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Top of the Town 2010

Our most comprehensive (and easily most fun!) look ever at the best of the Mile High City.

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Every year, when we start planning for this issue, two things happen: First, we cheer (loudly) about all the cocktail tasting, boutique hopping, menu sampling, massage getting, and gallery browsing ahead of us. Then, we steel ourselves for the hard part: choosing the very best. It’s no easy feat in Denver, where Sunday brunch is an art form, baseball games and art museums are equally appealing (in different ways, of course), and neighborhood pet shops are as adorable as their furry patrons. But we’ve eaten, shopped, explored, and indulged our way across Denver and beyond—and received more than 133,000 votes from our readers—so we can let you in on who’s bringing their A-game to the Mile High City this year. Enjoy.

SHOPPING

DIVERSIONS

PERSONALITIES

SERVICES

DINING

How we did it

Shopping

Women’s Clothing (Splurge)

Editors’ Choice

MAX

This year MAX is celebrating 25 years in business. Suffice it to say, owner Max Martinez knows what—and more important, whom—Denver’s fashionistas want to wear. From hipster labels like Isabel Marant and Marni to couture looks by Givenchy and Lanvin, Martinez’s well-edited inventory is the result of the weeks he spends traveling to international fashion capitals such as Paris and New York City, snapping up designer pieces coveted by every in-the-know lady around town. Multiple locations, www.maxfashion.com

Readers’ Choice

Nordstrom

From young design stars like Phillip Lim and Alexander Wang to fashion legend Giorgio Armani, Nordstrom’s Via C and Collectors departments offer credit-limit-be-damned styles for all tastes. Visit the Cherry Creek store and let the outstanding sales staff help style your look. Multiple locations, www.nordstrom.com

Women’s Clothing (Affordable)

Editors’ Choice

Blue Ruby Design Boutique

Historic Downtown Littleton’s newest spending destination definitely boosts the area’s fashion quotient. Hosting a solid group of contemporary labels such as Custo Barcelona, Nanette Lepore, Splendid, Da-Nang, and AG Jeans, along with novelty home gifts and decor, this shop is a chic space offering pizzazz and an accessible price point for the designer selection—important draws in a boutique-hungry zone. 2510 W. Main St., Littleton, 720-519-0515, www.bluerubydesignboutique.com

Readers’ Choice

Nordstrom

Nordstrom swept the women’s shopping categories for our readers this year, proving just how versatile its selection really is. With a ton of reasonable price tags (score a Caslon T-shirt for $22 or a Halogen boyfriend blazer for $128), Nordstrom gives women on a budget a healthy range of options for a little retail therapy. Multiple locations, www.nordstrom.com

Men’s Clothing (Splurge)

Editors’ Choice

Lawrence Covell

This family-owned Cherry Creek staple has done well by its clientele for more than 40 years, carrying luxury labels like Kiton, Luciano Barbera, and Jil Sander. But in a year when many retailers simply retrenched and put familiar names on the racks, the Covells continued to introduce new brands into their store—a savvy strategy, in our book—keeping their inventory fresh and appealing. Now, the hipster set can shop for Rag & Bone and Levi’s Vintage Clothing in addition to their tony favorites. 225 Steele St., 303-320-1023, www.lawrencecovell.com

Readers’ Choice

Nordstrom

Who said men and women can’t shop together? At Nordstrom, guys have just as impressive a selection as their counterparts. Our well-dressed gentlemen readers head to Nordstrom for a mix of fine suiting, tailored separates, and smart-looking basics by labels such as Canali, Boss by Hugo Boss, and Marc by Marc Jacobs. Multiple locations, www.nordstrom.com

Men’s Clothing (Affordable)

Editors’ Choice

The Garment District

From upscale business wear to trendy weekend jeans and everything in between, the GD offers guys the perfect one-stop shop. Got a thing for labels? Snag a suit by Hugo Boss or Z Zegna. Part of the jeans-at-work camp? Go casual with a Robert Graham shirt and denim by William Rast. Plus, avoid a fashion faux pas—no offense, guys—and just ask the attentive and friendly sales staff for guidance. 2595 S. Colorado Blvd., 303-757-3371, www.garmentdistrictcolorado.com

Readers’ Choice

MetroBoom

For the second year running, MetroBoom is your go-to plan for looking tops without breaking the bank, and we think it’s because owner Jung Park makes understanding clothing and style so easy for his clients. You can even combine your shopping spree with image consulting or personal grooming at this salon-slash-men’s-boutique—Park definitely has you covered when you need to step it up a notch. 1550 Platte St., Suite A/B, 303-477-9700, www.metroboom.com

Jewelry Designer

Editors’ Choice

Andrea Li

Denver-based Andrea Li’s necklaces, bracelets, and earrings, hand-layered with vibrant gemstones and inspired by the aesthetics of nature, are like works of art. When Li began creating jewelry for her personal accessorizing about 10 years ago, the response when she wore her pieces was so strong that she taught herself the business of design, and today sells her line at Starfish Jewelry in Boulder and B’Jewel in Aspen. Our favorite, from the spring ’09 collection, is a stunning, asymmetrical necklace, almost collarlike, in icy-blue and aquamarine stones. It demands attention when you walk into the room, and it’s perfect for that little black dress with the plunging neckline, or even glamming up a simple tee and jeans. 720-292-6028, www.andreali.com

Readers’ Choice

Samantha Louise Larkins

Larkins’ line of sophisticated, yet down-to-earth jewels is all designed and manufactured locally, and retails at Oster Jewelers. From her simplest oxidized silver cuff and bold strands of stone beads to her exquisite, handmade, 18K yellow gold pendants, every one of her pieces is a home run when it comes to sprucing up a day-to-day ensemble. We like that you can customize certain pieces, such as the studs, bangles, and stackables (rings), with exotic stone and metal choices like black diamonds, green sapphires, or rose gold. 303-565-0304, www.samanthalouisedesign.com

Wine Shop

Editors’ Choice

Incredible Wine & Spirits

How does one judge a wine shop? Is it the sheer volume of selections? Or how the inventory is curated? Is it the competence of the staff? Or is it—let’s be blunt—the prices? We like to think it’s a combination thereof, and this shop, despite its thoroughly un-incredible Tech Center location (no offense, Techies), delivers on all fronts. All the usual suspects are here, but Incredible’s selection is so broad—yet so intuitively organized—that you shouldn’t be surprised if you find something new and enticing. (We recently landed a Spanish Rioja Crianza that had just been written up in the New York Times.) The staff is knowledgeable without being wine-snobby—always a welcome treat for us novices. 5060 S. Syracuse St., 303-488-9463, www.incrediblewinestore.com

Readers’ Choice

Mondo Vino

This Highlands Square hotspot is our readers’ go-to wine shop, and for plenty of good reasons: The selection of wines is intriguing, but not overwhelming; the staff is a friendly, chatty group of oenophiles; and with its central location and manageable size, Mondo Vino has become a bona fide Denver institution. 3601 W. 32nd Ave., 303-458-3858, www.mondovinodenver.com

Retail Beer Selection

Editors’ and Readers’ Choice

Argonaut Wine & Liquor

Oh, Argonaut, how you taunt us—and our readers—with your borderline ridiculous inventory of beer. We stop by on the way home with the intention of buying a bottle of wine for dinner—and leave with a sixer of some cool, local microbrew (Breck’s Small Batch 471 IPA) or a fun import (Brasserie Lefebvre Blanche de Bruxelles), or, more likely, both. On the drive home, we pine for the Stone Smoked Porter and the Odell Woodcut No. 3 Oak Aged Crimson Ale that we passed up because, alas, we cannot spend our entire paycheck on beer. But thanks for offering us a selection that would make this theoretically possible. 760 E. Colfax Ave., 303-831-7788, www.argonautliquor.com

Bookstore

Editors’ Choice

The Bookery Nook

For true bookworms, the neighborhood bookstore is a sacred place, and the Bookery Nook deserves the designation: thoughtful staff, comfy chairs, a weekly knitting group, and, for the rug rats, an oversized stuffed frog offering free hugs. The small Berkeley shop even lets polite pooches sniff around inside. The shelves are stocked with must-reads, including plenty of page-turners penned by local authors. Plus, the staff will special-order anything not in stock, at no extra charge. Now that’s one nook we can get comfortable in. 4280 Tennyson St., 303-433-3439, www.thebookerynook.com

Readers’ Choice

Tattered Cover Book Store

Simply the best. So say our discerning readers, year after year. And it’s no wonder: Aside from the always up-to-date inventory (tip: look for stickers on book bindings that indicate bargain prices), the TC is known for corralling big-name authors for book signings and events. In the last year, Madeleine Albright, Craig Ferguson, Dave Eggers, and local fiction writer Sandra Dallas all have made appearances. Multiple locations, www.tatteredcover.com

Gift Boutique

Editors’ Choice

Pome

Whenever we’re faced with an occasion, from routine birthdays to just-because-I-love-you days, we always head to Pome on South Gaylord. In fact, last Christmas we did 90 percent of our shopping at this jam-packed shop. Need adorable note cards for a wordsmith? Check. Handcrafted jewelry or embellished headbands for a fashionista? Check, check. The list goes on—old-fashioned candy for those with a sweet tooth, a collection of cookbooks for the foodie, and cute baby toys for the new mom. Pome may be small, but it’s mighty. 1071 S. Gaylord St., 303-722-2900, www.pomedenver.com

Readers’ Choice

Decade

Ever since Decade opened its doors in 1998, it’s been an anchor in the come-and-go boutique scene. While many shops lose steam after a few years, owner Kris Tait always keeps her inventory fresh and in tip-top shape. Whether you’re in the market for retro furniture, a yummy-smelling candle, a stylin’ collar for Fido, or a funky throw pillow, you’ll find it—and then some—here. 56 S. Broadway, 303-733-2288, www.decade-gifts.com

Home Accessories

Editors’ Choice

Silk Road

This eclectic spot touts a medley of interesting, handmade accessories, textiles, and garden gear from more than 30 countries, as well as local designers’ creations. Owners Baki and Karla Akpinar provide professional interior design services and have even invited clients on a personally led cultural tour of Turkey (Baki’s home country). From hand-painted ceramic dishes to shabby-chic lamps, you can find gorgeous conversation pieces for every taste; we’re eyeing the cheese platters crafted from wine bottles flattened in a pottery kiln. 1065 S. Gaylord St., 303-734-0582, www.shopsilkroad.com

Readers’ Choice

Patina Antiques & Home

Named after a certain surface finish popularized by its mellowed, vintage appearance, this antique shop dabbles in everything from urban-chic to country French, whether it’s traditional furniture or funky found objects you’re after. With a team of experienced antique dealers arranging the inventory, the charming in-store displays could be a part of your own decor—ask about the shop’s personalized home styling sessions and consultations. 5989 S. University Blvd., Greenwood Village, 303-795-0816, www.patinaantiquesandhome.com

Shoe Boutique

Editors’ Choice

Sous le Lit

Every time we walk into this airy, carefully curated shop, a certain sense of Zen washes over us. It’s like the Sous le Lit buyers knew exactly what we were pining for that day (at present, it’s the funky Pink Studio “Leo” tan wedges), and made sure it was sitting neatly in its wall-cubby display, beckoning to be ogled, tried, and considered. With versatile brands like Seychelles and Blowfish that agree with our checking accounts, and with two convenient locations, it is darn near impossible not to have the most killer kicks collection around if you shop here. 1550 Platte St., 303-455-1622; The Streets at SouthGlenn, 6879 S. Vine St., Unit 710, Centennial, 303-730-2741, www.souslelit.com

Readers’ Choice

True Love Shoes & Accessories

Yes indeed—true love it is. You love the spot-on footwear trends; you love the kelly-green peep-toe flats as much as the shiny, hot-pink pumps; and love doesn’t begin to describe how you feel about the espadrille wedges with the ankle strap and buckle. Most of all, you love that none of these shoes—Blossom, Classified, and more—are ever more than $38. 42 N. Broadway, 303-860-8783, www.trueloveshoes.com

New Clothing Boutique

Editors’ Choice

The Uncommon Thread

Tucked away in Highlands Square is a year-old denim and T-shirt boutique that we visit again and again for sassy new updates to our weekend wardrobes. We love that guys and girls alike can find casual but up-to-the-minute pieces at this hip little spot. Let owner Elizabeth Lacy help you zero in on great finds like a graphic T-shirt by Chaser LA or a Joe’s Jeans pencil miniskirt (dare to do the mini—this place has a hard-to-resist youthful vibe). 3455 W. 32nd Ave., 303-635-6790, www.theuncommonthreadclothing.com

Readers’ Choice

Tie: Spruce and Wild at Heart

Wash Park’s Spruce—look for the striped awning and cheery window display—is quickly becoming a favorite (after not quite a year) of women in need of both a personal style update and an interior design fix. We’re totally digging the darling party frocks and easy-to-wear extras, like the sassy red anorak by Ali Ro. Farther west, in the former Composition space in Belmar, Wild at Heart captured your, um, heart with its off-the-beaten-path lines of clothing and accessories with a funky edge. The artisan’s boutique reopened in a new location earlier this year. Spruce: 1069 S. Gaylord St., 720-524-8166, www.denverspruce.com; Wild at Heart: 7180 W. Alaska Drive, 303-922-0784

Maternity Wear

Editors’ Choice

Becoming Mothers

Long gone are the shapeless tunics that used to define maternity clothes. Thank goodness for boutiques like Becoming Mothers in Boulder, which keeps soon-to-be mamas looking sharp with stylish lines such as Olian and Juliet Dream (yep, you probably saw that top on Gwen Stefani or Angelina Jolie). The store makes the often-frustrating shopping experience easy, with a friendly and knowledgeable sales staff that’s quick to delicately suggest a more, ahem, flattering style. 2525 Arapahoe Ave., Boulder, 303-546-6262, www.becomingmothers.com

Readers’ Choice

Hot Mama

Readers love this haven for all things maternity—perfect-fit jeans from Serfontaine or Citizens of Humanity, flirty dresses and tops from Michael Stars and 9Seed, and comfy Ingrid & Isabel leggings. Once the little one arrives, Hot Mama delivers with baby gear (slings, diaper bags, nursing bras) and non-maternity clothing lines that offer just the right incentive to work off the baby weight. 7301 S. Santa Fe Drive, Littleton, 303-703-4145, www.shopmama.com

Pet Boutique

Editors’ Choice

Lil’ Angel Pet Boutique & Gallery

Ever feel like you love Spot so much that he should be immortalized? That’s exactly what Lil’ Angel owner Meredith Brooks can do for you. Just hand over a decent photo of Spot, and Brooks will paint a custom portrait—a darn good one, suitable for legitimate wall art—to your size specifications. But don’t leave the shop without browsing the wearables. We won’t laugh if you purchase the Bark’n Boot sweat-resistant doggie socks; after all, he can’t wear the Grip Trex doggie booties without ’em. That would be ridiculous. 1014 S. Gaylord St., 303-777-0224, www.lilangelboutique.com

Readers’ Choice

Mouthfuls

Everyone agrees about this Top of the Town regular: It kicks tail when it comes to keeping your four-legged friends well fed, groomed, and entertained at all times. The happily cluttered Berkeley shop manages to provide all the extras your pooch could ever want—sweet embroidered collars, super-luxe beds, slow-roasted ostrich bones for gnawing—while still maintaining a down-to-earth vibe that lets you shop for Buster without feeling like an overindulgent parent. 4224 Tennyson St., 720-855-7505, www.mouthfuls.net

Fashion Accessories

Editors’ Choice

Francesca’s Collections

OK, yes, it’s a chain. But again and again, we pop in when we’re in need of that extra little something to make a look go from cute to “Love this! Where did you get it?” The affordability is a huge draw; you won’t feel guilty scooping up an eye-catching bohemian scarf or string of sparkly beads that you can only wear with that one particular top in your closet. Take your pick of blingy brooches, giant bangles, adorable clutches, even sunglasses cases with funky prints. You can’t go wrong here if you need to make a statement without breaking the bank—and when do you not? Multiple locations, www.francescascollections.com

Readers’ Choice

Pandora Jewelry

This eclectic, colorful space is brimming with the kind of funky finds that you never knew you needed—but suddenly must acquire once you walk in. From beaded wrist cuffs and vintage-inspired earrings to geometric, hammered-metal necklaces and iridescent scarves, the shelves are always overflowing with accessories fit for a rock star. The most recent to-die-for item we’re coveting: a retro, cherry-printed apron that’s so cute it just might justify eating in on a Saturday night. 220 E. 13th Ave., 303-832-7073, www.pandorajewelrydenver.com

Fine Jewelry

Editors’ Choice

Oster Jewelers

For more than seven years, Oster Jewelers has continually evolved its collection of styles and materials and, in turn, has introduced customers to leading international designers such as Armenta (we love the Spanish baroque-style look) and Sevan Bicakci (peruse the extravagant Byzantine-inspired rings). The carefully edited selection, available at every price, also includes unique pieces such as beautifully produced bronze and steel jewelry by Rebecca and organic, eco-gold pieces by Monique Pean. 251 Steele St., 303-572-1111, www.osterjewelers.com

Readers’ Choice

Hyde Park Jewelers

With a strong stable of luxury brands like Chopard, Chad Allison, and Roberto Coin, Hyde Park’s impeccable customer service, year after year, is what makes this longtime reader favorite a go-to for any occasion—after all, any occasion is appropriate for those candy-colored bangles by Ippolita. 3000 E. First Ave., 303-333-4446, www.hydeparkjewelers.com

Jeans

Editors’ Choice

Weekends

This breezy—and, OK, a little spendy—shop on Boulder’s Pearl Street Mall spreads its trendy denim throughout the space, but the real jackpot lies at the back in the Denim Store. That’s right, there’s an entire room dedicated mostly to blues. You can shimmy into a dozen different brands—Paige, 7 For All Mankind, True Religion, J Brand Jeans, Nudie Jeans—one of which is sure to make your booty look so smokin’ hot you’ll be willing to lay down two bills to take them home. 1200 Pearl St., Boulder, 303-444-4231, www.weekendsboulder.com

Readers’ Choice

Nordstrom

It really is hard to avoid temptation for just about anything here, including a denim department stocked silly with popular brands like Hudson, Citizens of Humanity, Joe’s Jeans, and Rock & Republic. Wanna know the best part? You can take those baby blues down the escalator and pick out a killer pair of heels to match. Multiple locations, www.nordstrom.com

Wedding Gowns

Editors’ Choice

Little White Dress Bridal Shop

With just two and a half years under her belt, Cate Malone has transformed a between-major-cities retail space into a major bridal shopping destination. Having amassed a collection of designers including Matthew Christopher, Claire Pettibone, Angel Sanchez, St. Pucchi, and Colorado’s own Alisa Benay, Malone has brides-to-be traveling from as far away as Louisiana and Minnesota to find the gowns of their dreams. 611 N. Wilcox St., Castle Rock, 303-814-8972, www.lwdbridal.com

Readers’ Choice

Anna Bé

Formal and stuffy? Not for our readers—hence your devotion, for the fourth year in a row, to this airy, loft-style dress shop. Owners Anna and Breanna encourage brides to play dress-up—bring your girlfriends for complimentary champagne-sipping—while perusing gowns by Vera Wang and Monique Lhuillier, as well as creations by lesser-knowns like South African designer Adele Wechsler and glamorously romantic looks by Martina Liana. 1575 Boulder St., 720-855-1111, www.anna-be.com

Art Supplies

Editors’ Choice

Clementine Art

As a teacher, Boulderite Diana Mercer was uncomfortable with not knowing exactly what ingredients were in the crayons that her little students were chewing on—and whether they could be harmful. So Mercer began cooking up art materials of an all-natural variety in her kitchen: crayons, markers, paints, glue, and modeling dough that included ingredients such as flour, soy, and plant dyes. And Clementine Art was born. You can find these super-safe-yet-still-kid-approved art supplies at Whole Foods, Starbucks, and local shops like Real Baby and Talulah Jones. 303-447-0473, www.clementineart.com

Readers’ Choice

Meininger Art Supply

If you have even the slightest desire to follow a long-hidden artsy twinge, walking into Meininger Art Supply will only spur that longing. There’s a creative energy—an ambience fanned by tubes of oil paint, bricks of clay, rows of brushes, pens, and pastels, reams of paper, and walls of canvases—that seeps inside you at this place. Multiple locations, www.meininger.com

Furniture

Editors’ Choice

Djuna

Take the coziness of your most out-of-the-way furniture haunt, mix it with the best estate auction you’ve ever attended, and put it into Cherry Creek North, and you get Djuna. This two-story outfit mixes old and new, though you’d be hard-pressed to figure out which is which. Comfortable is the word for this place—from the homey, dark-wood dining-room tables and hand-wrought iron bed frames on the first floor to the well-worn chairs upstairs, there’s something for everyone at this hideaway. 221 Detroit St., 303-355-3500, www.djuna.com

Readers’ Choice

Room & Board

Maybe it’s a telling sign that you think the economy is finally loosening, but Room & Board ran away with this category just one year after the affordable American Furniture Warehouse took the title. Room & Board has an extensive selection of all-over pieces that will set you back anywhere from a few hundred dollars to a few thousand. But perhaps most impressive is the friendly, upscale vibe that the big-box outlets are missing. 222 Detroit St., 303-322-6462, www.roomandboard.com

Baby Boutique

Editors’ Choice

Rock the Cradle

Ever tire of those pastel-colored baby clothes with too-sweet sayings? Worry not—this South Broadway shop is the go-to outfitter for hip parents who want their kids decked out in the coolest baby gear around. Walk in, pick out a onesie, choose from the book of $5 iron-on images (“heat transfers”), and have the staff create your little guy’s getup right in the store. We dig the “If it’s too loud, you’re too old” guitar-print option. Don’t pass over the extras, either—those imitation Ray-Bans are way hip in Munchkinland. 18 S. Broadway, 303-733-3707, www.rockthecradlebaby.net

Readers’ Choice

Real Baby

With a little something for every little someone (and his mom), Real Baby owners Hilary and John Horan have created a one-stop baby shop with adorable furniture, strollers, baby duds, books, trendy diaper bags, and more. The polka-dotted storefront and colorful window displays hint at brands like Angel Dear, Melissa and Doug, and Baby Legs. Next time the stork lands on your doorstep, aim for the store with it all. For real. 3616 W. 32nd Ave., 303-477-2229, www.realbabyinc.com

Consignment Store

Editors’ Choice

Goodwill Industries

Alright, this isn’t quite consignment, but it’s tough to beat the prices at these secondhand outposts. The key is knowing the inventory at each store. If you’re into paperback novels and men’s sport tees, the Goodwill at 5000 Leetsdale Drive has an impressive variety that won’t set you back more than a few dollars. If it’s kids’ books for summer reading, the Goodwill at 4160 S. Broadway in Englewood has a small, but noteworthy selection (think: Pride and Prejudice and Treasure Island in paperback for 98 cents, combined). Looking for higher-end women’s clothing, funky men’s shirts, and DVDs? Try 14400 E. Belleview Ave. in Aurora. If you’re concerned about the well-worn factor, we’ve gotten shirts with the original sales tags still attached and books that were in gift-quality condition. Multiple locations, www.goodwill.org

Readers’ Choice

Buffalo Exchange

The Buff’s two Colorado resale stores are worthy emporiums of unique jeans, men’s T-shirts, women’s ensembles, and a pretty hefty shoe selection. Denim is usually in the $25 range, while pricier shirts can set you back around $16. Happy hunting. 230 E. 13th Ave., 303-866-0165; 1717 Walnut St., Boulder, 303-938-1924, www.buffaloexchange.com

Outdoor Gear

Editors’ Choice

Wilderness Exchange Unlimited

Across the way from everyone’s favorite outdoor rec behemoth, the Exchange gets points in our book for providing an independent alternative. The consignment option is great if you’re looking to snag (or trade in) some quality used gear in good condition—the $40 fleece and hard-shell jackets in the basement still have plenty of good years left in ’em. They practically give away year-old Black Diamond skis. And someone on staff has probably ridden that trail you’re jonesing for or that line you’ve been eyeing. 2401 15th St., Suite 100, 303-964-0708, www.wildernessexhangeunlimited.com

Readers’ Choice

REI

We had a hunch on this one. We’d list all the outdoor essentials you can get in one trip to the flagship location…but we’d run out of room. Don’t miss the clearance zone, on the third floor next to the women’s section. With a membership program that puts money in your pocket every year, REI might just be the only outdoor sports store you’ll ever need. Multiple locations, www.rei.com

Used Bookstore

Editors’ Choice

Denver Book Fair

With jazz beats wafting out the front door, it’s hard not to detour into this hideout on South Broadway. Once you’re inside, navigate the narrow labyrinth of racks stacked full of paperbacks, and bag one of Norman Mailer’s classics or that fantasy novel that’s always sounded entertaining. Or, just skip right to the store’s specialty: a comprehensive collection of decades-old magazines like Life, Sports Illustrated, and Playboy (we read it for the articles). What was on the cover of your favorite magazine the year you were born? Give yourself an hour or two—nostalgia has a way of taking over. 44 S. Broadway, 303-777-9946, www.oldmagman.com

Readers’ Choice

Capitol Hill Books

There’s something about the location of this bookstore that we love. Situated between a gritty stretch of Colfax and the more polished veneer of downtown, it’s the perfect place to escape without actually leaving Denver. Scan the wonderful collection housed on perfectly cluttered bookshelves, and you’ll leave with a novel or two and an inkling to beeline it to your favorite soothing spot and plow through a few hundred pages. 300 E. Colfax Ave., 303-837-0700, www.capitolhillbooks.com

Diversions

First Date

Editors’ Choice

Cruise downtown on a rented B-cycle

A first date is all about possibilities, so the ho-hum dinner-and-a-movie itinerary doesn’t cut it when we’re trying to impress. Instead, we’re loving Denver’s new B-cycle program, one of the first citywide bike-sharing gigs in the nation, which allows us to be a little more spontaneous. Just under three months old, B-cycle has 400-plus bikes at more than 40 stations across the Mile High, meaning you can rent a fire-engine-red bike ($5 for a 24-hour membership, plus usage charges) from almost any happening spot and start cruising the streets as the mood dictates. Maybe a picnic on the Cherry Creek path, or a downtown ride to dinner on Larimer Street, or a cruise to get ice cream in Highland. No matter where your pedals take you, it’s bound to be lighthearted and full of fun—and it’ll get those endorphins going. Multiple locations, http://denver.bcycle.com

Readers’ Choice

Vesta Dipping Grill

We’re thinking the staff at this LoDo restaurant has seen a ton of awkward-slash-exciting moments in its time, as Vesta continually emerges as your top choice for first dates. The cozy booths, savory dipping sauces, and set-the-mood lighting are perfect for an intimate evening. Spice things up and head for the bar instead of waiting for a table; the extra-attentive bartenders will make you—and yours—feel like a VIP. 1822 Blake St., 303-296-1970, www.vestagrill.com

Movie Theater

Editors’ Choice

Landmark Greenwood Village

Owned by the same company that runs the Mayan, this shiny new six-screen Cineplex opened in 2007 and offers artsy, Oscar-contender flicks like Crazy Heart and Hurt Locker in luxury surroundings. Popcorn and soft drinks are included in the ticket prices (Coke tastes better when you don’t realize you’re paying $7 for it), and the space is tricked out with digital sound, high-end snacks, VIP stadium-style seating, and a bar. We’ll be the ones in the cushy leather chairs with the empanadas and Gold Star sausage on one side, frosty brew on the other. 5415 Landmark Place, Greenwood Village, 303-352-1992, www.landmarktheaters.com

Readers’ Choice

The Mayan

You love this venerably creaky art house despite the fact that it lacks the bells and whistles of the 21st-century multiplex. The Mayan makes up for it with a consistently compelling lineup of the latest indie films. And unlike those corporate, cardboard cutout-strewn palaces at the shopping mall, the 1930s-era theater has nostalgic Art Deco decor and serves beer to wash down its snacks. 110 Broadway, 303-352-1992, www.landmarktheaters.com

Nightclub

Editors’ Choice

24K

One of the entrances is in a LoDo alley—how gritty and hip—and it’s worth searching for. The one-floor club is constantly bumping, and the scene is always a little bit out there (you might see lit sparklers on occasion; we’ve even been handed one). The DJs rock with abandon: On a recent visit, the turntables blew up with a mash-up of Miley Cyrus and Notorious B.I.G.—and we liked it! You’ll throw down $8 for a drink, but the staff is exceptional; not once did we realize our glasses were empty before a server came by with a refill. 1416 Market St., 303-888-0655, www.lotusclubs.com

Readers’ Choice

Beta Nightclub

Beautiful people. Four bars. And the fanciest sound system around. That’s what Beta is all about—and why you, trendy readers, have pledged your loyalty to the Beta crew once again. (Or maybe it’s the go-go dancers shaking their—well, everything—under the lights on the main dance floor.) Fun fact, and some kudos: Beta’s designers planted recycling bins throughout the club so partygoers can enjoy their libations while doing right by the environment. 1909 Blake St., 303-383-1909, www.betanightclub.com

Coffee House

Editors’ Choice

Illegal Grounds

When we’re in need of a caffeine fix, we can’t resist Illegal Grounds’ quirks: Kitschy neon signs in the windows give way to funky, original paintings and photos in the converted two-story home (a lawyer keeps shop upstairs), and the cafe-chic sofas are inviting when we want to settle in for a chat with a long-lost friend. But it’s the silky-smooth, Illy espresso coffee, a premium blend from Italy, that keeps us coming back for more. 925 E. 17th Ave., 303-351-4498, www.hola-cafe.com

Readers’ Choice

Stella’s

This cheerfully eclectic converted house on South Pearl is a coffee institution in Platt Park. Lined with original work (for purchase) from emerging artists, its nooks and crannies beg you to curl up with your laptop and a cup of chai and stay as long as you like. The front patio—fire pits ablaze—is especially charming in the evening. 1476 S. Pearl St., 303-777-1031, www.stellascoffee.com

Bar for Live Music

Editors’ Choice

Hi-Dive

This aptly named hole in the wall is the best kind of music junkie’s hangout: gritty, cramped, and proud of its varying acoustics (the bar side provides an entirely different sonic experience than does the stage side). It’s all part of the charm, but on top of that Hi-Dive has Denver’s most consistent lineup of scene-stealing bands from across the state, country, and beyond—Morning Benders, Paper Bird, and Hello Kavita, to name a few—invariably showcased at reasonable cover charges that leave you with enough cash for a few extra PBRs. 7 S. Broadway, 720-570-4500, www.hi-dive.com

Readers’ Choice

Dazzle Restaurant & Lounge

More than just a swanky jazz club, this sultry cabaret serves dinner, lunch (Friday and Saturday), and Sunday brunch to accompany the live tunes. But Dazzle remains true to the music (even when food is on the table) and makes it the focal point of the evening, not background noise. The acoustically refined environment and strategic seating give guests the best possible vantage point from which to soak in the cool, which includes groovy acts like bluesman Otis Taylor. 930 Lincoln St., 303-839-5100, www.dazzlejazz.com

Sports Bar

Editors’ Choice

Big Game Restaurant & Lounge

When the sophisticated-yet-sporty Big Game opened on a primo plot of LoDo real estate a couple of months back, we threw ourselves in the doorway to check out whether this was, indeed, the place to watch “the big game.” One order of sinfully delicious fried pickles—OK, plus the gravy-smothered disco fries—and a juicy bison burger later, we were sold. This is the way to watch a game, lounging by a low-slung table near the fireplace under the ginormous screens. After awhile, we didn’t know whether to kick back with another Mama’s Little Yella Pils or to check out the in-house Wii. If you just want to catch a couple of innings, belly up to the marble bar top with a Shiner Bock in hand and down a savory bowl of mussels. 1631 Wazee St., 303-623-1630, http://twitter.com/biggamedenver

Readers’ Choice

Sports Column

The main floor of this LoDo stronghold is a quintessential sports bar, with dozens of high-def TVs, pool tables, pennants and framed jerseys, and a long, dark-wood bar. But when summer rolls around, the Column’s real claim to fame—a sun-drenched rooftop patio with a full bar and a few TVs to check the scores—draws the fans. 1930 Blake St., 303-296-1930, www.denversportscolumn.com

Dive Bar

Editors’ Choice

Tavern 13

A dive in the best sense of the word: You’ll find a bar full of regulars, young and old, who know how to handle their liquor and are happy to chat up the newcomers. The internet jukebox plays classics from Johnny Cash to Stevie Ray Vaughan, along with some older funk. And the suds are cheap: If you buy a few and are nice to Natalie, the inked-up bartender/owner, she’ll pour you a glass of the house shot. Don’t ask what’s in it. Just knock it back and be thankful that you’ve been welcomed into the club. 1312 S. Broadway, 303-733-0119

Readers’ Choice

Don’s Club Tavern

Although Don’s has been spruced up since it was bought five years ago by the Little Pub Company—the proprietors of more than a dozen local bars, including Wyman’s No. 5 and Patrick Carroll’s—its low-brow charm is still intact. Sure, the duct-taped booths have been upgraded, but the bartenders are as gruff as ever, there’s still no phone (even though there’s a website), and the beer is still cheap, cheap, cheap. 723 E. Sixth Ave., www.donsclubtavern.com

Brewpub

Editors’ Choice

Oskar Blues Home Made Liquids & Solids

When we heard that Lyons-based Oskar Blues was opening a second location, we crossed our fingers and hoped for Denver. Instead, the offspring landed in Longmont. We were a little perplexed—until we finally hauled our butts up I-25. Building on what makes the Lyons flagship so welcoming, this joint seems bigger and louder (it, too, hosts live bands). Sink into a booth or sidle up to the bar, where you can scan 43 craft brew taps up close—there isn’t a prettier vista in Longmont. 1555 S. Hover Road, Longmont, 303-485-9400, www.oskarblues.com

Readers’ Choice

Wynkoop Brewing Company

The brewpub-that-started-it-all is on pace to serve 93,000 gallons of beer this year (that’s 744,000 pints) and has begun canning its Rail Yard Ale for distribution. Our one gripe: We wish the bar staff would stop warning us that the London Calling IPA is cask-conditioned and poured at cellar temperature. We know. It ain’t our first time at this rodeo. Nonetheless, we’ll be back, again and again. 1634 18th St., 303-297-2700, www.wynkoop.com

Rainy Day Activity

Editors’ Choice

Jumpstreet

What could possibly be more entertaining than a giant room lined floor-to-ceiling and wall-to-wall with trampolines? It’s the perfect antidote to stir-crazy. You can bounce off the walls (literally), attempt crazy (yet safe) airborne acrobatics, and get a fierce bout of exercise to boot. Pay by the hour ($12, $6 for each additional) or get a $70 punch-pass for 10 one-hour visits. Visit the Littleton location to try your skills in the awesome new Vault—a timed, security-style laser maze in the pitch black. We have to admit, we originally had cooped-up kiddies in mind here. But heck—this might just be where we’re headed next time the clouds roll in. 10081 W. Bowles Ave., Littleton, 303-339-3030; 8225 N. Valley Highway, Thornton, 303-426-5867, www.gotjump.com

Readers’ Choice

Denver Art Museum

Wherever your eye for art wanders, it’ll settle on something extraordinary in this 356,000-square-foot space, from the massive King Tut exhibit that opened in June to the prestigious Stephen Hannock landscape—”Mt. Blanca with Ute Creek at Dawn”—unveiled in May. Make sure to stop by the new gift shop, which now doubles as a coffeeshop/cafe and mirrors the cool, contemporary architecture of the Hamilton Building. 100 W. 14th Ave. Parkway, 720-865-5000, www.denverartmuseum.org

Happy Hour Menu

Editors’ Choice

Sputnik

The corn dogs at Sputnik are no joke: They’re nothing gourmet—they’re deep-fried hot dogs on a stick—but we make special after-work trips just for these suckers. And at only $1.25, you won’t feel guilty about having two, or about getting an order of fries ($1) with one of Sputnik’s fancy dipping sauces (we like the chimichurri or Sputnik especial). With PBRs for only $1.50, our weekday happy hour (3-7 p.m.) at Sputnik sometimes turns into a happy three hours. 3 S. Broadway, 720-570-4503, www.sputnikdenver.com

Readers’ Choice

McCormick’s Fish House & Bar

A two-dollar seafood taco? Three-dollar cheeseburgers with fries? Five bucks for a flat-bread pizza or bowl of mussels? Yes, please—we’ll have one of each. We’re baffled not just that McCormick’s can afford to sell these eats at fast-food prices, but that the food is actually good. 1659 Wazee St., 303-825-1107, www.mccormicksfishhouse.com

Cocktails

Editors’ Choice

Colt & Gray

Under head barman Kevin Burke’s tutelage, this new foodie hotspot showcases some of the most inventive (a rye Manhattan with an absinthe rinse, called the New 1920s Cocktail), iconic (the Sazerac), and obscure (we once sipped a creation featuring house-made celery soda) cocktails in the Mile High City. And priced as low as $8 ($5 during happy hour), these complex and carefully developed concoctions seem like a steal. 1553 Platte St., 303-477-1447, www.coltandgray.com

Readers’ Choice

The Cruise Room at the Oxford Hotel

Denver might be a beer-loving town, but you’d never know it on a Saturday night when the masses crowd into this tiny, swanky bar for martinis. Styled after a lounge on the Queen Mary cruise ship and opened in 1933, this watering hole has stood the test of time—by barely changing at all. 1600 17th St., 303-825-1107, www.theoxfordhotel.com

New Bar

Editors’ Choice

LoHi Steakbar

At once a restaurant (the kitchen is helmed by chef Sean Kelly, of Aubergine Cafe and Somethin’ Else fame) and a neighborhood drinking destination, this year-old spot hits all the right notes. The red-lit space is often packed, but not so much that you’ll never grab a seat. The front room’s community table is ideal for large get-togethers, while the intimate booths in the back room are cozy enough for date night. Plus, the libation list covers everything from wintertime cider to summery martinis to house-recipe cocktails—the ginger gimlet is worth a visit, if we do say so ourselves. 3200 Tejon St., 303-927-6334, www.lohisteakbar.com

Readers’ Choice

The Drink

Walk into this joint (part of a triumvirate of new nightspots along 15th Street) on a Thursday night and you’ll remember why Denver earned itself the “Menver” moniker. The dimly lit room is packed with enough sharply dressed dudes to set any lady’s heart aflutter. No wonder this bar is your new fave—we’ll be returning for the eye candy next Thursday, too. 1318 15th St., 720-620-4376, www.thedrinkdenver.com

Cooking Class

Editors’ Choice

Sticky Fingers Cooking

There are few rewards richer than teaching your children to love cooking as much as you do. But the mess that ensues when a three-year-old measures flour or chops tomatoes is enough to make any parent rethink impromptu lessons. Enter Sticky Fingers, a cooking school where children ages two to 12 can whisk, julienne, and fold to their heart’s content—in someone else’s kitchen. Plus, when kids get involved in their food, they’re more likely to eat it—spinach and all. 216 S. Grant St., 303-648-4078, www.stickyfingerscooking.com

Readers’ Choice

The Seasoned Chef Cooking School

Few home cooks couldn’t benefit from a cooking class or two. And who better to give you the lowdown on sauces, seafood, or grilling than the staff at the Seasoned Chef’s gleaming kitchen. Established in 1993, the school’s rotating schedule of classes is always enticing and informative—and has single-handedly transformed one 5280 staffer from a take-out fanatic to a well-rounded cook who takes pride in his knife skills. 999 Jasmine St., 303-377-3222, www.theseasonedchef.com

Art Class

Editors’ and Readers’ Choice

Canvas and Cocktails

Signing up to take an art class can be intimidating. But with Canvas and Cocktails, one of Denver’s newest art studios, you’ll never have to worry: Owner Brittney Wilson has established a casual, approachable way to create art that’s taken off with Denver’s aspiring artists—and those who just want to play. Classes at this Cherry Creek North studio begin with an adult beverage to get the juices flowing, move into a guided lesson to create a predetermined painting (check the website calendar for paintings that range from Paris vignettes to abstract floral images), and end with happy artists toting home completed pieces for a prominent spot on the bedroom wall. 249 Clayton St., 303-333-3288, www.canvasandcocktails.com

Gay Bar

Editors’ Choice

Tracks Nightclub

On our first excursion to Tracks, a Michael Jackson impersonator moonwalked across the stage and we brushed elbows with a dead ringer for Prince. Since then, our experiences have only gotten better—if that’s possible. The party that rages here at all hours has everyone (men and women alike) moving with the pulsating music. Get here at 9 p.m. on Saturdays for $2 bevs. Beware of a $5 or $10 cover—but remember the value-added moonwalking potential. 3500 Walnut St., 303-863-7326, www.tracksdenver.com

Readers’ Choice

JR.’s Bar & Grill

Um, shirtless bartenders on Wednesday nights. Need we go on? OK, fine: There’s never a cover at this handsome two-story watering hole; the two-floor patio facing 17th Avenue is grounds for some serious after-work eye candy; and there are music videos amping up the crowd in every direction. Plus, who doesn’t love a good weekday bar special? Our weakness: Drag Queen Bingo. Wednesday nights. Be there. 777 E. 17th Ave., 303-831-0459, www.myjrs.com

Theater Company

Editors’ Choice

Shadow Theatre Company

Sometimes the best performances are more about the story than the show. Shadow Theatre Company’s A Song for Coretta unfolded on a sparse, minimalist set, where five women stood in the open, telling their stories, and divulging the secrets behind their journeys to pay respects to the late Coretta Scott King. It was, in a word, mesmerizing—and just one example of the poignant, timely, and ultimately human tales produced by Denver’s only African-American theater company. 1468 Dayton St., Aurora, 720-857-8000, www.shadowtheatre.com

Readers’ Choice

Curious Theatre Company

It’s no mystery why our readers keep filling the seats at Curious. The company consistently brings in top-notch, thought-provoking plays, like local playwright Terry Dodd’s intrigue-filled Home by Dark. Plus, the company helps fellow drama enthusiasts reach their dreams with Curious New Voices, an award-winning young-adult playwriting program. Bravo! 1080 Acoma St., 303-623-0524, www.curioustheatre.org

Movie Festival

Editors’ Choice

Telluride Film Festival

For sheer scenic value alone, this Labor Day cinema soiree, walled in by Telluride’s stunning peaks, should be on your to-do list. But what we most love is its broad appeal—even for all its geographical seclusion. The affair caters to all sorts, from A-list celebs to us little folk, with premieres, seminars, and screenings of forgotten motion picture treasures (think Jacques Demy’s Lola or Orson Welles’ Touch of Evil). Plus, the festival showcases the crème de la crème: Past years have included breakout hits (and Oscar nominees) Slumdog Millionaire, Juno, Brokeback Mountain, and Up in the Air. Telluride, 510-665-9494, www.telluridefilmfestival.org

Readers’ Choice

Starz Denver Film Festival

The longtime crown jewel of Denver’s arts scene is a premiere social event for local cinema-lovers. Despite recent leadership upheaval, the 2009 Starz fest managed to best its attendance and revenue records (more than a third of last year’s 210 films sold out) with provocative screenings like the riveting, Oscar-nabbing Precious. We’re dying to see this year’s lineup (Nov. 3-14). See you on the red carpet. Multiple venues, 303-595-3456, www.denverfilm.org

Singles Hangout

Editors’ Choice

Colorado Free University

OK, maybe it sounds a tad dorky. But where better to connect with like-minded individuals? It’s not an actual academic university (nor is it technically free), but CFU, which bills itself as an adult continuing-education institution, lets you take all the classes you wished they offered when you were single in college, like wine and chocolate pairing, DIY home design, and gourmet camping. For a $25 annual membership fee, you get discounted class admission. At the very least, you come away with skills and confidence you can use to impress future prospects—often for less than a weekend bar tab. And who knows? You may just meet your soul mate in Photography Safari. 7653 E. First Place, 303-399-0093, www.freeu.com

Readers’ Choice

Robusto Room

The ‘burbs have spoken, and they’re adamant that Lone Tree’s Robusto Room is the place to score (a date, that is). The sultry, posh cigar lounge specializes in martinis, big-name DJs, and top-quality smokes—no Swisher Sweets here—available for purchase at the adjoining Stogies & Bogeys shop. Note to the single ladies: We see why Robusto got your vote. Last time we were there, the guy-to-girl ratio was five to one. 9535 Park Meadows Drive, Lone Tree, 303-790-7363, www.therobustoroom.com

Sporting Event You Can Actually Get a Ticket To

Editors’ and Readers’ Choice

The Rockpile, Colorado Rockies

There’s just nothing better than the Rockpile on a sunny Friday afternoon when work is dragging. For $4, you get an outfield seat and the chance to walk Coors Field, one of the best ballparks in the Major Leagues. Bring a buddy, buy some brews, and wander for a few innings before settling on those warm bleachers where we’re convinced time doesn’t exist. www.coloradorockies.com

Art Gallery

Editors’ Choice

Rule Gallery

Ask 100 people for their favorite art gallery, and you’ll get 100 different answers. But if you enjoy art for its sheer simplicity, you won’t be disappointed at Rule. Specializing in minimalist work, this gallery on Broadway showcases—at most—two dozen pieces of contemporary art, both local and national, every six weeks. Pieces include everything from midscale installations to photo imagery to paintings. Take a late-afternoon lunch along the SoBo corridor, follow it up with a visit to Rule, and get lost in the edgy visions of artists like Pard Morrison and Nathan Abels. It’ll inspire the rest of your day. 227 N. Broadway, 303-777-9473, www.rulegallery.com

Readers’ Choice

Mirada Fine Art

A 30-minute drive from Denver will get you one of the most pleasant surprises in the metro area’s art scene. Inside a 90-year-old log cabin in the foothills, the two-story Mirada lacks the pretentiousness of urban galleries. But don’t let its out-of-the-way location fool you. The contemporary art, mostly the handiwork of folks from Colorado and the Southwest, is fresh and energetic, with an organic, easy-going style. Come once a month for new paintings and sculptures, which are priced anywhere from $350 to $10,000. 5490 Parmalee Gulch Road, Indian Hills, 303-697-9006, www.miradafineart.com

Personalities

Author

Editors’ Choice

Carleen Brice

When we read Brice’s second novel, Children of the Waters (One World/Ballantine, June 2009), we were thrilled that her lay-it-all-on-the-table sense of storytelling had only grown more compelling with her sophomore work. But not until we realized that Lifetime Movie Network’s Sins of the Mother (March 2010) is actually the screen adaptation of her fiction debut Orange Mint and Honey (One World/Ballantine, February 2008) did we understand how much her writing resonates with larger audiences. The film, starring singer-songwriter Jill Scott, became the second-most-watched and second-highest-rated original movie in Lifetime Network history. Not bad for a first go-round at fiction. www.carleenbrice.com

Readers’ Choice

Streeter McClure

Well, we can’t argue with your reasoning here. Denver entrepreneur Streeter McClure took three things “Menver” loves—beer, food, and single dudes—and put them all together in a tome that could become every Colorado bachelor’s best friend: The Single Man’s Guide to Cooking with Beer (Phoenix Books, May 2010). It’s stuffed with creative recipes that put your fondness for ale to good use in innovative ways, from traditional Beer Battered Onion Rings to the more mysterious Brew Stew. This was McClure’s first stab at authorsville. Looks like he found the way to your heart. www.thesinglemansguide.com

Band/Musician

Editors’ Choice

Matt Morris

Any track on which Justin Timberlake guests has gotta have a pretty heavy name behind it—which is why we think Denver singer-songwriter Matt Morris, with his achy Jeff Buckley-esque voice and lush melodies, might just be the next big thing. He’s currently riding the momentum of his debut CD, When Everything Breaks Open, on Timberlake’s label, and has already played on Letterman. And he’s also cowritten plenty of tunes for pop icons like Christina Aguilera, JT, and Kelly Clarkson. Catch him at next month’s Mile High Music Festival (Aug. 14-15). www.mattmorris.net

Readers’ Choice

Hazel Miller Band

The ubiquitous Hazel Miller has been wowing Coloradans for nearly 25 years with her booming blend of soul, R&B, gospel, and pop—a constant crowd-pleaser in Denver’s perpetually evolving music scene. www.hazelmiller.com

Artist

Editors’ Choice

Robin Munro

You’ve certainly seen his work around town: striking, graffiti-style murals at Snooze, Qi Athletic Clubs and Spin-Yoga Studios, Juno Salon, and along Larimer Street. Or maybe you’ve seen his installations or live art shows at the Meadowlark and Arvada’s D Note. Munro has been perfecting his “no rules” style of art since his youth in Idaho Springs—and Denver’s hotspots are starting to take notice. www.munromasterpiece.com

Readers’ Choice

Dennis Sohocki

This part-time Coloradan and prolific sculptor wooed readers with his sublime creations shaped out of marble, wood, bronze, and stainless steel. Certain pieces can be ordered in different sizes and stances, making it easy to fit intriguing pieces like “Double Dancer” into everyday life. www.sohocki.blogspot.com

Politician to vote out of office

Editors’ Choice

Dave Schultheis

Last year, state Senator Schultheis opposed a bill that, among other provisions, made HIV testing available to pregnant women. By way of reasoning, he said just about the most reprehensible thing we’ve ever heard: “What I’m hoping is that, yes, that person may have AIDS, have it seriously as a baby and when they grow up, but the mother will begin to feel guilt as a result of that. The family will see the negative consequences of that promiscuity, and it may make a number of people over the coming years…begin to realize that there are negative consequences and maybe they should adjust their behavior.” Translation (forgive us if we’re oversimplifying): He thinks babies with HIV should serve as punishment for their promiscuous mothers. Sayonara, Schultheis. www.daveschultheis.com

Readers’ Choice

Barack Obama

Enough readers are upset with President Obama’s policies—we’re guessing it may have something to do with that health-care bill—that they’d like to see him booted out of the White House. If Coloradans are that upset with the prez, his Democratic colleagues up for re-election this fall—including Senator Michael Bennet and Congresswoman Betsy Markey—ought to be worried. www.barackobama.com

Athlete

Editors’ Choice

Elvis Dumervil

Despite his diminutive stature—the Denver Broncos’ defensive end is smaller than many quarterbacks—Dumervil has become an NFL star by spending most of his career in the opposing team’s backfield, sacking QBs (he led the league last year), forcing fumbles, and generally unleashing chaos that helped transform the Broncos’ D. But we truly admire the role he’s played—via public appeals for assistance—for the victims of the earthquake in Haiti, where dozens of his extended family members still live.

Readers’ Choice

Chauncey Billups

Maybe it’s just a coincidence, but since this Park Hill native returned home in 2008 to be the Denver Nuggets’ on-floor leader and emotional rock, the team has evolved from a ragtag band of entertaining underachievers into legitimate title contenders. Well done; let’s hope he can keep working his magic, for George Karl’s sake.

Newspaper Columnist

Editors’ Choice

Dave Krieger

It’s commendable when a sports columnist looks beyond the box scores, cares about what’s outside the lines, and attempts to remind us that life ain’t always about the winners and losers. Few do it as well as Krieger does for the Denver Post. He dogs Nuggets head coach George Karl for all the right reasons—and we like that. But he compassionately gets it right, too, when Karl is fighting for his life, or when Willie Clark is on trial for murdering Darrent Williams. And we like that even more. www.denverpost.com/krieger

Readers’ Choice

Mike Littwin

A compelling voice, an informed point of view, someone whom you believe advocates for the right side even though it’s not always your side—this is what Mike Littwin presents three days a week in the Denver Post. He almost always takes on the serious without taking himself too seriously, and he never pulls punches. Not long ago, Littwin let loose with “kickback,” “the right thing,” “gutless,” and “sleazy,” all in a single column. Indeed—say what you gotta say. www.denverpost.com/littwin

Humanitarian

Editors’ Choice

Douglas Jackson of Project C.U.R.E.

Since the earthquake hit Haiti in January, the Centennial-based Project C.U.R.E. (Commission on Urgent Relief & Equipment), helmed by president and CEO Douglas Jackson, has sent 20 shipments of medical relief supplies (worth around $8 million) to the devastated nation. What’s noteworthy is that Project C.U.R.E. doesn’t actually operate hospitals and clinics within other nations; it collects the materials to donate to existing infrastructure, putting the responsibility—and the trust—on the local community. www.projectcure.org

Readers’ Choice

Karen Sugar of the Women’s Global Empowerment Fund

For the second year in a row, Karen Sugar and her team have earned your respect. Sugar’s nonprofit fund strengthens Ugandan communities by offering microfinancing and education for the region’s underserved women. The fund has provided more than 1,600 microcredit loans for business startups, and nearly 100 women participated in literacy programs in 2009. Last October, the organization hosted a drama competition as a means for women to tell their life stories and challenge their communities, no stigmas attached. www.wgefund.org

Blogger

Editors’ Choice

Michael Roberts

“Channel 31 stars go from anchors to skank-ers.” C’mon! For that headline alone, Westword blogger Michael Roberts is worth putting atop your bookmarks. Plus, the guy is consistently right where the story is, before most of the town even knows there is a story. His tone is conversationally appropriate, his instincts spot-on, his reporting impeccable, and he’s never met a sacred cow that wasn’t worth tipping—even, at times, his own parent company, Village Voice Media. www.westword.com/authors/michael-roberts

Readers’ Choice

Laura Dombrowski

It’s fitting that Laura Dombrowski launched her blog, CoutureColorado, this past Valentine’s Day—what with it being an online resource to help couples plan their weddings. A recent bride herself, Dombrowski has created a constantly refreshing site that’s kind of like a friend with good taste who’s spent weeks scouting venues, talking to florists, listening to lame bands, and sampling cake so you don’t have to. (OK, maybe you want to try the cake.) www.couturecolorado.com

Radio Talk Show Host

Editors’ Choice

David Sirota

He writes books and columns. He puts on a sport coat and a layer of righteous indignation to do the TV pundit thing. And weekdays from 7 to 10 a.m. on AM 760 Progressive Talk, David Sirota brings it all to his radio show. He wrangles interesting guests—recent shows have included U.S. Senate candidate Andrew Romanoff and the Marijuana Policy Project’s Steve Fox—and treats them with respect, mostly. And when he doesn’t, well, maybe it’s deserved. He occasionally brings the funny. More often than not, he’s pretty pissed off—but he’ll still recommend a good microbrew. www.davidsirota.com

Readers’ Choice

Bret Saunders

For the decade-plus that Saunders has been our morning man on 97.3 KBCO, he’s been an unequivocal crowd-pleaser; the dude with you while you’re stuck on I-25; the Sage who has the answer most every damn time, yet not so smarty-pants that he won’t admit when he screwed up (no, Cary Brothers isn’t a band; he’s a solo artist). And we still love him. www.kbco.com/pages/bco_morningshow.html

Entrepreneur

Editors’ Choice

Tie: Charles Ergen and Brett Mosley

We’re torn. Our sources tell us that local satellite TV mogul Charles Ergen—the guy who brought us DISH Network and landed a spot on the Forbes 2010 list of “The World’s Billionaires”—is the power player to know. However. A more nascent example of ground-up entrepreneurship recently caught our eye: Three years ago, Brett Mosley founded Denver-based BuyMyTronics.com, a company that pays you for used and broken electronic gadgets to keep them out of landfills. It was a one-man operation from his home. Today, he’s been featured on MSNBC, CNNMoney.com, and more; his employees have doubled to 13 from six just a few months ago; and he’s even developing a charity fund-raising program. www.dishnetwork.com; www.buymytronics.com

Loudmouth in need of a muzzle

Editors’ and Readers’ Choice

Tom Tancredo

We’re all together on this one. Where, oh where, to begin? Public debate is one thing, but this former U.S. congressman from Colorado says soooo many colossally stupid, offensive, bigoted things. Take this snippet of a speech Tancredo gave at a Tea Party convention in Nashville in February: “People who could not even spell the word ‘vote,’ or say it in English, put a committed socialist ideologue in the White House…. His name is Barack Hussein Obama.” Really? Really?! Puh-leeeze. Any muzzle or balled-up sock will do. www.tancredo.org

Services

Health Club

Editors’ Choice

Pura Vida Fitness & Spa

We fell in love with the place when it first opened a couple of years ago, and we still can’t deny it: Having a membership here is like having the keys to a secret kingdom. Walking through the Zenlike hallways of this four-story club, past the organic fruit bowls and tea/coffee station, you might actually forget that you’re here for a workout. Until you walk into one of the state-of-the-art studios—yoga, indoor rowing, spinning—for your complimentary fitness class (included with membership). Sleek locker rooms and private showers the size of most bedrooms make prepping for the real world a refreshing experience. 2955 E. First Ave., 303-321-7872, www.puravidaclub.com

Readers’ Choice

Denver Athletic Club

Our readers are smitten with the DAC’s country club feel—in fact, the only thing missing is a golf course. But who cares when you’ve got a restaurant, bar, ballroom, reading room, billiards, shoe shining, and even WiFi for those of you who like to sweat on your laptops (we’ve seen it happen). Oh yeah, and you can work out here, too. 1325 Glenarm Place, 303-534-1211, www.denverathleticclub.cc

Facial

Editors’ Choice

Eden II Spa

It may not look like much from outside, but the warm, Grecian atmosphere and rustic decor pay tribute to a sense of bodily mindfulness here. And Rachel Hatch, our favorite aesthetician, delivers. Her skilled hands gently scrub, soothe, and knead your skin into willing submission while a steamer works its magic. After she applies two separate masks for your skin type, you get your choice of two mini massages—hand, foot, shoulder, or neck—while the masks set in. Make sure to check the website for specials: We found a deal for a full facial and massage, one hour each and fully customized, for $99. 94 W. 11th Ave., 303-820-3336, www.edentwo.com

Readers’ Choice

Studio Urban Wax

This sleek, efficient, South Broadway spot has the market cornered on all things countenance-related. In just two years, the modern studio has made waves for its highly specialized focus on skin care. Noted for consistent service and great value, Studio Urban is a fun, easy place to get your pamper on and leave with a glowing expression. 40 S. Broadway, 303-325-3479, www.studiourbanwax.com

Eyebrow Wax

Editors’ Choice

Brows on Upper 15th

Michelle and David Dinsmore named their full-service salon “Brows” for a reason: That one word says it all. Eyebrow shaping is Michelle’s passion, and no one does it better than she does. In addition to providing a nearly painless wax and a sexy-yet-subtle shape, this self-described “brow guru” gave us tips (that actually worked!) for regrowing hair in over-tweezed spots we thought we’d have to pencil in for life. 2540 15th St., 720-855-3021, www.browsonupper15th.com

Readers’ Choice

Studio Urban Wax

Choose from three different pricing tiers that correspond to aesthetician experience and track record (master aesthetician Rebekah Birk has a client list that ranges from members of the Denver Nuggets dance team to a Project Runway model). And the no-tipping policy means you can thank them in more budget-friendly ways, such as referrals. 40 S. Broadway, 303-325-3479, www.studiourbanwax.com

Bikini Wax

Editors’ Choice

Nouveau Wax

In an effort to “try something different,” we went the extra mile on this one with the full Brazilian. We’re not going to lie. It hurt. A lot. But the professionalism with which Krista Staggs (a veteran of both Studio Urban Wax and Waxing the City) performed this, um, intimate procedure made us seriously consider undergoing the pain again in the future. Staggs, along with two partners, opened the tiny, three-room spot just five months ago; they’re hoping their combined 19 years of waxing experience will eventually garner enough success to warrant hipper quarters. 2222 S. Albion St., Suite 270, 303-758-9883, www.nouveauwax.com

Readers’ Choice

Studio Urban Wax

Beyond the brow work our readers covet, Studio Urban offers everything you want when it comes to removing the hair “down there.” With three different bikini waxing services (the French, the Brazilian, and the Playboy), an easy-to-use online booking system that’s a godsend for discreetness, and no tip required, you’ll (almost) look forward to your next appointment. 40 S. Broadway, 303-325-3479, www.studiourbanwax.com

Massage

Editors’ Choice

Sea of Qi Movements

They call it “Lazy Man’s Yoga”—which was enough to sell us on the Thai yoga massage. Now that we’ve actually gotten one from Sea of Qi, we’re not sure we’ll ever go back to the Swedish variety. It’s an interactive healing technique that originated in southeast Asia, in Buddha’s era. Over time, it made its way west—to the CorePower Studio on Grant Street, in fact. You stretch out on a comfy mat, fully clothed in yoga attire, and make like a rag doll. The Sea of Qi therapist, who also wears yoga gear, uses her arms, hands, feet, and legs to stretch and press your body until your muscles release and elongate. She incorporates warm, Thai herbal compresses into the bodywork for extra lemongrass-y soothing. It’s yoga, aromatherapy, and sheer laziness all at once. 333 E. 13th Ave., 720-308-2376, www.seaofqimovements.com

Readers’ Choice

Massage Envy

What’s better than a massage therapist who knows your every want, need, and hotspot? Not much—which explains why this cheerful massage clinic is a favorite. Envy has your profile on file to reference for a custom-tailored rubdown every single time. If you become a Massage Envy member, you can pay your dues on a monthly payment plan and enjoy the benefits of regular visits. (Psssst: Your introductory appointment is only $39 for 50 minutes.) Brownie points for staying open till 10 p.m. on weekdays to work around your schedule. Multiple locations, www.massageenvy.com

Flower Shop

Editors’ Choice

Babylon Floral Design

Designer and owner Arthur Williams is a genius—a very genuine, unpretentious genius who greets you when you walk in the door, never scoffs at a conservative price range, and creates masterful, sculptural arrangements every time. And although he brings in fresh blooms daily (don’t miss the orchids or tropical flowers), he can usually fill special requests within 24 hours. We love the new, roomier digs at Uptown’s newly renovated EZE Mop building. 1223 E. 17th Ave., 303-830-6855, www.babylonfloral.com

Readers’ Choice

The Perfect Petal

We wish this Highland staple—13 years and running—could bottle its intoxicating scent. Step in the door and the bright, earthy smell of spring blooms hits you, hinting at the beyond-gorgeous arrangements being crafted in the back. The aroma alone is enough to hook you on these pretty bouquets for life. 3600 W. 32nd Ave., 303-480-0966, www.theperfectpetal.com

Manicure/Pedicure

Editors’ and Readers’ Choice

Tootsies, the Nail Shoppe

From pressed tin walls to piles of glam-filled magazines, the aesthetic in each branch of this local chain screams “girlfriend getaway.” So much so that you’ve picked it as the Mile High’s best for four straight years. Not ones to ignore a perfect streak, we figured it was about time to revisit an old favorite. Thank goodness we did. With three locations (Highland, Wash Park, South Pearl) this polish shop is quick to find you a reservation—even at the last minute. We especially appreciate the obsessive attention to detail, like purse hooks conveniently located next to nail stations and nail technicians who’ll carefully slip sandals on your feet during a pedicure (yes, we all need a Cinderella fix now and then). Bonus: Our latest pedicure lasted five weeks. Now that’s staying power we can all get behind. Multiple locations, www.tootsiesnailshoppe.com

Salon

Editors’ Choice

Zumo Hair Studio

When we finally caved and decided to color our hair, we took a friend’s recommendation, booked a spot in Amy King’s chair, and crossed our fingers. We shouldn’t have been nervous. From the complimentary brownies to the calm-your-nerves mimosa (make sure to book for a Saturday), we barely noticed the clock during our nearly two-hour appointment. With a view of the street (who wants to look at herself for hours on end?), we relaxed while King worked her magic and created subtle highlights that lasted well past six weeks. 4688 Broadway, Unit A3, Boulder, 303-440-0868, www.zumohairsalon.com

Readers’ Choice

Bang Salon

From colorings to cuts, this salon is your go-to spot for a little me-time. The trustworthy stylists, well-edited list of products (we’ve stocked our own vanity with the Bumble and Bumble thickening serum), and airy locations keep you coming back. And moms love that their little tykes can now get trimmed at Little b’s, a Bang salon just for kids, right next door to the grown-up location in Park Hill. 1207 E. Alameda Ave., 303-282-5444; 2200 Kearney St., 720-241-0355, www.bangsalon.net

Kids’ Haircut

Editors’ Choice

The New Image Salon

This northwest Denver spot may not be a kids-only haircut joint, but it’s more than kid-friendly with its toy basket, kid-centric capes, and blocks that allow your little ones to sit in the grown-up chairs. (What’s better than feeling like you’re one of the big kids when you’re a toddler?) Our little guy didn’t miss the fact that there was no fire truck chair because he was so enthralled by the gigantic mirror while having his locks trimmed. The actual haircuts are pretty great, too—and they’re only $10! Note to parents: New Image is cash- or check-only. 2337 W. 44th Ave., 303-645-4777, www.thenewimagesalondenver.com

Readers’ Choice

Little b’s Salon

A kids’ salon that does mani-pedis? No wonder you picked Little b’s (the little sister to Bang Salon) for your kids’ haircuts—and all of their styling needs. Shampoo, trim, blow-dry, and, yes, manicures and pedicures, assuming you can get your little lady to sit still long enough. Plus, Little b’s happens to be right next to Bang in Park Hill, for convenience’s sake. 6107 E. 22nd Ave., 303-333-1378, www.littlebssalon.com

Dog Groomer

Editors’ Choice

The Pooch Mobile

You won’t find froufrou styling goodies or doggie manis and pedis here. What you will find is a groomer who—wait for it—drives to your house in a “Pooch Mobile.” No more carting your excitable pup across town and leaving him on a table for hours. But worry not: Your bathroom/deck/garage will remain dry. The dog washers get it done with a mobile hydrobath—a doggie shower stall, complete with a real shower head—that stays on the truck. The pooch hops in and gets a pressurized, warm-water massage with an environmentally friendly solution that gets right to the skin and leaves the coat squeaky clean and smelling fresh. And these pups get fluffed with a hand-dryer on the spot—which, conveniently, is right at home. 303-770-5111, www.thepoochmobile.com

Readers’ Choice

PetSmart

Our readers flock to this pet store goliath for its seven-days-a-week-with-evening-hours convenience and its extensive array of services. Choose from hygiene essentials such as paw pad-shaving and the FURminator Shed-Less Treatment, or spa health remedies like the exfoliating fruit scrub and an oatmeal-honey shampoo for itchy skin. Check the website for grooming package specials. Multiple locations, www.petsmart.com

Doggie Daycare

Editors’ Choice

Out & About Hounds

This is no run-of-the-mill, drop-’em-while-you-work daycare. Anthony Esparza, a former pet scoop waste tech, aka professional pooper scooper, spent enough time playing with his clients’ dogs to realize the pooches needed more positive, personal interaction during the day. So for $39, he’ll pick up Spot in his truck in the morning and drop him off in the afternoon. In between, he’ll take the pooches—he limits group size to five—out to his private, tree-lined, two-acre Larkspur property for some hiking, ball-throwing, and summer swimming nearby. Each outing comes with professional photographs of your hound’s outdoor adventure. 303-514-3114, www.outandabouthounds.com

Readers’ Choice

City Bark

It’s a doggy-dog world at City Bark, where the climate-controlled rooms and an outdoor park with swimming holes and climbing tunnels make a home away from home for your pup, complete with midday snack and nap. Crunched for time in the morning? City Bark has partnered with Wag-n-Wheels to provide transportation and make your mornings a little easier. Worried parents can check up on their little (or big) guys with the online puppy-cam. Multiple locations, www.citybark.com

Bike Shop

Editors’ Choice

Salvagetti Bicycle Workshop

Don’t let the hipster bike mechanics at Salvagetti concern you—all the guys and girls who work here know bikes, from budget commuter bicycles up through high-end mountain rides. (And besides, there’s a fantastic in-shop espresso machine—”Happy Coffee”—for your weekend caffeine fix.) Not sure what you want? Hand over your ID and a credit card, and you can take any bike in the shop for a spin on the Platte River Trail, which is just across the street from the shop; if you buy, you’ll get a year’s free service on your ride. 1611 Platte St., 303-691-5595, www.salvagetti.com

Readers’ Choice

Wheat Ridge Cyclery

The grandpappy of all bike shops in Denver, Wheat Ridge has been around for more than 35 years, simply because it’s reliable, knowledgeable, and has an enormous inventory of just about every kind of bike you could possibly want. Cruiser? Roadie? Mountain wheels? Take your pick from the mother ship. 7085 W. 38th Ave., Wheat Ridge, 303-424-3221, www.ridewrc.com

Customer Service

Editors’ Choice

Divino Wine & Spirits

This South Broadway wine, beer, and spirits shop has a cheerful, funny, unpretentious, and patient staff that gladly educates you on a wine’s “nose” without ever looking down their own at you. And let’s face it, that’s tricky to pull off. More than once, we’ve relied on the spot-on advice of the sales staff to save our hides on the way to a dinner party. They’re as well versed in high-end labels as they are in more moderately priced stuff—they’ve been known to stage tastings of even the most affordable blends (and cheap beers, too)—and you’ll invariably leave the store feeling a little smarter. 1240 S. Broadway, 303-778-1800, www.divinowine.com

Readers’ Choice

Nordstrom

Consistently hailed for its stalwart attention to the needs of its customers—we once had a salesclerk call three different stores, after hours, for a likely-sold-out item we were coveting—and for its affinity for details, Nordstrom is basically royalty in your book. Scoring big in all sections of its stores, it rarely fails to satisfy its not-so-easily-satisfied devotees with spot-on, conciergelike service. Multiple locations, www.nordstrom.com

New Spa

Editors’ Choice

Mélange Medical Spa & Salon

This chichi Bonnie Brae medical spa isn’t brand-spanking new, and it’s also not your quintessential day spa. Although it’s comfortable and inviting, the space is more geared toward full-body maintenance—think acute deep-tissue massages for muscle repair, Fotofacials, laser hair removal, and injectable wrinkle treatments—than dreamy, aromatherapeutic relaxation. In fact, Mélange also houses a dentistry practice that includes beauty upgrades like Invisalign and teeth whitening. What we loved most, though, was the customer service: When Mélange had to cancel an appointment at the last minute, it offered to discount the same service when we rescheduled. 763 S. University Blvd., 303-777-7523, www.melangespa.com

Readers’ Choice

Salon Tobie Urban Spa

Apparently our readers are seriously on top of the spa scene: After a brief closure, Salon Tobie reopened in late 2009 with a new look and a new feel. That feel, that vibe, is what you might call “easy.” And sometimes that’s exactly what you want: easy atmosphere, easy-to-understand services, easy-on-the-wallet prices, easy location. From beginner facials for teenagers to gray-blending treatments for the guys, this salon does it all in a breezy, comfortable fashion. Bonus points: The salon even recycles felled locks to Matter of Trust, an organization that collects hair to soak up oil spills. 200 Quebec St., 500-115, 303-366-4247, www.salontobie.com

Dining

Vegetarian

Editors’ Choice

Leaf Vegetarian Restaurant

Everybody’s got a salad on the menu somewhere, but when it comes to a straight-up, 100 percent nonmeat restaurant, this upscale Boulder eatery dominates. The tiny, plant-dotted space is a combo of earthy-meets-chic, and the food exceeds the typical not-quite-right-but-good-effort expectations of so many other meat-substitute options. The Jamaican jerk tempeh, a sculptural dish of exquisite black rice, subtle coconut plantain sauce, and nutty tempeh with fruit salsa, is almost too pretty to ruin with a fork. 2010 16th St., Boulder, 303-442-1485, www.leafvegetarianrestaurant.com

Readers’ Choice

WaterCourse Foods

Even diehard carnivores walk away happy here. Any way you like your meat (or would like it, if you ate it)—barbecued, stir-fried, scallopini, blackened, country-fried, or fajita-style—WaterCourse can do it with something just as hearty and flavorful: seitan, tempeh, portobello, you name it. We recommend the blackened tofu with coconut cream sauce for a taste of the tropics. 837 E. 17th Ave., 303-832-7313, www.watercoursefoods.com

Cookie

Editors’ Choice

Victory Love & Cookies

We’re already smitten with Denver Bread Company’s crusty boules and buttery focaccia, but over the past year we’ve discovered manager Kristy Greenwood’s handmade, baked-on-the-premises cookies sold at the counter. These super-fresh goodies are made the right way, with real butter, fresh eggs, and Callabaut chocolate. Our favorites: Sunny in Seattle, a souped-up version of chocolate chip with dried fruit and a hint of espresso, and the Lemon Lucy, a chewy, giant, gumdrop-shaped sugar cookie laced with lemon. Caveat: These treats are expensive—more than $2 apiece—but we simply look at the prices as portion control. 3200 Irving St., 303-455-7194, www.thedenverbreadcompany.com/victory.html

Readers’ Choice

Paradise Bakery & Café

Back in the ’80s, when a tiny little cookie bakery named Paradise opened in Aspen, no one could have predicted its astounding success. Now those addictive ginger-molasses, chocolate chip, and white chocolate-macadamia nut desserts are available in 10 states. Multiple locations, www.paradise-bakery.com

Ramen/Noodle Bowl

Editors’ Choice

Den Deli and Seafood Market

Given the success of sister restaurants Sushi Den and Izakaya Den, we’ve come to expect great things from co-owner and chef Toshi Kizaki—and here he delivers yet again. Dine in or take your noodles to go, but make sure you order Den Deli’s signature Tonkotsu ramen (the noodle has origins in Kyushu, which is Japan’s southernmost island) for a bowl of rich pork stock, curly noodles, and a tangle of veggies. 1501 S. Pearl St., 303-733-2503, www.dendeli.net

Readers’ Choice

Bones

At Frank Bonanno’s fourth restaurant, you can’t go wrong with the voluptuous pork and egg udon, but our standbys are the ba mee (vegetarian) and the chilled soba—in whatever combos the kitchen cooks up. 701 Grant St., 303-860-2929, www.bonesdenver.com

Sushi

Editors’ Choice

Sushi Sasa

Right off the surging Platte Street sits Sushi Sasa, a neighborhood joint if there ever was one. At lunchtime, area businessmen and shoppers perch at the bar, savoring fresh hand rolls and tempura; at night, it’s a popular date spot for the trendy young professionals who live within a few blocks—and beyond. And though the rolls here are solid, the fresh nigiri (try the red snapper and unagi) is where Sasa really shines. 2401 15th St., 303-433-7272, www.sushisasadenver.com

Readers’ Choice

Sushi Den

With their original restaurant packed wall-to-wall virtually every night of the week, Sushi Den’s owners, the Kizaki brothers, have had to open up two new restaurants—Izakaya Den and Den Deli—just to satisfy Denverites’ ravenous appetites. The fish here ain’t cheap, but it’s worth it. 1487 S. Pearl St., 303-777-0826, www.sushiden.net

Barbecue

Editors’ Choice

Hog Wild BBQ

If you can’t find a genuine (read: straight outta the South) roadside barbecue pit in your neighborhood, then you’ll do right by yourself to pull into Hog Wild, a tiny ‘cue joint at the corner of Evans and South Broadway. Slow-smoked by a true Southerner—North Carolinian Chris Robinson— the hickory-smoked pulled pork, shredded beef brisket, and apple-marinated pork ribs are to die for. But the real star of the menu is the hot link sausage—spicy, juicy, and downright heavenly— served with house-made sauce. 2103 S. Broadway, 720-570-0911; 223 S. Link Lane, Fort Collins, 970-493-6029, www.hogwildcolorado.com

Readers’ Choice

Brothers BBQ

With five locations—plus a part-time cart on the 16th Street Mall—this local business done good is never too far away for a quick bite. If you’re in one of Brothers’ metro-area ‘hoods, hunker down with a half slab of pork spareribs, barbecue beans, and mustard-based potato salad. Multiple locations, www.brothers-bbq.com

Patio Dining

Editors’ Choice

The Squeaky Bean

The LoHi neighborhood has a monopoly on outdoor dining this year. 5280 readers still dig Lola’s breezeway (see below), but we’re keen on the roomy tables and chairs outside of the Squeaky Bean, which lies a few blocks away. The patio offers a canopy that makes for a perfect summer lunch—which just happens to be our meal of choice at this one-year-old eatery—while dinnertime al fresco begs for a crisp glass of Italian Pinot Grigio, a perfect way to cool down a warm July evening. 3301 Tejon St., 303-284-0053, www.thesqueakybean.net

Readers’ Choice

Lola

You know it. You love it. And we totally agree. Lola’s inside-outside bar draws in the after-work crowds on any patio-worthy evening, and you can enjoy a full meal on the patio, too. If a table along the outside railing is available, request it: You can sit back with your predinner cocktail (try the Dr. J coin margarita), order the chile-rubbed flatiron steak, and watch the fading sunset paint the sky over Denver’s shimmering skyline. 1575 Boulder St., 720-570-8686, www.loladenver.com

Tapas

Editors’ Choice

Ondo’s Spanish Tapas & Bar

When Ondo’s opened in the ill-fated French 250 space, we were concerned that diners might not find the subterranean zone. But then we tasted Curt and Deicy Steinbecker’s menu, and our worries disappeared as quickly as the creamy goat cheese and brandied raisins, refreshing shrimp and avocado ensalada, and the doughnutlike croquetas de jamón. Oh, yes, people will find this place. And though you might need to ask for a knowledgeable staffer to help you, there are nice glasses of wine to be had. 250 Steele St., Suite 100, 303-975-6514, www.ondostapas.com

Readers’ Choice

9th Door

Stop by this sexy LoDo spot for a pitcher of sangría and a quick bite, or make a night out of it. Either way, peruse the menu (divided into hot and cold tapas) and don’t miss the fire-roasted piquillo peppers stuffed with fresh goat cheese and rosemary, or the savory albóndigas—lamb meatballs with a mint-almond sauce. 1808 Blake St., 303-292-2229, www.theninthdoor.com

Bargain Bite

Editors’ Choice

Emilio’s Mexican Restaurant

Everything’s a deal at Emilio’s. Tacos for $2.50? We’ll have two. A five-spot (or less) for a breakfast burrito? Yes, please. The hefty menu at this laid-back Capitol Hill haunt tops out at $10. Grab some friends and stop in after 4 p.m., Thursday through Saturday, for a boisterous atmosphere and Sauza tequila margaritas—for just $1.75 apiece. Dangerous? Eh. We’ll see you there at 4. 338 E. Colfax Ave., 303-832-2388, www.emiliosmexicanrestaurant.com

Readers’ Choice

Chipotle

Hey, even though we hear rumors of Chipotle opening up shop in London (London!), Denver lays claim to the very first location (near the University of Denver), and there’s a certain loyalty among Denverites. There’s nothing better than a solid pound of burrito with the works for $6.43. With the user-friendly online ordering system (there’s even an iPhone app) and enviable consistency, your burrito fix is at your fingertips. Multiple locations, www.chipotle.com

Deli

Editors’ Choice

Jimmy & Drew’s 28th Street Delicatessen

You can eat all of your daily meals (we’ve not done so, but it’s good enough to consider) at this Boulder joint, which serves classic deli fare and spices it up with a roster of specialty sandwiches such as Jimmy’s Favorite (a potato latke Reuben) and Drew’s favorite (meatloaf, lettuce, tomato, caramelized onions, Russian dressing, and cheddar on an onion roll). The spacious, family-friendly spot also cooks up Chicago-style hot dogs, Italian beef, and gyros, plus the $10 Wednesday dinner special: rotisserie chicken with homemade mashers and country gravy. 2855 28th St., Boulder, 303-447-3354, www.jimmyanddrews.com

Readers’ Choice

Heidi’s Brooklyn Deli

A perennial favorite of our readers, this chain offers a back-to-basics selection of deli meats and cheeses, soups, desserts—even breakfast (the bacon, egg, and cheese bagel is a killer hangover cure). Check out the Coney Island Reuben or the Nova Scotia lox for an authentic taste of old Noo Yawk. Multiple locations, www.heidisbrooklyndeli.com

Fine Dining

Editors’ Choice

Meadow Lark Farm Dinners

In this age of knowing where your food comes from, the ultimate dining experience is at the source. By that we mean farm dinners, where long tables, set with china, stemware, and candles, stretch among open fields. A handful of companies specialize in these culinary celebrations, but our favorite is Meadow Lark Farms, which travels to local farms from June through September in a school bus that’s been retrofitted with a kitchen. The seasonal menus feature ingredients and crops grown in the fields surrounding you, and the actual dining experience is exquisite for that reason. Reservations (which usually open a month ahead of time) are a hot commodity, so check the website regularly. www.farmdinners.com

Readers’ Choice

Fruition Restaurant

Since opening Fruition in 2007, chef Alex Seidel (who was recently named best new chef by Food & Wine) and maître d’ Paul Attardi have made a big impression on Denver. Night after night, as Attardi smooths any ripples in the dining room, Seidel crafts seasonal dishes such as his pasta carbonara with house-cured pork belly and handmade cavatelli. Bonus: Much of the restaurant’s produce and egg supply comes from Seidel’s certified-organic farm outside Larkspur. 1313 E. Sixth Ave., 303-831-1962, www.fruitionrestaurant.com

Meatball Sandwich

Editors’ Choice

Marco’s Coal-Fired Pizzeria

OK, it’s not a sub-size hoagie, but it is a steaming plate of three sliders that add up to the finest meatball deliciousness that D-Town has to offer. The perfectly formed, melt-in-your-mouth meatballs arrive dripping with caciocavallo cheese inside toasty-soft buns. Add the San Marzano tomato sauce (with some on the side for dippin’) and you’ve got the most satisfying rush of Italian abbondanza in recent memory. 2129 Larimer St., 303-296-7000, www.marcoscoalfiredpizza.com

Readers’ Choice

Carbone’s Italian Sausage Market & Deli

You’ll have to take your sandwich to go from this teensy 38th Avenue kitchen, but it’s worth the effort. The jovial countermen serve up a savory meatball delight with provolone, peppers, and just the right amount of sauce, all folded into the kind of sublimely chewy roll that any good hoagie requires. 1221 W. 38th Ave., 303-455-2893

Mexican

Editors’ Choice

Rosa Linda’s Mexican Café

Since 1985, the Aguirre family has watched their neighborhood transform from fringe-y North Denver into mega-hip Highland. And through it all, they’ve stayed put with their buzzing kitchen. The lively vibe speaks to everyone, from the newly arrived coolios to the area’s longtime families, all of whom flock to the cafe for a wide range of Mexican treats—including the much-lauded chile relleno (soft, not crispy), the light, flaky sopaipillas, and super nachos that once earned a “Top 15 Nachos in the Nation” designation from the Wall Street Journal. (You know a Mexican place is legit when “cactus” is one of the topping choices for those nachos.) 2005 W. 33rd Ave., 303-455-0608, www.rosalindasmexicancafe.com

Readers’ Choice

Benny’s

With a just-rambunctious-enough atmosphere, a vast menu that features Mexican mainstays and offbeat alternatives—try the carne tampiqueña or mole poblano—and margaritas that are rumored to induce strangely heightened feelings of, um, el amor, this longtime Cap Hill haunt is an easy choice for south-of-the-border fun. 301 E. Seventh Ave., 303-894-0788, www.bennysrestaurant.com

Burger

Editors’ Choice

Park Burger

There’s been a surge of fancy burger joints opening all over town, but the best is this tiny storefront on a quiet stretch of Old South Pearl. The burgers here, from the simple cheeseburger to the swanky croque burger (with ham, fried egg, and Swiss sizzling atop a juicy one-third-pound patty) are phenomenal and affordable: The priciest burger will set you back a paltry $8.25. Do yourself a favor and don’t forget an order of the sweet-potato fries. 1890 S. Pearl St., 720-242-9951, www.parkburger.com

Readers’ Choice

The Cherry Cricket

Around here, we call the Cricket the “New York Yankees”—and for good reason: The Cherry Creek burger spot has won Top of the Town honors a stunning 19 times, making it our most decorated “best of” business in the city. Unlike the Yankees, though, the Cricket’s not constantly showing off the latest and greatest—they just crank out the same great burger day after day (not to mention a pretty sweet draft beer list). 2641 E. Second Ave., 303-322-7666, www.cherrycricket.com

Pizza

Editors’ Choice

Pulcinella Pizzeria

Denver has become quite the pizza town, and we have absolutely no arguments with our readers’ pick in this category (see below). But we’re always more than willing to make the trek south to the new-ish Pulcinella in Cherry Hills—the classic Neapolitan pies (and slices!) are that good. We’re partial to the diavola, with its spicy imported soppressata, but you can’t go wrong with the margherita. The space itself may be a bit sterile, but the friendly service more than makes up for it. 1400 E. Hampden Ave., Suite 140, Cherry Hills Village, 303-761-9917; 385 Crossing Drive, Suite 105, Lafayette, 303-664-1599, www.pulcinellapizzeria.net

Readers’ Choice

Marco’s Coal-Fired Pizzeria

If we were to open up a pizza joint, Marco’s would be the model: the warm space (despite the gritty block on which it’s located); the servers who make you feel like a regular, even if you’re not; and the sublime pizzas, with that tasty, chewy crust. There’s not much to improve on at Marco’s—which is why we find ourselves going back over and over again. 2129 Larimer St., 303-296-7000, www.marcoscoalfiredpizza.com

Kid-friendly Restaurant

Editors’ Choice

Steuben’s

Maybe it’s just us, but when we go out with our kids, we’d like to be able to enjoy our meal—and the experience—as much as our children do (sorry Chuck E. Cheese’s). Steuben’s has admirably created a restaurant that makes us parents feel (somewhat) hip, and has our kids asking for return visits. And it’s no wonder: Retro TV dinner-style trays are packed with decadent mac and cheese—and fresh fruit, for good measure—and topped off with a ridiculously huge bowl of soft-serve ice cream or a cupcake. What’s not to like? 523 E. 17th Ave., 303-830-1001, www.steubens.com

Readers’ Choice

Red Robin Gourmet Burgers

With 10-plus locations in metro Denver, there always seems to be a Red Robin within shouting distance when the kids go into meltdown mode. And the menu here is always a crowd pleaser for the tykes: Rad RobinBurger (no, that’s not a typo), grilled chicken on a stick, carnival corn dogs, and more. With meals coming in at under $5, parents will leave with a smile, too. Multiple locations, www.redrobin.com

Chocolate Dessert

Editors’ Choice

Salt Bistro

We almost—almost—rush through Bradford Heap’s tasty farm-to-table dishes to get to the dessert menu. We just can’t stay away from the sinful dark chocolate caramel salt tart. The rich chocolate, offset with buttery caramel and hints of salt, is the reason they invented the phrase “melts in your mouth.” And the side scoop of coffee cocoa-nib ice cream pairs perfectly. 1047 Pearl St., Boulder, 303-444-7258, www.saltboulderbistro.com

Readers’ Choice

D Bar Desserts

When a menu overflows with chocolaty concoctions, it’s ridiculous to try to pick just one. So we don’t. The hefty (and by now legendary) cake and shake holds a special place in our hearts, and the p.b. d bar is a choco-peanut butter combo like nothing else. But when we’re feeling nostalgic, it’s all about the baked-to-order chocolate-chip cookies dipped in ice-cold milk. 1475 E. 17th Ave., 303-861-4710, www.dbardesserts.com

Ice Cream/Gelato

Editors’ Choice

Sweet Action Ice Cream

We can’t decide what we like more about this parlor: the location (a row of stools has an open-air view—in nice weather, of course—of Broadway’s hipster scene) or the innovative flavors (can’t get enough of the Biscuits and Jam, a mix made with real buttermilk biscuits and raspberry jam). Thankfully, there’s no need to choose—just order yourself a double (dare we say triple?) scoop. 52 Broadway, 303-282-4645, www.sweetactionicecream.com

Readers’ Choice

Bonnie Brae Ice Cream

Standing in line is part of the fun at this Denver institution; we’ve done it a hundred times, and every time we’re undecided on a flavor (Banana Nut? Peach Pie? Tiramisù?) when we reach the counter. The selection of nearly three dozen flavors is almost overwhelming…which is to say, no number of samples is too many. Indulge. 799 S. University Blvd., 303-777-0808, www.bonniebraeicecream.com

Chinese

Editors’ Choice

Star Kitchen

You had us at ni hao. You kept us with the pork buns, shrimp won tons, hot pots, and those ridiculous lobster specials. Everything in this pit stop off Federal Boulevard oozes authenticity, from the live eel slithering in the tank in the dining room to the multigenerational Chinese families happily enjoying a meal around you. There’s even something mystic about rolling up at this place: Tucked in a well-worn strip mall with graffiti near the roof, Star Kitchen’s appearance is as unassuming and unpretentious as its eats. But this is food that doesn’t need flourish. It’s just that good. 2917 W. Mississippi Ave., 303-936-0089, www.starkitchendenver.com

Readers’ Choice

Imperial Chinese Seafood Fine Restaurant

When it comes to Far Eastern cuisine, this institution delivers the goods better than most. Imperial has been slinging its brand of Chinese for 25 years, and in these parts that’s pretty much what you’d call forever. The service is top-notch, the dining room is date-worthy elegant, and the sesame chicken is clean-your-plate good every time. 431 S. Broadway, 303-698-2800, www.imperialchinese.com

Tacos

Editors’ and Readers’ Choice

Tacos y Salsas

You put it out there, and we have to agree. Whether it’s perfectly seasoned beef, strips of pork, or succulent, blackened chunks of chicken, there is no wrong way to build a taco here. For less than $6, you can get three tacos, served on floppy corn tortillas, and fixed with any assortment of veggies-slash-sauces you want to pack onto those bad boys. At Tacos y Salsas, a nice, simple taco is like its own fine-dining experience—even if you have to shake the juices off your fingers after each bite. Multiple locations

Indian

Editors’ Choice

India’s Restaurant

Tucked in the back of a strip mall off Hampden Avenue and I-25, and sharing an entrance with a budget movie theater, India’s doesn’t look like much from the outside. The fare inside, though, is as good as Indian food gets in Denver: expertly executed curries and masalas, spicy vindaloos (unless you’ve got taste buds of steel, don’t order hotter than “medium”), and the very best garlic naan we’ve ever tasted. We only wish there was a location closer to downtown. 7400 E. Hampden Ave., 303-755-4284, www.indiasrestaurant.com

Readers’ Choice

Little India Restaurant

There’s a reason that Little India has won Top of the Town honors for a decade running: helpful service and great food, every single visit. Servers always patiently explain the difference between not just the saags and kormas, but also lesser-known dishes such as bhunas and jalfrazies. Little surprise that it opened a fourth location in Belmar just three months ago. Multiple locations, www.littleindiadenver.com

Steak

Editors’ Choice

Elway’s

If John Elway’s legacy were confined to his steak house, we’d still consider him a god. The beef here is that good. The bone-in rib eye—the steak upon which all steak houses should be measured—is a massive 22 ounces and, when cooked to a temperature of medium rare, is nothing short of divine. Take your time, savor, and keep your eyes peeled— you just might get to see old No. 7 sitting in the corner. 2500 E. First Ave., 303-399-5353; 1888 Curtis St., 303-312-3107, www.elways.com

Readers’ Choice

The Capital Grille

At most steak houses in Denver, you’re going to get a good meal: Colorado knows beef. Then there’s the Capital Grille, a place that makes much of its competition look like Burger King. We’ve never had anything but the finest service, and the food, from the starters (try the melt-in-your-mouth beef carpaccio) through the main courses (a porterhouse that would make a vegetarian drool), kills it every time. 1450 Larimer St., 303-539-2500, www.thecapitalgrille.com

Dim Sum

Editors’ Choice

Star Kitchen

If you only have one dish to order here, make it the snow pea leaf dumplings with shrimp. The dumpling shell, infused with snow peas, has that hard-to-achieve chewy quality—we call it perfection—that’s frustratingly elusive in so many other steamed goodies we’ve sampled, and the shrimp is cooked just right to retain its freshness. Bonus: If you don’t know what you’re looking at on those never-ending pushcarts, the gregarious staff is happy to explain everything in detail. Did we mention every dish is under $6? 2917 W. Mississippi Ave., 303-936-0089, www.starkitchendenver.com

Readers’ Choice

Super Star Asian Cuisine

Sure, it might be a while before you’re seated, but our readers know good dim sum is worth the wait. As cart after cart rolls by at lunch, filled with sticky pork buns, salty fried rice, and must-have shrimp dumplings, your biggest concern will be whether there’s enough room on the table for everything you want to try. Luckily, the staff is all about stuffing you silly while you sit, explore the menu, and muster up the courage to try some chicken feet. 2200 W. Alameda Ave., Suite 5A, 303-727-9889

Street Vendor

Editors’ Choice

Gastro Cart

Denver’s food scene only got better when Bryan Hume and Mike Winston left Table 6 to start a downtown street cart. In almost nine months, Gastro Cart has garnered legions of fans who line up for creative, made-to-order eats that run the gamut—pot stickers with red curry and sweet Asian butter one day, pork belly sliders with Stranahan’s whiskey apple jam the next. Find out what’s cooking on Gastro Cart’s Facebook and/or Twitter page. Bonus: The cart has a credit card machine at the ready. 18th and Curtis streets, www.gastrocart.com

Readers’ Choice

Biker Jim’s Gourmet Dogs

There was a time when Biker Jim defined Denver’s street food. The street cart scene has grown, but Jim Pittenger’s gourmet sausages—don’t miss the elk or reindeer—are still the biggest draw on the 16th Street Mall. Business is growing, too: You can now find two Biker Jim carts rotating through three locations. 16th and Arapahoe streets; 17th and California streets; and 760 E. Colfax Ave. (in the Argonaut Wine & Liquor parking lot), www.bikerjims.tumblr.com

Hot Dog

Editors’ Choice

Mustard’s Last Stand II

This DU favorite will make any Chicagoan nostalgic, with its Windy City-themed decor—maps, pics, and pennants—and of course its authentic grilled Vienna beef delights (although some transplants have complained about Mustard’s lack of Chi-town’s trademark neon-green relish). The food is simple, cheap, and delicious, and Mustard’s even offers veggie dogs that get rave reviews from the tofurkey set. 2081 S. University Blvd., 303-722-7936; 1719 N. Broadway St., Boulder, 303-444-5841

Readers’ Choice

Steve’s Snappin’ Dogs

A longtime reader standby, Steve’s serves traditional Chicago-style dogs along with a roster of regionally themed pups, À la Dallas (chili), Memphis (barbecue sauce), and even Denver (essentially a burrito with bacon and a wiener in it). In the unlikely event that you’re a health nut in search of a hot dog fix, Steve’s got you covered with low-carb options—wrapped in a tortilla or even lettuce—though we’re of the personal opinion that this is simply wrong. 3525 E. Colfax Ave., 303-333-7627, www.stevessnappindogs.com

Soup

Editors’ Choice

Pajama Baking Company

Whenever we find ourselves on Old South Pearl, it’s almost impossible not to tuck into this tasty bakeshop for the delectable soup of the day. The chefs have perfected the art of simmering; we recommend the zesty green chile chowder made with tender, fresh chiles, and the one-of-a-kind coconut curry vegetable, seasoned with colorful peppers and onions and a touch of peanut butter. Snag a stool by the floor-to-ceiling windows and slurp down some of Denver’s best bisques with a hunk of fresh-baked artisanal bread. 1595 S. Pearl St., 303-733-3622, www.pajamabakingcompany.com

Readers’ Choice

Panera Bread

If you’re a soup-and-sandwich kinda luncher, check out Panera’s impressive selection, which ranges from creamy broccoli cheddar—nothing like Velveeta here, thanks—to the vegetarian creamy tomato with Asiago croutons. The extra touches (pearled barley, nut-free basil pesto garnish, fluffy bread bowls) are especially enticing for a fast-casual spot. Multiple locations, www.panerabread.com

Cupcakes

Editors’ Choice

The Shoppe

There was a time when we thought there was no better treat in all the land than a Girl Scout Samoa cookie. Until we bit into the Samoa cupcake at the Shoppe. Fair warning: This is a frosting fiend’s kinda place; dazzling cupcakes in offbeat flavors (jitterbug perfume?) are piled high with frothy, whipped icing. They’re garnished with fruit slices or cookie crumbles or glittery sprinkles, and it’s hard to resist picking out a boxful—even if you stop by for just one. Tip: Order the mini version instead of regular size. Then if you eat three—not that we’d know—you won’t feel so guilty. 3103 E. Colfax Ave., 303-322-3969, www.theshoppedenver.com

Readers’ Choice

Happy Cakes Bakeshop

Of course the cakes are happy—they come in flavors like cosmo, Jack and Coke, and maple bacon. The shop is actually named after one of the owners’ sons, who, as a toddler, would wish people “happy birthday” by declaring “happy cakes!” instead. Well said—and perfectly executed. 3434 W. 32nd Ave., 303-477-3556, www.happycakes.com

Brunch

Editors’ Choice

Root Down

Perhaps it’s the urban-yet-cozy neighborhood vibe. Maybe it’s the appropriately lazy Sunday-morning chatter. Most definitely, it’s the bottomless blood-orange mimosas. Whatever the case, we find it nearly impossible to turn down a weekend morning at Root Down. The often organic creations are artistic enough (duck confit crêpes with orange-ginger hoisin) to appeal to sophisticated palates, but grounded enough (house-made chorizo omelet) to work for the meat-and-potatoes crew as well. 1600 W. 33rd Ave., 303-993-4200, www.rootdowndenver.com

Readers’ Choice

Snooze

We thought the brilliant addition of a second Snooze location last July might alleviate the hours-long wait at the original Ballpark eatery. No such luck. Now there are around-the-corner lines at both locations on Saturday and Sunday mornings. (We suspect as much at the newly opened outpost in Fort Collins, as well.) Our most recent visit found us inhaling a giant stack of cherry cobbler pancakes even as we eyed the breakfast pot pie with rosemary sausage gravy across the table. 2262 Larimer St., 303-297-0704; 700 N. Colorado Blvd., Suite A, 303-736-6200; 144 W. Mountain Ave., Fort Collins, 970-482-9253; www.snoozeeatery.com

Italian

Editors’ Choice

Shells and Sauce

When we stumbled into this Congress Park staple during a swirling snowstorm one evening, it was like being welcomed into a friend’s cozy kitchen. The food, like the atmosphere, is unpretentious. One bite of the lobster ravioli, swimming in Chardonnay cream sauce with Italian parsley, was enough to make us regulars, and the vongole alla puttanesca (spaghetti tossed with little neck clams in a tomato and white-wine sauce) transported us to the Italian seaside. This summer, we’re excited to head back for our next meal al fresco on the restaurant’s rooftop patio. 2600 E. 12th Ave., 303-377-2091, www.shellsandsauce.net

Readers’ Choice

Carmine’s On Penn

Carmine’s does Italian the way it’s supposed to be done: traditional, rich, and simmering with mouthwatering garlic. The family-style menu is stacked with classic Italian goodies—no shortage of parmigiana or Marsala dishes in this kitchen—though we’re partial to the more creative pasta entrées, like the orecchiette basilicata. 92 S. Pennsylvania St., 303-777-6443, www.carminesonpenn.net

Un-Beef Burger

Editors’ Choice

Diego Zhang’s Burger Café

This order-at-the-counter joint serves up adorable slider-size burgers inspired by global cultures—and there’s not just one “alterna-beef” option tacked onto the menu. For just the right combo of lean and decadent, order the Yellowstone (buffalo with crumbled bacon and blue cheese.) Italian junky? Try the Genoa (chicken with pesto, red peppers, and mushrooms). All the patties are a ground mixture of bright ingredients, so you’re never eating a blah slab of fish or soy product drowning in toppings. In fact, they’re so flavorful that you don’t even need condiments. 12073 E. Arapaho Road, Centennial, 720-496-1020; 6851 S. Gaylord St., Unit 251 (the Streets at SouthGlenn), Centennial, 303-484-9802, www.diegozhangs.com

Readers’ Choice

WaterCourse Foods

No surprise here: The wild rice tempeh burger, sizzling with caramelized onions and sautéed mushrooms, comes with barbecue, teriyaki, or blackened seasoning. There’s no automatic side of fries with that, but you can pick two extras—we suggest the quinoa salad and steamed broccoli. (Though you can order fries if you want…some things are just meant to be together.) 837 E. 17th Ave., 303-832-7313, www.watercoursefoods.com

Wine List

Editors’ Choice

Olivéa

Just as Olivéa’s menu pulls from Spanish, Italian, and French cuisines, so goes the wine list. The well-curated selection gently nudges diners to expand beyond the usual suspects (i.e., California Cabs, New Zealand Sauvignon Blancs, and Chilean Merlots)—for a surprising new experience. Many of these lesser-known sips come at a lower price, and all complement the Mediterranean-influenced dishes. 719 E. 17th Ave., 303-861-5050, www.olivearestaurant.com

Readers’ Choice

Caveau Wine Bar

Readers love Caveau Wine Bar’s substantial by-the-glass list (60-plus!) and the stellar happy hour: $5 for glasses $12 or under, and half price for glasses $13 and up. If drinking prime-time isn’t your style, simply wander in after 7 p.m. and have your pick of the list—be it a summery Albariño or an extra-special bottle of Fiddlehead Fiddlestix Pinot Noir. 450 E. 17th Ave., Suite 110, 303-861-3747, www.caveauwinebar.com

Bloody Mary

Editors’ Choice

Olivéa

The indulgent, spicy Bloody Mary is technically only served at brunch, but those in the know can order it any time of day. The trick to making this Bloody stand out is twofold: First, the habanero spice is just right—enough kick to leave your lips tingling, but not so much that it will obliterate your palate—and second is the funky garnish, which, in this inspired case, consists of a cherry tomato, a slice of jalapeño, a fresh leaf of basil, and a small round of balsamic-marinated mozzarella. There’s nothing better to kick off a lazy weekend morning. 719 E. 17th Ave., 303-861-5050, www.olivearestaurant.com

Readers’ Choice

Lucile’s Creole Cafe

You know it’s gotta be good when they bottle and sell it, as they do with Lucile’s Cajun Bloody Mary Mix. Order it online or, better yet, grab a glass of this spicy, substantial tomato-y goodness while waiting in line for Sunday brunch at the always-mobbed South Logan location. Multiple locations, www.luciles.com

Thai

Editors’ Choice

US Thai Cafe

Tucked into a dive-y little spot on Edgewater’s main drag is a true diamond in the rough. As in, it’s rough around the edges—think plastic tablecloths and no-frills service—but the food here is to die for. Authentic, hot, and wonderfully satisfying, the drunken noodles, the pad see ew, and the masman curry—all of which are nothing short of extraordinary—bring us back time and again. Don’t forget the earthy Thai iced tea, a perfect foil to the spicy cuisine. 5228 W. 25th Ave., Edgewater, 303-233-3345, www.usthaicafe.com

Readers’ Choice

Thai Basil

With spots in Wash Park, West Highland, and near City Park (among others), Thai Basil has become the go-to destination for fast-casual Thai in the Mile High. You can’t go wrong with standbys such as panang curry, pad Thai, and drunken noodles; even better, at the Highland location, you can grab domestic beers for 25 cents with a food order! Multiple locations, www.thaibasil.us

Frequently Asked Questions

People often wonder how Top of the Town really works. Here, we answer some of your most common questions.

Q: How does 5280 choose the Top of the Town winners?

Generally, each of the categories (cocktail, salon, dog groomer, and so on) has two winners: the readers’ and editors’ choices. The editors pick winners based on months and months of research. During this process we do our research anonymously, and we pay for all meals and services. Readers’ choice winners are picked democratically—whichever receives the most votes from our online ballot wins.

Q: Don’t your advertisers automatically win?

Absolutely not. Top of the Town results are entirely based on your ballots and our research; there is no connection between advertisers and winners. Period. The fact that some winners happen to be advertisers, or later choose to advertise in the magazine, does not influence our selections. Sure, we could make a few folks happy by “selling” winners, but in the long run we’d lose a lot more than we’d gain—like our integrity and credibility with you, the reader.

Q: How do I get my business on the ballot?

Our ballot is a write-in format, which means we do not provide predetermined, multiple-choice options on which to vote. Voters are free to suggest whatever business, service, shop, or person they deem worthy under each category.

Q: I have a business that deserves an award. How can I win?

Tell your customers to vote for you next year. (Remember: The ballot goes online in February every year.) And to help you spread the word to your customers, we’ll post a Top of the Town “tool kit” on our website during that time, with downloadable marketing materials and links to our site and ballot.

Q: How can I vote?

Visit www.5280.com (the ballot is online in February and March), create an account, and cast your ballot. Stay tuned next year for specific voting dates.

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