Denver's ten best new restaurants
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.
Mark Manger Inside Pinche Taqueria, our Best New Restaurant.
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.
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.
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.
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.