Review: Sunrise Sunset Recalls a Time When It Was Morning in America

Danielle Lirette
The Mario's Sunshine skillet brightens the day in a retro way at Sunrise Sunset.
Sunrise Sunset
7400 West 38th Avenue, Wheat Ridge

Michael Pollan famously proclaimed that we shouldn't eat anything our great-grandparents wouldn't recognize as food. Most of us play along with this theory by reading labels and skipping things that belong in the lab. But there's another way to heed Pollan's advice, and it's a lot more fun: We can roll out of bed and head to Sunrise Sunset, where breakfast skillets are brimming with old-fashioned staples and there's nary a newfangled kale chip in sight.

See also: Behind the Scenes at Sunrise Sunset

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Review: Adelitas's Deals Are the Taco the Town -- But Other Dishes Need to Buck Up

Danielle Lirette
Tuesday's dollar tacos are a big draw at Adelitas Cocina Y Cantina.
Adelitas Cocina Y Cantina
1294 South Broadway

It's early on a Tuesday night, so early you can still nab a parking place on South Broadway. But inside Adelitas Cocina Y Cantina, nearly every seat at the bar is taken and there's a wait for tables. We crowd by the hostess stand and make small talk, happy to have arrived when we did -- the line behind us isn't getting any shorter -- and even happier that within minutes, we'll be drinking margaritas along with half the population of Platt Park.

Around us, people wave their arms to flag down servers, desperately trying to order another drink before happy hour expires. (It doesn't do any good to call out; between the music and all the people, the noise level is simply too high.) Not that anyone will stop drinking when the clock strikes six. This isn't Cinderella; there is no magic coach that will turn into a pumpkin at the end of happy hour. All that will happen is that the price of house margaritas and the chips you crave along with them will go up a notch. The real deal won't expire until closing time, when tacos return to their normal plated price ($8.95 to $10.95 for three), up from the Tuesday special of $1 per piece ($4 for shrimp). But even when this day's deal ends, another will start.

See also: Behind the Scenes at Adelitas

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Review: The Nickel Is a Fast Change-Up for Hotel Teatro

Danielle Lirette
Italian dishes such as lamb Bolognese rival what's coming off the grill at the Nickel.
The Nickel
1100 14th Street

The first time I went to The Nickel, the spiffy new restaurant that took the place of Prima Ristorante in the refurbished Hotel Teatro, I felt like I was buying a new car. There was wheeling. There was dealing. There was even that awkward moment when the salesman disappeared into the back room to consult the boss, good cop/bad cop style. Only this wasn't a salesman, it was a hostess, and what we wanted wasn't a better price on the outgoing model, but one of the empty tables scattered around the dining room. "I'm sorry," the hostess said. "Can you come back in an hour? The pre-theater crowd will be gone by then."

But my friend couldn't wait; he had places to be. So he inquired about the empty stools at the community counter and wraparound bar. "I'm sorry," she said for the second time. "You're not allowed to sit there. You'll have to come back." In the end, though, the good cop saved us, interrupting our talk of where to go next with an invitation to simply find an open seat.

See also: Behind the Scenes at The Nickel

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Review: The Squeaky Bean Could Be Too Much Fun

Danielle Lirette
Blistered peppers and creamy burrata make for a delicious bite at The Squeaky Bean.

The Squeaky Bean
1500 Wynkoop Street

If The Squeaky Bean were a person, it would be the kid making wisecracks in the back of the class, smart enough to ace the test without cracking open a book. It knows the rules but chooses to break them -- first in its eccentric original home in Highland, where the kitchen won the neighborhood over with rustic fare prepared on little more than camping equipment -- and now in LoDo. When the restaurant opened here after a year-long hiatus, it tried to reassure fans that despite the swanky digs and high-reaching menu, it was the same old Bean, with checks clipped to seed packets and drinks named for celebrities. But the food and service were far more sophisticated than silly, and I loved the place when I reviewed it in the fall of 2012.

This is a restaurant born of risk and reinvention, though, and much has changed since then -- including the replacement of opening chef Max MacKissock with Theo Adley, a veteran chef who made his mark at the Pinyon in Boulder. So I felt it was time to see what the kid is up to these days.

See also: Behind the Scenes at the Squeaky Bean

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Review: Chop Shop Casual Urban Eatery Is a Quick Hit

Danielle Lirette
Forget the foil: At Chop Shop, entrees like this Indian-style chicken are plated on bamboo boards.
Chop Shop Casual Urban Eatery
4990 East Colfax Avenue

Meats are sizzling, tofu's frying, pots are clanging: It's game time, and the reality of a roomful of diners has hit Chop Shop hard. The chef has a word with someone on the line; she moves stations and the tempo picks up -- which is good, because a runner has been hovering nearby, waiting for the last few plates to appear so he can whisk them to their table. The kitchen action is everything you'd expect on a busy Thursday night; you just wouldn't expect it at a fast-casual place.

But Chop Shop, which opened this summer on a revitalizing stretch of East Colfax Avenue, is not your normal fast-casual -- at least not if your definition begins and ends with Chipotle.

See also: Behind the Scenes at Chop Shop

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Review: The District Makes a Course Correction

Danielle Lirette
The deep-fried peanut butter sandwich is the sweetest part of a meal at the District.
The District
1320 East 17th Avenue

I don't live in the district that is home to The District, the historic area in Uptown that inspired the restaurant's name. But I drive by often, so it's been easy to keep tabs on the place.

At the start of summer, I watched a short-but-sweet burst of construction next to Serioz Pizza (now the BSide), in a space that had long been vacant. Within six weeks -- an unheard-of time frame in an industry known for delays -- the District opened there, and people quickly began finding their way to the restaurant's patio on East 17th Avenue. As the weather grew warmer (and the Rockies grew colder), the patio seemed full more often than not, and even now, with heaters required to ward off the chill, it's not unusual to see people sitting outside.

I grew curious. What was it that drew people to this restaurant, this patio, in a neighborhood with no shortage of good places to eat?

See also: Behind the Scenes at The District

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Review: Stoic & Genuine Is a Keeper

Danielle Lirette
Crab-mango salad, adapted from Jennifer Jasinski's The Perfect Bite, at Stoic & Genuine.
Stoic & Genuine
1701 Wynkoop Street

Aside from the name, everything about Stoic & Genuine shouts seafood. In the raw bar, oysters and crab legs glisten on ice. Emerald-glass floats, salvaged from fishing nets, fill a case by the hostess stand. Light bounces off mirrored panels like moonlight on silvery water. Sand fencing wraps around the ceiling, and oversized shutters hang over the windows in front, the ones that would let in sea breezes and the squawking of gulls if we were near the ocean. But what, exactly, are those earth-toned shapes painted on upper sections of the walls?

As we sat at a banquette popping fried surf clams, sipping wine and watching the action in the open kitchen, we debated. Were they meant to be sand at low tide? Abstract coral? A rocky beach? Re-entering the small, narrow dining room after a trip to the loo, I finally understood: They were part of an octopus, with tentacled arms interrupted by twelve-foot windows. Sometimes you have to take a step back to see what's really going on -- and that's as true for this restaurant as it is for the wall art.

See also: Behind the Scenes at Stoic & Genuine

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Review: Gone Swishin' at Kobe An Shabu Shabu

Danielle Lirette
What's cooking? Shabu shabu at Kobe An Shabu Shabu.
Kobe An Shabu Shabu
3400 Osage Street

Somewhere along the line, cooking became a chore. For reasons best left to food historians and sociologists, the art of feeding ourselves has tumbled in popularity and now hovers just above taking out the trash on the list of most despised household tasks. But if the activity at Kobe An Shabu Shabu, a niche Japanese restaurant that opened in Highland this summer, is any indication, people will not only cook, but they'll pay good money to do so -- provided they're in a swanky space drinking plum wine with friends.

Owners Marco and Michelle Trujillo, who took over Kobe An in Lakewood from Michelle's mother a decade ago (that restaurant just closed in anticipation of a move to Cherry Creek), have been dreaming of opening a shabu shabu restaurant ever since. Since sushi and ramen have caught on in this town, they reasoned, why wouldn't shabu shabu work, too?

See also: Behind the Scenes at Kobe An Shabu Shabu

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Review: Far From Forgotten, Argyll Whisky Beer Is Better Than Ever in Uptown

Danielle Lirette
Argyll's Spot of Tea hits the spot. Check out more of what's on Argyll's menu.
Argyll Whisky Beer
1035 East 17th Avenue

Whiskey isn't my drink of choice, but it was the night I walked into Argyll Whisky Beer. Sure, it had been that kind of day. But I was also in that kind of place, with lights resembling gas lanterns, plaid carpeting and gray walls that took on a bluish tinge as night fell.

Across the sprawling restaurant, past the open kitchen and communal table with its sturdy, upholstered-back stools, a crowd filled the bar, drinking beer, watching games and celebrating the start of the weekend with the gusto of Thursday-night revelers.
Beyond them, in the wraparound atrium with views of 17th Avenue and Downing Street, people laughed and ate charcuterie against a blurry backdrop of red brake lights and white headlights. Those rooms, gutted and redone to remove any resemblance to Las Margaritas, which had previously occupied the space, felt lively and fun and very much like Denver. But in the back dining room, the quietest and most well-appointed of Argyll's spaces, I felt a world away -- which is where you sometimes want restaurants to take you.

See also: Behind the Scenes at Argyll Whisky Beer

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Review: At Fifty, Saucy Noodle Ristorante Feels Like an Old Friend

Danielle Lirette
Mamma's baked lasagna. See more of what's on Saucy Noodle's menu.
Saucy Noodle Ristorante
727 South University Boulevard

In August, just days after the owners of Lechuga's, one of Denver's oldtime Italian restaurants, sold their spot and retired, Saucy Noodle Ristorante celebrated a different kind of milestone: its fiftieth anniversary. Curious to see why the Noodle has survived when so many other red-sauce joints -- including Pagliacci's, Carbone's Italian Sausage Deli and Longo's Subway Tavern -- have gone dark, I went in search of some hot, hard facts to twirl around my fork.

See also: Behind the Scenes at Saucy Noodle Ristorante

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