After nearly a week of intensive reader voting, today we announce the winners of the ninth annual Eater Awards, celebrating the chefs and restaurants that made the largest impact on all 24 Eater cities over the past 12 months.
Here now are the establishments — from a neighborhood Taiwanese spot to a distillery-bar and restaurant incubator — that have changed Denver’s food scene for the better. Thank you to everyone who voted last week, and congratulations to the winners of the readers’ choice and editors’ choice awards. Read on to learn more about this year’s best of the best.
Restaurant of the Year
Q House, Colfax
When Christopher Lin started cooking pig ear salad, General Tso’s eggplant, and trout fried rice on a previously uninspired stretch of Colfax, the surrounding neighborhoods and the rest of Denver took notice. Together with business partners Jen Mattioni and Jon Pinto, Lin is creating the kind of rare place that serves its community and acts as a dining destination — perhaps because the food stirs up memories of those American Chinese restaurants we all grew up eating at, and then deftly moves past them. An energetic and easy-going vibe, an attention to detail in the service and presentation, this is the spot to get to if you haven’t yet and to fall back on when in need of some next-level comfort.
Restaurant of the Year Reader’s Choice Winner: The Bindery, LoHi
Chef of the Year
Dana Rodriguez, Super Mega Bien
To walk into the bold and bright-faced Super Mega Bien, Denver’s only “Pan-Latin dim sum” restaurant, is to experience the thrill of meeting, getting to know, and working with its chef and owner Dana Rodriguez. The Chihuahua, Mexico native emigrated to Colorado and started working as a dishwasher in the local industry. Years later, she has opened a much-anticipated second restaurant (across from her beloved first, Work & Class) to the delight of both national media and near and far-off fans. And while the food is front and center here — rolling around, a celebration on wheels — the family is the part that has us hooked. Under Rodriguez’ lead in Denver, a new era of restaurant stewardship comes alive.
Chef of the Year Reader’s Choice Winner: Linda Hampsten Fox, The Bindery
Design of the Year
The Wolf’s Tailor, Nguyen Lawrence
On a quiet commercial strip in Sunnyside, the 50-seat Wolf’s Tailor this summer made a big Denver debut. With major talent across its kitchen and behind the bar, there is a lot to love here. But the bones of the restaurant, translated from owner Kelly Whitaker’s philosophy to architect Nguyen Lawrence’s vision for the space, really hooked us from the start. This is the type of community gathering place to wander, savor, then repeat. In the warmer months, the experience starts as any neighborhood get together should, with a backyard garden party. Once inside, the setting is muted and moody, the focus hanging between shadows and light. And at the center of it all is the glass-encased kitchen, with a guaranteed show every night.
Design of the Year Reader’s Choice Winner: Death & Co at The Ramble Hotel
Bar of the Year
The Family Jones, LoHi
The Family Jones Spirit House is hard to pin down, and that’s precisely why we love it — a distillery, a bar, and a restaurant combined, each with talent at the top of their respective games steering the larger ship. Distiller Rob Masters sets the tone here with his imposing copper still, perched in plain sight above the half-moon bar downstairs. Bar experts Amanda Houghtaling and Nick Touch are behind the drinks, made with all-house spirits and crèmes and shrubs. And chef Tim Dotson creates a food menu that pairs well but also stands up just fine on its own. Meet the Denver bar scene 2.0. In a city that has produced enough over-the-top cocktails and vodka sodas alike, this new combination at the Family Jones is a refreshing twist.
Bar of the Year Reader’s Choice Winner: Bar Helix, RiNo
Disruptor of the Year
Comal Heritage Food Incubator, RiNo
Up against some huge new developments on the Denver scene this year — the Source Hotel, Zeppelin Station, Dairy Block, and the Ramble — this RiNo lunch counter might seem like a disproportionate fit. But the mission and the outcome at Comal is bigger than them all. A changing group of low-income women from the Globeville and Elyria Swansea neighborhoods — many of them immigrants or refugees from Mexico, Syria, El Salvador, and Ethiopia — train here to start their own food businesses. Depending on the day of the week, they’re serving estofado or kebab or traditional afternoon tea with popcorn and cookies. If ever there was a new food business model to celebrate and support, this would have to be it.
Disruptor of the Year Reader’s Choice Winner: The Source Hotel, RiNo