2000s Archive

Restaurants Worth the Money: West

Originally Published October 2009
Eleven great places to spend your hard-earned cash in California and Colorado.

El Taco de Mexico
This tiny no-frills Mexican joint is beloved for its green chile, a.k.a. Colorado’s de facto state food. Order tacos al pastor or burritos de chile relleno at the counter, say yes when asked if you want it smothered, and get some horchata to cool the chile’s blaze. 714 Santa Fe Dr., Denver (303-623-3926)


National acclaim hasn’t pushed Frasca’s prix-fixe prices upward; at about $70 a head, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a more exquisite Friulian meal in America. Chef Lachlan Mackinnon-Patterson canvases the state for pristine ingredients to use in dishes like handmade pasta alla chitarra with poached egg and bitter mustard greens, while wine director Bobby Stuckey oversees the lively dining room. 1738 Pearl St., Boulder, CO (303-442-6966; Frasca)

Tartine Bakery & Cafe
Their bread is good enough to make you weep, but if you don’t live on bread alone, know that the sandwiches, croissants, and pretty much everything from the oven are amazing. But come prepared to wait; pretty much everyone agrees. 600 Guerrero St., San Francisco (415-487-2600; Tartine Bakery & Cafe)

Taylor’s Automatic Refresher
When the winemaking Gott brothers bought the Napa Valley’s favorite drive-in burger stand (vintage 1949), they did everything right: Niman Ranch beef for the burgers, terrific onion rings, fish tacos, and, of course, a wine list of local favorites. No wonder there is always a line. 933 Main St., St. Helena, CA (707-963-3486; Taylor’s Automatic Refresher)

Okay, so it’s tasting menu only (except in the bar), with a price to match. But once you settle in for the evening, you’ll find that Douglas Keane is a master of clean, deep, ringing flavors, bite after unforgettable bite. The servers know how exhilarating the food is, and while smooth and gracious themselves, they don’t make you feel like you have to behave yourself. 29 North St., Healdsburg, CA (707-433-3311; Cyrus)

Kyo Chon
A first encounter with the chicken wings from this Korea-based chain involved arriving late to a party where all that remained were grease-spotted to-go boxes of crimson, long-cold chicken bits. Desperate sampling led to swooning: Sweet, crunchy Korean red-pepper-and-garlic-saturated chicken candy, where have you been all our lives? Not surprisingly, they’re even better hot and made to order. 3833 W. 6th St., Los Angeles (213-739-9292)

Palate Food + Wine
Octavio Becerra’s Glendale restaurant is all about a chef bursting with ideas and using what stands out at the farmers market. The tiny menu offers an array of rustic rillettes and homemade pickles, as well as a dazzling wine list. 933 S. Brand Blvd., Glendale, CA (818-662-9463; Palate Food + Wine)

It may be a storefront in a mini-mall at the wrong end of Sunset Boulevard, but this place has a serious cult following, because after one visit, you begin to dream about it. The southern Thai menu has dishes like a deliriously spicy morning glory salad, deep-fried stuffed crab, and the most wonderful mussels in lemongrass broth. 5233 1⁄2 Sunset Blvd., Hollywood (323-663-3104; Jitlada)

The French Laundry
Expensive, yes, but each meal is like taking a trip to an exotic and faraway place. the food aims for—and very often achieves—perfection. 6640 Washington St., Yountville, CA (707-944-2380; The French Laundry)

For more than 70 years, Du-Par’s has been famous for its modest prices, immodest portions, and good grub. In short, the coffee shop done right. 6333 W. 3rd St., Los Angeles (323-933-8446; Du-par’s)

At this fascinating vegetarian restaurant, chef Jeremy Fox is a kind of vegetable psychiatrist, intent on investigating every facet of the produce that comes to his kitchen. a cauliflower concoction, in which the vegetable appears raw, roasted, baked, caramelized, and puréed, is his signature dish. 1140 Main St., Napa, CA (707-251-5656; Ubuntu)

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