402 W. Fillmore St., 635-0112, luckydragonmenu.com
The Redstone Plaza shopping center in which Lucky Dragon has resided for nearly 20 years recently received a much-needed renovation of its façade. The sleeker look now matches Lucky's rather fine interior, with its nicely upholstered booths, stone-tiled floors and a decorative patterned ceiling. A big menu matches the big space, which front-house manager Alan Ha says his father, William, purchased from a former business partner last year.
William and his brother are the cooks, and the menu notes they will "omit MSG upon request." The Spicy Salted Squid doesn't need it anyway, with ample piquantness from salt amplifying the sugary tang of the house-made sweet-and-sour sauce. The calamari-like pieces are softly battered and light, slightly spicy from jalapeños in an underlying green onion and cabbage slaw. With an included egg roll, wonton and rice (as a single combo dinner, $11.95), it's delightful overall. — Matthew Schniper
275 S. Logan St., Denver, 303/282-6258, luciles.com
Lucile's started in Boulder in 1980 and now has five locations across northern Colorado. To picture this Denver location, imagine taking a Victorian house in the Springs' Old North End, adding a patio and fire pit out front, and complementing a bar full of Bloody Marys with a bustling Creole kitchen. The atmosphere one lively Friday morning was so busy it was as if every resident of the leafy neighborhood had all sat down at once for homemade ketchup, ass-puckering grapefruit juice and Eggs Pontchartrain ($10.45).
The latter finds a large filet of pan-fried trout covered with two beautiful poached eggs and a pale yellow, herb-flecked béarnaise, next to cheese grits and messy sliced potatoes. It's actually more familiar-feeling to eat than it sounds, with the crunchy fish acting as a savory launching board. Three orange-ricotta pancakes ($5.75) with cinnamon butter were also quite nice. — Bryce Crawford
Higher Grounds Coffee
1807 N. Union Blvd., 465-7629
A drive-through oasis in a parking lot desert that'll soon welcome a mini Wal-Mart, Higher Grounds serves Barista Espresso organic and fair-trade coffees. One abnormal offering is a white espresso, essentially a partially roasted South and Central American blend that Glen Powell produces by shutting his machine down in special intervals to remove direct heat. With less burn-off, you get more caffeine and antioxidants, plus a distinctly peanut-buttery nose and extra nutty flavor.
In the White Lightening ($4.25/16 ounces), the white espresso comes with steamed milk and white chocolate, but I order mine dirty by subbing Ghirardelli dark cocoa powder. It somehow tastes more like a hot chocolate than mocha, but is potently delightful, especially with a "To Die For" burrito from Parker-located Mama Mia's Burritos & Catering. Game-changing ingredient: country sausage gravy, straight off the biscuits. — Matthew Schniper