Growing up in a large Italian family, Chef Robert Sansone was enamored with his grandmother's home-style family cooking. A formal culinary education at Johnson & Wales University expanded his horizons and exposed him to an entire world's worth of flavors and cuisines. Thus, it's no surprise that upon founding Sansone's Bistro, he decided to embrace an eclectic culinary style that draws inspiration from cuisines throughout Europe and beyond, yet still manages to incorporate his grandmother's cooking whenever possible. The results are signature menu items such as chicken parmesan with homemade marinara sauce; wiener schnitzel topped with lemon, capers, and anchovies; or crispy duck with a chipotle-lingonberry jam.
The dining room similarly demonstrates a casual-yet-refined spirit via a warm, earth-toned space complete with dark chairs and booths surrounding the white-linen-draped tables. A wood-paneled accent wall features three pieces of abstract artwork, which add a bit of color and contemporary flair. Metal chandeliers hang from the ceiling, joining gleaming wall sconces and fishbowls full of electric eels.
Rice Bistro & Sushi's kitchen overflows with cookware that steams and simmers dishes of pan-fried basil beef, pots of rice noodles for pad thai, and golden portions of peking duck. Outside the kitchen, sushi chefs behind the sushi bar craft specialty fresh sushi and sashimi; the combination of Chinese, Japanese, and Thai earned the restaurant a nomination for Best Asian Fusion in ABC 7's 2011 Denver A-List. Despite the traditional recipes, chefs are conscious of modern dietary restrictions and never add MSG, peanut oil, or sulfuric acid to their meals. Items such as basil lobster and scallops can be prepared gluten-free upon request. Diners sip on imported Japanese sodas, teas, or an array of more than 130 different wines to accent bites of tempura lobster rolls, along with 10 varieties of hot and cold sake and specialty saketinis from the full bar.
Celebrating seven years of service and flaunting freshly painted walls, Saigon Landing Restaurant reopened last year in Greenwood Village with its menu of fresh, heart-healthy Vietnamese cuisine intact. At the Greenwood Village location, an eclectic range of Eastern flavors abound, with lemongrass and curry anchoring plates piled with pork, chicken, seafood, or veggies. Outside, an American flag billows over a grassy border lined with vibrant foliage, fir trees, and a friendly giant tasked with blowing away approaching storm clouds. The Greenwood Village location is close to the United Artists/Regal movie theater off of East Arapahoe Road and I-25.
The cooks at each of El Parral Mexican Restaurant's locations follow traditional recipes to yield a menu of Mexican fare. Armed with fresh ingredients, they plate tender steak and seafood dishes and reintroduce taste buds to south-of-the-border favorites, such as tortas and burritos. Behind the bar, bartenders concoct signature margaritas and pour them into glasses rimmed with salt, like the eyelids of a sad teenage poet.
Smashburger isn't just the name—it's the way chefs grill every burger. First, they form never-frozen, 100% Angus beef into a giant meatball. Then they season it, place it on a butter-glazed grill, and smash it into a patty. The process caramelizes the beef, locking in flavor while keeping the meat juicy and tender. The chefs then sandwich each slab in an artisan bun and turn it into one of an array of standard burgers or locally inspired specialties unique to each market. This handcrafting approach typifies everything else the chefs do, from blending handspun Häagen-Dazs shakes to hand painting Smashburger's logo onto every beverage cup. Letting its food stand for itself and relying mostly on word of mouth for advertising, the Smashburger franchise expanded to 160 restaurants in five years, with its swift growth from zero to 100 stores making it one of the nation's fastest-growing restaurant companies. This rapid development even caught the attention of Forbes and Inc. along the way.
On average, it takes one year to invent a sandwich that meets the standards of Jason's Deli—countless combinations of breads and filling won't ever leave the test kitchen. Those that do follow a strict set of rules: no artificial trans fat, no high-fructose corn syrup, and flavors that come from freshness rather than additives. The results can be bitten into at hundreds of locations across America. At each, difficult choices abound between reubens and spicy-ranchero chicken wraps, or between a turkey club and a New Orleans-inspired muffaletta, spread with a family-recipe olive mix. Even those who don't want a sandwich still have to make tough decisions when they approach the salad bar brimming with organic fixings.
Despite the difficulties of selection, Jason's Deli prioritizes convenience. Its stores have organized a list of gluten-sensitive selections as well as healthy kids' meals, which come with sides of organic carrots or apples as opposed to other restaurants' deep-fried lard balls. The company also advocates for emotional health as fervently as it does nutrition—its Leadership Institute hosts workshops for employees on topics ranging from conflict resolution to finances to ethics.