The List: Big Operators

Rough week for Big Red F. I wasn't all tht happy with Happy Noodle House; wasn't cuckoo for the Cocoa Puffs at Centro. But that doesn't mean I don't like some of Dave Query's other restaurants. Matter of fact, he runs two other joints that are among my favorites in the city.

Which leads me to this week's List: the best single locations in town run by multi-unit operators. I'm not counting the chains in this list. Or any of the really big restaurant groups (save one, arguably). These are just guys who've used Colorado as the base for their own mini-empires.

1) From the Dave Query stable, Jax and Lola.  Yes, I know that these are two different restaurants (really, three, since there are Jax outposts in both Boulder and Denver), but they're two really fantastic restaurants -- one an oyster house with a killer menu, one a coastal Mexican joint with one of the best brunches and bars around.

2) From Jesse Morreale and Sean Yontz, Mezcal. Although they went on to open Sketch, then close it and turn it into Tambien, and then open another Sketch, this pair has never topped their original effort. Mezcal remains the high-water mark of their collaboration.

3) From his Highness, Lord Kevin Taylor, Restaurant Kevin Taylor.  KT has seen some ups and downs over the years, and has s probably closed more locations than he has open right now (a number that stands at seven, I believe).  But on its best nights, his namesake restaurant at the Hotel Teatro is one of Denver's best restaurants.

4) Frank Bonanno has gotten a lot of ink over the opening of Bones, but I still think his best restaurant is Osteria Marco.  Seriously, a bottle of wine, a plate of prosciutto and a bit of hand-made burrata?  It just don't get much better than that.

5) Richard Sandoval has never been one of my favorite restaurateurs, but he hit on some weird kind of fusion magic when he came up with the concept for Zengo.  Most fusion restaurants -- not just in Denver, but anywhere -- just flat-out suck. Zengo is the exception to this rule.

Extra-credit: Jet Entertainment Group sort of exploded on the scene a few months back, snapping up addresses like drunken heiresses shopping for hats. Then the economy went in the toilet and the buying spree came to an abrupt halt. But now they're getting open all those places that they promised us months and months ago. The newest -- their noodle bar in the Jet Hotel called XO -- looks like its shaping up to be their best yet, but only time (and a couple more meals) will tell.

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