Bites 2013: Korean Pork Belly
Not that anything that begins with stir-fried pork belly can fail — You can't derail the swine train, sucka! — but this dish really hits the high points of fatty delight. Seared onions and a fantastic Korean hot chili sauce flavor the meat, which, ordered as a wrap, lets you roll it with fresh lettuce leaves, raw garlic slices (hell, yes!) and jalapeño slivers. ($13.99; $5 extra for wrap ingredients)
Bites 2013: Doro Wat
The chicken and egg come at the same time here (get it?), whole ovals and super tender legs drowned in a heavy, mole-esque red wine and butter sauce that's spiked with a berbere spice mix, more undisclosed spices, ginger, garlic and onions. It's poultry perfected. ... "If this be error and upon me proved, I never writ, nor no man ever loved." ($13)
IndyPick • Best Of 2010: Cultural Cuisine Addition
The central reason Uchenna deserves applause is that the outfit has brought our city its first authentic Ethiopian restaurant. Any entirely new cuisine on our scene excites, but Uchenna excels too, with food endowed by the passion of owner Maya Hetman. The Ethiopia native takes her time cooking family recipes from scratch, with 70 percent organic ingredients and intoxicating spices. Her doro wat — chicken lathered in a red wine and butter sauce that's granted a mole-like texture and flavor from undisclosed hot spices, garlic, ginger and onions — is the type of dish that alone could make the eatery famous. Scoop a variety of vibrant, flavorful items, including lentil, chickpea, lamb and beef dishes, with gluten-free, teff-flour injera (a stretchy, thin bread of sorts) and save room for excellent Mediterranean pastries like baklava. Uchenna truly offers an unparalleled eating experience, which we're overjoyed is now available in Colorado Springs. — Matthew Schniper
Our only Moroccan eatery, featuring weekend bellydancing and multi-course meals that include cous-cous, clay pot-cooked meats, seafood and vegetables, warming soups and phyllo pastries. Take off your shoes and let orange and rose blossom water prepare your hands for feasting.
The great thing about this, the city’s only Moroccan restaurant, is sitting in comfy cushions on the floor and eating with your fingers. Under glamorous drapes and tapestries, the four- and six-course meals begin with soup and homemade honey wheat bread and move to lovely Mediterranean-spiced meat and veggie entrees. Catch belly dancers on Fridays and Saturdays.
Owned by the folks behind Slayton's and Salsa Brava, Sonterra is the seafood-centric operation (think coriander-seared scallops and blackened sea bass), with fine steak cuts as well, plus dressy tacos and enchiladas. As at its sister locations, generous happy hour deals here are worth a well-timed visit.
Best Of 2013: Neighborhood Restaurant: Central
Best Of 2013: Bar for a Creative Cocktail
You want cocktail cred? How's this: Shuga's has its own brand of bourbon, Bad Guy Bourbon, from nearby Distillery 291. Bad Guy stars in the Maggie's Hot Toddie, made with homemade lemonade and ginger tea, and served hot or cold. If it's late enough, you can also get it in their own specialty "Shrub" cocktail; just ask the bartender. But Shuga's also wins as a restaurant, so we'd urge you to try the Brazilian-style coconut shrimp or the brand-new Holy Shitake Ramen. And whether you're eating or drinking or both, make sure you're also ogling: Local art is all over the walls, and if you're hoping to show, there's a sign-up sheet in the back.— Joshua Michael Torres
Bites 2013: Spicy Brazilian Coconut Shrimp
As prawn baths go, this one's epic. It's got peanut buttery, starchy sweetness, coconut milk smoothness, a mild ginger bite, medium jalapeño burn and a touch of cilantro influence. It's almost like a Thai dish doing a sexy samba dance. But it's more like the best damn thing in the world at that moment you're mopping it up with fat bread wedges, eyes rolled back, groaning like a mad fool. ($4 cup/$7 bowl)
Best Of 2013: Neighborhood Restaurant: North
Best Of 2013: Mexican
You don't expect much in the way of fresh food at your average Mexican/Tex-Mex/Whathaveyou joint. But Salsa Brava is different. Both locations offer what they call a "Clean Cooked" menu, which one employee says is "our version of the Paleo diet." He explains that as cooks prepare dishes like a vegan portobello mushroom fajita wrap, they make sure to remove leftover oils and sprays used from the rest of the menu, and eschew any kind of processed foods. Sounds like a great option for a lot of folks, and celiacs will appreciate the gluten-free menu. But as for me, I'm sticking with their good old chimichanga. — Edie Adelstein
Also with a Highlands Ranch location, Salsa Brava is the Rocky Mountain Restaurant Group's Tex-Mex face, more upscale than most with great service. Also: good weekday happy hour deals, $5 margarita Mondays (4 p.m. to close), a gluten-free menu, excellent house salsas and much more.
Bites 2013: Beef Bulgogi
Bulgogi is the poster child of marinated meat, which is to say it's one of the finest expressions of thin beef cuts patiently tenderized and seasoned to a palate-pleasing perfection. Due to language barriers, we couldn't tell you exactly what's in San Chang's rendition — likely it includes the classic soy, sugar, sesame and garlic and onion inputs — but we can say theirs is as good as the dish gets around here. Semi-sweet, salty and umami at once. ($8.99 lunch/$12.99 dinner)
Best Of 2011: Korean
One of my colleagues here at the Indy is a San Chang House aficionado. She says that it long ago set the bar for local Korean food; all else must be compared to these colorful plates. My guess is that she's not alone, considering Indy voters have put San Chang House at the top every year we've offered this category. Perhaps they, too, appreciate the friendly staff, who always make sure that new eaters of Korean cuisine know how to dip, mix-and-match, and eat everything. Or maybe they agree with signage that Korean food is healthy. When the results of fermentation taste this good and make you happy, who'd want to argue? — Matthew Schniper
Best Of 2010: Korean
I'm a newbie to authentic Korean dining, the kind of experience that comes with multiple side dishes and lots of kimchi. When that inexperience came through to my waitress at San Chang House, she patiently walked me through the menu, made vegetarian suggestions to please my palate, and not only served my food in record time, but showed me how to assemble my bi bim bap. No wonder why San Chang has won this award every time Indy readers have voted on it. Future plans include a remodel, and continually improved-upon recipes. —Suzie Calvin
Best Of 2013: Upscale Bar
There are a lot of adjectives one could use to describe food and drink, but "gorgeous" is without a doubt the most romantic I've heard. That's how Rabbit Hole bartender Ryan Anthony explains what he calls the business' best drink, The Duchess, a pale yellow, sparkling-wine, grapefruit cosmopolitan, garnished with an orchid. Get your smartphones out, people — you're going to want to Instagram this one. In addition, the Rabbit Hole offers a dozen different Colorado bourbon whiskeys and frequently features wild game on the menu.— Gracie Ramsdell
Racking up a respectable number of Best Of awards in its first year, including Best New Restaurant, Rabbit Hole is the go-to for: great cocktails; a big Colorado craft beer list; full menu service until 1:30 a.m.; half-off-app happy hours; and playfully dressed, creative mains.
Best Of 2011: New Restaurant (since July 1, 2010)
With the Rabbit Hole, longtime area restaurateur Joseph Campana has made quite a comeback after "losing nearly everything." His chic, redesigned subterranean lair has been the talk of the town for some months now, thanks in part to his amiable staff and wicked happy-hour deals. But it's the full menu of luscious eats, like the rich, braised pork belly with red-eye gravy served until 1:30 a.m. nightly, that may have attracted the votes to edge fellow downtown newbie Springs Orleans. — Monika Mitchell Randall
The 30-year-old Eighth Street location is newly remodeled, and you too can keep it fresh with Facebook coupons for weekly featured Panino sandwiches (some 30, unique rolled-dough creations). Fat calzones plus all-you-can-eat pizza Tuesdays ($7.99) and spaghetti Wednesdays ($8.99).
Best Of 2013: Spot for Spot of Tea
When I was a kid in Portland, Ore., my mother and I used to walk to breakfast on Sunday mornings. Our favorite spot was very tiny and very wallpapered. It looked like it had been furnished by rummaging through old ladies' attics. I always ordered the tea, which came in a small china pot with a teacup and saucer and made me feel like a proper lady in a Brontë novel. The first time I walked into Montague's, it was like entering a portal into the past. There, once again, was the wallpaper, the teapots, the gabbing bunches of gray-haired ladies, even the cakes under glass domes. Montague's emphasizes its large selection of teas, but it also offers coffee drinks, baked goods (including a gluten-free selection) and a menu that features sandwiches and soups. No wonder it's won this category four years in a row. Mom would approve. — J. Adrian Stanley
Yes, it's got comfy chairs, high-back antiques with the kind of charm that lends well to the cozy space, with people chatting over cute pots holding an array of fine teas. Enjoy them with stuffed French toast, turkey pot pie and/or large-enough-to-share pieces of cake.
Bites 2013: Grinder Sandwich
"Hoagies and grinders, hoagies and grinders, navy beans, navy beans ..." Sorry. But get that reference and you've earned a grinder at Mollica's. (You're still paying for it.) Anyhoo, fennel-forward house-made Italian sausage lays down on a La Baguette French Bakery roll before its smothered with sautéed bell peppers, gooey provolone and chunky house tomato sauce. ($7.89)
Source: A community in Brazil
Get the: Maté
Operated by friendly members of our local Twelve Tribes community (no, not a cult), this maté stop procures high quality yerba maté direct from a community in Brazil. The warm, wood-dominant atmosphere offers a great place to study or socialize late; snacks and sweets are available, too.
It's a Manitou tribute to '50s icon Marilyn Monroe, owned by the same folks as the Ancient Mariner. The pies are pleasant enough, as recently evidenced by the 10-inch Manitou ($9.75) with feta, mozzarella, olives, artichoke hearts and garlic sauce on thin crust.