Denver’s Best New Restaurants

Ten new eateries where the food, staff, and ambiance make for fantastic dining discoveries.

December 2006

Steuben's 523 E. 17th Ave., 303-830-1001, www.steubens.com

We love everything about Steuben's: the menu stocked with American regional classics, the space that used to be a garage, the retro decor, the laidback vibe, and the dealio prices. Open only since June, the restaurant on 17th Avenue feels like it's always been there dishing up authentic Maine lobster rolls, the city's best iceberg wedge, perfectly spicy étouffee, a mean green chile cheeseburger, and crispy fried chicken. And it comes as no surprise to us that it's the Vesta Dipping Grill team—Josh and Jen Wolkon and chef Matt Selby—pulling off perfection with the help of Executive Chef Brandon Biederman, who kicks out great food to a packed dining room every day. Bonus: Recently the check for a party of eight rang up at $178.92—that's $53 dollars a couple with a 20 percent tip.

Eat The Cubano sandwich stacked with ham, house-roasted pork shoulder, sour pickles, dill pickles, Swiss cheese, mustard, and mayo. Dip it in the side of garlicky chimichurri.
Drink Sessions lager.
Don't Miss The butterscotch pudding with vanilla wafers and Wednesday night's fish-n-chips special.
Sit In one of the brown vinyl booths.

Steve's Snappin' Dogs
3525 E. Colfax Ave., 303-333-7627, www.stevessnappindogs.com

At Steve's Snappin' Dogs on Colfax Avenue, owners Steve and Linda Ballas elevate the frankfurter to the level of fine food. Forget the corner cart—since February, Steve's Snappin' Dogs has been a restaurant dedicated to the dog. Dress yours up any way you like with more than 20 add-ons, ranging from celery salt, dill pickles, and chips to grilled red onions and bacon. Go messy with the Denver burrito dog (chile con carne, Cheddar Jack cheese, jalapeños, bacon, tomato, and romaine in a tortilla) or keep it low carb by tossing the bun in favor of Romaine lettuce or a flour tortilla. No matter what's piled on top, Steve makes sure all customers know they're eating New Jersey-imported Thumann's brand frankfurters with 100 percent beef and pork.

Eat The Jersey dog with spicy mustard, green relish, caraway sauerkraut, red onions, and bacon (for nonmeat eaters, try the fantastic veggie dog).
Drink Fresh-brewed iced tea with peach flavoring.
Don't Miss Deep-fried carrot sticks and green beans.
Sit At the counter.

250 Josephine St., 303-377-3488

In what's been a cursed space since Radek Cerny closed Papillon Cafe in 2002, chef-owner Chris Douglas is making a name for himself and his fine Mexican food at Tula. And while we often intend to stop by the Cherry Creek restaurant just for margaritas and the trio of seviches served with homemade chips, we always end up staying for dinner. That's when we order the tender duck confit leg and seared breast with homemade pumpkin ravioli, roasted lobster mushrooms, and a brown butter duck sage sauce. On a busy night, Tula hums with activity: flatwear clinks against plates, servers whisk by bringing new dishes and clearing old, diners nearby raise glasses in a cheer. The whole feel of Tula is just right—a touch of Mexico in a part glossy, part rustic space blended with a very real, very pleasant dining experience.

Eat Spanish chorizo-wrapped scallops in blood-orange-habanero butter sauce, celeriac purée, and fried carrots.
Drink Prickly pear margarita made with tequila-infused fruit.
Don't Miss Tuna nachos with crispy wontons, seared ahi, guacamole, Fresno peppers, and chipotle cream sauce.
Sit In the bar.

Virgilio's Pizzeria Neapolitana
7986 W. Alameda Ave., Lakewood, 303-985-2777, www.virgiliospizzeria.com

Virgilio's feels a bit like a Mystic Pizza—the passion is pizza pie, the servers are young and hard-working, and the owner, Italian-born and Connecticut-raised Virgilio Mario Urbano, is always on hand. Since opening last October, Urbano has seated, served, and chatted up customers, making sure his restaurant exceeds expectations. The large menu encourages many visits—one day we fold slices of the New York-style pie in half, another we use a knife and fork on the thick-crust Sicilian pies, and another we twirl spaghetti around with Mama's marinara. But each time, over at our two-top, Virgilio checks in, making sure the organic field-green salad with feta (mounds and mounds of feta) and homemade balsamic tastes just right and that the thin crust on our margherita pizza meets expectations. Both dishes leave us grinning and digging in for more.

Eat The house favorite: white pizza with ricotta, garlic, sausage, sun-dried tomatoes, and spinach.
Drink La Rossa by Moretti, a dark amber lager.
Don't Miss The garlic knots or the decadent spinach pinwheels stuffed with ricotta, garlic, mozarella, and spinach.
Sit At the two-top near the brick-lined ovens.