That's LYFE: How I Decided What to Review This Week

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Danielle Lirette
People might think I choose what to review based on what I feel like eating. But many factors go into my decision -- and what I want to eat is usually at the bottom of the list. With the frenetic pace of openings these days, there's an endless number of hot, new restaurants to visit, and I'm always considering those -- after the traditional three-month waiting-period, of course. But to focus on all things new doesn't provide a fair assessment of our scene, so I also like to revisit more established restaurants worthy of another look, as last week's review of Barolo Grill can attest.

See also: First look at LYFE Kitchen


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Twenty Favorite Dishes Over 100 Reviews

Categories: Review Preview

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Behind the scenes at The Kitchen Denver.
I've written a hundred reviews since becoming the restaurant critic at Westword. To celebrate the occasion, I wanted to give a shout-out to the kitchens and teams that have made dining out so memorable over the past two years -- not just for me, but for all of us who appreciate the quality and diversity of Denver's robust food scene.

Of the thousands of plates that have come my way, I've selected twenty that deserve a spot in the highlights reel. These are the ones I find myself thinking about when a similar dish is put before me, the ones I'd gladly eat over and again. One of them is a summery bruschetta that I enjoyed long ago, while preparing for my first review of The Kitchen Denver. Another is an appetizer that bumped another leading contender at the buzzer; you'll read more about that dish, and the restaurant it came from, in my review of Barolo Grill tomorrow. Of the twenty, most are (sadly) no longer available, a sign of seasonality and the speed at which menus change -- but at least the kitchens that made them are still open (with the exception of Twelve, which closed last month). And you can still order seven of my favorite dishes, which appear at the end of this otherwise alphabetized list. So keep reading -- and be prepared to get hungry.

See also: Five Behind-the-Scenes Takes on Being a Restaurant Critic, After 100 Reviews

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Small Is Beautiful, From Maine to Montana to East Colfax Avenue

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Danielle Lirette
Good things come in small packages at To the Wind Bistro.
This summer, while all eyes have been on the pomp and circumstance at Union Station, I've found my attention drawn more and more to tiny places, homegrown places, places with footprints as large as other restaurant's kitchens. Some of them I've reviewed, such as Kings BBQ and To the Wind Bistro. Others I've enjoyed on my own time, both here and in far-flung corners of Maine, Wyoming and Montana.

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

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To the Wind Bistro Is So Small It Can't Mess Up Big

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Danielle Lirette
Royce Oliveira at To the Wind Bistro.
Bigger isn't always better, which is why Mizuna-alum Royce Oliveira chose a 628-square-foot location on East Colfax Avenue for the home of To the Wind Bistro, the restaurant he opened last spring with his wife and pastry chef Leanne Adamson. "We were looking for something small," he explains. "That way if I mess up, I mess up small rather than mess up big."

See also: First look at To the Wind Bistro, now open on Colfax

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The Kitchen Next Door wound up next door to fast-casuals in Glendale

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The Kitchen Next Door Glendale.
The Kitchen Next Door Glendale wasn't conceived as a "destination experience," says Kimbal Musk, co-founder of The Kitchen, which opened in Boulder in 2004. "We wanted it to be a neighborhood restaurant." This makes sense, given that Next Door -- which got its start in Boulder, too, is the more casual branch of the Kitchen family. But just what is a neighborhood restaurant these days?

See also:
The Kittchen Next Door joins the train gang -- with a historic sign no board

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No bones about it, Boney's is a winner

Categories: Review Preview

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A plate of ribs at Boney's.
Though we live in a town that isn't known for its barbecue, Denverites have strong opinions about what does and doesn't count as good 'cue. So it goes without saying that I, along with the rest of Café Society, am always on the lookout for new places to share with our readers. But after any number of disappointing meals, I often wind up at a repeat winner of Westword's Best Barbecue category: Boney's Smokehouse BBQ.

See also:
Best Barbecue Restaurant 2014 -- Boney's Smokehouse BBQ

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Guard and Grace bills itself as a "modern steakhouse." Does it meat expectations?

Categories: Review Preview

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Danielle Lirette
A modern steak at a modern steakhouse.
Four years ago when I was the restaurant critic for a now-defunct publication, I reviewed Shanahan's Steakhouse. At the time, the executive chef told me he was trying to create a menu that was "a lot more modern," but I as noted in my review, the beef was corn-fed and sourced out-of-state, making it seem more traditional than contemporary.

Fast forward to 2014. When restaurateur Troy Guard opened Guard and Grace
Guard and Grace in March, he used similar terminology, referring to his sprawling, splashy venture downtown as a "modern steakhouse."

See also:
First look at Guard and Grace


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Will you want to go to Gozo? Find out tomorrow...

Categories: Review Preview

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There's a seat for you at Gozo.
In early March, Gozo finally opened on South Broadway. It's an Italian-Spanish eatery -- not that you'd know it from the name. It doesn't serve aljotta (fish soup) or hobz biz-zejt (bread with tomatoes, anchovies, mint and cheese) or other staples from Gozo, an island in the Maltese archipelago. It doesn't even serve much Spanish food.

See also:
Gozo will open in the former home of Deluxe

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Is El Chingon a "bad ass" -- or the "best of the best"?

Categories: Review Preview

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Danielle Lirette
Names have been making headlines lately, thanks to the debate over the Washington Redskins. This week I'm reviewing a restaurant that sparked a controversy of its own. No, it isn't Pinche Taqueria, with a name so vulgar -- it translates to "fucking" -- that the owners aren't allowed to put it on signage, which is why the signs for those two locations trumpet "Tacos, tequila, whiskey" instead. It also isn't Los Chingones, Troy Guard's taqueria known for such wild fillings as camel, octopus and antelope. No, this week, my review is of El Chingon, whose name, like that of Guard's place, basically means "bad ass." But that's not what the family that owns the place was going for when they chose the moniker.

See also: Pinche can mean many things, including "delicious tacos"

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New Denver restaurants show how much the scene has changed since Mimi Sheraton's day

Categories: Review Preview

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Mimi Sheraton.
Over the weekend I finished Mimi Sheraton's memoir, Eating My Words. While it wasn't as entertaining as Ruth Reichl's Tender at the Bone, the book had no trouble holding my attention, especially the parts about her role as restaurant critic for the New York Times. I knew I'd be interested in the descriptions of her craft -- how she chose her dining companions, what led her to take a star away from the likes of Le Cirque, how she tested a restaurant's hospitality, etc. But just as intriguing was her window onto a restaurant industry that has changed dramatically in the past forty years.

See also:
First look at Atticus, a quintessential neighborhood restaurant

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