park episode-in-the-making, chef Dana Rodriguez — though the fiery and talented Loca, as she's known, is well equipped to handle the heat. She's risen through the ranks, from Casa Bonita castoff (she was denied a job there back in 1998) to owner of Work & Class, Super Mega Bien and Cantina Loca, and now executive chef behind the buzziest debut of the year. So far, all we know about her plans for overhauling the famously bad food at Casa Bonita is that the famed sopaipillas will be on the menu. But we're confident that Rodriguez is poised to impress the masses when Casa Bonita finally welcomes fans again come May.

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