Eating Adventures

100 Favorite Dishes: Last Great Lunch of 2016, First Great Plate of 2017

Mark Antonation
Kalua pork doesn't get much better than at Ohana Island Kitchen — unless you add fried Spam.
No. 29 & 28: Comfort Food at Ohana Island Kitchen and the Kitchen Table

Lunch is an excellent time for exploring the local, the mom-and-pop, the hole-in-the-wall joints. Expectations are set for good food without the bells and whistles; you can save the wow factor of expensive decor and ingratiating service for a weekend dinner. And sometimes the best lunch places aren't even open for dinner, so taking time during the day for a visit is the only option.

Such is the case at Ohana Island Kitchen at 2563 15th Street, where we headed for our last weekday lunch of 2016: a simple plate of pork and rice. And for less than $10, we received a heaping mound of pulled kalua pork, an equally impressive pile of sticky rice decorated with Japanese furikake seasoning, and some colorful pickled vegetables that added tang and crunch to the meal. Don't spare the extra buck for a slice of glazed Spam — a salty-sweet topper that stands in nicely as a budget alternative to the more expensive Spam musubi roll ($3.50).

Ohana's kalua pork is so packed with rich, juicy flavor, it made for a perfect end note to a year's worth of dining out in Denver. Aloha, 2016 — and aloha, 2017.

A long weekend later, we started 2017 off with more comfort, this time at the Kitchen Table (1426 East 22nd Avenue). The short, dark and dreary days of January invite the kind of Midwestern cooking served up at this cafeteria-style eatery that's technically open through dinner Tuesday to Saturday but often sells out before darkness falls. Owner Dave Kilroy smokes up some mean barbecue, but we were searching for something  a little closer to what mom might dish up, so meatloaf it was.

Elements of barbecue creep into Kilroy's meatloaf, too, with its zingy cap of baked-on barbecue sauce adding peppery notes to the succulent beef beneath, which cooks for ninety minutes to ensure every forkful is soft like fresh-baked bread. Entrees come with a crunchy little herbed biscuit and a side of choice. We opted for hammy collards for some vegetable nutrition: It's what Mom would want.

We could all use a little comfort these days; bracketing New Year's Day with two warm and hearty lunches set the tone for the coming year, when returning to old familiar favorites might just help guide us through the bumps and rough patches.
click to enlarge We could all use a little comfort this winter; the Kitchen Table doesn't disappoint. - MARK ANTONATION
We could all use a little comfort this winter; the Kitchen Table doesn't disappoint.
Mark Antonation

Hungry for more? All of the dishes in our 2016 countdown are linked below.

No. 100: Masala Beef at Biju's Little Curry Shop
No. 99: Bacon Shrimp and Grits at Bacon Social House
No. 98: Porchetta and Kimchi Sandwich at Brider
No. 97: Squab-and-Sunchoke Tortellini at Abejas
No. 96: Housemade Burrata at Viand
No. 95: Schweinshaxe at Rhein Haus
No. 94 Kimchi Jeon at Seoul BBQ
No. 93: Zuppa Pomodoro at Parisi Italian Market & Deli
No. 92: The Ocean Salad at Sushi-Rama
No. 91: The Signature Bowl from Churn & Burn
No. 90: Green Chorizo at Los Compadres
No. 89: The Diavola Calzone at Pino's Neighborhood Pizzeria
No. 88: Biscuits and Green Chile at the Noshery
No. 87: Chirashi at Izu Sushi
No. 86: Brisket and Ribs at GQue Championship BBQ
No. 85: The Tornado at the Chowder Room
No. 84: Korean Fried Chicken Wings at Yong Gung
No. 83: A Meatball Hero at Lil' Ricci's New York Pizzeria
No. 82: Shakshuka at Stowaway Coffee + Kitchen
No. 81: Late-Night Ramen at Brazen
No. 80: Potato Tacos at El Tejado
No. 79: Corned Beef Heart at theWay Back
No. 78: The Fried Bologna Sandwich at Snarfburger
No. 77: Sweet Corn Mezzaluna at Bar Dough
No. 76: Duck Confit at Table 6
No. 75: Croque Monsieur at Fire
No. 74: Tahini Cookies at the Preservery
No. 73: The Alferd Packer Salad at MAD Greens
No. 72: The Tuna Poke Bowl at Ohana Island Kitchen
No. 71: Mini Chile Rellenos at La Loma
No. 70: The Combination Banh Mi at Vinh Xuong Bakery
No. 69: The Falafel Waffle at Moxie Eatery
No. 68: Korean Fried Duck Wings at Chow Urban Grill
No. 67:  Spaghetti Alla Carbonara at Spatola
No. 66: The Classic Burger from Skirted Heifer
No. 65: The Chicken Salad Stuffed Avocado at Poppies
No. 64: Super Pass Key Special at Pass Key
No. 63: How the West Was Won at Dozens Restaurant
No. 62: Manzo With Polenta at Spuntino
No. 61: P & S Snack Mix at the Pig & the Sprout
No. 59-60: Sloppers at Gray's Coors Tavern and Diego's
No. 58: Potstickers at Zoe Ma Ma
No. 57: Griddle Cooked Bullfrog at Yum Yum Spice
No. 56: Macaroni and Cheese at Work & Class
No. 55: Lobster, Egg and Caviar Bruschetta at Bar Fausto
No. 54: Orecchiette at Coperta
No. 53: Cheese Steak at Steuben's Food Service
No. 52: PB&B Acai Bowl at ProsperOats
No. 51: Gold Miner's Breakfast at River and Woods
No. 50: Bison Pastrami at To The Wind Bistro
No. 49: Spicy Beef Hot Pot at Bronze Empire
No. 48: Brad's Neo Gyro at Avelina
No. 47: The Egg and Croissant Sandwich at La Fillette Bakery
No. 46: Smoked Brisket Stroganoff Pot Pie From Humble Pie and Kitchen Table
No. 45: Hisbiscus-Flower Tacos at Comal
No. 44: The Juicy Lucy at the Midwestern Saloon
No. 43: Italian combo #2 at Carbone's
No. 42: Huevos Rancheros at Las Potrancas
No. 41: The Roti Taco at Mister Tuna
No. 40: Mile High Nachos at Racines
No. 39: Classic Rooster at Royal Rooster
No. 38: Toomkha Soup at US Thai Cafe
No. 37: Smoked Lamb Shank at Roaming Buffalo Bar-B-Que
No. 36: Banh Mi Tacos at Vital Root
No. 35: Barbecue Sandwiches at Globe Hall
No. 34: Ebelskivers at Three Little Griddles
No. 33: Bagna Cauda Broccoli Rabe at Dio Mio Handmade Pasta
No. 32: Flavorsome Ramen at Sera's Ramen Enclave
No. 31: Chicken Tenders at the Fainting Goat
No. 30: Sesame Chicken at Red Dragon