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.
1575 Central St., 303-561-3354
When Justin Brunson and Steve Allee were cooking together at Luca D'Italia, they'd spend long hours at the grill and pasta stations swapping foodie dreams and hatching a plan to strike out on their own in the restaurant world. Something simple, maybe. "We thought we could start a sandwich shop without a bunch of overhead," says Brunson.
The two found friends to put up money, and did a trial run out of the Lancer Lounge, a dive bar located in the same building as Luca. The Lancer, best known for its cheap drinks, provided two things: a kitchen, and a platform for the public to taste the sandwich menu and give feedback. Word spread of the inventive eats, and the Lancer's crowd suddenly became dotted with in-the-know foodies. The response was enough to give Brunson and Allee the confidence they needed; they signed a lease on a space in Highland and got to work tiling, painting, and designing what would become Masterpiece Delicatessen.
When the doors first opened in May, the only sandwich that remained from the trial menu was the black truffle egg salad. "We had to change everything up because we only have electric equipment here—a flattop grill and a convection oven," as opposed to the full-blown kitchen at the Lancer, explains Brunson. We love the egg salad's delicate balance of earthiness and creaminess, but we're just as taken with the braised beef brisket, Cubano, and smoked turkey offerings. What sets these seemingly ordinary sandwiches apart is a chef's touch—red wine gastrique and Taleggio fondue with the braised beef brisket; slow-roasted mojo-brined pork on the Cubano; cranberry honey accompanying the smoked turkey.
Masterpiece is a gold mine, so much so that it's already outgrown its digs. Space might be tight, but Brunson and Allee are planning to stay put. Of course, if they need more room there's always the Lancer.
Don't Miss Braised beef brisket, black truffle egg salad
Hot Seat Park it anywhere you can—if this spot has a drawback, it's the limited number of tables and chairs.
On the Side All sandwiches come with the choice of chips or pasta salad—opt for the creative, ever-changing pasta.
The Grill Master
The Q Worldly Barbeque, Blues, and Jazz Lounge
2817 E. Third Ave., 303-399-7227, www.theqbarbeque.com
Now that seven months have passed, Bekah Donovan, co-owner of the Q Worldly Barbeque, can laugh about the restaurant's opening night. "We opened at 5 p.m. and our main beverage distributor delivered 95 cases of beer, liquor, and wine at 5:15 p.m.," she says. "It was the ultimate restaurant chaos."
Since that day in late May, things have gotten a lot smoother at the Q. Now, regulars line up at lunch for beef brisket, St. Louis spareribs, and sandwiches stacked with smoked meat, coleslaw, onion rings, and sweet pickles. At night, music lovers flock for live blues and jazz—with a side of barbecue and (very) cold beer.
For Donovan and business partner David Pellegrin, the idea for pairing blues and jazz with barbecue grew out of their other business. The two own Soleil, a Mediterranean grill and wine bar a few steps from the Q. Upon paying the check at Soleil, patrons would often ask where they could catch some live music. Since there's nary a spot nearby, the duo started to wonder. Pellegrin had always wanted to open a barbecue joint, and Cherry Creek needed a live music venue (not to mention affordable eats), and so the concept was born and the menu planning, testing, and tasting began.
All the meats are dry-rubbed and then smoked low and slow in the massive in-house rotisserie smoker. It's worth looking over the counter to ogle the 3,000-pound beast, which is capable of smoking up to 800 pounds of meat at once. After you pay your respects, head to the sauce bar—a bonanza of a dozen homemade sauces whipped up from recipes created by Pellegrin (who is a classically trained chef), co-owner and executive chef Ben Donovan, and manager Andy Clapp. Look for sauce staples such as tangy Kansas City, spicy Memphis, and creamy Alabama, plus a host of global flavors—Asian sake, chile-mint Thai, and mango-habanero. Regulars know to keep an eye out for the sauce of the week—it might be Indian, Korean, or African.
There's something for everyone on the Q's vast menu. Our favorite dish of the moment: the monstrous pulled-pork shoulder sandwich with a side of fried-to-order potato chips—and don't forget the sauce.
Don't Miss Pulled-pork shoulder sandwich, cooked-to-order chips
Hot Seat Position yourself near the sauce bar—the closer you are, the more opportunities to sample the different flavors.
Groove Time Pair your barbecue with live blues and jazz, Wednesday through Saturday nights.
Sweet Stuff Finish off lunch or dinner in Southern style—with a marshmallowy moon pie.