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Dec 30, 2009 12:29 PM

My Top 10 Restaurants of 2009- Denver

rlm's post a couple days ago got me to thinking about what my favorite spots around Denver are. This is not my top 10 new restaurants, rather just my favorites of the year.

1. New Saigon- Is there anything thats not great at New Saigon? I love their soups, egg rolls and clams, but most of all I love the 10c (I don't even know the real name). The service sucks at best, and the space is not much better, but damn the food is so good!

2. Osteria Marco- All of Frank Bonnano's restaurants are great, but there is something I love about Osteria. If I could only eat one more thing before I die, it would quite possible be the cured meats and cheese board, All the meats and cheeses especially the burrata is exceptionally good as is everything else on the menu. Best of all, the place is pretty darn affordable.

3. Sushi Sasa- In my opinion Sushi Sasa is the undisputed King when it comes to sushi in Denver ( I do like Sushi Den as well). Again, everything at Sasa is great. I especially like the new style sashimi. It is quite spendy, but for sushi I guess I kind of want to pay the price for the freshest, best products available.

4. Shazz- Here is one place that is almost too pricey for what it is, but I can't deny the fact that every time I go there I leave very happy. The Braised Oxtail and cheesy grits appetizer might be my favorite app in denver. All of the pastas are great... you know what, its all very good. This restaurant wins my Hidden Gem award.

5. Stuebens- I just have to put this here be cause it's my "when all else fails" restaurant. Its not too pricey, the food is always solid and it's open late.

6. Rioja- This restaurant would make my list any year. Great food, great service and great atmosphere. My favorite is the tuna tartar/sashimi app, but I also agree with rlm that the Pork Belly app is superior.

7. Park Burger- This is one of Frank Bonnano's su chef's new burger joint. The sweet potato fries are very good, the fries are very good, but he Croque Monsieur burger rocks.

8. Masterpiece deli- My favorite sandwich shop in Denver. The white truffle egg salad is really good. I also really like the italian and the ham and cheese w/ thyme.

9. Jonesy's eat bar- The first couple time I went I was not blown away. However I live close by so I kept going for the beer. Now I really like it a lot. The goat cheese and balsamic reduction fries are my favorite in Denver. Last time I had some pulled pork sliders w/ blue cheese that ruled

10. Walnut Room- This is a quiet little bar on 31st and Walnut with a bar menu. But the pizza and salads are great. The reason I put this on my list is because it is so affordable. On Tuesday nights you get to flip for your food at happy hour. Meaning you order, the waitress flip a copin and if you are right all you have to do is tip. Plus all draft beers are half price between 5-7. Last time I went our whole table won the flip so our total bill was something like $20 for 4 of us.

Top 2 biggest disappointments
1. Root Down- There is something about this place that feels so pretentious. The space might be the best in Denver, but the food and service stinks. Ok it doesn't stink, but I cant say I have ever had a good meal there. And I have been a few times.

2. Olivea- see my reply in rlm's post- Denver Restaurants: A Few Ideas/Opinions

Feel free to list your favorites of 09.

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  1. Nice, bensop, thanks. I really dig Walnut Room too, and like you have been wildly unimpressed with Root Down. I keep forgetting about Shazz; I've gotta check it out. I don' t know if I could do a Top 10 restaurants this year, but I did do a Top 10 dishes.

    3 Replies
    1. re: tatamagouche

      I've never been to Walnut Room. Tell me more, peeps.

      We had a mixed experience at Root Down (and we went after the opening chef was sacked). Yes, it attracts the hipsters, but I do love the funky design touches such as the multi-colored rotary phone wall. We were unimpressed with the service initially but warmed up to our server. Perhaps the drinks helped lubricate the proceedings, although they were not all shining stars. Their happy hour margarita was one of the worst we've ever sucked down. Maybe their normal bar goddess you read about in the press was off that night. Tatamagouche and I have discussed before that we are really tired of seeing St. Germain in every other cocktail. Stop it--all of you. Enjoyed the frothy Casting Couch, which looked almost exactly like the Pepper Blossom (which I thought should be renamed the Basil Blossom). As for the food, we loved the carrot and red curry soup and the fried avocado that came with the rather pedestrian "spicy fresh corn salad." The beet salad was good but nowhere near Fruition's or Osteria Marco's versions (and I need to quit ordering these so I won't keep seeing them pop up on every menu--I am such an enabler). I've read mixed reports about how the bread pudding turns out on any given night but ours was quite good.

      1. re: rlm

        It's funny, Walnut Room's technically just a bar and pizza joint, but you know how some places add up to more than the sum of their parts? That's WR. There's just a very good feeling emanating from it—in part b/c it's so welcoming on a few-block radius that otherwise isn't; in part b/c the pizza's better than the average neighborhood parlor's; in part b/c it's clearly got regulars who adore it and spread their love through the place. I didn't know about the Tuesday deal bensop mentions, but that's sweet.

        I did a bit on it here:

        1. re: rlm

          I agree on Root Down. I've been a few times since it opened, and it always seems the same to me: it thinks it's much cooler than it is, it thinks the food is much better than it is, and the servers buy the hype and don't put forth the effort required to be a good server (which is really a VERY hard job).

          But, if you are impressed by hype, hipsters, and touches like recycled basketball courts as floors, you will love Root Down. The food tries to be unique, and it's not terrible, but if Root Down were really as cool as it thinks it is, you wouldn't ever be able to get in there.

          And as someone said, the space really is great. I can't wait to see what the next person does with it, which will probably be by the end of next year (maybe even this year).

      2. I second New Saigon! It's the only place I go for Vietnamese food.

        1. Agree with your thoughts on New Saigon. The spring rolls are ethereal. /Kathy