It’s almost time to open the proverbial envelopes. With our annual Best of Denver issue just a few days away, we’re pausing to remember past Best New Restaurant winners. These are the places that have shaped Denver’s food scene over the past decade, places that did what restaurants set out to do that inaugural year better than all of their peers. But was their success merely a hot streak that burned out fast, or are they still going strong? Last week we looked back at our Best New Restaurant awards from 2005 through 2009; here are the next five.
Argyll opened in Cherry Creek North like a fireworks display, dazzling us with flashes of brilliance – remember those housemade chips? the ale? the music? – that made us ooh and aah. But the lights went out at Robert Thompson’s gastropub a year later, and it wasn’t until last year that Thompson made good on his promise to resurrect it. From its larger, livelier home in Uptown, Argyll Whisky Beer continues to draw crowds for its large selection of whiskeys and cheeky pub fare orchestrated by culinary director John Broening.
2011: Euclid Hall
Euclid Hall followed on the heels of Argyll, as the city continued its love affair with casual food executed in a decidedly non-casual manner. Powerhouse team Jennifer Jasinski and Beth Gruitch of Rioja and Bistro Vendome fame put their high-end stamp on tavern grub, churning out schnitzel, cheese curds and housemade sausages that are just as craveable now as they were then. And don’t get us started on the poutines, the munchie-de-resistance before the stuff that made them munchies was legal.
2012: Pinche Taqueria
What Pinche Taqueria made perfectly clear– contrary to what your mother told you – was that if it ain’t broke, there’s still a reason to fix it, and that’s what Kevin Morrison did, turning his successful food truck into an even more successful taco joint, first in City Park and later in Highland. Years later, the tacos and tequila still pack a punch, even if the restaurant’s name has taken a few hits; due to protests, it was toned down to Tacos, Tequila & Whiskey.
In 2013 the march toward casual dining continued, only this time it wasn’t pub grub or tacos but ramen that stole our hearts. Borrowing a page from Momofuku, Tommy Lee opened Uncle, and we’ve been happily slurping ever since at his noodle shop. Like Bones before it, Uncle helped pave the way for the crowd of competitors popping up lately, including Tengu, Tokio, Katsu Ramen and two planned outposts of Jeff Osaka’s Osaka Ramen.
2014: Lower48 Kitchen
After a string of increasingly casual winners, last year’s Best New Restaurant honoree, Lower48 Kitchen, bucked the trend. Run by acclaimed chef Alex Figura and Mario Nocifera, alumni of Frasca Food and Wine, Lower48 Kitchen quickly became known for its eclectic, inquisitive and ever-changing fare, especially the bite-sized items in the “Each” category, such as pork belly croutons with squash and coriander and toast with avocado and roe. The restaurant continues to explore and challenge, most recently with its succession of regionally-themed, prix-fixe dinners.
2015: Coming soon!
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The Best of Denver 2015 hits the streets — and the web — late on Wednesday, March 25. Watch for it!