As we count down to next week’s release of our annual Best of Denver issue — our 32nd edition! — we thought it would be fun to dip into the archives to see what’s become of past winners in one of our most prestigious categories: Best New Restaurant. After all, chefs change, owners change and trends change, and it’s not a given that restaurants can stand the test of time — even if they got off to a good early start. Below are our Best New Restaurant honorees from 2005 through 2009; check back early next week for the next five. Taken together, they showcase a decade in the life of the city we love, one forkful at a time.
2005: Frasca Food and Wine
These days, Lachlan Mackinnon-Patterson and Bobby Stuckey are known as the pizza guys, the budino guys, the made-a-deal-with-Chipotle guys. But ten years ago these French Laundry alums were busy carving a reputation for themselves that would transcend Boulder, the Front Range and even the country. When it comes to execution, wine and service, Frasca remains the gold standard.
2006: Z Cuisine
What Francophile hasn’t whiled away the evening over foie gras and cassoulet at Patrick Dupays’s ode to France at Z Cuisine? The restaurant – which closed for remodeling this winter, but continues to serve the full menu at the next-door A Cote — remains as beloved as ever, and is only slightly easier to get into than it used to be, given the arrival of sister restaurant.
All Best New Restaurant winners are, well, new. If they weren’t, they wouldn’t be eligible for the category. But when Fruition won top honors in 2007, it was newer than most, having opened just a few months prior to the issue’s publication. So while other restaurants would’ve still been working out the kinks, chef Alex Seidel was knocking us over with the sophisticated comfort food that would eventually nab him several James Beard Foundation nominations. Fruition still nabs our hearts, even after all these years.
2008: Izakaya Den
Years before it moved into its stunning, multi-level location next to sibling restaurant Sushi Den, Izakaya Den already stood out for inventive Japanese-Mediterranean fusion. It remains as much a fixture as ever, not just for denizens of Platt Park who treat it as a neighborhood watering hole, but for fans of the talented kitchen’s izakaya-style small plates.
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Frank Bonanno never set out to serve authentic ramen at his noodle shop in the Governors Park neighborhood. He set out to serve food he loved to eat, and we loved it too, right from the start. We still do, returning to this sliver of a restaurant to slurp everything from lobster ramen to pork udon.
What will be the Best New Restaurant in the Best of Denver 2015? Watch for the winner here on March 25.