5280's article on Best New Restaurants. I couldn't agree more with this sentiment.
We had nearly 300 restaurants open in 2011 and while several have vanished as quickly as they appeared on the Denver dining scene, the good ones have only gotten better.
I recently had the opportunity to talk with 5280 magazine's food editor, Amanda Faison, who shared with me all that goes into narrowing down restaurants to the small list of 8 best.
For one thing, it takes an entire year to pare down the list! And restaurants are dined at numerous times before becoming contenders for the Best New Restaurant award. During these numerous visits, the full range of the menu is tasted and contemplated. As is the full dining experience including service, atmosphere, food presentation, taste and ingenuity.
I found it fascinating to learn insights from a seasoned restaurant reviewer - a restaurant is not evaluated based upon specials or tasting menus. Why? A chef is likely to pay meticulous attention to these items when compared to standing menu items that have been ordered - and prepared - hundreds of times.
Another thing I was curious about was the anonymity of restaurant reviews - throughout the whole process. I learned reviewers never use their real name or identify the business nature of their dining. Complementary items are also not taken as complementary - if given, their cost is added by the reviewer to the back-end of the bill.
Hearing the discrete nature in which the reviews are conducted, I inquired about the magazine's featured photographs. Photos are not taken until after a restaurant is selected as an awardee. Even then, the art department - aka photographer, et al - are on strict restrictions to not divulge the article's topic. The winning restaurants learn this information the same way the rest of Denver does - at the newsstand.
Of the 8 restaurants awarded this honor, I've been to three: Cafe Bar, Charcoal and Linger. I've already shared how much I enjoyed Charcoal. And as for the others, I delighted in the happy hour at Linger and was lukewarm about my dinner at Cafe Bar. However, I held out hope for Cafe Bar and now, am optimistic they will win me over with another visit.
Of final note, because The Salted Spoon is a food blog with a healthy eating focus, I seized the opportunity to ask Amanda Faison about dining out healthy. Stay tuned next week for more on this topic.
In the meantime, I hope you'll get a chance to experience one of these Best New Restaurants!
*Special thanks to Amanda Faison for giving me the inside scoop on the restaurant scene as experienced by 5280.