Best of Denver

The Ten Best New Restaurants of 2019 So Far

Seared scallops with lobster foam at LeRoux.
Seared scallops with lobster foam at LeRoux. Mark Antonation

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Seared scallops with lobster foam at LeRoux.
Mark Antonation


1510 16th Street

Lon Symensma's French/European bistro technically opened on December 28, 2018, too late to make our list of the twelve best new restaurants last year. But we won't begrudge the chef/restaurateur those few extra days of practice before LeRoux became one of the brightest stars of 2019. Dazzling plates, from the mushroom mille-feuille, which presents a rectangle of mushrooms sliced so thin that they resemble the pages of a book, to the wagyu beef tartare, presented beneath a smoke-filled glass cloche, have become signature items, while duck, lamb and seafood go through seasonal variations. A tribute to the chef's mentors in his younger days, LeRoux proves that the onetime student of European cuisine has now become the master.

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Owlbear Barbecue settled in on Larimer Street this year.
Mark Antonation

Owlbear Barbecue

2826 Larimer Street

Perfection is the elusive goal of every pit master cooking meat over wood, tweaking techniques and recipes until the ideal brisket emerges from the smoker encrusted in mahogany bark and dripping with fat. Owlbear founder Karl Fallenius has shown hints of what he's capable of in previous pop-ups and semi-permanent meat counters, but he's finally put it all together at his new Larimer Street smokehouse, where pork, beef and other meats attain barbecue transcendence thanks to equal parts oak and patience. Load up on meats by the pound, but don't miss out on the gooey mac and cheese and other tempting sides, or even meatless entrees like smoked jackfruit or portobello mushrooms.

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Quiero Arepas moved in on South Pearl Street in April.
Mark Antonation

Quiero Arepas

1859 South Pearl Street

When you only make one thing, you'd better make it right. Igor and Beckie Panasewicz have had nearly a decade of experience creating Venezuelan arepas at their Avanti food hall counter and on the streets in their food truck, so every mouthful at their new Platt Park brick-and-mortar bursts with a heavenly combo of fluffy corn-flour shell, savory black beans, creamy avocado, sweet plantains and tangy sauces loaded with lime and cilantro, along with a choice of succulent meats. The menu is tiny (though seasonal specials pop up throughout the year), so Quiero must hit the bull's-eye every time. Thankfully, that's exactly what happens, making these arepas the single-most craveable bite in the city.

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Goi thap cam at Savory Vietnam.
Mark Antonation

Savory Vietnam Pho & Grill

2200 West Alameda Avenue

Chef An Nguyen honed her skills for years at New Saigon, which her parents owned until 2017. Now Nguyen's out on her own, proving that she's a force to be reckoned with in Denver's Vietnamese restaurant scene and beyond. Because food this good — starting with the goi thap cam (the house special salad mounded with shrimp, squid, snails, jellyfish and fresh Vietnamese herbs) through to bubbling goat hot pot and traditional noodle dishes like hu tieu and mi quang — shouldn't be constrained within the narrow definition of national cuisines. This is a menu for the whole city, representing the history of a family who set up a business more than thirty years ago and that continues to shine bright on Denver's west side.

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Inside the brightly lit Woodie Fisher dining room.
Mark Antonation

Woodie Fisher

1999 Chestnut Place

The restaurant built into the transformed Hose Company No. 1 building downtown got off to a rocky start in late spring, parting ways with its opening chef and going into an extended soft-opening mode until a replacement could take over. But Franco Ruiz is no second-stringer; he came to the restaurant after six years at Fruition, where he had built up an understanding of Colorado's small farms and ranches — and a Rolodex to go with it. Ruiz turned things around with a menu of regional American dishes with a little Mediterranean flair, all highlighted with seasonal produce and top-quality meats. The gorgeous space, with its vaulted glass ceiling and retro-chic decor, now has beautiful food to match.
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Mark Antonation is the former Westword Food & Drink Editor. In 2018, he was named Outstanding Media Professional by the Colorado Restaurant Association; he's now with the Colorado Restaurant Foundation.
Contact: Mark Antonation

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