Grade ‘A’ 2012: Food and Drink



    Persian Zereshk Poloe and Morgh

    We may not be able to pronounce it but Darya‘s zereshk poloe and morgh is absolutely our new favorite chicken dish in Aurora. Hassan Soleimani’s welcoming Persian eatery roasts saffron-infused, bone-in bird until it literally falls off the bone in moist shreds. The chicken is served on a mound of buttered, steamed basmati rice with grains so long they look like thin vermicelli noodles. Sprinkled across the top are grains of yellow basmati and dozens of tiny, tart, dried barberries. The cranberry-like taste matched with the roasted chicken lends a Thanksgiving appeal to the dish. We enjoyed it with silky hummus and mirza ghasemi — a baked eggplant dip, and a glass cup of floral Persian tea.

    • Darya Persian Restaurant, 10890 E. Dartmouth Ave., Aurora; 303-750-4326

    Scones With Clotted Cream and Seedless Raspberry Jam

    It has gotten to the point that there are scones everywhere — breakfast joints, coffee shops and gas stations — in various shapes and sizes. More than 90 percent of them are just biscuits in disguise that are laced with chocolate and plastered with glaze, nuts and sprinkles as if they were doughnuts. That’s why the real scones at The English Teacup are such a wonderful discovery. The scratch-made round scones come in diverse flavors from traditional plain to cinnamon apple and a wonderful cherry-mango version. Presented warm on an English china plate, one enjoys it slowly with thick, rich clotted cream, imported seedless raspberry jam, low-key gentility, BBC accents and a well-made cup of tea.

    • The English Teacup, 1930 S. Havana St., Aurora; 303-751-3032

    Salsa Bar For Tacos, Pupusas and Tortas

    It’s taken awhile but diners are finally discovering the pleasure of real Mexican food at taquerias like Tacos Y Salsas. The Aurora shop of the small local chain dishes tacos, gorditas, burritos and tortas filled with tender chopped meats in various styles including al pastor and barbacoa. We particularly like the Torta Milanesa, a griddled soft bun layered with chicken-fried beef, cheese, avocado and lettuce. What elevates this and all the other dishes is the small eatery’s extensive salsa bar featuring six types of salsas. We add a spoonful of edgy habanero salsa to our sandwich along with pico de gallo, sliced radishes and onions, chopped cilantro, and a very large squeeze of fresh lime. It’s a regular flavor carnival on your palate.

    • Tacos Y Salsas, 9103 E. Colfax Ave., Aurora; 303-367-1046

    Place For Meat Pies

    Savory meat pies are the sophisticated equivalent of our mystery meats on a stick, corndogs or deep-fried whoknowswhat. The English Teacup’s meat pies are a nod to traditional English fare that stuff a wide assortment of meats, vegetables and sauces into a flaky pastry. Not to be confused with a hand-held pastie, the meat pies are a delicious way to satiate a carnivorous appetite in one sitting. Best served with mashed potatoes or chips (otherwise known as fries).

    • The English Teacup, 1930 S. Havana St., Auora; 303-751-3032

    Places to Experience Korean BBQ

    Aurora has developed a reputation for Korean BBQ, with both new and old restaurants strengthening the city’s arsenal in one of the real true experiences for food lovers. Partaking in true Korean BBQ includes cooking a variety of meats on a grill built into your table and enjoying them with copious amounts of side dishes, or banchan. Aurora’s most established place for Korean BBQ is Seoul BBQ, which has been serving the area for the past seven years and thrives on strong customer service, reasonable prices and quality ingredients to keep people coming back. Shin Sa Dong is a newcomer, housed in a building previously occupied by Korea House. A fresh new look, massive portions and a large array of banchan have instantly made it a strong addition to the scene. If you go for Korean BBQ at either place, make sure to take as many people as you can and give yourself some time to soak up the ambience and the deliciousness.

    • Shin Sa Dong, 10293 E. Iliff Ave., Aurora; 720-748-1414

    • Seoul BBQ, 2080 S. Havana St., Aurora; 303-632-7576

     Coconut Custard Pie With an Espresso

    Flava is nothing like your mother’s soul food restaurant. Owner Sandy Hullum kicked out the cans, cut back the salt, and makes everything from scratch. The year-old spot delivers righteous lightly fried catfish, an exceptional hand-formed burger, real fried chicken, Cheddar-y mac-n-cheese, great greens and strong iced tea. We love the eatery’s distinctive coconut custard pie jam-packed with sweet coconut and a toasted macaroon-like crown and the fact that we can enjoy it with a well-made cup of espresso or cafe au lait.

    • Flava, 15343 E. 6th Ave., Aurora; 303-856-3590

     Chinese Dan-Dan Noodles With A Kick

    When we want to broaden the range of real Chinese dishes we always head to Chef Liu’s. On a whim we ordered dan dan noodles because they sounded tasty. Our waitress asked “Is spicy okay?” When we dug into the dish we understood why she asked. A mass of thin rice noodles in a sesame-based sauce was tumbled with tiny chunks of beef, lightly wok-ed with baby bok choy, cool cucumber slivers and a sprinkling of peanuts. The sauce had an undeniable Szechuan kick, but mainly it was a rich and complexly layered flavor that lingered. It made us want another bowl.

    • Chef Liu’s Authentic Chinese Cuisine, 562 S. Chambers Road, Aurora; 303-369-2220

    Seaweed-Wrapped Sizzled Spam Musubi

    Make all the Monty Python jokes you like but Spam has become a stalwart ingredient on menus around the world. Nowhere is the canned meat product more revered than in Hawaii where American ingenuity intersected with Japanese culinary precision in the form of Spam musubi. At L&L Hawaiian Barbecue they layer a block of warm sushi rice with a teriyaki-seasoned slice of griddled Spam and wrap it with a band of dried seaweed. The salty pork-y, ham-y meat is balanced nicely by the rice with a hint of the sea and it makes a warm, appealing handheld snack. Other musubi can be topped with sausage, chicken cutlet or barbecue chicken, but we say Spam, Spam, Spam, Spam.

    • L&L Hawaiian Barbecue, 14221 E. Cedar Ave., Aurora; 303-340-8824

     Mexican Pineapple Empanadas

    Walking into the recently opened Las Princesas Bakery our eyes lit up at the sight of all the familiar Mexican treats. There were the cookies of all sorts and colors and the sugared, flaky butterfly pastries so great for dunking in coffee. Rows of doughnuts competed for attention with slabs of frosted cake and cream-filled horns. We had to grab a few bolillos — soft pointy white rolls — but if we need to name a favorite we’d always pick a big empanada with sweet-tart pineapple filling.

    • Las Princesas Bakery, 15343 E. 6th Ave., Aurora; 720-229-6957

    Pad Kee Mao “Drunken” Noodles

    When you order the wonderful Pad Kee Mao at Thai Street Food, we urge caution when setting the heat level. “Medium” is more than hot enough for most folks. “Hot” will thrill most heat-seekers. If you order “Thai hot,” chef and owner Utumporn Killoran will smile a little and your brain will melt. You really want to be able to taste her exceptional “drunken noodles” made with wide rice noodles wok-ed with crisp veggies, eggs, herbs, rice wine, lots of shrimp and a few whole Thai peppers for extra oomph. You can also set the “juiciness” level from broth-y to almost dry. You will deeply appreciate that huge mug (and refills) of Thai iced tea and the other delights on this authentic menu.

    • Thai Street Food, 11650 Montview Blvd., Aurora; 303-587-2293

    Eastern European Meat Treats

    We don’t argue when the folks at Solomon’s Grocery & European Deli say “taste this!” That’s how we discovered a great Estonian summer sausage and the best bologna in the world. Besides Eastern European groceries, this compact establishment sells an array of sausages and meats including Lithuanian bacon, smoked pork loin, and hunter’s sausage along with assorted soft cheeses and heavy-duty rye bread to put it on.

    • Solomon’s Grocery & European Deli, 1939 S. Havana St., Aurora; 303-337-6454

    German Schnitzel, Spaetzle and Red Cabbage

    When a bit of fall chill finally arrives in Aurora, we’re making a beeline back to Helga’s for some German-style comfort. Our favorite is the a thin-pounded pork schnitzel with warm brown sauce sided with buttered noodle-y spaetzle dumplings and soft red cabbage. A slice of apple strudel, a tall stein of good German pilsner and some polka music make it perfect.

    • Helga’s German Restaurant, 14197 E. Exposition Ave., Aurora; 303-344-5488

    Glazed Blueberry Fritters

    When we need that over-the-top extra morning boost, we invest our calories and fat grams in one of the classic fritters at the independent Donut House in Aurora. The cake and raised doughnuts are tasty enough, but we make the pilgrimage for these fried dough wonders that have enough heft and density to stand up to blazing hot coffee without dissolving into mush. The many nooks and crannies of the fritter are deluged with glaze so there’s plenty of sugar in every single super cinnamon-y bite. There are two varieties: apple, and our personal favorite, blueberry.

    • Donut House, 746 Peoria St., Aurora; 303-367-4603

    Taste Trip Back to the Old West

    You don’t have to go far to feel like you’ve stumbled into a restaurant that would have made any Old West gunslinger feel right at home. In Aurora, you just have to head to Emil Lene’s Steakhouse. Near Smith Road and Chambers Road, it’s a bit off the beaten path but the steaks are cooked over charcoal to perfection, and the atmosphere is hard to beat. Plus, it sits right next to the Star K Ranch nature preserve, so even though you’re right in town, it feels a world away.

    • Emil Lene’s Steakhouse, 16000 E. Smith Road, Aurora; 303-366-6674

    Chinese Pork Wontons in Red Spicy Oil

    Skip the same old preparations such as sweet and sour pork when you visit China Jade. Instead, grab a copy of the special “Chinese” menu that features the really good stuff. Our go-to genuine Szechuan-style dish is wontons in red spicy oil. These have nothing in common with those cream cheese- and ”krab”-filled wonton things dished by many Chinese cafes. These are delicate pasta envelopes filled with green onion-y ground pork that are drenched in Szechuan chile-infused oil that tastes benign at first but gradually spreads warmth across your face.

    • China Jade, 12203 E. Iliff Ave., Aurora; 303-755-8518

    Hot Hush Puppies with Barbecue Sauce

    Some go to the venerable Shead’s for smoked ribs or catfish, but we go back again and again just for the hush puppies. These are essentially cornmeal-based balls the size of doughnut holes laced with corn and black pepper. Straight from the hot oil, the dense little treats are positively addictive, especially with a little of the shop’s sweet smoky barbecue sauce on the side and maybe a peach cobbler chaser.

    • Shead’s BBQ & Fish, 12203 E. Iliff Ave., Aurora; 303-755-0818

    Chicken-Stuffed Moroccan Bastilla

    Cafe Paprika’s chicken bastilla is so good it’s even made guest appearances in our dreams … at least our culinary ones. When this savory Moroccan meat pie arrives at the table, a spice and saffron perfume teases your nose. Within crisp, golden sheets of phyllo dusted with powdered sugar and cinnamon nests a warm melding of ground chicken, onions and nuts with egg custard and spices. It’s a wonderful celebratory sweet and savory dish.

    • Cafe Paprika, 13160 E. Mississippi Ave., Aurora; 303-755-4150

    Hot Italian Sausage Sub Sandwich

    Talk about links to the past! Everything about the Italian sausage sandwich at Carmine Lonardo’s hews to time-honored tradition. First, there’s the famous house-made hot Italian pork sausage flecked with lots of fennel seed and red pepper flakes. The warm sausage is tucked in a hunk of soft Italian bread and swathed in a good puree-rich tomato sauce with basil. We like it topped with a couple of slices of real provolone cheese. Finally, it’s wrapped in white waxed butcher paper just like in the Italian-American delis of New England. The taste combination is ridiculously good.

    • Carmine Lonardo’s Meat Market and Italian Deli, 15380 E. Smoky Hill Road, Aurora; 303-699-4532

    Ethnic Market

    The world grocery-shops in Aurora … and vice versa, given the city’s plethora of markets devoted to Indian, Asian, Mexican, Middle Eastern, British, Latin American and African ingredients, meat and produce. The largest is H Mart, the sole Colorado location of a national Asian supermarket chain, and our voters love their “huge selection of everything,” the “great prices” and particularly the “large fresh fish department” and “fresh produce.” Fans of the nearby Arash International Market praise its “great selection of meats,” “good prices,” “fresh produce,” “great breads” and “fresh hummus.” Mi Pueblo Latin Market got numerous nominations for its “low prices,” “hard-to-find items” and “great customer service.”

    • H Mart, 2751 S. Parker Road, Aurora; 303-695-8348

    • Arash International Market, 2720 S. Parker Road, Aurora; 303-752-9272

    • Mi Pueblo Latin Market, 15585 E. Colfax Ave., Aurora; 303-361-6123

    Masala Dosa With Chutney and Raita

    Forget the fact that dosas are healthy or vegetarian or that they originated in Southern India. We think if just about any Aurora diner dug into a masala dosa they’d smile and shout “yum!” At Masalaa Indian restaurant, creamy, lightly spiced mashed potatoes are tucked inside a pliable-but-crispy crepe made from rice and lentil flour cooked on a griddle. It’s comfort food of the first order. We enjoy our masala dosa with tamarind or mint chutney and cooling white raita. Other dosas enclose fried onions or are simply brushed with oodles of ghee — clarified butter. What’s not to like?

    • Masalaa Indian Vegetarian Cuisine, 3140 S. Parker Road, Aurora; 303-755-6272

    Wisconsin Bratwurst Sandwich With Sauerkraut

    Sometimes we are not in the mood for cuisine. We couldn’t care less about having a culinary adventure. We just want a brat, and the best place to get one in the metro area is at Bender’s, Aurora’s unpretentious bastion of Wisconsin comfort fare. They start it right by grinding pork and filling their own Sheboygan-style links. The sausages are flame-grilled and split on a fresh white bun. What you add after that is your call, but we go with onions, sauerkraut and brown mustard and a side of Bender’s good, warm German potato salad. That’s a simple, satisfying pleasure.

    • Bender’s Brat Haus, 700 S. Buckley Road, Aurora; 303-872-3569



    If we made a list of dishes most closely associated with Colorado, we think burritos — especially smothered in green chile — would be near the top. Burritos were big stuff in Aurora long before Chipotle Mexican Grill rose to local and national acclaim, but the Colorado-born chain’s wrapped-to-order items have become reader favorites. Grade A voters praise Chipotle’s “steak burritos,” its tortilla-free “burrito bol (bowl),” and the fact that you can “order the way you like it.” Voters nominated Las Hadas for its “breakfast bacon burrito,” Big City because its burritos contain “delicious ingredients” and are the “biggest and best,” and Casa Vallarta was noted for the “size” of its burritos, especially the “express burrito.”

    • Chipotle Mexican Grill: Multiple Aurora locations

    • Las Hadas Mexican Restaurant, 15264 E. Hampden Ave., Aurora; 303-693-9519

    • Big City Burrito: 3105 S. Peoria St., Aurora; 303-752-1255. 12501 E. 17th Ave. Parkway, Aurora; 303-344-3222

    • Casa Vallarta Mexican Restaurant, 4002 S. Parker Road, Aurora; 303-617-4957


    Restaurants guard their guacamole recipes as closely as their formulas for green chile. Grade A voters nominated “longtime favorite” La Cueva for the “creamy avocado chunks” in its guacamole, which another said they would eat it “with ANYTHING!” Readers also praised the guac at Casa Vallarta because it’s always “fresh” and at Chipotle for “freshness and great taste” plus it’s “great with their fresh chips.”

    • La Cueva Restaurant, 9742 E. Colfax Ave., Aurora; 303-367-1422

    • Casa Vallarta Mexican Restaurant, 4002 S. Parker Road, Aurora; 303-617-4957

    • Chipotle Mexican Grill: Multiple Aurora locations

    Vietnamese Pho

    Pho — pronounced “phuh” — is one of the national dishes of Vietnam. A huge bowl of broth and rice noodles is topped with a variety of meats or seafood and served with a side of fresh herbs, chiles and vegetables to add in. Not that long ago many Aurora diners would have said “huh?” to pho, but now there are shops open and thriving across Aurora. The pho fans saved most of their love for Pho 79 and Pho Yo. The longtime favorite Pho 79 was nominated for its “combination pho” with two or more meats, its “always delicious broth,” the “rare steak pho” and the “best No. 11 in town.” Pho Yo — which also sells frozen yogurt in interesting flavors — was lauded for its “affordable pho” and “big portions.”

    • Pho 79, 1080 S. Havana St., Aurora; 303-344-0752

    • Pho Yo, 2719 S. Parker Road, Aurora; 303-750-3007


    Whether it’s the “tempura rolls,” the “California roll” or “the SAT roll,” Grade A voters had nothing but high fives for the sushi and the “all you can eat” offer at Sushi Katsu. Local sushi fans also nominated Sonoda’s for being “good and consistent,” and for its “kumo roll,” “spider roll” and “California roll.” Voters praised the sushi at Mt. Fuji as “fresh and tasty” and “delicious and well-made” and Hana Sushi rolls and individual nigiri as “always fresh.”

    • Sushi Katsu, 2222 S. Havana St., Aurora; 303-368-8778

    • Sonoda’s Sushi Seafood, 3108 Parker Road, Aurora; 303-337-3800

    • Mt. Fuji, 6100 S. Main St. (Southlands) Aurora; 303-699-9388

    • Hana Sushi, 16911 E. Quincy Ave., Aurora; 303-680-6099

    Chinese Dumplings

    Some dumplings served at Chinese restaurants in Aurora are steamed. Other dough pockets are sizzled and pan-fried, filled with broth or go by the name “wontons.” Regardless of variety, Grade A voters preferred the dumplings served at East China — because they’re “still good after all these years” and also at P.F. Chang’s.

    • East China, 15510 E. Centretech Pkwy., Aurora; 303-363-6689

    • P.F. Chang’s China Bistro, 23902 E. Prospect Ave., Aurora; 303-627-5450

    Thai Noodles

    The chunky curries, zesty salads and diverse stir frys all have their fans at Thai eateries, but we like the way they use their noodles in pad Thai, “drunken noodles” and a dozen other dishes. Voters nominated Thai Flavor for their “pad Thai” and “fresh ingredients,” Thai Garden because of their “selection of dishes” and Pearl of Siam simply because of their “fabulous Thai noodles.”

    • Thai Flavor, 1014 S. Peoria St., Aurora; 720-859-7648

    • Thai Garden Asian Fusion, 16911 E. Quincy Ave., Aurora; 303-400-1173

    • Pearl of Siam, 18660 E. Hampden Ave., Aurora; 303-617-7408

     Korean BBQ

    Korean BBQ is all about grilling — not smoking meat slowly over wood — and it’s a great group dining experience. Tables at Korean BBQ eateries have a grill installed in the middle where diners cook thin slices of meat and vegetables and nibble on banchan — shared side dishes including kimchi (fermented cabbage), and other steamed, marinated, or stir-fried vegetables. There are many choices in Aurora but the Grade A corps gave their nod for bulgogi and service to Seoul Korean BBQ and Silla Restaurant.

    • Seoul Korean BBQ and Sushi, 2080 S. Havana St., Aurora; 303-632-7576

    • Silla Restaurant, 3005 S. Peoria St., Aurora; 303-338-5070

    Indian Curry

    You’ll find malai kofta curry, lamb makhani, shabnam curry and dozens of other heartwarming, spice-centric stews available at Aurora’s Indian eateries. Grade A voters nominated Star of India in particular for its “chicken tikka masala.” Fans of the all-vegetarian Masalaa voted for the “dishes you don’t see on most Indian menus.”

    • Star of India Restaurant, 3102 S. Parker Road, Aurora; 303-755-1921

    • Masalaa Fine Indian Vegetarian Cuisine, 3140 S. Parker Road, Aurora; 303-755-6272

    Greek and Middle-Eastern Fare

    In retrospect, we’ll admit that this category should have been divided into two categories. That much was clear when two sets of Grade A voters were equally passionate about the Greek specialties at the Athenian and the North African/Mediterranean treats at Cafe Paprika. The Athenian fans praised the ”really good food at a great price” at the “family-owned” restaurant, especially the “gyros,” “saganaki,” “souvlaki” and “chicken kebob.” The Moroccan menu at Cafe Paprika had Aurora diners applauding “yummy chicken couscous,” “flaky bastilla,” “lamb tagine” and “shrimp kebob.”

    • Athenian Restaurant, 15350 E. Iliff Ave., Aurora; 303-578-6011

    • Cafe Paprika, 13160 E. Mississippi Ave., Aurora; 303-755-4150


    Steak lovers are a large, boisterous and extremely opinionated group and our Grade A voters in this category weren’t shy about expressing their feelings for their favorite Aurora steakhouses. They nominated Texas Roadhouse for “beef cooked to perfection,” in particular the “ribeye is top notch” along with “prime rib and New York steak.” Fans of The Summit simply noted “two words: prime sirloin” with kudos for a “great filet mignon” and “beef Wellington.” Another added that The Summit is “expensive but worth it.” The many fans of Outback Steakhouse touted the chain’s “high-quality meat” and “juicy tender steaks” and “the 8-ounce filet is consistently good.”

    • Texas Roadhouse, 14200 E. Iliff Ave., Aurora; 303-745-3838

    • The Summit Steakhouse, 2700 S. Havana St., Aurora; 303-751-2112:

    • Outback Steakhouse, 2066 S. Abilene St., Aurora; 303-695-9600

    Ricotta-Filled Italian Cannoli

    When you name your eatery the Wholly Cannoli Cafe, you’d better serve an exceptional rendition of the namesake product. Luckily, this bakery and Italian-accented cafe on the southern edge of Aurora dishes a nearly perfect cannoli like we grew to love on the East Coast. One bite of the crisp tubular shell filled with the traditional, lightly sweetened ricotta dotted with tiny chocolate chips and we were ready to sing “O Sole Mio” and have an espresso. While you’re there check out the soft-chewy pignoli (pine nut) cookies and take home an eggplant Parmesan grinder.

    • Wholly Cannoli Cafe, 22691 Aurora Parkway, Aurora; 303-400-4110

    African Fare

    Aurora is regarded as the hub of African cuisine in the metro area and the state of Colorado with restaurants specializing in fare from a half dozen nations. When the tally was finished, diners gave their Grade A nods to the East African Restaurant and the Nile Ethiopian Restaurant.

    • East African Restaurant, 2222 S. Havana St., Aurora; 303-337-4476

    • Nile Ethiopian Restaurant, 1951 S. Havana St., Aurora; 720-748-0239


    Given the dozens of restaurants in Aurora that dish an all-beef patty with cheese, pickle, lettuce and tomato on a bun, it is commendable that Grade A voters could narrow the nominations to three burger-centric chains, two of them born right here in the metro area. Colorado-based Red Robin earned kudos for its “variety of burgers” including the “mushroom Swiss burger” and the “bleu ribbon burger” while Smashburger got the nod for “fresh meat and cheese” and because “they really know how to load up a burger.” Besides the free peanuts, fast-rising import Five Guys’ burgers were praised because they “taste the freshest” and come with “Cajun fries.”

    • Five Guys Burgers & Fries: 6710 S. Cornerstar Way, Aurora; 303-699-4100; 2300 S. Parker Road, Aurora; 303-751-7449

    • Red Robin Gourmet Burgers, 1491 S. Havana St., Aurora; 303-671-7055

    • Smashburger, 2630 S. Parker Road, Aurora; 720-213-0012

    Place to Quaff a Brew

    Apparently the beer list is more important than the atmosphere according to the beer lovers who nominated their favorite brewpub. They voted for Dry Dock Brewing for its “pumpkin beer,” “vanilla porter” and, noted one, the “best IPA I’ve ever had.” At BJ’s they loved “the beer sampler” and “all the dark brews.”

    • Dry Dock Brewing, 15120 E. Hampden Ave., Aurora; 303-400-5606

    • BJ’s Restaurant & Brewhouse, 14442 E. Cedar Ave., Aurora; 303-366-3550

    Wine List

    When it came to restaurants that offer diverse reds, whites, pink and bubblies, only two destinations were near and dear to wine-loving Grade A voters. They nominated the Wine Experience Cafe for “great white wines” and Bistro Al Vino for “atmosphere” and “the service.”

    • Wine Experience Cafe, 6240 S. Main St. (Southlands), Aurora; 303-690-1025

    • Bistro Al Vino, 15352 E. Ida Drive, Centennial; 303-400-3166


    When they’re ready to rise and shine, our Grade A Awards voters named two local breakfast joints and a couple of national chains as their faves. The classic Dozens Restaurant is touted for “yummy food always!” ranging from “cinnamon rolls” to the “Aspen omelet.” The iconic Sam’s No. 3 was nominated for “excellent portions” of “chicken souvlaki breakfast” and “Greek omelets” not to mention “the vibe.” The venerable IHOP got the nod for the “best French toast” and “cinnamon pancakes” and Village Inn fans touted “good pancakes,” “good service with heart” and a “wide selection” of morning dishes.

    • Dozens Restaurant, 2180 S. Havana St., Aurora; 303-337-6627

    • Sam’s No. 3, 2580 S. Havana St., Aurora; 303-751-0347

    • IHOP: Multiple Aurora locations

    • Village Inn: Multiple Aurora locations

    Barbecue Ribs

    Some like them Memphis-style and others love them from Texas or the Carolinas. The only thing Aurora barbecue-rib fans can agree on is that they want more of them. Grade A voters nominated Famous Dave’s for their “good service” and “St. Louis-style ribs.” Others put forward Jim & Nick’s for its “fall off the bone” ribs with a big “variety of barbecue sauces.” Bennett’s ribs won votes for their “great smoke flavor and good sauces.”

    • Famous Dave’s BBQ, 15725 E. Briarwood Circle, Aurora; 303-396-6227

    • Jim ‘N Nick’s Bar-B-Q, 24153 E. Prospect Ave., Aurora; 720-274-5300

    • Bennett’s Pit Bar-B-Que, 3538 Peoria St., Aurora; 303-363-8300


    On the weekend, when it’s time for a more leisurely late-morning meal, the voters nominated Dozens for “the great French toast” and a “clever menu — never boring,” and Mimi’s Cafe for “eggs Florentine,” “great service” and “the muffins — need I say more?”

    • Dozens Restaurant, 2180 S. Havana St., Aurora; 303-337-6627

    • Mimi’s Cafe, 205 S. Abilene St., Aurora; 303-364-6464

    Fried Chicken

    Lots of eateries in the city serve fried chicken. Grade A voters liked what they tasted at Kentucky Fried Chicken and Popeye’s. KFC chicken was favored for its “crunchy” coating — especially the “original recipe” with a side of the “best coleslaw.” Popeye’s drumsticks and breasts impressed because of their “spicy and crispy coating,” “value and taste,” and side dishes like “red beans and rice.”

    • KFC: Multiple Aurora locations

    • Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen: Multiple Aurora locations

    Thin-Crust Pizza

    When it came to classic New York-style thin-crust pizza, our readers were highly opinionated about which pizzeria does it best (except for one cranky guy who voted for “None — I hate thin-crust pizza.”). One reader nominated the local chain Anthony’s Pizza and Pasta because “it reminds me of NY.” Others liked the “nice thin crust and great sauce” and various topping combinations including “garlic and chicken,” “pepperoni and mushroom,” and “sausage and onion.” Readers liked Papa Murphy’s Pizza simply because “it’s delicious!” and because it “bakes up perfect every time at home.” One reader’s favorite at Papa Murphy’s was the “chicken artichoke pizza.” Local independent Armando’s Ristorante earned votes for its “perfect pesto pizza” and “great tasting handmade crust.”

    • Anthony’s Pizza and Pasta: Multiple Aurora locations

    • Papa Murphy’s Pizza: Multiple Aurora locations

    • Armando’s Ristorante, 5428 S. Parker Rd. Aurora; 303-690-6660

    Sicilian Square Pizza

    While there aren’t a huge number of pizzerias in Aurora serving traditional, square-sliced Sicilian pizza, Grade A voters happily nominated the pies at Armando’s, Anthony’s and Pizza Hut.

    • Armando’s Ristorante, 5428 S. Parker Rd., Aurora; 303-690-6660

    • Anthony’s Pizza and Pasta: Multiple Aurora locations

    • Pizza Hut: Multiple Aurora locations

    All-You-Can-Eat Buffet

    A low price and a great variety of dishes matter most to fans of Aurora’s many buffet restaurants, but each nominee has pluses that please particular voters. They like Golden Corral because “there’s always something for everyone in the family” including “cooked-to-order steaks” and a “fresh salad bar.” Country Buffet fans praised the “country cooking with flavor” and “great variety of entrees,” specifically the “chicken dishes.” Sweet Tomatoes earned its nomination for being “the healthy buffet alternative” with “salads you can make the way you want” with “very fresh vegetables.”

    • Golden Corral Buffet and Grill, 11090 E. Mississippi Ave., Aurora; 303-306-9171

    • Country Buffet, 1026 S. Sable Blvd., Aurora; 303-745-1844

    • Sweet Tomatoes, 14015 E. Evans Ave., Aurora; 303-745-4664

     Food Truck

    Taco trucks and catering trucks at worksites have been around forever but there’s a new breed of food trucks locally that offer restaurant-quality fare. Fans of Aurora’s Manna From Heaven truck noted the “freshness and quality of the ingredients,” the fact that “they have the best banh mi (Vietnamese sandwiches) around” and that they offer “just great food.”

    • Manna from Heaven Gourmet Food Truck & Catering: Location details at

    Outdoor Dining

    With Colorado’s great weather and picture-postcard vistas, outdoor dining (and sipping cold beverages) goes on all year long. The list of al fresco destinations in Aurora is large and voters nominated The Emerald Isle’s big patio for its ”view of Cherry Creek” and the “margaritas.” Enthusiasts for The Dusty Boot noted the “great breakfast burger” and “great view from the patio.”

    • The Dusty Boot, 16270 E. Arapahoe Road, Foxfield; 303-565-4200

    • The Emerald Isle, 4385 S. Parker Road, Aurora; 303-690-3722

    Take-Out Food

    Nearly every eatery in town offers take-out service but some spots clearly specialize. Grade A voters gave a thumbs-up to Jimmy John’s for “The Beach Club,” The Athenian for its “calamari” and Chick-fil-A for “customer service” and “chicken nuggets.”

    • Jimmy John’s Gourmet Sandwiches: Multiple Aurora locations

    • Athenian Restaurant, 15350 E. Iliff Ave., Aurora; 303-578-6011

    • Chick-fil-A: Multiple Aurora locations


    Separately, long white bread rolls, thin-sliced steak, sauteed onions and American cheese (white, yellow or Whiz) have their place on menus. Combine them as they do in Philly and you have one of the great, iconic sandwiches in the United States. In Aurora, fans line up at Chester’s for “the best Philly cheesesteaks in Aurora,” “friendly service” and the secret, non-traditional “house dressing.” Grade A voters gave an equal amount of love to Taste of Philly for its “very tasty cheesesteaks.”

    • Chester’s Philly Grill: 3301 Peoria St., Aurora; 303-367-9778, 2195 S. Chambers Road, Aurora; 303-338-0690

    • Taste of Philly, 18121 E. Hampden Ave., Aurora; 303-699-2080

    Hot Wings

    Chicken wings have come a long way from Buffalo where they were designed to encourage additional beer consumption. With dozens of places dishing Buffalo-style wings in Aurora, Grade A voters nominated four of their favorites. They love Wingstop particularly for their non-traditional “boneless garlic Parmesan wings.” Wing Hut earned kudos for its “great variety of flavors” and they crave Buffalo Wild Wings for “honey mustard wings” and because they “love the sauces.” Woody’s Wings was nominated for “the sauces,” “good taste and prices” and the “BBQ wings.”

    • Wingstop: 14221 E. Cedar Ave., Aurora; 303-343-9464; 6140 S. Gun Club Road, Aurora; 303-690-0137

    • Wing Hut, 15473 E. Hampden Ave., Aurora; 303-699-9464

    • Woody’s Wings, 1740 S. Buckley Road, Aurora; 303-696-7227

    • Buffalo Wild Wings, 10500 E. Garden Drive, Aurora; 720-213-1100

    Ice Cream and Frozen Treats

    Options for frozen-treat fans have expanded greatly in recent years with frozen custard and serve-yourself frozen yogurt establishments opening all over town. Relative newcomer Zookie’s earned its nomination, voters said, for “the customer service” and “excellent yogurt” in “great flavors like eggnog” and “vanilla frozen yogurt.” When it came to Cold Stone Creamery, voters liked “most everything!” with a shout-out for the “cake batter ice cream.” The venerable Dairy Queen earned its share of praise for “no annoying singing,” the “hot fudge sundae” and the “French silk mini-Blizzard.” One voter simply noted “yummmmm.”

    • Zookie’s Frozen Yogurt, 700 S. Buckley Road, Aurora; 720-535-1613

    • Cold Stone Creamery: Multiple Aurora locations

    • Dairy Queen: Multiple Aurora locations

    Bakery — Sweets

    Warning: Reading about this category may be dangerous for your diet! Especially when you learn that Daniel’s of Paris was nominated for its “flourless chocolate torte,” “great opera cake” and “elodie torte.” At Panera Bread, the voters were influenced by “very good pastries,” “cinnamon rolls,” “pumpkin muffins” and “bear claws.” Besides the “excellent authentic cannoli,” voters loved Wholly Cannoli’s “Italian eclairs” and “Italian pastries made the right way.” At Bliss Cupcakes the appeal was simple and direct: “Any of the cupcakes, please!”

    • Daniel’s of Paris, 12253 E. Iliff Ave., Aurora; 303-751-6084

    • Panera Bread: Multiple Aurora locations

    • Wholly Cannoli Cafe, 22691 Aurora Parkway, Aurora; 303-400-4110

    • Bliss Cupcakes, 6205 S. Main St. (Southlands), Aurora; 303-974-6440

    Bakery — Bread

    When it came down to yeasted loaves and buns, there was no competition. Panera took the nomination for “everything there” including “rye bread,” “Asiago cheese bread” and “sunflower seed bread.”

    • Panera Bread: Multiple Aurora locations


    Consumers are very loyal to the place where they buy their groceries every week. At King Soopers they noted the “best quality produce,” “their customer service,” “the deli,” “best prices” and the “donuts.” Safeway was nominated because it’s “always well-stocked,” has the “best quality meats” and the “friendliest employees.” Relative newcomer Sprouts was praised for “great veggies at a great price,” “healthy products” and the fact that it is “always clean and bright.”

    • King Soopers: Multiple Aurora locations

    • Safeway: Multiple Aurora locations

    • Sprouts Farmers Market, 1150 S. Ironton St., Aurora; 720-278-2008

    Place to Buy Produce

    The growing roster of ethnic markets, natural food stores, farmers markets and department stores in Aurora offers shoppers great choices in finding fresh vegetables and fruits. The Grade A Awards voters settled on two favorites. At Sprouts, voters noted, “everything in the produce section is high quality” and “simply the freshest fruit in town.” Another Sprouts plus is “reasonably priced organics.” The ethnic superstore H Mart has its own devotees who praise the “inexpensive and high quality produce,” “the best variety” and “many types of produce you won’t find anywhere else.”

    • Sprouts Farmers Markets, 1150 S. Ironton St., Aurora; 720-278-2008

    • H Mart, 2751 S. Parker Road, Aurora; 303-695-8348

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