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Restaurant Pros on the Biggest Dining Surprises of 2016

The dining scene had its ebbs and flows

Adam Larkey

As is the tradition at Eater, our closeout of the year is a survey of friends, industry types, and bloggers. This year, we asked the group eight questions running the gamut from restaurant standbys, newcomers, best word to describe the year in dining, biggest restaurant grievances, and more. All will be answered by the time we turn off the lights at the end of the 2016. Responses are related in no particular order; all are cut, pasted, and (mostly) unedited herein. Readers, please do add your survey answers in the comments.

Q: What was the biggest dining surprise of 2016

Lori Midson, Denver Life Magazine Food Editor

Aside from a few unforeseen closures — namely Patsy's — the biggest surprise was that there was no big surprise. To be completely honest, 2016 was a lot of the same. The one exception was the launch of the Union Station farmers' market, which was super-impressive in its inaugural year. Kudos to everyone who made that dream a reality.

Laura Shunk, Westword contributor

Z Cuisine closing! Single tear. Oh, who am I kidding, many tears. Amanda Faison stepping away from 5280 Magazine after two decades as food editor was also quite a shake-up.

Andra Zeppelin, Eater Denver editor

The strong and very vocal positions for and against the minimum wage increase from restaurant owners and operators.

Adam Larkey, Eater Denver photographer

Beloved and respected Amanda Faison, food editor 5280 Magazine leaving her position after 20 years.

Denise Mickelsen, 5280 Magazine food editor
A very sad surprise: The Inventing Room's eviction.

Rebecca Treon, DiningOut editor

That Amanda Faison of 5280 went into semi-retirement and moved to the mountains.

Brittany Werges, 303 Magazine managing editor
All of the closings were rough this year but I'd have to say I was the most sad about Z Cuisine. It was always a refuge for a night cap at their bar next door or a great plate of charcuterie, or a bowl of mussels. With both Le Central and Z Cuisine gone I feel like there's hole for great, inexpensive French cuisine in Denver. Hopefully we'll see a return of it in another form soon.

Gigi Sukin, Eater Contributor, CoBiz editor

The fire at the Cherry Cricket.

Justin De La Rosa, freelancer, Denver Post contributor

As far as a single establishment goes, The Way Back. We all knew they were going to have an outstanding bar program and I think a lot of people let that overshadow the fact that they have two great chefs manning the burners. They continue making strides to understand what the neighborhood wants and what they need with the Tuesday night tasting menu. And it's all around a great team over there on West 38th.

Josh Dinar, DiningOut publisher

White Lies is the kind of surprise that makes Denver-metro as cool as it is. A bank taking the old Boulder Café location is the kind of surprise that seriously threatens that cool-ness.

Rachel Greiman, Eater contributor and photographer

The closing of Paxia and Patsy's Inn! They may not have been the most well-known spots, but they were two standbys for my crew and I was so, so sad to see them go! I'm sure there were some more universally surprising things, but I'm still getting over the losses!

Callie Sumlin, 5280 Magazine assistant food editor

While Post Oak Hall wasn't necessarily a surprise, it does feel like a hidden gem when you find its nondescript Wheat Ridge location. The fact that you can only go on Saturdays makes those po' boys and whiskey brown butter cookies all the more special.

Grace Boyle, Eater Denver contributor

Maybe not surprised, but the change and increase in minimum wage has major implications for restaurant owners and their staff. It will be interesting to see how that pans out in 2017.

Lauren Rapp, Westword contributor

Biggest surprise? That's tough. This time last year Tom's Home Cookin' closed, and that was definitely a surprise. Z Cuisine actually closing for real was a surprise too. I'm looking forward to experiencing both of the concepts taking root in those spaces.

Rebecca Gart, Colorado Homes & Lifestyles food editor

Denver Central Market, a permanent, indoor marketplace with 11 terrific vendors, including a top-shelf cheese shop, butcher, produce stand, coffee maker, ice cream shop, bakery, chocolatier and, of course, a raw bar and seafood market. Well done, Denver. Also, breakfast at Onefold was surprising and interesting — I highly recommend the Bacon Fried Rice, Breakfast Tacos and Congee.