As is the tradition at Eater, our closeout of the year is a survey of friends, industry types, bloggers, and readers. We've already covered Top Standbys, Favorite Newcomers, 2012 in One Word, and Best Neighborhood. Now it's time for the year's Biggest Surprise. Feel free to add your own answers to the comments.
Amanda Faison, food editor, 5280 Magazine: Chef Matt Selby leaving the Vesta group to open Corner House.
William Porter, restaurant critic, the Denver Post: The emergence of kale as an ingredient in raw salads. Cooked kale, treated like collards, is popular in the South, where I grew up. But it became ubiquitous on many contemporary American restaurants' menus in 2012. Sort of like how shishito peppers were the "it" veggie of 2011, or roast beets a few years ago. Oak at Fourteenth does an amazing salad with kale and Honeycrisp apples.
Vanessa Barcus, owner of Goldyn: Uncle - I was expecting it to be super high end, but it's actually quite affordable.
Andra Zeppelin, editor, Eater Denver: the great Boulder migration- the Kitchen opened in LoDo and Pizzeria Locale and Oak at Fourteenth have both announced Denver outposts to open in 2013.
Tucker Shaw, features editor, the Denver Post: Denver's foodie community, while it's gotten louder and spendier and more active (all good things), doesn't seem to have gotten any bigger. Are the foodniks freezing out more casual eaters? There should be room for everyone at the table. Scoot down, make some space!
Grace Boyle, contributor, Eater Denver: The amount of Daily Deal pushes restaurants are clambering onboard for. I guess everyone wants a deal, which I can appreciate, but it just seems a bit much. I find those special deals have too much fine print / black out dates and lackluster delivery when you actually purchase it for a dining deal.
Jessica Hunter, Eater Denver Contributor: I know it's a bit pre-emptive, but I'm excited to see the up-and-coming stacked deck at The Source. RiNo is going to rock it next year, with The Populist and Fuel Café in place, and Box Car, Comida, Acorn (mini OAK), Crooked Stave, and CapRock to come in under one roof.
Otherwise, I think seeing how the Squeaky Bean reinvented itself and wormed its way into Denver's dining hearts. It's reassuring to see our small community come together and support amazing talent. Max and his kitchen are creating some silly, silly things and nationally, folks are starting to notice.
Adam Larkey, contributing photographer, Eater Denver: How quick Charlie Palmer's Denver stint was, how sad Il Mondo Vecchio's closing was and how tumultuous the El Diablo affair has been.
LeVar Battle, contributor, Denver Off The Wagon: Populist, hands down. I was a skeptic. There was something about coffee shop owners trying to do a restaurant concept that left me a little puzzled. Keep in mind, this was without knowing their backgrounds. But I have to say, they kicked it in the teeth. *golf clap*
Jennifer Olson, food photographer and author of Colorado Organic, Cooking Seasonally- Eating Locally : the Squeaky Bean.
Kris Browning-Blas, food editor, the Denver Post: Matt Selby leaving the Vesta family.
Heidi McGuire, former Metromix Entertainment Host for 9News and currently the owner of 321 Media Productions: Brussel sprouts--EVERYWHERE! As a kid my mom told me they'd make my boobs grow. Liar! But, I'll still eat them and Sketch has a phenomenal little Brussel sprout salad.
Jeremy Kossler, founder of the Denver Burger Battle: Wild Catch going from best-in-city to non-existant, the ridiculously good plating at theSqueaky Bean, the salted butterscotch at Sweet Action.
Pat Miller, the Gabby Gourmet: Finding fun places for sandwiches, pies, and sausage = restaurants that really focus on one thing and do it well.
Ruth Tobias, author of The Food Lover's Guide to Denver & Boulder and the Denveater food blog: Don't laugh, but I avoided Pinche Tacos for a long time, mainly because my significant other is a purist who turned me against it. But now I get it, and wish I'd gotten it sooner.
Elaine St. Louis, art director, Colorado Homes & Lifestyles: Kachina Southwestern Grill in Westminster...really unique menu, well prepared selections.
Penny Parker, columnist at Black Tie Colorado, formerly of the Denver Post: How oversaturated downtown got with pizza and sushi.
Elizabeth L. Woessner, executive director, EatDenver: Closing of Encore and Matt Selby's departure from Vesta/Steuben's.