3001 Walnut St., Denver, 720/539-7410, epicbrewing.com
Epic recently expanded from Salt Lake City into Denver, allowing for a significant barrel-aged and sour beer program. The three-year-old company also built a 25-tap drink room on Walnut Street to highlight its huge lineup of small-batch brews. Peruse them on Epic's incredibly thorough website, where you can view full grain bills plus brew and package dates to match your stamped bottles.
The high-ABV Big Bad Baptist (around $12/bomber) is absolutely brilliant: a coffee and cocoa stout aged in whiskey barrels. It's chocolaty and roasty with sizable vanilla and wood character, plus hint of oats and banana in the finish. The lower-ABV Glutenator (around $6/bomber), made with molasses and sweet potatoes, is better than, but as quirky as most GF beers, with tinges of tart citrus, high carbonation but a flat mouth feel. However, it paired well with filmmaker Robert Rodriguez's epic Puerco Pibil recipe, our turkey-day meal. — Matthew Schniper
New Panda II
1625 N. Union Blvd., 574-8336, newpandarestaurant.com
New Panda II, sibling to Cheyenne Mountain Boulevard's New Panda I, recently moved from 1213 N. Circle Drive to this barn-shaped former used car dealership. When I'd visited the old spot, its Thai offerings (always suspect at a primarily Chinese place) batted 50-50. Despite warm and fast service, the new digs haven't inspired much improvement.
The miso soup ($1.75) came very light and overly fishy, while unagi ($3.95) from the sushi list delivered flavorful eel but mouth-shockingly cold, hard rice under the warmed protein. A side sesame-cucumber relish plus free wonton crisps with a fruity "duck sauce" (dropped at seating) sadly proved the night's best bites, as my combination drunken noodle ($9.75) brought mushy, poorly seasoned meats in a generic sauce needing more basil and chilies. Watch the MSG, but enjoy the free calender scroll with a $10 meal. — Matthew Schniper
Urban Steam Coffee Bar and Café
1025 S. Sierra Madre St., 473-7832, urbansteamcoffee.com
Kelly Bubach's Urban Steam has expanded from a tight, industrial shrine to coffee into a wider-ranging outfit serving original cocktails and food that still emphasize a focus on craft. Hence the outfit's participation on our local Latte Art Throwdown circuit.
A trio of carnitas tacos ($7) is one of the new offerings, as is a medium-sized Irish coffee ($8). The latter combines some mellow Tullamore Dew with the house Sumatra, and homemade, organic, vanilla whipped-cream that melts into the drink like The Matrix's digital rain. For the tacos, I'm a firm believer that there's no improving on a topping of diced white onions and cilantro, but Bubach's pickled carrots and jalapeños, chipotle sour cream, fresh greens and a tangy sauce — described by Bubach as "the cheapest Mexican hot sauce I could possibly find" — all over juicy shredded pork, comprises a delicious rendition. — Bryce Crawford