5280 Burger Bar
500 16th Street
This downtown burger bar just got a new chef, Derek Baril, who brings a fine-dining perspective to cooking up America's favorite sandwich. Most recently at Wild Standard and Salt in Boulder, Baril has already been tweaking the sauces and other housemade ingredients at 5280 and will soon roll out some new menu items of his own. There's the Perfect burger, with habanero bacon jam, Gruyère, pickled red onion and roasted-garlic aioli; the Vaquero, with guacamole, chimichurri, queso fresco and mango-habanero aioli; and the Truffle burger, with truffled aioli, mushroom duxelles (that's a flavor-packed paste, if you're not familiar with culinary lingo), Parmesan and arugula. The chef is an advocate of The Flavor Bible, one of the top tomes for professional cooks, so his ingredient combos come together like well-composed dishes rather than zany concoctions. The new menu doesn't roll out until May 15, but if you're looking for something new to try, head over for a pour of 5280's new collaboration with Resolute Brewing. Bar manager Tom Sutcliffe got to spend a day at Resolute brewing up a batch of 5280 Lager, the burger bar's new signature beer, which comes in a distinctive, custom-designed glass. Everything from the buns to the ketchup to the American cheese are made in-house, so the new beer fits in perfectly with 5280's DIY ethic.
3350 Brighton Boulevard
Acorn has been known to fire up the smoker outside the Source for occasional barbecue pop-ups, but starting this Sunday, May 7, the meaty affair will become a regular weekly tradition, at least through the summer. Indulge in brisket, pulled pork, half chickens, wings by the pound, housemade sausage (two different kinds!) and half-slabs of ribs, or opt for a sandwich — burnt ends or Carolina pulled pork — along with country-style sides done with Acorn's typical panache. Join the picnic from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. for a smoky alternative to Sunday brunch.
5021 East 28th Avenue
If you live in Park Hill, you've probably enjoyed a peaceful stroll over to Bistro Barbès, one of Denver's most hidden gems. If not, it's time to drive over to find out what you've been missing. Allow a little extra time to take in the well-manicured gardens and quaint cottages surrounding the restaurant, but make sure you get there in time for the bistro's brand-new happy hour, which runs from 5 to 7 p.m. Tuesday through Friday. Small plates range from $4 to $9 and include salads, pasta, seafood and meatier bites like the lamb en croute (pictured above), drizzled with demi-glace and sided with a tangy escabeche. Like the restaurant's full dinner menu, the happy-hour offerings are hyper-seasonal, like the spring-pea agnolotti with delicate spears of grilled asparagus. Drinks are also cheap, from the selection of $3 beers and $8 cocktails to wines by the glass and bottle — including a Hungarian tokai for only $28. You probably won't want to leave, so peruse the dinner menu for ramps, morel mushrooms and more of those spring peas before they're gone until next year.
1390 South Colorado Boulevard
Broken Rice opened on South Colorado Boulevard in February with a selection of noodle bowls, stir-fries and rice dishes encompassing Vietnam, China, Japan and Thailand. The fast-casual restaurant just brought on new executive chef Tyson Wong Ophaso, who once battled Masaharu Morimoto on Iron Chef America. Ophaso has expanded the menu with several new dishes that speak to his experience in fine dining while remaining true to Broken Rice's street-food mission. Case in point: the Malaysian roti pancakes, which sport a crackly, toasty outer layer over a toothsome, chewy interior. Dipped in a nutty, spicy curry sauce, the roti wake up the palate for other Southeast Asian specialties like Singaporean curry noodles, moo shu wraps and a surprisingly hearty cauliflower fried rice bolstered with kimchi and egg. While the model here is counter service, the menu would be at home in any of downtown's hot restaurant zones.
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