Denver's ten best new restaurants

Categories: Best of Denver

Pinche-042.jpg
Mark Manger
Inside Pinche Taqueria, our Best New Restaurant.
At the end of last year, we published our list of the ten best restaurants that had opened in 2011 -- as we saw them at the time. Over the next few months, though, as we prepared for the Best of Denver 2012, we had a chance to really digest what the 300 new restaurants had brought to the city, and our ranking of contenders for the Best New Restaurant award shifted.

Now that the issue has hit the streets, we're updating our short list. Here, in no particular order, is our definitive list of the best new restaurants of 2011.

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Mark Manger
Thai Street Food Restaurant, 11650 Montview Boulevard, Aurora
Several street-food operators went stationary this year, including Utumporn Killoran, the woman who's had a Thai cart on the 16th Street Mall for more than five years. Most days, Killoran uses this spot in Aurora as a commissary kitchen, prepping to feed the masses downtown. But on Saturday, she opens it up as a proper eatery, Thai Street Food Restaurant, serving specialties from the Issan region of Thailand -- and some of the best curries and noodle dishes in town. And for her efforts, she landed our Best Thai Restaurant award this year.

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Mark Manger
Maria Empanada, 5209 West Mississippi Avenue, Lakewood
The first time we stopped by Maria Empanada, which scored our Best Central/South American Restaurant award, we wanted to weep tears of joy. Lorena Cantarovici opened this spot last year after her catering business expanded and necessitated a bigger kitchen. The place is tiny (she only has two tables), but Cantarovici still manages to turn out big flavor: authentic Argentine empanadas, tartas and tortillas Españolas, as well as excellent alfajores made with dulce de leche. Stop in and you'll also be treated to a conversation with Cantarovici herself, who is tiny, sassy and joyful.

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Mark Manger
Tao Tao Noodle Bar, 10400 East Sixth Avenue, Aurora
Every time we eat at Tao Tao Noodle Bar, a Chinese restaurant on the edge of Lowry, we suffer intense food envy: We can stuff ourselves to the point of bursting and still want to order whatever it is that we see on the next table. The giant menu at this opulent joint spans American Chinese and Chinese Chinese, with many specialties from Shanghai and Taiwan tucked into the mix. We especially love the juicy pork dumplings -- in fact, they won our Best Xiao Long Bao award -- and we're eternally appreciative of the staff, which is one of the most gracious in town. We're glad that David Lee and May Sung opened this place after their last restaurant, the beloved Chopsticks China Bistro, went dark.

Location Info

Thai Street Food Restaurant

11650 Montview Blvd., Aurora, CO

Category: Restaurant

Maria Empanada - CLOSED

5209 W. Mississippi Ave., Lakewood, CO

Category: Restaurant

Tao Tao Noodle Bar - CLOSED

10400 E. 6th Ave., Aurora, CO

Category: Restaurant

Pizzeria Locale

1730 Pearl St., Boulder, CO

Category: Restaurant

Cafe|Bar

295 S. Pennsylvania St., Denver, CO

Category: Restaurant

Linger

2030 W. 30th Ave., Denver, CO

Category: Restaurant

The Diner

9670 W. Coal Mine Ave., Littleton, CO

Category: Restaurant

Axios Estiatorio

3901 Tennyson St., Denver, CO

Category: Restaurant

The Wooden Table

2500 E. Orchard Ave., Greenwood Village, CO

Category: Restaurant

Lotus - CLOSED

1701 Wynkoop St., Denver, CO

Category: Music

My Voice Nation Help
20 comments
IG
IG

Some of this list is justified but much of it is comprised of restaurants that share the distinction of being cheap, heavy on braising (which hides protein quality and imperfections) and slightly obscure.  Please consider as you read this that I agree that they are all 'good' and at least one is great.  

Shunk is making her own good name (besides her fiasco of an original review of Barolo) but this list looks too similar to her predecessor's efforts, Sheehan.  Jason at times disappeared down a rabbit hole of Aurora hole in the wall joints for weeks on end.  His efforts were magnanimous as they tried to help out the little guy; but many of us found it boring and outside the role of the writer.  Here is to hoping that Shunk sticks to her knitting and only dabbles in the obscure, braised, hole in the wall restaurants.  It's not politically correct to say, but approximately half this list is irrelevant and doesn't help the Denver eater.  It's fun to find the diamonds in the rough, but vanity seems more on display here than a comprehensive list of Denver's best new restaurants.  I hope this list doesn't make it outside our geographic boundaries.  It doesn't show well for Denver - even with a few solid restaurants included.    

CJ Powell
CJ Powell

Couldn't disagree more with Cafe|Bar. Uninspiring dishes (parts of my meal were clearly frozen/reheated) and terrible customer service. Cool ambiance and patio, but that's not why people go to restaurants. 

steveville
steveville

They're all out of my league.  Too fancy.  Too expensive.  Too crowded.

Anna
Anna

I have not tried any of them! *hangs head in shame* But I will be now that I read this post! Linger looks GORGEOUS, and The Wooden Table looks delightful.  Got us some new places to try for our Friday night date nights! :)

RockyMountainOyster
RockyMountainOyster

So Le Grand fell off your list (they were on your original list)?

Article doesn't really mention it, but I think the pasta dishes at Wooden Table are outstanding. Wasn't so crazy about the pork tenderloin mentioned in the article. 

birdie
birdie

Crimson Canary.  Loves it!

dchris24
dchris24

Wow....pretentious much?  Has it ever occurred to you that maybe, just maybe, some of the best new restaurants don't fit into the downtown, Hi-Lo, Lo-Hi, Lodo, trendy-but-ultimately-lame category?  The "vanity" seems to be coming from you, who apparently considers himself the arbiter of what's "relevant"......probably whatever is trendy and within 1 square mile of your downtown condo.  Lemme guess, you live in the Highlands....?

milwaukee
milwaukee

Great article, too bad there are some really small minded readers leaving comments.

Really Steveville, too fancy, NO, well maybe for you.  Too expensive, NO, as mentioned, some are very affordable, but maybe too expensive for you.  Too crowded - really? - either stay home or head out on a Tuesday evening.

Laura Shunk
Laura Shunk

You can get out of Maria Empanada for less than $10; Tao Tao and Thai Street Food will set you back less than $20.

Kimberly
Kimberly

Hasn't Frasca been around for the better part of three years (or more)?

milwaukee
milwaukee

not new, been there many many years.

Laura Shunk
Laura Shunk

Consider that list a list of honorable mentions -- three months later, I'm reflecting more on what's new in the cross-section of Denver dining instead of just the big restaurants that opened in 2011.

irascibleEats
irascibleEats

Lemme guess: you'd like to live in the Highlands?

Don't go trashing a whole neighborhood simply b/c it may have a few "trendy-but-ultimately-lame" restaurants within its bounds. There are plenty of folks who live in the Highlands who aren't afraid to venture out of town for good food. There are plenty of folks who live in the Highlands who (gasp) know how to cook for ourselves and don't live and die by the recommendations of food writers and/or snarky commenters.  

IG
IG

Well, I'm no more the arbiter of whats good than the writers you read here. I'm as qualified as they and have a rationale behind my writing. Feel free to disregard my input. I hope you were not damaged in any way by reading it.

Ghett-ill
Ghett-ill

I think "steveville" is just too critical and hard to please. I saw a post of his claiming that 99% of pizza in Denver was lousy.  Where does he order from, Pizza Hut?  In my experience 99% of the time pizza is "most excellent".

GFTW
GFTW

You're obviously new around here!

ohwell
ohwell

Pizzeria Locale was as close as they could get - still a Frasca offshoot

dchris24
dchris24

"Lemme guess: you'd like to live in the Highlands?"...Haha...No. Sorry.I wasn't trashing a "whole neighborhood"...merely some of the pretentious and arrogant assholes that inhabit it.  FYI...I have friends that live in the Highlands...I go there often...I go out there often...I eat there often...I know that there are good people that live there. I also know that there is a pervasive sect of arrogant and self-righteous yuppies that place themselves higher than others. Those people are what I'm referring to, and you've proven my point.  No, I could give a flying fuck about living in your neighborhood...really.  

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