Best of Denver

The Westword Watch List: Ten Top Places to Eat and Drink This Week

The Poka Lola Social Club makes our  watch list.
The Poka Lola Social Club makes our watch list. Danielle Lirette
The Denver dining scene is heating up, with hot new eateries joining old favorites that are rolling out fresh ideas. Lately, we've been on an eating binge of barbecue platters, Thai comfort food, savory bakery pastries and out-of-this-world desserts. Join us on a tour of the ten restaurants on our watch list for April  — and what to eat when you get there.

click to enlarge Thai-style comfort food at 9 Thai. - MARK ANTONATION
Thai-style comfort food at 9 Thai.
Mark Antonation
9 Thai
4122 East Colfax Avenue

Kyla Love took over the East Colfax space last occupied by a Thai Monkey Club outpost, with a goal of serving her favorite childhood Thai comfort food. The menu is small by Thai restaurant standards, but the heart and soul of the kitchen shine big in menu items like deceptively simple Hainanese chicken rice, a dish popular throughout Southeast Asia. Consider it deconstructed chicken soup, with boiled white meat and rice on one side and a profoundly chicken-y broth on the other. A spicy ginger dipping sauce provides a hearty back-slap with typical Thai gusto, but the dish stands out for its singular focus on chicken. For something a little more adventurous but no less comforting, go for a bowl of nam tok moo, a noodle soup loaded with sliced pork, pork meatballs and fried pork rind.

click to enlarge This ham-and-cheese croissant is one reason to head to Hinman's. - FACEBOOK/HINMAN'S BAKERY
This ham-and-cheese croissant is one reason to head to Hinman's.
Facebook/Hinman's Bakery
Hinman's Bakery
4850 East 39th Avenue
Every day is Pie Day at Hinman's, where baker/owner John Hinman and his crew turn out some of the most delicious pies you'll ever sink your teeth into. But breakfast and lunch need to be taken care of first before you can descend on dessert, and Hinman's now offers both from a small but well-stocked retail room. The selection varies, but egg sandwiches and deli-style constructions on house-baked breads are part of the program. Flaky ham-and-cheese croissants and savory flatbreads loaded with cheese, bacon and veggies are a wise choice, too — in fact, they're just what the Park Hill neighborhood needs.
click to enlarge An assortment Navajo fry-bread tacos at Kachina. - DANIELLE LIRETTE
An assortment Navajo fry-bread tacos at Kachina.
Danielle Lirette
Kachina LoDo
1890 Wazee Street
Kachina debuted at the end of March with a modernized take on Southwestern cuisine, with plenty of turquoise and desert chic in the decor, but nary a howling coyote to be found. Instead, the menu straddles the line between fun and finesse, with elegant seafood crudo and Native American ingredients sharing space with ridiculously craveable Navajo fry-bread tacos. Fluffy, fried rounds hold a variety of fillings, from traditional carnitas and braised beef to tender duck confit with crunchy duck-skin chicharrones. If you can't decide, bring your friends and fire up a dozen so that you can try a little of everything and save a few bucks in the process.

click to enlarge Creamy burrata adds richness to a fresh salad at Little Spoons. - MARK ANTONATION
Creamy burrata adds richness to a fresh salad at Little Spoons.
Mark Antonation
Little Spoons
1705 South Pearl Street
Spring has sprung, and garden flavors don't get much fresher than at Little Spoons, a four-seater sandwich shop and juice bar inside an Eastern wellness center. Relax and slow down the pace of your day with a burrata salad packed with young spinach, avocado and blackberries and drizzled with a vibrant salsa verde. And don't leave without indulging in one of owner Amelia Di Marco's traditional Italian desserts, like a slice of torta Caprese, a naturally gluten-free treat made with nothing but ground almonds, chocolate and duck eggs. Buon appetito!

click to enlarge Start with some of the best posole in town for dinner at Lola. - MARK ANTONATION
Start with some of the best posole in town for dinner at Lola.
Mark Antonation
Lola Coastal Mexican
1575 Boulder Street
Chef Jamie Fader likes to mix things up at his pioneering Mexican eatery, which ushered in a thriving dining scene in the LoHi neighborhood — before anyone called it LoHi. A new menu boasts both traditional and innovative small plates and big platters, so go hungry. Start with shrimp and pork-cheek pozole, a humble dish that Lola promotes to star status not by messing with the basics, but by perfecting them. Then hop on the hot-trend train for a little fried chicken — hardly a Mexican classic, but here grounded with a beautiful mole verde that'll have you licking the plate long after the chicken is gone.

Keep reading for more of what's hot right now...

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.
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