Best New Restaurants
This year, the top eateries in the Mile-High City present more than just tasty cuisine. In uncertain times, these eight hotspots offer approachability, affordability, and a great excuse to have a little fun.
Make recipes from these restaurants in your own kitchen.
In the 365 days since we put together last year's list of the best new restaurants, the world has changed. The housing bubble has popped, the stock market has tanked, and the government has spent gobs of money propping up our economy. Quite honestly, it sounds like a perfect time to eat out—to get away for a couple of hours, to relax, to come together over the table and share a meal.
That might mean trading bites of cake and shake at D Bar (fact: even in a down economy, the dessert trade holds firm), or seeking solace in the cabin-in-the-woods feel of Beatrice & Woodsley, or licking sauce from your fingers at the Q Worldly Barbeque. Or maybe your perfect meal out is choosing the cozy pairing of steak frites, biting into a stellar burger, scorching your mouth on bubbling pizza, indulging in a stacked sandwich, or discovering the daily whims of an inspired chef.
Lucky for us in the Mile-High City, 2008 has been a fortuitous year for new restaurants. Not only will you see the nation's dining trends playing out in the local scene—the love of all things pork, the continuation of burgermania, the rise of the cocktail, and the dedication to local and seasonal cuisine—you'll find more approachable and affordable eateries than ever. In fact, all eight of the restaurants on this year's list provide, in their own way, an escape—and there's not a white tablecloth among them. So, make the call, book a table, and allow yourself to have some fun.
The Great Escape
Beatrice & Woodsley
38 S. Broadway, 303-777-3505, www.beatriceandwoodsley.com
When it comes to concepts, we've seen it all—the zoolike chain complete with plastic animals, a destination restaurant where everything—menus included—was wrapped in cashmere, and the super-mod bar that served teensy-weensy small plates. But few could rival Beatrice & Woodsley's painstaking recreation of a long-forgotten cabin in the woods.
For owners Kevin Delk and John Skogstad, already known for their over-the-top Mario's Double Daughter's Salotto and award-winning Two-Fisted Mario's Pizza, this is a dream two years in the making. The idea originated with the folktale of Beatrice and Woodsley, a winemaker's daughter and a poor cooper in the 1800s. As the story goes, the couple moved from California to Colorado, where Woodsley hand-built a cabin in the woods for his bride and they lived happily ever after. Delk and Skogstad have recreated that cabin as if they'd stumbled upon it today—long unused and reclaimed by the forest, but once dearly loved. Think aspen trees pushing up through floorboards, tarnished lanterns hanging overhead, wispy drapes, and a dusty root (wine) cellar. And the space works, partly because, as Delk says, "People in Denver are appreciative of the past and the present."
With this larger-than-life concept, one might worry that the decor would overshadow the food. It doesn't. Instead, chef Pete List's cuisine plays to the theater of the space by balancing the rustic with the sophisticated. Dishes are a modern, eclectic mix of food inspired by the early 1900s—a gorgeous platter of roasted seasonal vegetables, roasted pork loin with grits, sweet-onion tartlets with garlic-milk jam and wild baby arugula, and crispy soba noodle cake with pickled vegetables and sweet soy. The idea, says Skogstad, is to present small plates that are one part rustic, hearty, and Old World, and the other part sophisticated and clean. Though not every dish makes the leap, there are many—including the rabbit with braised leg stuffing—that conjure up visions of Beatrice and Woodsley themselves, sharing bites by candlelight.
Don't Miss Soba noodle cakes, hot chocolate for two
Hot Seat Ask for a table in the cozy front room, where the restaurant's cabinlike feel is at its best.
Trivia Tidbit Yes, those are real aspen trees decorating the space.
Extra Credit Kudos if you can figure out how to work the wacky bathroom sinks. (Hint: Pull the chain and be patient.)
The Neighborhood Favorite
1294 S. Broadway, 720-974-0602, www.bistroonedenver.com
Each evening, Bistro One chef Olav Peterson and his kitchen crew pause at the kitchen window to watch the sun set over the Rockies. "We appreciate seeing the art and beauty of nature right in front of us," Peterson says. This gives insight into Peterson's M.O.: He likes to keep things simple and pure. The South Broadway restaurant bakes its own breads (from brioche to rye), cures its own pastrami, corned beef, and bacon, and makes its own pasta. "There's pride in the kitchen," he says, "so much more so because we're involved in every element."
Peterson has always been meticulous. At age 14 he started his kitchen career washing dishes at the French Bakery in Castle Rock, hoping to get a shot at cooking. His mentor told him, "You're the best [dishwasher], so you can't move to the line."
"I had to get all the dishes done, and then I could go learn something in the kitchen," says Peterson.
That attention to detail is now reflected in Bistro One—in the way the sharp lines, dark wood, and cornflower-blue contemporary accents complement the clean, simple cuisine. That doesn't mean Peterson doesn't get creative—to wit, his fettuccine and meatballs are composed of made-from-scratch pasta and served with medium-rare Kobe beef meatballs. Servers bob with excitement when you order one of their favorite dishes (the crock of decadent crawfish mac and cheese with béchamel and house-cured bacon tops the list). And when dishes, such as the sweet-soy buffalo, arrive at the table, they prompt a clatter of forks as diners pass plates and share tastes.
Those experiences run over to lunch (order the steak frites) and brunch, where the French toast, made with house-baked bread, reigns as the city's best. At all meals—Bistro One serves brunch, lunch, and dinner—servings are plentiful and astoundingly well priced (dinner entrées top out at $22, and lunch averages $10). As a true American bistro, this is the kind of spot you'll want to visit a couple of times a week.
Don't Miss Crawfish mac and cheese, sweet-soy buffalo, lemon-olive oil cake
Hot Seat Ask for a booth in the middle of the restaurant, where the high backs offer privacy but still lend a view.
Chef's Take Chef Olav Peterson says hollandaise sauce should make you happy inside—taste his sunny version at brunch, and you'll agree.