The March edition of 5280 Magazine is out in newsstands and it features Denver's Best New Restaurants. Eight restaurants, selected by food editor Amanda Faison, were included in this year's edition ranging in styles from modern Asian to contemporary American, Italian, and Southern comfort food. Who made the cut? The Populist, Sassafrass, Spuntino, Uncle, the Universal, the Squeaky Bean, Amerigo, and Oak at Fourteenth.
Amanda Faison shared with Eater some details about the selection process, narrowing the list down to just eight, and more.
What is the timeline -start and cut-off dates- for Best New Restaurants? Because our editorial schedule changes a bit each year, this story's timeline changes too. Last year, the cutoff came after the first week in December. That's where I picked up this year - hence the inclusion of Oak at Fourteenth, which opened December 14, 2011. This year, the cutoff was January 1, which feels much more natural.
How many restaurants do you try to include in the Best New Restaurants category? I usually look for about 10. There are a lot of good restaurants, but I want to focus on those that I think are the very best. That might mean a list of eight, 10, or even 12.
Over 200 eateries opened in Denver in the last year, what is your criteria when you start the Best New Restaurants selection process? I'm looking at all components of a dining experience: food, service, ambience, sense of value. But less cryptically, if I finish a meal and find myself anxious to tell someone - a friend, our readers- about the place, that's a restaurant I'll go back to.
How did you narrow down to just these eight? These are the restaurants that I think best represent Denver's evolving dining scene. I've been to each of these businesses multiple times and I've watched them grow and evolve since they opened. Just because a spot is high profile does not mean it automatically lands on the list. Restaurants have to earn a spot and they do that by delivering an experience that is seamless and, above all, memorable. To further expound, I was disappointed with my initial experiences at both the Squeaky Bean and Uncle. But I went back several times over several months to keep tabs on any/all changes.
There are three restaurants on this list that some may argue are not new- Squeaky Bean, Oak at Fourteenth, and Spuntino - why did you choose to include them? As I mentioned, Oak at Fourteenth fell within our cutoff window. In my write up, I also address the fire that closed the original Oak when it was only a few months old. When it reopened, Oak was—in my opinion a different, more mature, more exciting version of its former self. I view Spuntino similarly. When John Broening and Yasmin Lozada-Hissom took over Spuntino in March, they brought new vision. The restaurant became theirs—and thus, it felt like a new restaurant. (And soon, once the renovations take place, it will look that way too.) As for the Squeaky Bean, the restaurant opened in June, which is well within our cutoff window.
Did you consider ranking the best new restaurants? We already rank the restaurants that land on our annual Best 25 Restaurants feature in October. To rank restaurants twice in one year feels like overkill.
What new restaurant that opened since your cut-off date are you most excited about? I think Old Major has tremendous potential and I really love what Cafe Max is doing. I'm also very excited about the pending Pizzeria Locale.