Our Favorite Recent Bites in Denver Include Kumoya and Crown Burgers | Westword

The Best Things Our Food Editor Ate Last Month

From a secret late-night ramen to a chili-smothered burger at an old-school favorite, it was a delicious June.
Corey Baker has brought back his ramen game for the late-night menu at Kumoya.
Corey Baker has brought back his ramen game for the late-night menu at Kumoya. Molly Martin
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Between Westword's second annual Out to Brunch fest and my first trip to Aspen Food & Wine, where I enjoyed some stellar bites from local talent, the first half of June was like the dining Olympics.

But many of the best bites I had last month can regularly be found on menus at both old and new favorites in the metro area (and a little beyond).

Kumoya is one of several spots that debuted in LoHi late last year. Chef Corey Baker and his team recently made some changes to its late-night offerings, which are served starting at 10 p.m. daily and from 5 to 7 p.m. Sunday through Thursday on the Bar Kumo side. The star is an off-menu "secret" item: Kakiage Ramen.

Baker's late-night ramen was a draw when he was at the now-closed Izakaya Ronin in RiNo. At Kumoya, the hearty bowl is made with Ara Chintan Dashi broth infused with yuzu oil, which adds a bright citrus note. It's loaded with fried langostina and vegetable fritters, togorashi seasoning, kikurage mushrooms, hana wasabi, menma (lacto-fermented bamboo shoots), jidori tamago eggs, and scallion.

Other highlights off the regular menu include the spicy scallop roll wrapped in tofu skin (rolls are now 30 percent off during happy hour) and the chicken thigh katsu sando on housemade milk bread.
click to enlarge scoops of vanilla ice cream topped with chili crispy in a bowl with a shortbread cookie
Chili crisp-topped ice cream at Ace.
Molly Martin
Ace Eat Serve on East 17th Avenue is another favorite for Asian fare. A staple since 2012, it recently got a new head chef, Khamla Vongsakoun, who has added his own touch to the menu with dishes such as Cantonese claypot chicken with shiitake mushroom and bok choy; Sichuan lamb dumplings; and tom kha soup dumplings.

Ace also has a stacked happy hour from open until 6 p.m. daily, with $5 seasonal slushies and bites like tuna tartare in a crispy egg roll wrapper for $4, and four of its popular Tiger Wings for $7.

It's really hard to go wrong with any dish here, but there's one dessert option everyone should try. I first had the combination of vanilla ice cream topped with chili crisp at the Ginger Pig, where it's still on the menu. Ace's version was a reminder of how good this sweet and savory combo can be, and the plentiful sesame seeds added a nice nutty note to the dessert, which also comes with an almond shortbread cookie.
click to enlarge a martini with several plates of food
Revival Denver Public House has an impressive happy hour.
Molly Martin
Just down the street from Ace is another standout happy hour. Revival Denver Public House debuted in the former Avenue Grill space on East 17th in 2021. At this year's Out to Brunch, its shrimp and grits was one of my favorite bites, so I stopped by the restaurant to try more of its fare. The happy hour deals from this husband-and-wife-owned spot include $5 Old Fashioneds, $8 martinis and such food specials as $2 broiled oysters (go for the chorizo butter option) and $8 Hatch chile pimento dip.

The table favorite, though, was a Maryland specialty that I haven't seen on any other menu around town. The crab pretzel ($10) is a large, round soft pretzel topped with blue crab, Old Bay and melted cheese that's ideal for sharing.
click to enlarge chili cheese-smothered burger
Crown Burgers is an old-school favorite.
Molly Martin
Crown Burgers on South Colorado Boulevard is one of my favorite old-school burger joints in town — and possibly the only place where you can order omelets, hash browns and green chile from a drive-thru. While I usually opt for a standard cheeseburger (or the Royal loaded with pastrami if the mood strikes), I found a new favorite on my most recent visit.

The chili burger can be smothered or served with green or red on the side. I opted for it smothered with half red and half green — a move I highly recommend. The burger (bun, lettuce, tomatoes, onions and all) arrived swimming in Coney-style red chili and flavorful (yet mild) green chile for the ultimate hangover-curing meal.
click to enlarge a chili-smothered burger with diced onions
A classic Pueblo slopper.
Molly Martin
That same weekend, I dug into a totally different kind of chile-smothered burger. The Slopper is a Pueblo staple, and the version at Gray's Coors Tavern, which claims to have invented it, is the perfect road trip pit stop if you're traveling south (or, as I was, heading to Bishop Castle, one of the state's best roadside attractions).

A regular comes with two patties and a bun smothered in cheese and green or red chile (I once again went half-and-half) with diced onions on top. The chile here, though, is more stew-like and studded with pinto beans, and the dish is served with packets of oyster crackers for a meal that's more stick-to-your-ribs satisfying than the version at Crown Burger, which is a nap-inducing experience.
click to enlarge an Italian sandwich
Blackbelly's Denver market dishes up delicious lunch sandwiches.
Molly Martin
I'm always on the lookout for solid lunches and potential sandwich spots for our top ten list. In June, I dined at two spots that are contenders.

Boulder's Blackbelly added a Denver market on Tennyson Street in March. While its menu is more concise than the daytime offerings at the original, much larger location in Boulder, it includes hits like the Cubano and its version of an Italian sandwich made with house-cured meats. The Little Piggy ($17) is loaded with capicola, soppressata and ham, plus herb aioli, romaine, red wine vinaigrette and pickled peppers (which you can buy by the bottle) on ciabatta.

The Denver outpost is closed in the evenings, but it recently launched its Bites With Butchers series, during which it opens at night for a special demo by Michelin award winner Kelly Kawachi. The next event will take place on August 28.
click to enlarge a sandwich and a bag of chips
Split Lip's lunch deals are perfect for anyone working in RiNo.
Molly Martin
Split Lip, the food concept inside Number Thirty Eight, makes one of the ten best burgers in town, though its menu includes more than beef. During lunch, which is served from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Friday, it offers four $12 sandwich combos, including the #1 Dagwood, with turkey, bacon, shredded spinach, sport pepper "sleaze," tomatoes and ranch mayo on rye with a small salad, bag of chips and fountain drink.

There's a vegetarian version of the Dagwood as well, plus two hoagie options. Or snag a $14 Slug Burger or $12 salad.
click to enlarge bucatini pasta with red sauce over ricotta
Olive & Finch's bucatini.
Molly Martin
In May, Olive & Finch added dinner service at its Cherry Creek location. The lineup includes some summer-ready options  such as grilled artichoke with lemon caper aioli ($12); Aleppo flatbread with beef and tons of herbs ($18); and a Goddess salad ($15.50 for a full) with crisp cucumber and radish, avocado, mint, cripsy capers and green goddess dressing.

The dish I'll be back for, though, is the bucatini. While red sauce may seem heavy for this time of year, Olive & Finch keeps it light with a bright tomato sugo, fresh basil and creamy ricotta.
click to enlarge a slice of cheesecake
Don't skip dessert at Rolling Pin Pizza.
Molly Martin
Kevin Morrison swapped the original location of Tacos Tequila Whiskey near City Park for Rolling Pin Pizza in April. While the tavern-style pies get top billing, I keep finding new reasons to visit, from the icy-cold martinis to the wedge salad topped with crispy pepperoni bits.

The latest winner at Rolling Pin was an unexpected one. I'm known to skip dessert more often than not, and cheesecake isn't my favorite — it's usually too rich and heavy for my taste. But the team was testing out a new cheesecake when I stopped by in June. It's super light, with a brûléed top that added a nice crisp touch, and I'm hoping this will join the regular lineup ASAP. 
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