10195 East 29th Avenue
Gretchen Kurtz reviewed Cattivella last week, sampling "dishes that were deep-throated and lusty, at times playful, always confident." One of those playful and confident creations is the focaccia di Recco, pie-like and stuffed with cheese, rather than fluffy and bready like the focaccia to which we're more accustomed. It's an example of the hyper-regional cuisine that chef/owner Elise Wiggins showcases, and it's also not an easy dish to track down in Denver. Another example of a rare and delightful specialty is the torta Caprese on the dessert menu, a flourless cake made with almonds and chocolate that's decadent without being overbearing.
1600 Pearl Street, Boulder
The words "charred" and "cucumber" seldom occur together in any form, much less on a restaurant menu. But that's exactly the kind of unexpected discovery awaiting at Emmerson, which opened in Boulder last week. On that plate, you'll also get pumpkin-seed yogurt, little mounds of pepita crumble, sweet grapes and fronds of dill. The whole dish comes together like bread-and-butter pickles that have been to finishing school. But that seems to be the kitchen's knack: taking seemingly incompatible ingredients and turning them into something vaguely familiar.
Royal Rooster (at Old Major)
3316 Tejon Street
Chicken sandwiches and burgers have kept lunchers pretty happy since chef/owner Justin Brunson opened his flagship restaurant, Old Major, for the noontime meal, dubbing it Royal Rooster for that stretch. But now there's something new to crow about: a full-fledged lunch menu to go along with the sandwiches. In addition to the current handheld favorites, steak frites, grilled fish and a charcuterie platter will be available, along with goodies like pork-fat French fries, fried pickles, Old Major bacon and Valrhona chocolate brownies. That's all happening on weekdays from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., but if you're more of a weekend warrior, stop in at Old Major for brunch or dinner on Sunday for 50 percent off wines by the bottle.
250 Columbine Street
Sol has settled in nicely since opening a year ago in Cherry Creek, offering a south-of-the-border option for the decidedly north-of-the-border neighborhood. But everyone loves a bargain, even spa-goers and shoppers, and Sol has a few new happy-hour specials to lure those caught with a craving between lunch and dinner. Individual tacos, a loaded cob of sweet corn that's not so messy once your server slices off the kernels, and a spicy cup of watermelon cubes doused with lime and chile are just a few of the offerings, but the showstopper is something rarely seen in Cherry Creek: a hot dog. This Sonoran-style perro caliente is wrapped in bacon and smothered in roasted-chile salsa, crema, jalapeños and other vibrant condiments to wake up the palate and put a little more "happy" into happy hour. Get it with a standard house margarita, or opt for the seasonal watermelon marg, made with just a hint of the pink melon so that the tequila shines through.