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5280's Best Restaurants and Selection Process

Once a year, 5280 Magazine rolls out the list of Denver's best restaurants. A spot on this list that came out in the October issue is without a doubt highly coveted. Restaurants stir and stew over dropping in ranking or scoring a place on among the best.

There are constants on the 5280 best restaurant list: Frasca came back at number 1; Frank Bonanno's Mizuna and Luca d'Italia shifted around and nearly traded rankings; Sushi Den, Fruition, ChoLon and Z Cuisine remained in the top 10. Obvious absences this year were Rioja, the Kitchen, Tables, and Vesta Dipping Grill. But while some old favorites left the list and there were no new restaurants in the top 10, there were exciting additions: Oak at Fourteenth, Pinche Tacos, and the old Denver favorite Cafe Brasil.

Eater asked 5280 food editor Amanda Faison about the process of putting this list together: "Research for this story takes about a year but it becomes really intense a few months before the October issue goes to press. I always begin with a blank slate. I visit all of the restaurants ranked last year, as well as additional contenders (which means spots that were listed in previous years, any new places, and old standbys). When I dine, I'm looking at the whole experience—food, ambience, service, vibe, sense of value, everything. After each meal, I make notes and assign a numerical value to each element on the scale. This methodology helps me keep track of meals, dishes, experiences, and issues and it provides the framework for the list as I move closer to finalizing the best 25," Faison said.

While the list may not have pleased everyone, Faison is happy with it: "This is the third time we've put together the ranking, and I feel that this year's list really shows the changing spectrum of our dining scene. We have an abundance of really good restaurants (lucky us!), some of which did not make the final cut for one reason or another. That doesn't mean those spots are bad or are destined to go out of business, instead it simply means that there are other spaces that are more polished and other chefs/restaurateurs who are doing things better. This list is a snapshot in time—these are the 25 best restaurants right now—and I look forward to seeing what the coming year brings. Research for the next Best 25 (October 2013) begins now."

· 2012: The 25 Best Restaurants [5280]
· The Essential Denver Restaurants, July 2012 [EDen]
October Edition of 5280 [Photo: Courtesy of 5280 Magazine]


1431 Larimer Street, , CO 80202 (303) 820-2282 Visit Website


1400 Pearl Street, , CO 80302 (303) 444-3622 Visit Website


2022 Broadway, , CA 94063 (650) 362-5052 Visit Website