6840 N. Academy Blvd., 592-1391, restauranteur.com/ lemongrassbistro
The clear, thin lemon sauce that comes with the grilled beef ribs ($10.95) is so good I soaked my white-rice side with it and slurped it all up. But it's nothing compared to the power of the ribs themselves: Cut from a different part of the cow, these sport small, round bones you have to eat around (and then suck the scallions and tangy, floral juices off of). Some bites are as tender as a touch, others come with a lot more chew, but all come off seasoned with drunken delight.
The combination bun bowl ($11.25) is a true highlight, as well. Ours sported shrimp, shards of grilled chicken and beef, and thumb-sized hunks of egg roll with more depth of flavor — a smokiness to the flaky wrap — than your average piece of meat. With ground peanuts, fresh carrot rounds and cold, near-translucent noodles, it's as if springtime met its food counterpart. — Bryce Crawford
Thunder & Buttons II
2415 W. Colorado Ave., 447-9888, thunderandbuttons.com
Thunder & Buttons II, the multi-level Old Colorado City bar named after a pair of carriage-pulling elk, and stocked with flat-screens and throwback NFL helmets, surprises me more often than not. It's the drink specials (including happy hour all day on Sunday); a youngish crowd that seems largely unaffiliated with the military; and an impressive menu for a drinkery, with fun bits like cottage pie ($9.99) or a portobello sandwich ($8.99).
The former may have roots in England, but it's like America in a bowl: Vegetables and butter-soft beef cubes from Sysco, braised for hours in Ellie's Brown Ale sit in a salty umber gravy, all capped with thick mashed potatoes covered with melted cheese. It's great. The Mediterranean-inspired sandwich shines, too, with its spinach, tomato, and feta and Havarti cheese innards, not to mention a side of killer horseradish coleslaw. Only downer: It sports so much liquid, the bun's quickly soggy. — Bryce Crawford
600 E. 13th Ave., Denver, 303/831-6301, eatmorejelly.com
Nobody can say you aren't über-hip — what with your vintage '80s cereal boxes as wall art, bloody PBRs, and cornflake-battered, UDI's Challah Batard French Toast. But I have to say, for my money, I think I'd rather endure Root Down and Snooze's similarly lengthy breakfast waits.
Don't get me wrong: You've got some goodies, like your cinnamon-sugar Donut Bites (eight/$4.99) and respectably textured gluten-free blueberry rice-flour pancakes ($7.79). But you also left me hangin' a couple times, like on the Bhakti Chai French Toast ($4.29 as a one-piece side), which didn't deliver a true clove-cinnamon-and-anise dredging. And your sweet potato hash ($8.79) was light on the chorizo, heavy on the unlisted regular potatoes, and staid in a typical diner kinda way that just doesn't match your fun, funky, cool atmosphere.
Yours truly. — Matthew Schniper