2012 Tasted Good: The Top New Restaurants That Opened In Denver

December 26, 2012 6:00 AM

(credit: Kimberly Lord Stewart)

Though the country is still under the heavy weight of a crushing recession, Denver’s food scene grew in 2012. In fact, as of press time there were a number of highly anticipated openings that have yet to be tested by the public, including The Populist and Corner House. And while this list is not exhaustive, here are some new restaurant openings of the year that deserve a visit. 
(credit: Kimberly Lord Stewart)

(credit: Kimberly Lord Stewart)

501 E. 17th Ave.
Denver, CO 80203
(303) 800-7705

Ace, Josh Wolkon’s brainchild new Asian fusion restaurant, is just pure fun. The ping-pong tables are a play room for adults and the menu plays up the best of Vietnamese and Asian fusion cuisine. Wolkon moved one of his most trusted chefs, Brandon Biederman, from Vesta and Steuben’s to oversee the kitchen at Ace. Must-order dishes include braised short rib bao buns, crispy tiger wings, red curry beef and green papaya salads. Desserts include chocolate steam cake with Chinese five-spice coconut icing and nori caramel berries with yuzu sorbet and lime leaf cream. Tuesdays are ping-pong tournament nights and the tables are available to reserve for groups or single games.

(credit: Kimberly Lord Stewart)

(credit: Kimberly Lord Stewart)

Al Lado

1610 Little Raven St.
Denver, CO 80202
(303) 572-3000

Chef Richard Sandoval has added another restaurant to his stable of establishments, but this one is more intimate and a bit more cozy than the others. Al Lado is a small-plate gathering place with Latin flavors that is friendly and approachable, much like Sandoval himself. Al Lado’s tapas are petite powerhouses of flavor that are a perfect small meal or a shareable feast. Favorites to consider are the crispy young potatoes with chirozo and chipotle romesco and the sweet dates with salty bacon, almonds and Valdeón cheese. For heartier small plates, tender beef and lamb skewers with chimichurri sauce and cast-iron post of lamb meatballs with tomato sauce and goat cheese. For large parties, order the entire menu for $170.

Related: Top Mediterranean Cuisine In Denver

(credit: Kimberly Lord Stewart))

(credit: Kimberly Lord Stewart))

True Food Kitchen
2800 E. 2nd Ave.
Denver, CO 80206
(720) 509-7661

Health food has not always had the best reputation among food lovers. Dr. Andrew Weil’s new concept restaurant, managed by Fox Restaurant Group in Cherry Creek, will change minds. The ingredients are as pure as possible and the menus, from breakfast to dessert, are innovative and taste amazing. True Foods will appeal to vegetarians, pescatarians and carnivores. Dishes include the signature Tuscan kale salad with lemon, parmesan and bread crumbs (side or main dish with chicken or salmon), organic wild mushroom pizza with roasted garlic and fontina and pan-seared sea bass with Brussels sprouts and purple potatoes. True Food even has desserts such as a flourless chocolate cake, apple crisp or pomegranate yuzu sorbet. Health food never had it so good.

Central Bistro
1691 Central St.
Denver, CO 80211
(303) 447-4582

Central Bistro is everything a bistro should be: a casual backdrop with a hot menu. Clean, retro decor and a melting-pot menu defines this new Highlands restaurant. This is the perfect place to bring a group with tastes that stretch all over the map. Colorado gourmets will love the goat cheese dumplings. For European food lovers, there is the duck breast paired with chestnuts and fontina agnolotti pasta. A bistro wouldn’t be a bistro without a good burger with caramelized onions and flatiron steak with onion rings. If you are the type of person who wants to know where your food comes from, Central makes it easy with CO, IN, IA, ME, WA, MI, CA state abbreviations for Colorado poultry, cheeses and vegetables, Maine and Washington seafood, Michigan walleye, Iowa pork and Indiana duck.

Red Star Deli
1801 Wynkoop St.
Denver, CO 80202
(303) 226-9460

Chef James Mazzio has an impressive chef’s pedigree with lots of fine dining resume bullets, but that doesn’t mean he is a food snob. Mazzio got tired of looking for a good deli in Denver, so he opened one himself. Just as this is being written, Mazzio parted company with Red Star, but even so the concept was his and he deserves the credit (Red Star will be managed by Chef Glenn Smith in the future). The menu boasts all the best of whatever fits between two slices of bread—corned beef, capicola, mortadella, genoa salami, chicken curry salad and Cajun shrimp. The deli doesn’t skimp on the condiments with mustards, pickles and vinaigrettes for each sandwich. The salads are as good as any you might find on a line-covered table restaurant a few blocks over.

Related: Top Tortas In Denver

Kimberly Lord Stewart is a food author and journalist for CBS Denver local, Organic Food Reporter for Examiner.com, and the Food, Wine and Spirits editor for Denver Life magazine. Her book, “Eating Between the Lines” tells readers about the truth and myths of food labeling. Stewart is the recipient of two Association of Food Journalist awards for food news reporting and the Jessie Neal Business Journalism award. Her work can be found at Examiner.com.