Best of Denver

The Twelve Best New Restaurants in Denver in 2018

The pastry counter at Call.
The pastry counter at Call. Danielle Lirette

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click to enlarge Fried Chinese eggplant at Q House. - DANIELLE LIRETTE
Fried Chinese eggplant at Q House.
Danielle Lirette

Q House

3421 East Colfax Avenue

Q House is doing for Denver Chinese cuisine what Julep is doing for Southern food. Traditional Taiwanese and Sichuan ingredients and techniques find their way out of obscure neighborhood joints into the heart of the action on East Colfax Boulevard. Racy red chiles are tempered by numbing Sichuan peppercorns in Q House's Chong Qing chicken and other dishes; thin-sliced pig ears stand in for bacon in a deeply flavorful salad; and fried eggplant in General Tso's sauce show how a tired takeout classic can be remade into something fresh and wonderful in the right hands. Watch the flames leap beneath sizzling woks while indulging in house cocktails infused with Asian ingredients at the long bar and chef's counter, the best seats in the house.
click to enlarge Don't fill up on pita bread, warns the chef. - MIKE THURK
Don't fill up on pita bread, warns the chef.
Mike Thurk


3330 Brighton Boulevard
Safta, which means “grandmother” in Hebrew, is a personal project for chef/restaurateur Alon Shaya, whose home territory is New Orleans but whose first project outside that city landed inside the Source Hotel in RiNo. Inspired by his grandmother's recipes and the cuisine of Israel (where he was born), Shaya has given Denver a new glimpse into Mediterranean cuisine, with wood-fired pita bread, a five-deep hummus menu, salatim (salads and spreads), and small and large plates that include kebabs, falafel, crisp-edged Persian rice, braised lamb shank and duck matzoh ball soup.
click to enlarge Chef Bill Espiricueta behind the counter at Smok. - MARK ANTONATION
Chef Bill Espiricueta behind the counter at Smok.
Mark Antonation


3330 Brighton Boulevard
As a kid, chef Bill Espiricueta lived in Austin, Texas, and then in Kansas City, Missouri, eating at all the best barbecue joints in those cities. Since moving away from the Midwest, the chef has traveled to America's other top barbecue regions to eat and learn. Smok brings together the best of his findings on one menu, but that doesn't mean you'll find a hodgepodge of mismatched cooking styles and sauces. "It's about the whole package," Espiricueta explains, "with different regional influences, but balanced." Smok offers downhome flavors and familiar smokehouse favorites, all filtered through a chef's detail-oriented lens.
click to enlarge Chef Dana Rodriguez pours the hot stone stew tableside at Super Mega Bien. - DANIELLE LIRETTE
Chef Dana Rodriguez pours the hot stone stew tableside at Super Mega Bien.
Danielle Lirette

Super Mega Bien

1260 25th Street

Anyone who's been to Work & Class (which is likely all of Denver, judging by a dining room that hasn't emptied since the place opened in 2014) knows the magic that chef Dana Rodriguez brings to even the humblest of ingredients. That magic carries over to her new kitchen, Super Mega Bien, across the street at the Ramble Hotel, where dim sum carts trundle between tables, bringing diners tastes of Oaxaca, Yucatán, Puerto Rico and other Latin American culinary hotbeds. While the small plates are pleasing, big dishes like seafood soup that simmers on an oven-hot stone, braised lamb wrapped in banana leaf and chipotle-glazed Peking duck that borrows the best of Mexico and China are built to thrill. Super Mega Bien is as clamorous, irreverent and spectacular as its older sibling across the way.
click to enlarge Austin-based Uchi is a draw for the design as well as the food. - DANIELLE LIRETTE
Austin-based Uchi is a draw for the design as well as the food.
Danielle Lirette


2500 Lawrence Street
It takes a lot of confidence to take a concept successful in one city and translate it for a new audience in a faraway city. But chef/restaurateur Tyson Cole exudes confidence with his cooking, which re-envisions Japanese sushi-house fare without ever disrespecting its roots. The Denver version of Uchi remains true to the Austin original while adding just enough Colorado originality to entice dubious diners. The result is a tranquil and mesmerizing dining experience that hypnotizes equally with ambience and platings. We'll take this Texas invasion.
click to enlarge Housemade noodles in both Italian and Japanese form are part of the menu at the Wolf's Tailor. - MARK ANTONATION
Housemade noodles in both Italian and Japanese form are part of the menu at the Wolf's Tailor.
Mark Antonation

The Wolf's Tailor

4058 Tejon Street
Yes, the Wolf’s Tailor combines influences from Italy, China and Japan, but if your mind is wandering to fusion cuisine, with its high-voltage mashup of Asian flavors and western European technique, you should know that’s not exactly right. Rather, the Wolf’s Tailor captures chef/owner Kelly Whitaker’s own journey through international kitchens, in addition to his team’s. The kitchen focuses more on what the different cuisines naturally have in common: grilled meats served on skewers, raw-fish preparations, noodles. A charcoal binchotan grill forms the basis of much of the cooking, and Whitaker has brought his obsession with heritage grain to bear through both a bread oven and extruded noodles made with house-milled flours. The result is something altogether new, but grounded in flavors and textures familiar and delicious.
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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