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TAPAteria

2607 W. Colorado Ave., 471-8272, tapateria.com

It's the first Paella on the Patio of the season (June 3 and July 22, next up; $29.95 plus tax/tip) and new chef Jay Gust greets guests from behind a 32-inch paella pan. It's heaped high with lightly toasted Spanish bomba rice, shrimp, chorizo, local asparagus, cured yellow tomatoes and an outer ring of bright red crawfish. Live flamenco music and steam from saffron-laced seafood stock help fill the shaded space.

After an included sangria (it's good), wine or beer, plus a single buttery escargot as an amuse bouche, long rectangular plates of paella arrive finished in truffle oil. Crustacean shells are cracked and ransacked, and the whole mix is perfectly wonderful. Only stumbles are in service: checks dropped sans coffee or dessert offers, and no fair warning of an 18 percent post-tax auto-gratuity (so as to shield customers against the accidental double-grat). — Matthew Schniper

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Which Wich

5102 N. Nevada Ave., #130, 599-9424, whichwich.com

The ordering process at Which Wich is confusing enough that an employee stands at the door to walk you through it. The idea is to grab a pre-labeled paper sack, find a tight corner of the cramped restaurant to write in, and fill in your choices for meat, bread, cheese and vegetable options, including toppings like caramelized onions, sauerkraut and olive salad.

Having completed this, we handed bags bearing regular orders for crab salad ($5.45) and shrimp po-boy ($5.45) sandwiches to the cashier. Some 15 minutes later, tubes of toasted bread that don't taste that different from something you'd get at Subway were ready for pick-up. (On the plus side, the options at this University Village Colorado spot are more diverse than at the fast-food leader.) In any case, the imitation crab held its own in a creamy mayonnaise mix, while the battered shrimp were mushy. — Bryce Crawford

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Great Wall Seafood Buffet

5760 N. Academy Blvd., 548-0334

I hesitate to call the all-you-can-eat buffet dining model the scourge of the culinary world, but only for a second. I simply can't find anything redeeming about hardened-over, oxidized and too-chewy generic stir-fries languishing under heat lamps, or cold, hard mushy-fished sushi losing life under a plastic-wrap sneeze guard.

Yes, it's dirt-cheap at $6.99 for lunch and $11.99 for dinner, but the get-what-you-pay-for cliché couldn't ring more true here, down to a badly freezer-burned Robinson Dairy Kona coffee ice cream. In this former Marie Callender's turned Empire Asian Buffet, which hasn't yet entirely turned the Great Wall — the exterior sits in mid-repair, and even receipts still say "Empire Asian" on them after two months — your safest bet is a freshly made Mongolian grill plate. Add pineapple and garlic and chile sauces, and you'll do all right. — Matthew Schniper

  • TAPAteria, Which Wich, Great Wall Seafood Buffet

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