Review: LYFE Kitchen Has Good Intentions, but Needs More

Danielle Lirette
Soup is good food: the corn chowder at LYFE Kitchen. Check out more of what's on LYFE's menu.
LYFE Kitchen
8505 Park Meadows Center Drive, Lone Tree

A meal at LYFE Kitchen isn't just supposed to fill you up; it's supposed to make you feel good. Founded three years ago in California by a pair of former McDonald's executives and an investment banker, this rapidly expanding chain, which entered the Denver market this summer with a location in the Park Meadows Shopping Center, takes wellness seriously. The restaurant shuns white flour, cream and butter, and doesn't have a fryer. It offers lengthy vegan/vegetarian and gluten-free menus, complimentary sparkling water, and recipes packed with superfoods, not sodium. Even the space is WELL-certified, signifying that requirements in a host of areas from air quality to lighting have been met.

See also: Behind the Scenes at LYFE Kitchen

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Review: Mayan Manjar Yucateco Is a Knockout

Danielle Lirette
The chicken panuchos hide a surprise layer of black beans. Check out more photos from Mayan Manjar Yucateco's menu.

Mayan Manjar Yucateco
5209 West Mississippi Avenue, Lakewood

The TV was on when I walked into Mayan Manjar Yucateco, a tiny restaurant that opened last spring in the former home of Maria Empanada. But all my attention was on the menu as I tried to decide if I wanted tamales, empanadas or the Yucatecan specialty called panuchos for lunch.

See also: A Closer Look at Mayan Manjar Yucateco

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Review: To the Wind Bistro Is a Breath of Fresh Air on East Colfax

Danielle Lirette
To the Wind Bistro coaxes escargots out of their shells.
To the Wind Bistro
3333 East Colfax Avenue

Professional kitchens are not nice places. Creative, explosive, energetic, yes. Nice? No. You know this if you've worked in one, or if you've read any of the rant-filled memoirs by people who have. In the latest offering in this genre, Sous Chef: 24 Hours on the Line, Michael Gibney churns out this characterization of the common chef: "His temper is incendiary. Allowing something imperfect to reach his hands might set him off, and the shrapnel hits everybody when he blows."

But at To the Wind Bistro, a tiny spot that opened on East Colfax Avenue this spring, the only thing blowing is, literally, the wind, which has a way of sweeping through the place when diners duck in to avoid the stray evening storm. Here there's no shrapnel, no temper. Truth be told, there's not even a sous-chef. There are only two people in the kitchen, and if they talk to each other like they actually like each other, it's because they do.

See also: A Closer Look at To The Wind Bistro

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Review: Is The Kitchen Next Door Glendale the Next Big Thing?

Danielle Lirette
Sliders are some of the pub grub at The Kitchen Next Door Glendale.
The Kitchen Next Door Glendale
658 South Colorado Boulevard Boulevard

You know how forty is the new thirty, and green is the new black? In restaurant terms,
The Kitchen Next Door
is the new TGI Fridays.

If that sounds like a slur rather than a compliment, you're too young to remember the global chain in its early days, before endless $10 apps and outposts from Seoul to Sri Lanka. Describing what Fridays meant to the restaurant industry in 1973, a writer for Newsweek captured the phenomenon with this: "Police had to ring Friday's (as it quickly became known) with barricades to handle the nightly hordes of young singles. Hundreds of blatantly imitative emporiums soon opened their doors in scores of major cities -- and an industry was born."

See also: Behind the Scenes at The Kitchen Next Door Glendale

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Review: Guard and Grace looks lovely, but faces some hard realities

Danielle Lirette
Modern steak at modern steakhouse Guard and Grace
Guard and Grace
1801 California Street

I knew I'd need a steak knife for dinner at Guard and Grace, the steakhouse that Troy Guard opened in March in the bottom of 1801 California Street, a newly renovated 54-story building downtown. I just didn't know it would be for dessert.

See also: Behind the Scenes at Guard and Grace

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Review: Gozo is a real hot spot -- in more ways than one

Danielle Lirette
The skin-on sea bass is one of many tempting entrees on offer. Browse more favorites from Gozo's menu.
30 South Broadway

Denver's restaurant scene is flourishing, which means two things: It's harder than ever to decide where to eat, and just as hard to know what your money will buy once you get there.

For a recent review meal at Chai & Chai, the no-frills Indian-Arabian restaurant in Aurora, I waded through dirty dishes to find a seat, quaffed lukewarm water from a plastic bottle, and filled up on rice because there wasn't much meat on my lamb mansaf. A month later, I walked into Gozo, an Italian/Spanish-inspired eatery that opened on South Broadway in March, without a reservation and was shown to the chef's counter by the wood-burning oven. For just a dollar more than I'd paid for that rice-mounded mansaf ($21 instead of $19.95), I received a plate of fish so spot-on in concept and execution, it could've been part of a cooking-school demo.

See also: Behind the Scenes at Gozo

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Review: El Chingon's chiles rellenos have a soft landing on Tennyson Street

Danielle Lirette
Chicken enchiladas. Check out more of what's on El Chingon's menu.
El Chingon
4326 Tennyson Street

If you've been in Denver for any length of time -- say, longer than a layover at DIA -- you're aware that we take green chile seriously here. So seriously, in fact, that it's earned a spot on the list of topics to avoid at family gatherings, along with pot, politics and when you're going to produce that first grandchild. If you like a goopy, flour-thickened smother and whoever is running the show (mom, dad, uncle, whomever) falls on the side of straight-up tomatillos and chiles, you'd better keep your mouth shut or risk no seconds on dessert.

Green chile isn't the only food that sparks fightin' words in this city. Pizza, burgers and edibles have no shortage of supporters on both sides of the fence. Now El Chingon, a family-run Mexican restaurant that relocated to Berkeley from Arvada last year, is doing its best to add another to the list: chiles rellenos.

See also: A Closer Look at El Chingon

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Review: Olive & Finch was a bright idea, even if this fast-casual is sometimes too casual

Danielle Lirette
Shaved-fennel salad, $6, at Olive & Finch. Delve into Olive & Finch's menu in our slideshow.
Olive & Finch
1552 East 17th Avenue

I dropped by Olive & Finch for a salad, and what I got was certainly green. But rather than a jumble of leaves and vegetables on a plate, my order came in a tall, clear cup, a product of this Uptown eatery's juice bar. While I try to eat healthy -- when I'm not reviewing, that is -- I'm not much of a juicer. But how could I resist something called Rejuvenate, billed on the menu as "the perfect recovery drink after your intense workout or a long night"? I didn't need help recovering from those particular situations, but if a few sips of the green stuff could help me recover from my food coma -- too many restaurants, too little time -- I was all in.

See also: A Closer Look at Olive & Finch

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Review: Man could live on bread alone at Chai & Chai

Danielle Lirette
Uttapam dish at Chai & Chai. Browse through more of Chai & Chai's menu slideshow.
Chai & Chai
12501 East 17th Avenue, Aurora

Last fall an unassuming little place named Chai & Chai opened in an unlikely stretch of fast-food restaurants at the heart of the Anschutz Medical Campus. I'd heard it had good dosa -- good enough to nab the Best Dosa award in the Best of Denver 2014 -- so one night I headed east, past City Park, past Stapleton, past the Latino businesses that spring up along Montview Boulevard, until I turned onto the campus, where brick behemoths that are beehives of activity during the day grow eerily deserted at night. I thought it would be easy to find parking at that hour, but the adjacent garage was for staff only, and the gravel lot down the street required a permit. Finally, I decided to risk a ticket and headed for the lot, assuming that parking would be my greatest adventure of the night. I was wrong.

See also: Behind the Scenes at Chai & Chai

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Review: Work & Class delivers a square meal -- and an aha moment -- for a fair price

Danielle Lirette
Gluten-free meatballs over polenta at Work & Class. Delver into their menu in our slideshow.
Work & Class
2500 Larimer Street

If I were Scheherazade spinning tales to save my life before a disgruntled king, I'd look to Work & Class for inspiration. Within the confines of this much-anticipated Ballpark restaurant, which opened at full tilt four months ago and hasn't looked back since, there are stories to last a thousand and one nights, maybe even a thousand and two.

See also: A Closer Look at Work & Class

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