The exact same thing can happen with restaurant reviews. Don't get me wrong, Yelp is most of the time spot on with their ratings, and all of the 4-star restaurants on there are totally deserving of recognition. But then there's a few others that I think are well deserving of another star or half-star. Here are three of my top picks for Denver restaurants that far outshine their ratings. And yes, I realize that some of the reviews that gave it that rating might be hella old, or the people writing them were in bad moods, or the restaurant was having an off day. Bottom line is, everyone has different tastes, so don't make your food decisions solely on ratings; you might find yourself pleasantly surprised.
1. Green Fine Salad Co. (110 16th St.)
Yelp Rating: 3 and 1/2 stars
Apparently, some people don't like salad. Or, I guess I should say they don't like paying over $10 for salad. That's a totally valid argument, but considering a lot of downtown restaurants (minus fast food) cost at least that much at lunchtime, paying $10 give-or-take for a huge bowl of good quality meats and vegetables doesn't seem that bad to me. They also have unique toppings – like roasted cauliflower, sweet potato and really good steak – with taste and quality that puts them in the top tier of salad restaurants. Price seemed to be about the biggest beef Yelpers had with this place. Keep in mind, there are three different locations and three different ratings. This location is my favorite because it's most convenient in it's building located at one end of 16th Street Mall, right next to the Denver Post. It's not economical for an every day lunch for me (especially since I mostly bring lunch from home), but once a week or so, I find myself inside the calming green interior of this restaurant, usually getting the same order of the Santa Fe Salad (romaine hearts, black bean salsa, tortilla crisps, avocado and fresh corn – steak instead of chicken, hold the cheese, dressing on the side), and it's always exactly the way I like it. Plus, the salad artists there are the best. They're friendly, polite, handy with the salad tongs, and they never fail to make my day better.
2. City O City (206 E. 13th Ave.)
Yelp Rating: 3 and 1/2 stars
If you've been to City O' City, tried their seitan wings, understood what they're all about, you might be surprised that they weren't given four solid stars or even four and a half. Just a few blocks from Denver's capitol building, this vegetarian and nearly vegan restaurant should be praised for championing the underrepresented vegetarian restaurant community. There's Watercourse Foods and a handful of other veg-friendly eateries ( I have yet to try those), but and from this food writer's experience City O' City is one of the most well-known in that genre. Scanning the reviews, some keywords in the not-so-nice ones included "service," "salty" and... "hipsters." Can't say I've experienced the first or second, but the third was part of the fun for me. I love my waffles with a side of hornrimmed glasses and peace bird tattoos. Speaking of waffles, theirs are the best I've ever tasted. Ever. The savory waffle, which comes with a vegetable ragu or a vegan cheese fondue (or both and a fried egg if you ask for it), is so rich and flavorful and umami-fied that you might just eat the whole thing before your stomach has a chat with your brain and reminds you you're full. Everything else I've had there – seitan wings, cheese boards, other assorted W.O.W.s, or Waffles of the Week – has been amazing. So if you don't mind hipsters or are a hipster, head over to City O' City sometime before their 2 a.m. close time. Yeah, they're also open late. [Disclaimer: I have nothing against hipsters; I probably am one.]
3. Ace Eat Serve (501 E. 17th Ave.)
Yelp Rating: 3 stars
Perhaps the most surprising ratings was Ace's. On paper, it sounds awesome! Ping pong, bao buns, sticky asian wings, hip bar and equally hip bar crowd, airplane parts as decoration. It sounds pretty great, right? Well, I think it is, on paper and in reality. But according to Yelp, some of their food might be an acquired taste for some, whereas others rave about it. All I know is that I love the food. The buns, which come with fillings like braised short rib and pork belly, for a quick, satisfying lunch. The lunch deal gives you two, plus soup and a salad, which is more than enough for me (and I'm not exactly a dainty eater). I also love the sticky, sweet, pungent Tiger Wings – the sort that moist towelettes dream of being able to clean up after. Likewise, the crispy brussels sprouts (sure you've had fried brussels sprouts, but not these), the curries, the noodle bowls, and everything else I've sampled is just fantastic. I've never even played ping pong there – I really just go for the food.