Best of Denver

Denver's five best restaurants that are hidden in other businesses

There's a school of thought that argues location is everything when it comes to the restaurant business, and for those types, picking a prominent address in a good part of town is paramount. The opposite? Hiding your restaurant within the confines of another business. And that's exactly what a handful of crafty Denver restaurateurs have done by opening their restaurants inside other spots that are sometimes completely unrelated to serving food.

Here are Denver's five best quirky restaurant-business combos:

5. The Retro Room There are a few bar-meets-salon concepts in town, and the Retro Room has long offered beer and cocktails alongside haircuts. But the place recently upped the ante, adding a full-blown menu of appetizers, salads and sandwiches, which it serves up from 11 a.m. until 9 p.m. daily. So now you can get stuffed spuds with your new style, or a French dip with your highlights. And that kind of gives new meaning to a power lunch. 4. Pho Bowl Hanh Nguyen already owned the South Denver Conoco near Broadway and Hampden, but when she opened a Subway that went bust, she decided to offer a taste of her home country instead of trying to do another fast-food outlet. So she built a forty seat homage to pho in a corner of the convenience store, where she dishes out Vietnamese soup alongside noodle and rice dishes. 3. Atomic Tamale Vegetarians and vegans looking for Mexican food should head immediately to Atomic Tamale. There, you'll encounter a kitchen that makes meat-and-cheese free tamales and taquitos on a daily basis and vegan menudo (which, yes, seems improbable) every Sunday. But you'll have to find it first, and that's no easy feat, because Atomic Tamale is tucked inside La Muerte Apparel, a Day of the Dead-themed clothing boutique on Santa Fe. 2. Sachi Sushi Tsukasa Hibini had worked in some of the best sushi spots in Boulder for years, but when he opened his own restaurant, he buried it in a corner of the Niwot Market that's easy to miss even if you're inside the store. There, he cuts excellent fish daily and slings Kyushu-style ramen every Sunday. And that ramen is no joke -- it landed our Best Ramen award in Best of Denver 2011. 1. Tres Jolie "I didn't know what I wanted it to be," Holly Smith says of Tres Jolie, which she opened in a Littleton storefront six years ago (and I review this week). "So this is what I ended up with." "This" is a boutique that vends linens, imported candies, cookbooks, aprons, lacy lingerie, lotion, scented candles and dozens of other pretty things. But it's also a cafe that serves up sandwiches, salads and excellent house-baked goods for lunch and tea service, paired with over 150 varieties of tea and a list of Champagne cocktails. It's an ideal spot for a ladies' lunch -- and the food is good enough that dudes should get over their aversion to all things pink, purple and sparkly, to eat there, too.

Know of other strange restaurant-business combos? Tell us about them below.

More Best of Denver Lists: - Denver's five best restaurants for blind dates

- Top five martinis in Denver -- good, better, Best!

- Denver's five best burgers

- Denver's six best pizzas

- Denver's five best dive bars

- Denver's five best dinners under $10

- Denver's five best first-date restaurants

- Denver's five best nachos

- Denver's ten best french fries

- Denver's five best green chile fixes

- Denver's five best dishes of mac & cheese

- Denver's five best breakfast sandwiches

- Denver's five best wings

- Denver's five best happy hours

- Denver's ten best draft beer lists

- Denver's five best spots for ice cream

- Denver's five best BBQ joints

- Denver's five best brunches

- Denver's five best spots for sandwiches

- Denver's five best street tacos

- Denver's five best hot dogs

- Denver's five best plates of fried chicken

- Denver's five best French restaurants

- Denver's five best dessert spots

- Denver's five best Chinese restaurants

-Denver's five best chips and salsa

- Denver's five best lunches under $5

- Denver's five best Indian restaurants

- Denver's five best breakfast burritos

- Denver's five best rooftop patios

- Denver's five best underrated patios

- Denver's five best tap rooms

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Laura Shunk was Westword's restaurant critic from 2010 to 2012; she's also been food editor at the Village Voice and a dining columnist in Beijing. Her toughest assignment had her drinking ten martinis and eating ten Caesar salads over the course of 48 hours. She still drinks martinis, but remains lukewarm on Caesar salads.
Contact: Laura Shunk