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Anniversaries can prompt restaurants to look inward; that’s what happened at LoHi’s Central Bar & Bistro, anyway. As the concept approached its fifth birthday, owner Isiah Salazar decided the New American menu wasn’t working and opted to reinvent the eatery. Five months ago, Candela Latin Kitchen was born, and the hip, colorful spot has been tempting Denverites ever since with Latin American taco mashups, ceviches, empanadas, and tequila- and rum-based drinks. Chef Jesse Vega, a native of Queens, New York, serves a menu of Puerto Rican, Caribbean, and Mexican flavors, such as fried sweet plantain tacos with maple chipotle glaze. The El Gran Combo guacamole has a lively punch thanks to guajillo-pistachio mojo sauce and fresh orange segments, and both the carnitas and the vegetarian-friendly mofongo are excellent. We’re sure Candela will enjoy many anniversaries to come. 1691 Central St., 303-477-4582
Wannabe expats: You don’t have to cross the Atlantic—just Sloan’s Lake—to find a taste of Europe, thanks to Edgewater’s eight-month-old Wine Beer Fat. At lunchtime, the unpretentious restaurant functions as an Old World–inspired deli and market, serving sandwiches stuffed with things like jamón Serrano, smashed white beans, and Manchego. Come 4:30 p.m., it morphs into a lively tapas bar where you’ll find locals sipping from well-edited beer and wine lists. “Montaditos,” or petite open-faced Spanish sandwiches, are the ideal repast; a few per person make for a satisfying meal. The white anchovy version with sun-dried tomato purée and green olives is so chock-full of umami it may even convert typically anchovy-averse Americans. 5350 W. 25th Ave., 303-887-2946
The Great Australian Bite
Whether you’re fluent in Australian “tucker” (translation: food) or you’ve yet to venture Down Under, Australia Day (January 26) offers the perfect excuse to get yourself over to the Great Australian Bite in Aurora. The almost-two-year-old fast-casual spot is located in a chain-heavy shopping center, but smiling owner (and Sydney native) Leanne Roth will make you feel like you’re someplace special. Her concise menu features staples such as meat pies—we adore the Original’s classic combination of ground beef, onion, and rich gravy in a flaky pastry—sausage rolls, and truly tasty mushy peas. Try and save room for the authentic sweets that beckon from inside the shop’s brightly lit case. In particular, the “lamington” (cubes of fluffy, tender-crumbed white cake coated in dark chocolate and desiccated coconut) is a treat we’re happy to have stateside. 6710 S. Cornerstar Way, Suite B, Aurora, 303-699-2700
Bonus: Our Favorite Pastry of the Month
Collaboration beers are so 2017. This year, collab doughnuts are the thing. Or they could be, if every iteration were as perfect as the Negroni doughnut holes at Kendra Anderson’s three-month-old RiNo hot spot, Bar Helix. While her bar was under construction, Anderson found herself working from neighboring Hotbox Roasters CBD (that’s coffee, beer, and doughnuts, of course). “I was talking to our chef, John Hadala, about the dessert menu,” says Anderson, a Negroni devotee, “and it hit me—we could make a Negroni doughnut!” She shared her vision with Angel Barnett, the baker behind Hotbox’s airy goodies, and Barnett tried a few versions. “They just weren’t boozy enough,” Anderson says. That is no longer the case. Barnett nailed it by filling the puffy spheres with sweet vermouth pastry cream, adding Campari to the glaze, and garnishing it all with brûléed orange and citrus crème chantilly. They taste like a fried-dough reincarnation of the cocktail—potent and bittersweet. “They’re not just some crappy doughnut we slopped pretend Negroni flavorings onto,” Anderson says. “They’re the real deal.” —Denise Mickelsen