Food News

This Reader Ate His Way Through the 100 Restaurants We Can't Live Without

Bastien's Steakhouse on East Colfax was one of Nathan Dolbeare's favorites.
Bastien's Steakhouse on East Colfax was one of Nathan Dolbeare's favorites. Evan Semón
"It's an exciting time to see restaurants coming out of the pandemic," says Nathan Dolbeare. Along with his wife, Kris, he ate his way through our entire list of the 100 restaurants we couldn't live without in 2022. Well, nearly the whole list. "I didn't make it to Domo before it closed," he admits. "But Kris did."

Dolbeare has lived in Denver for almost 25 years. "It's been fun to see it turn into a bit of a food town," he notes. While he and his wife have long enjoyed dining out, Dolbeare typically traveled a lot for work, which meant he spent a fair amount of time eating in other cities and generally only visited his favorites when he was at home. But since the pandemic hit, his travel schedule has been greatly reduced. So, last December, when we released the newest "Eat Here," our list of 100 indispensable restaurants, "I thought it would be a great opportunity to try some new places," he recalls.

Kris agreed, and they embarked on a dining adventure, eating out an average of three times a week for the past ten months. "But one day it would be Frasca, and another El Taco de Mexico," Dolbeare says. "The thing I really loved about the list is that it has a lot of cheaper options on there, too."

On October 23, Dolbeare posted a summary of his eating experiences on Reddit, revealing the spot where he ran into the worst service and other places that fell flat, as well as the eateries that will become new go-tos and some surprising new favorites. "I thought, if this gets like 25 upvotes, I'd be happy," he says. But the post quickly amassed over 300 upvotes and more than 100 comments in its first three days.

The project gave the Dolbeares the perfect excuse to try a mix of new places and revisit some they hadn't been to in a long time, such as Rioja, La Fogata and Fruition.
Columbine offered the Dolbeares a surprisingly good time.
Erik Rangel
One of the biggest surprises along the way was Columbine Steak House, a classic cash-only spot on Federal Boulevard that's been in business for 61 years. "I've driven past that place a thousand times, and it was ten times better than I expected," Dolbeare says. And a hell of deal, he adds, noting that he and his wife spent $60 total for two steaks, two beers and a generous tip: "I definitely got my money's worth. ... We'll definitely go back."

Another old-school steakhouse rated as a top pick: "Bastien's is just such a fun place to visit, and the food was really good," he says.

Although Dolbeare had kind words for many of the eateries on the list, there were a few standouts. "African Bar & Grill is outstanding," he says, admitting that he was not at all familiar with African cuisine before going. "It has the nicest, most helpful owners," he adds, and they walked him through the menu.

Comal Heritage Food Incubator, which trains low-income women (many from Mexico, El Salvador, Syria, Ethiopia and Iraq) in restaurant and business skills, is another favorite. "The food there is outstanding, and the overall mission forever has my allegiance," he says. "I just wish it was open for dinner."

He managed to make it to Welton Street Cafe while it was still open. After being forced out of its longtime home, the 36-year-old Five Points soul-food spot operated for much of this year in a takeout-only location, which closed in September. "When they get their new place open, definitely hit that one," Dolbeare says. "I wish them nothing but the best."
click to enlarge
Dolbeare says that for him, Frasca remains tops in the dining scene.
Julia Vandenoever
And at the top of the heap? "For me, Frasca still reigns supreme over the area dining scene," he wrote on his Reddit post. "The food is delicious, the wine list is interesting and the service never disappoints. This place always delivers."

While Dolbeare found some misses on the list, "there wasn't any place on there that I just hated," he says. And he's pushing some possibilities for the next edition of "Eat Here," which will drop in December, shortly after our 2023 edition of the 100 bars we can't live without comes out. Those picks include two eateries in Golden, where Dolbeare currently lives: D'Deli (which made our list of the ten best sandwich shops in Denver) and Sherpa House. He also suggests Corrida in Boulder, Adelitas and Voghera.

"There are great eats to be found if you're willing to travel and get out of your bubble," he concludes. "Denver is still a super-young city, and it's in a really young state. Food culture takes a long time to develop. We're in the very early stages of becoming a well-fed city, and it's fun to be here for that."

What places would be on your list of the 100 restaurants you can't live without? Email us your favorites, [email protected].
KEEP WESTWORD FREE... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Molly Martin is the Westword Food & Drink editor. She’s been writing about the dining scene in Denver since 2013, and was eating her way around the city long before that. She enjoys long walks to the nearest burrito joint and nights spent sipping cocktails on Colfax.
Contact: Molly Martin

Latest Stories