Table Talk for August 8

August 8 2006, 10:00 PM
NEW: ZUNI KITCHEN HEATS UP
Let's get one thing straight: I don't like potato salad. But I ate every single bite of Zuni Kitchen's. The secret, says chef/owner Todd Coleman, is tossing the hearty chunks of red potato with scallions, fresh herbs, and a light vinegar-mayo-mustard dressing just before serving. Simple, fresh, and refined—that's just the way Coleman does things at his four-month-old cafe in the East Highland neighborhood. The counter-service and BBQ joint vibe suggests casual dishes but Coleman's food reflects his fine-dining background. He roasts and smokes his brisket in house and serves it piled on a hearty roll smothered in homemade chipotle-barbecue sauce. He dresses up his Cajun-spiced pork sandwich with sweet-onion marmalade, slathers oven-dried tomato relish on ciabatta stacked with Italian meats, and tosses the cobb salad with a zippy homemade poppyseed dressing. In essence, Zuni Kitchen offers diners the best of all worlds: Quick service and interesting gourmet eats that, with a drink, ring up at about $10. Open 11 a.m.–7 p.m., Monday through Saturday. 3007 Zuni St., 303-458-9999 NEW: VIRGILIO'S TAKES A SLICE OF THE PIZZA BIZ
I've been hearing about a little place called Virgilio's Pizzeria Napoletana in Lakewood for months now. When a restaurant first opens it isn't unusual to receive a call from the owner pleading for a visit. But it is unusual to receive a barrage of messages from readers who love the place so much they simply want to spread the word. And so, I took our readers' advice and dined at the neighborhood pizza shop near Belmar. We nibbled on hot and addictively buttery garlic knots and an organic field greens salad with homemade balsamic vinaigrette and crumbled feta, and watched as Virgilio Urbano, the friendly owner and namesake, took orders, sat customers, checked on tables, dashed in and out of the open kitchen, and wrapped up leftovers.
   The thin-crusted pizzas arrived hot and bubbling straight from the oven—with a side of rough-cut basil leaves for sprinkling. The "house favorite," a white pizza topped with just-right proportions of ricotta cheese, garlic, sausage, sun-dried tomatoes, and spinach proved to be the favorite. But the margherita held its own with olive oil, pizza sauce, fresh mozzarella, fresh sliced tomato, fresh basil, fresh garlic, and Pecorino Romano cheese. We left stuffed—and with a bill that totaled just $30. The verdict: Thanks to our readers, I've got a new favorite spot for pizza—and garlic knots. 7986 W. Alameda Ave., Lakewood, 303-985-2777, www.virgiliospizzeria.com. UPDATE: A MEATY VEGGIE DOG
I first wrote about Steve's Snappin' Dogs, the East Colfax hotdog stand, in March and since then the buzz hasn't stopped about the shop's New Jersey-imported Thumman's Brand Frankfurters. But when a vegetarian friend couldn't stop talking about the veggie dog, I had to give one a try. Despite being a meat lover, I stepped up to Steve's counter (after enjoying a bite-size sample of a beef-and-pork dog) and ordered the veggie with yellow mustard, ketchup, and pickle chips, then sat and pondered my choice. It looked like the real thing, smelled the real thing, and when I finally took my first bite, it tasted just like the real thing. Satisfied and amazed, I've decided that with a dog this good and that much healthier, I might never eat a regular hotdog again. 3525 E. Colfax Ave., 303-333-SNAP, www.stevessnappindogs.com. —Amanda M. Faison