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DEN - looking for best Vietnamese, BBQ, Mexican, Italian

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I've never posted on this board, so I'm looking forward to all kinds of "Southwest" wisdom...

I am being dragged to Denver for a week in late May for my partner's daughter's high school graduation. My partner, being a clever sort of fellow, has promised to make it worth my while culinarily speaking. I'm looking to pack in a few good meals of the types of cuisine I can't get here at home in Brussels -- and have trawled the boards plus the Westword column in the Denver paper and come up with the following:

--Vietnamese
New Saigon
Kim Ba

--BBQ
Big Hoss Bar-B-Q
Yazoo Barbeque Company

--Mexican
Taqueria Patzcuaro
Tacos D.F.
Tacos y Salsas
(These all seem to be good old hole in the walls -- is there something like a Frontera Grill, i.e., careful takes on authentic regional Mexican?)

--Italian
Luca d'Italia
Osteria Marco

Any comments, critiques, red flags, alternative suggestions?

We'll also being doing lunch or dinner at Rioja, because I had a lovely meal there the only other time I've been to Denver, and Sushi Den, because it's my partner's favorite sushi place and good sushi in Brussels is scarcer than hen's teeth.

(I'm not inclined to go to Fruition, because I figure that kind of seasonal, refined gastro-bistro cooking is something I can and do get regularly in Paris...but if I'm wrong, I can be convinced otherwise.)
Thanks in advance!

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  1. Hey there,
    Ok, give me some time to think about these. The Mexican joints are all awesome but they are authentic (ie - counter taco joints) - and they do have great tacos but not the atmosphere. Mezcal and Tambien are some "new mexican" joints, owned by the same owner and known for tequila and "partying" more than food. Tamayo is downtown, a Richard Sandoval restuarant. It is pretty good, not sure about the authentic part though... I went to a few of Monica Patino's restaurants in Mexico City - Rick Bayless talked about them and I actually met her - wow - anyways - Tamayo is closest.

    Italian - Luca or Osteria I have never visited and Osteria is very new so not heard much. My very favorite is Carmines on Penn - served family style, incredible food. For old school, mafia type places, try Pagliacci's, their eggplant parmesan is awesome.

    BBQ - not heard of those guys either. There is a smoker on the 16th street mall at Lawrence that quite frankly, blows EVERYONE away. It is just a smoker so you will need to find a seat outside, but coming from BBQ country, this is my favorite.

    Some other new places are Stueben's - they serve american but it is pricey, never went, heard good things but may be because of the scene. White Fence Farms is kinda a funny and absolutely addicting place. It serves fried chicken with choice of potatoes, then bean salad, beet salad, cole slaw and cottage cheese - plus the BEST corn fritters ever. They are sweet, but not too sweet, almost like donuts that taste just that well but nothing that would make you feel like you ate the world.
    It is a kinda weird place, very family oriented, but who cares.

    Let me think about the Vietnamese, I know there is a place on Federal and Alameda in a shopping center with a few grocery stores, it is on the SW side of Alameda - and it is amazing.

    Have fun!

    1 Reply
    1. re: rockygus

      Thanks, rockygus! I've taken note of Tamayo and Carmine's, am positively salivating at the prospect of BBQ on 16th street and will wait with bated breath for your Vietnamese thoughts.

      I think I've heard of White Fence Farms -- don't they have a huge chicken on the roof? It might be worth going just to get a pic of that to stun and amaze Belgian colleagues and friends... ;o)

    2. I hear Parallel 17 is great Vietnamese, though I haven't been. Tamayo is probably the best for "upscale Mexican", the dives you mentioned are better for authentic Mexican. You should also consider Frasca in Boulder for Italian.

      1. Somebody else mentioned Parallel 17. It is good, but not particularly authentic Vietnamese.

        Your BBQ choices are spot on, particularly Yazoo's.

        If you want another hole in wall Mexican, I'd add El Tacos de Mexico. If you want more haute Mexican, your best choices are Tamayo (I've never gotten into Tamayo, but used to love Maya, Sandoval's NYC restaurant) or Lola, which describes itself as "coastal Mexican"--lots of seafood and also one of Denver's very best brunches. I don't think Lola is the most authentic Mexican around, but the food is really, really good (and great drinks).

        For Italian, both Luca and Osteria Marco are excellent choices. They both have the same executive chef, but Luca is more formal and Osteria Marco is casual with mostly pizzas and paninis--maybe a good lunch spot? I like both more that Carmine's on Penn, although I like Carmine's too.

        Steuben's is also a better lunch than dinner spot, since what really shines on their menu is the sandwiches. It is not pricey, contrary to what Rockygus may have heard.

        I know that your partner loves Sushi Den, but Sushi Sasa is just as good, if not better, and would be worth a try if you guys want more than one night of sushi.

        1. I have just a couple of quick impressions. I'm not a huge fan of Luca d'Italia (and I've been there a number of times always hoping for better). I do like Mizuna the "sister restaurant" much more, but it's not Italian. If you really want a great Italian experience, look into getting reservations at Frasca in Boulder.

          As far as BBQ in Denver goes, I think you can't beat Brothers. For whatever reason, Denver isn't a great BBQ town but Brothers (a small, local chain) does it pretty well. If I had to say, however, I'd say skip the Denver BBQ unless you are really jonesing.

          Tamayo can be very good, and sitting on their roof, watching a sunset, drinking margaritas is a pretty great experience. I haven't tried Lola, but it's pedigree is excellent. I second the vote on Tacos de Mexico (on Santa Fe and maybe 5th) if you're feeling like doing something a little less sophisticated.

          1. Tacos DF is great - the owners' son attends the school where I teach. :-)
            Famous Dave's BBQ - I'm definitely NOT a chain eater but this chain is FANTASTIC.
            Pagliacci's - great Italian restaurant that's been in Denver for YEARS...good minestrone
            Casa Vallarta - great Mexican...good veggie fajitas, salsa, burritos, chicken with mushrooms, everything else