New Denver restaurants youll want to try out this summer

Mojo pork chops marinated in whole citrus and garlic, congri rice and beans plus salty-sweet fried plantains and pollo a la brasa made with Peruvian black mint huacatay.

These are some of the Latin American and Caribbean dishes on the brand new menu at Lucina, which opened this month in Park Hill.

Create Cooking School business partners Diego Coconati, Michelle Nguyen and Erasmo Casiano say they didn’t set out to open a restaurant that celebrated the cooking traditions of the Americas.

“To us, it’s just the food we grew up with,” Casiano said. “But our culture, in terms of the Latin Americas and Caribbean, has a lot more to offer than just lime juice, tortillas and cumin. We wanted to kind of explore the Latin Americas, and show people how those dishes were derived.”

  • Provided by Lucina

    The owners of Lucina, a new Park Hill restaurant, from left to right: Diego Coconati; Michelle Nguyen; and Erasmo (Ras) Casiano. (Provided by Lucina)

  • Provided by Lucina

    Lucina's Prince Edward Island mussels with chorizo Iberico and tomato sofrito are a popular menu item for $17.

At their Create Cooking School in the Stanley Marketplace, the team focuses more on Continental European fare. In fact, they originally thought that Lucina would open as an Italian restaurant.

But Spanish tapas are the only signs of Europe on Lucina’s menu: “We wanted to make sure we brought to the forefront these dishes in an approachable way,” Casiano said.

Just as approachable are the cocktails and “dulces,” which are already bringing in regulars for happy hour and requiring them to linger until dessert. The Pico Tinto is a red wine concoction with ginger, honey, sherry and lime. Abuelita’s Xocolatl is a cinnamon chocolate cake with vanilla anglaise.

“We wanted a space that was great from beginning to end,” Casiano said.

From the Park Hill neighborhood to the Greenwood Village entertainment district, here are four more spots that we’d recommend you discover throughout the summer, each with their own story to share.

If you go to Lucina: 2245 Kearney St., lucinaeatery.co

Sky Bar (Stanley Marketplace – Aurora)

You’ll have to look to find it, but this upstairs bar at The Stanley Marketplace in Aurora is a tucked-away treasure of a cocktail lounge. The vibe is all air travel’s Golden Age, which nods to the market hall’s past as the Stanley Aviation factory.

After taking the elevator up (by Sweet Cow), you’ll arrive at this throwback airport lounge, where you can order from a list of destination-themed cocktails and refined classics, from martinis to daiquiris and gimlets. Try the Tokyo with whisky, amaretto, lemon, ginger, sesame, an egg white foam and furikake spice on the glass.

There’s no dinner service to speak of, unless you count martini olives, but downstairs at the marketplace, you’ll find everything you need in that regard. Just remember: Kids are allowed everywhere in the market, but it’s grown-ups only in the lounge.

2501 Dallas St., skybarstanley.com

  • Josie Sexton, The Denver Post

    The new Carrera's Tacos in Greenwood Village specializes in "West Coast" Mexican street food. Find Baja fish tacos, birria and elote on the menu.

  • Josie Sexton, The Denver Post

    The new Carrera's Tacos in Greenwood Village specializes in "West Coast" Mexican street food. Find Baja fish tacos, birria and elote on the menu.

Carrera’s Tacos (Greenwood Village)

Brothers Josh and Ryan Carrera worked their way through the San Diego restaurant scene before moving to Denver and starting their catering truck, which they just turned into a brick-and-mortar restaurant. The premise is West Coast Mexican, the likes of which they couldn’t find elsewhere in Colorado, they said.

“Cali” burritos stuffed to the brim with steak, crema, salsa, cheese and fried potatoes are a house specialty, as are the birria tacos with griddled cheese and consomme for dipping. For something just a little lighter, order the tempura-battered fish tacos, or go for shrimp aguachile with tostadas.

The small taquería is located along the same stretch of Arapahoe Road as Pindustry and Grange Hall, and just a stone’s throw from Fiddler’s Green Amphitheatre. As this Arapahoe Entertainment District takes shape, Carrera’s is already positioned to be one of the neighborhood’s best local food options.

7939 E. Arapahoe Rd., carrerastacos.com

Street Feud (East Colfax/Hale)

Chef Merlin Verrier’s Street Feud evolved from a food stall at Avanti F&B to multiple counters at Number 38 and now a standalone restaurant at the Colfax space once occupied by Solera Wine Bar. With his new full-scale restaurant, the former Kitchen Next Door chef is mashing up street food traditions from South Korea to Mexico.

His loaded fries — most similar to poutine — come in combinations like the K-Pop, with crispy pork belly and kimchi, or the Mariachi, with pickled jalapeños and salsa verde. Wraps, bowls, bao buns and tacos round out the menu, with fillings that draw from Thai, Indonesian and Indian cuisines.

The restaurant is eye-spy candy, with street art across the walls and Mod-Podge posters over the ceiling. A patio just opened for the season and a liquor license shouldn’t be far behind; for now, you can order sodas, Thai iced teas and Vietnamese iced coffees on a hot summer day.

5410 E. Colfax Ave., streetfeud.com

  • Josie Sexton, The Denver Post

    Milk Tea People in downtown Denver's new Basecamp at Market Station development is a modern, Japanese-style tea house serving fun iced and hot tea drinks like the jasmine cheese cream and the strawberry matcha cream.

  • Josie Sexton, The Denver Post

    The crew at Milk Tea People, from left: Jon Hinh, Jason Hinh, Tim Gardner and Kevin Ung.

Milk Tea People (Downtown)

You probably didn’t know you needed a cheese tea, ube jasmine latte, strawberry matcha or watermelon teaki in your life. But these fun-filled drinks are the stuff that summer is made of. Business partners Tim Gardner and Kevin Ung traveled around Asia and the U.S. researching tea shops before opening Milk Tea People in downtown Denver. They want to share the modern tea-drinking culture they’ve grown to love in other cities with locals and visitors to Colorado.

“We couldn’t really find a place where they crafted beverages like these with real ingredients,” Ung said, describing Milk Tea’s gourmet approach to caffeinated beverages. Take the strawberry matcha, for example, which combines organic strawberry puree with ceremonial (high-grade) matcha from Kyoto and grass-fed milk.

Cane sugar is the only ingredient used to sweeten the drinks, but their combinations of fruit, cream and tea create a decadent effect. You’ll want to try one on the next hot day and then you might just be hooked enough to come back in, one drink at a time, and taste the rest of the menu.

1641 Market St., milkteapeople.com

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