On
Newsstands
Now
Current Issue
Advertisement

Top of the Town

We scoured the city to come up with nearly 200 deserving winners that make Denver such a killer place to live.

By |

Additional reporting by: Georgia Benjou, Daniel Brogan, Elena Brown, Patrick Doyle, Julie Dugdale, Amanda M. Faison, Natasha Gardner, Luc Hatlestad, Kazia Jankowski, Lindsey B. Koehler, Carol W. Maybach, Cara McDonald, Brian Melton, Robert Sanchez, Geoff Van Dyke, and Anne Vickman
Photography by Bryce Boyer, Brendan Harrington, Claudia López, and Matthew Staver

Click here to read our Web-only compilation of Top of the Town All-Stars, the most frequent winners since 1997.

Advertisement

The tastiest taquerías, the sweetest shops, the sharpest stylists…
Every year we give you our list of the absolute best stuff in Denver. It’s a culmination of 12 months of research—sampling, taste-testing, shopping, and guinea-pigging our way across this entire city in search of the best. As always, we also get input from you; more than 63,044 individual votes were cast on our online ballot this year (nice work!). We do all of this for one reason, dear reader: to keep you in the know—to get you dialed in on Denver. So the next time you’re absolutely craving some chicken masala (page 109), or need the name of a good tailor (page 122), or are on the hunt for that perfect throw pillow (page 127), you’ll know exactly what to do. And with 200 winners, this just might be our best Top of the Town yet. So read on. Thank us later.

Frequently Asked Questions

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

How does 5280 choose the Top of the Town winners?
Generally, each of the categories (spa, sushi, etc.) has two winners: the readers’ and editors’ choices. Readers’ choice winners are picked democratically—whichever takes the most votes from our online ballot wins. The editors pick winners based on 12 months of research. During this process we pay for all meals and services, and we do our research anonymously.

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. While some winners may later choose to advertise or happen to be advertisers, it is in no way a requirement. 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 our credibility with you, the reader.

How can I vote?
Easy. Go to www.5280.com, create an account, and cast your ballot. We’ll have the ballot online in February and March, so stay tuned next year.

Advertisement

For some of your categories, I’ve noticed there is only an editors’ choice—no readers’ choice. Why is that?
In some categories, the readers didn’t come to a consensus. In those instances, we publish only the editors’ choice.

I have a business that deserves an award. How can I win?
Tell your customers to get online and vote for you next year. (Remember: The ballot goes online in February.) 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 material and links to our site and ballot.

DINING

Wine List

EDITORS Table 6

We appreciate that Aaron Forman, owner and sommelier of Table 6, supports small, family-oriented wineries. But we like his wine list philosophy—keep it fun and unpretentious—even better. To wit: Forman combats the usually snooty reserve list by taking pictures of wine labels and placing them in a photo album that’s brought to the table on request. “I think people are very visual and sometimes a little shy about pronouncing the names of wine,” he says. Kudos to that. 609 Corona St., 303-831-8800, www.table6denver.com

Ice Cream

EDITORS Gelazzi Gelato Italiano Café

We find it impossible to walk through Larimer Square without a visit to Gelazzi for a cup of pure heaven (cinnamon-sprinkled tiramisù and smooth hazelnut, anyone?). This Italian gelateria whips up a fresh array of tempting flavors every morning with milk instead of cream—meaning far less fat and fewer calories than regular ice cream…sweet! The owners visit Italy several times a year to bring back authentic ingredients, and they’ve created a decadent “gelatini” menu (gelato and liqueur) worth indulging in, too—happy hour is 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. on weekdays. 1411 Larimer St., 303-534-5056, www.gelazzi.com

READERS Bonnie Brae Ice Cream
If the shop is open there’s a line, and it usually stretches down the sidewalk. This neighborhood haunt is everything an ice cream spot should be—genuine, cheery, and full of homemade deliciousness in flavors like malted milk ball and deep-dish apple pie. We even heard that they once hosted a free-for-all ice cream giveaway during a power outage, so keep your fingers crossed. 799 S. University Blvd., 303-777-0808, www.bonniebraeicecream.com

Advertisement

Steak

EDITORS Elway’s
Over the past three years, Elway’s has emerged as the best steak house in Denver. The service is excellent, the side dishes and desserts are heavenly (particularly the tuna tartare with guacamole, and the warm chocolate soufflé), but it’s the steak that stands out. Elway’s porterhouse, lightly dashed with the restaurant’s homemade seasonings, is the best steak we’ve eaten—ever. Juicy, flavorful, delicious. And now, with a second location (in the Ritz downtown, no less), there’s double the goodness. Note: The menus at each location vary. 2500 E. First Ave., 303-399-5353; 1881 Curtis St., 303-321-3107, www.elways.com

READERS Tie: the Capital Grille and Del Frisco’s Double Eagle Steak House
Both the Cap Grille and Del Frisco’s know the key to winning the hearts (and stomachs) of red-meat-loving Coloradans: impeccable service and excellent, savory cuts of steak. The Capital Grille: 1450 Larimer St., 303-539-2500, www.thecapitalgrille.com; Del Frisco’s: 8100 E. Orchard Road, Greenwood Village, 303-796-0100, www.delfriscos.com

Pizza

EDITORS Parisi
Parisi has pulled off a neat trick: serving high-end, delicious pizza in a casual atmosphere without seeming coy or contrived. The wood oven-baked pies are uniformly excellent—even when you take them home—with crispy, thin crusts and fresh ingredients that will whisk you off to Tuscany during even the snowiest of winter nights. We love the simplicity of the margherita, with sliced tomatoes and fresh basil; for heartier fare, you can’t go wrong with the “salsiccia & funghi,” better known in these parts as Italian sausage and mushroom. 4401 Tennyson St., 303-561-0234, www.parisidenver.com

READERS Proto’s Pizzeria Napoletana
Since Pam Proto and her business partner Rayme Rossello first opened shop nine years ago in Longmont, they have been serving up some of the best, most authentic Neapolitan pizzas along the Front Range. At our favorite Proto’s in the Confluence Park area, while away a warm summer evening at one of the sidewalk tables with a bottle of wine and the fantastic Pontiff Pie, topped with olive oil, garlic, fresh spinach, sun-dried tomatoes, mozzarella, and feta cheese. Multiple locations, www.protospizza.com

Diner

EDITORS Rocky Mountain Diner
What other true diner—in that neon-signage, pleather barstool kinda way—serves up a roast duck enchilada plate and a sheepherder salad with goat cheese crostini? (Both delicious, by the way.) Of course, we also love RMD’s traditional staples, like homemade biscuits and chicken-fried steak, which are prepared on the mark. It’s pretty much a madhouse during lunch, so prepare to wait your turn. In the meantime, check out the giant retro jukebox as you ponder the daily blue-plate special on the chalkboard. 800 18th St., 303-293-8383, www.rockymountaindiner.com

Advertisement

READERS Steuben’s
With good ol’ mac ‘n’ cheese and sides like hushpuppies, plus the Tuesday-night meatloaf special, Steuben’s certainly cleans up in the comfort-food category. But even better are the retro-fab 1950s decor, the knowledgeable and honest servers, and the pleasantly eclectic menu surprises. (Think habanero honey-fried corn on the cob.) It’s a gastronome’s version of the greasy spoon. 523 E. 17th Ave., 303-830-1001, www.steubens.com

READERS Tie: Barolo Grill and Crú: A Wine Bar
While readers covet Barolo Grill’s venerable wine list for its depth and precision, they also enjoy sipping on Crú’s flights and wines by the glass. Either way, we say bottoms up. Barolo Grill: 3030 E. Sixth Ave., 303-393-1040, www.barologrilldenver.com; Crú: 1442 Larimer St., 303-893-9463, www.cruawinebar.com

Italian

EDITORS Osteria Marco
With Osteria Marco, a polished Italian tavern on Larimer Square, chef Frank Bonanno has shown us that he can pull off low-key eats as well as he does fine dining. His restaurant hits all the notes with a simple menu of artisanal cheeses and meats, fresh salads, traditional pizzas, and stacked panini, plus an affordable, all-Italian wine list. Our perfect meal: the chefs’ assortments of meats and cheeses, a lemony arugula salad, and the show-stopping carbonara pizza. 1453 Larimer St., 303-534-5855, www.osteriamarco.com

READERS Pasta’s Italian Restaurant
Our readers adore this family-friendly Littleton spot owned by Chris and Holly Stoleson. Stop in for the baked cavatappi, a jam-packed meatball sammy, bubbling pizza, or the spicy mussels alla diavola, and you won’t go home hungry. Nor will you break the bank. 9126 W. Bowles Ave., Littleton, 303-933-2829, www.pastasitalian.com

Mexican

EDITORS Santiago’s Mexican Restaurant
With green chile so spicy it sets your mouth on fire, Santiago’s is for diners with a serious—and seriously robust—palate. If you’re daring, try the chicken and carnitas (marinated pork) burrito, smothered in the hot stuff. The tacos, which are equally delicious, are a notch down on the spiciness scale. Bonus: The locally owned, fast-casual chain boasts 20 locations, so you’re never too far away from the next delicious dinner. Multiple locations, www.eatatsantiagos.com

READERS Benny’s Restaurante y Tequila Bar
Year after year, this Denver staple receives accolades for its sweet-tart margaritas, salty chips, and sour cream-laden burritos. Don’t miss dining on the year-round, indoor patio. With a margarita in hand, it’s an easy place to while away several hours. 301 E. Seventh Ave., 303-894-0788, www.bennysrestaurant.com

Advertisement

Barbecue

EDITORS Jim ‘n Nick’s Bar-B-Q
Seems like every time you turn around there’s a new ‘cue joint—and a few of them are even pretty good. But none of them combines tender, succulent meat with spot-on sides like Jim ‘n Nick’s. OK, yes, it’s a chain. But who cares when the pork tastes this good? We recommend ordering either a pulled pork plate with collard greens and baked beans or the beef brisket with mac ‘n’ cheese and mashed potatoes. Oh, and don’t forget some of that perfectly blended sweet tea to wash it all down. 8264 E. 49th Ave., 303-371-1566; 24153 E. Prospect Ave., Aurora, 720-274-5300, www.jimnnicks.com

READERS Brothers BBQ
With its eighth location opening in March, this perennial Top of the Town winner has the barbecue market cornered here in the Mile-High City. And it’s little wonder folks love this little-restaurant-that-could. Started in a refurbished garage at the intersection of Leetsdale and Monaco in 1998, Brothers has always offered top-shelf comfort food like seasoned ribs, smoked pork, and hearty beef brisket. Multiple locations; www.brothers-bbq.com

Chinese

EDITORS Chopsticks China Bistro
For three years, we’ve driven right past this nondescript Chinese restaurant on the corner of Federal and Mississippi. Never again. Not after we’ve tried the juicy pork steamed dumplings, tender eggplant with basil, and fluffy white rice. Now we’ll be dropping by every time we want an adventurous Chinese dinner, with a hint of American familiarity. 2990 W. Mississippi Ave., 303-936-1506

READERS Little Ollie’s
Sesame chicken is to Chinese restaurants what burgers are to diners—the telltale choice. Little Ollie’s crispy, sweet sesame chicken outshines the soggy dishes at other restaurants. 2364 E. Third Ave., 303-316-8888, www.ufeedme.com/littleollies

Thai

EDITORS Chada Thai
Step off 17th Avenue into this quiet Thai cafe and time slows down. Here, diners linger over fresh and unpretentious meals, remembering that the best way to try foreign food is when it’s home-cooked. Chada’s authentic spicy zucchini, eggplant, and chicken Thai curry combines fresh vegetables and creamy coconut milk in a tasty but humble way. 2005 E. 17th Ave., 303-320-8582

READERS Thai Basil
As this ever-growing local chain spreads throughout the state (the newest location is in Colorado Springs), more and more Front Range diners couldn’t imagine going anywhere else for fresh mint and cucumber spring rolls, Thai iced tea, or savory curried chicken in peanut sauce. Multiple locations, www.thaibasil.us

Indian

EDITORS Masalaa
The moment you cross the threshold of this southern Indian restaurant, you’ll forever kiss those tepid, mealy buffets good-bye. Masalaa’s all-vegetarian spread is warm, authentic, and full of dynamic flavors. Mashed potatoes fill buttery crêpelike dosas, and carrots harmoniously combine with cauliflower and lentils in the mixed vegetable korma. 3140 S. Parker Road., 303-755-6272, www.masalaausa.com

READERS Little India
There’s nothing quite like scooping up tender bites of chicken tikka masala with warm naan flatbread. These staples—made in a clay tandoor oven—have come to represent the classics of India, and Little India has them down to a science. Multiple locations, www.littleindiadenver.com

Sushi

EDITORS Sushi Tora
Boulder’s Sushi Tora may not have the high gloss of Sushi Den—but that’s no matter when you’re focusing on a silky cut of toro and the gorgeous No. 9 roll, with delicate shrimp tempura, salmon, and avocado. Hint: If you’re dining on the weekend, make sure you have a rezzie—Boulderites love their sushi, and Tora is their crown jewel. 2014 10th St., Boulder, 303-444-2280, www.sushitora.net

READERS Sushi Den
Who can argue with Sushi Den’s unbelievably fresh fish offerings? For that, we give thanks to the owners’ youngest brother, who makes weekly trips to the fish market back in Japan. The quality makes it worth holding out for a seat at the sushi bar, so as not to miss the chefs preparing the ever-fresh nigiri or the fiery New Style sashimi appetizer. 1487 S. Pearl St., 303-777-0826, www.sushiden.net

Deli

EDITORS Salvaggio’s Italian Deli
If you don’t mind driving a few miles and standing in line with trustafarians, Boulder’s Salvaggio’s is the only place we’ve found that serves a deli sandwich that’s both authentic and tasty. Sure, the ‘wiches can be a little pricey (a foot-long pastrami with homemade, hand-sliced mozzarella will run you $11), but the food is worth it. No, really. The fresh Boar’s Head meats and cheeses are sliced on the spot, and the pillow-soft rolls are baked fresh daily. Multiple locations

READERS Heidi’s Brooklyn Deli
So many sites, so much selection. No wonder Heidi’s is consistently your top choice. Come for the Cajun turkey and avocado on wheat; stay for the delish smoothies. Multiple locations, www.heidisbrooklyndeli.com

Burger

EDITORS Tie: Elway’s, Ted’s Montana Grill, and SmashBurger
There are just too many darn good burgers out there; we couldn’t settle on one winner this year. Here, our three favorites. If you’re willing to pony up $12.50, you can’t beat Elway’s flavorful Smash Burger. (Little tip: The Cherry Creek version is more consistent.) For those on a midrange budget, Ted’s Montana Grill serves a variety of tasty beef or (for a few dollars more) bison burgers with a wide range of toppings. And if fast food will do the trick, try the other SmashBurger, a local mini-chain whose Angus beef burgers far surpass any of the better-known national franchises. Elway’s: 2500 E. First Ave., 303-399-5353, 1881 Curtis St., 303-312-3107, www.elways.com; Ted’s: Multiple locations, www.tedsmontanagrill.com; SmashBurger: Multiple locations, www.mysmashburger.com

READERS Cherry Cricket
This Cherry Creek North institution has long been a favorite for its no-frills, juicy burgers and its simple, friendly neighborhood atmosphere. Grab a patty and a beer, and watch the game. 2641 E. Second Ave., 303-322-7666, www.cherrycricket.com

Brunch

EDITORS The Kitchen
Our favorite time to pull up a seat at this bustling Boulder bistro, known nationally for its sustainable kitchen and use of local ingredients, is not at dinner hour, or even for lunch. Instead, we like to drop in on a weekend morning, after a hike up nearby Mt. Sanitas, for a golden brioche toast laden with Long Family Farm ham, absolutely buttery hollandaise sauce, and two poached eggs. Only then can we rightfully linger over each savory bite. 1039 Pearl St., Boulder, 303-544-5973, www.thekitchencafe.com

READERS Snooze
On Saturday and Sunday mornings long lines wind out Snooze’s door, cluing in passersby that they’d better get in line quick. If you successfully snag a seat in the hip, brightly lit dining room, put in an order for the pineapple upside-down pancakes or the smothered breakfast burrito. You’ll know why every weekend loyal diners weather the wait—this is yuppie brunch at its best. 2262 Larimer St., 303-297-0700, www.snoozedenver.com

Breakfast Sandwich

EDITORS (None)
After sampling more than a dozen egg sandwiches, we’re sad to report that we couldn’t find a decent one in the city. Seriously—not a single one. Our readers couldn’t come to a consensus either. Listen up! Breakfast sandwiches should be easy: a scrambled or fried egg, a slice of cheese, crispy bacon or a sausage patty, all stacked on a roll or toast. Microwaved eggs need not apply—use a griddle, people. If you know a great egg sandwich, e-mail us at [email protected] We’ll do an update if we find a worthy one.

Fried Chicken

EDITORS Tom’s Home Cookin’
We’ve come to realize that fried chicken is as much about presentation as it is about crispiness. And for us, the simpler the presentation the better. This soul-food standby gives you a perfectly Southern-fried chicken breast, a couple of sides, and bread, all packed into a Styrofoam container by a perpetually cheery staff and sold to you for less than 10 bucks (cash only). Done. 800 E. 26th Ave., 303-388-8035

READERS Steuben’s
This upscale Uptown diner has hung much of its reputation on its classic Southern-fried recipe. This version comes with mashed potatoes and gravy and a biscuit—just like mom (or at least someone’s mom) used to make it. 523 E. 17th Ave., 303-830-1001, www.steubens.com

Soup

EDITORS Fuel Cafe
Have you ever considered licking the bottom of a soup bowl? We did after trying the soup made by chef Bob Blair (formerly of Parisi) at this new breakfast and lunch cafe in River North’s TAXI development. The soup changes daily, meaning that one day you could slurp down the fennel potato with orange crème fraîche, and the next day you’ll enjoy a Tuscan bean soup with sausage. This ultra-hip enclave is just minutes from downtown, making it a perfect spot for quick business lunches. 3455 Ringsby Court, 303-296-4642, www.fuelcafedenver.com

READERS Three Sisters Cafe & Catering
Even before you open the door of this downtown cafe, you can smell soup. Not the heat-up-in-the-microwave variety, but the kind that has been simmering and bubbling for what must be hours on a stove. Inside, the constantly changing lineup of eight varieties does not disappoint. From spoon-bending chowders to light, veggie-based broths, you’ll find something to warm you up during the winter months and something to fill you up in the summer. Call ahead to listen to the specials on the soup line (303-313-2171), updated daily, so the other hungry souls behind don’t have to wait while you deliberate. 1717 Stout St., 303-991-8772, www.threesisterscafeandcatering.com

Cheese Steak

EDITORS and READERS Pat’s Philly Steaks and Subs
In a town with no shortage of cheese steak options—we must have a lot of Philly transplants or something—5280 readers and editors agree that Pat’s is the best. With one caveat: While Pat’s minced beef is perfectly blended with subtle spices and just the right amount of cheese, and never overwhelmed by those infernal vegetables (peppers and onions), a cheese steak that combined Pat’s filling with the Wazee Supper Club’s just-right hoagie rolls would be truly sublime. Multiple locations, www.patscheesesteaks.com

Small Plates

EDITORS Z Cuisine À Côté
French chef Patrick DuPays created this restaurant—with a rotating menu and an affordable list of wines by the glass—in honor of the Parisian wine bar. In the evenings the tightly packed tables hum with chatter, clicking glasses, and praises for the sweet caramelized French onion soup and the tartine À la Parisienne—an open-faced ham, béchamel, cheese, and fried egg sandwich. 2245 W. 30th Ave., 303-477-1111, www.zcuisineonline.com

READERS The 9th Door
Spain invented tapas, so it’s little wonder that the downtown hotspot serving up that country’s cuisine should dish out some of the city’s best small plates. For traditional Spanish tapas, try the patatas bravas (golden fried potatoes with three sauces). For a more modern twist, order the aguacate (flash-fried avocado). 1818 Blake St., 303-292-2229, www.the9thdoor.com

French Fries

EDITORS Neighborhood Flix Cinema & Café
The sesame-ginger sweet potato fries at Colfax’s trendy new dinner-and-a-movie film house are so scrumptious that we’ve been told they outsell the popcorn. The sweet-and-salty flavor combo in each mouthful leaves you wanting more the minute you’re done, and the gingery tang punches up the subtle earthiness. Order them alone and munch your way through that new indie flick, or share a basket with your date before dinner. But be forewarned: These fries are dangerously addictive—as in, entrée…? What entrée? If you do make it to the entrée, the gumbo is great. 2510 E. Colfax Ave., 303-777-3549, www.neighborhoodflix.com

READERS Steuben’s
Salty, but not overseasoned. Crispy, but not overcooked. Greasy, but not dripping. An added touch: The fries arrive at your table piping hot in a quaint little tin pail lined with wax paper. Plus, they don’t skimp on the serving—the pail is full of fries down to the bottom, not stuffed with crumpled paper at the halfway point (a technique we’ve noticed elsewhere). 523 E. 17th Ave., 303-830-1001, www.steubens.com

Patio Dining

EDITORS Bistro Vendôme
Sure, almost all the outdoor dining options on Larimer Square are superb. But this Jennifer Jasinski French bistro is top-notch in terms of sheer experience. Steak frites, white twinkly lights, couples whispering to each other over a full-bodied bottle of Chateaux Something. Tucked back there in the courtyard, you’ll feel like you’ve been transported to Paris. Well, almost. So, bon appétit! 1420 Larimer Square, 303-825-3232, www.bistrovendome.com

READERS Lola
Patios and people-watching go together like guacamole and chips (all of which, of course, can be found at Lola). With more than 150 tequilas on hand, sit back and enjoy the city sounds as well as the coastal Mexican cuisine from famed chef Jamey Fader. 1575 Boulder St., 720-570-8686, www.loladenver.com

Bakery for Sweets

EDITORS The Shoppe
Seems like cupcakes are still the big thing for desserts. So what’s new and fun in that category? The Shoppe on East Colfax. It’s a “cereal and cupcake” joint (how’s that for the ultimate in comfort food?) that stays open till 2 a.m. on the weekends, just in case you’re having a major craving late at night. Emma Skala, the on-site pastry chef and co-owner, creates more than 15 fabulous flaves (including vegan and gluten-free versions), all made from scratch. Grab a red velvet with cream cheese frosting and eat it on the in-store couch. There will likely be some old-school cartoons for you to watch while you’re munching. 3103 E. Colfax Ave., 303-322-3969, www.theshoppedenver.com

READERS Happy Cakes
This beloved bakery, a favorite among Highland residents and Martha Stewart (it made a best-of list on the Martha website), makes wonderful cupcakes. We like the libation-inspired flavors like the Margarita and Jack and Coke. Brides looking to tap the bakery for wedding-tier cupcakes should hurry—Happy Cakes often books up far in advance. 3815 W. 32nd Ave., 303-477-3556, www.happycakesdenver.com

Cookie

EDITORS Wen Chocolates’ Gingersnaps
We make regular pilgrimages to this Platte Street shop for chef William Poole’s gingersnaps. Made from a secret family recipe, these gourmet treats are at once spicy, molasses-y, and creamy (thanks to the dip of white chocolate). 1541 Platte St., 720-891-4622, www.wenchocolates.com

READERS Paradise Bakery & Café
Paradise can satisfy just about any cookie craving. Take your pick of chocolate chip, snickerdoodle, ginger molasses, sugar, oatmeal raisin, or chocolate with white chocolate chips. Hint: We’ve found that if you promise to bring Paradise cookies to a company meeting people show up on time. Multiple locations, www.paradisebakery.com

Cup of Coffee

EDITORS The Unseen Bean
Armed with a talking roasting meter and what he calls “blind-roasted passion,” Unseen Bean owner Gerry Leary—blind since birth—brews some of the most deliciously complex roasts we’ve tried…maybe ever. Check out his newish coffee shop off Pearl Street next time you’re up north doing some shopping. We suggest getting a bag of Malawi beans to go—smooth with a dark chocolate aftertaste. 2052 Broadway, Boulder, 303-447-2326, www.theunseenbean.com

Restaurant Ambience

EDITORS Second Home
Though the fine-tuned American cuisine is one reason to go to Second Home, ogling the décor is another. Fashioned after a mountain lodge (but not in a wagon wheels and antlers kind of way), this Cherry Creek restaurant wraps diners into its glamorous wooden space. Planks on the floor, ceiling, and walls gleam with sophisticated warmth, while metallic details recall firelight. The effect: cozy yet sleek, modern yet inviting. Plus, huge south-facing windows not only spill natural light, they also offer a view of the pretty people lounging on the plush patio. 150 Clayton Lane, 303-253-3000, www.secondhomedenver.com

Waitstaff

EDITORS Opus Restaurant
Each time we dine at Opus in Old Town Littleton we leave feeling cared for, coddled, and revived. During the car ride home we recount the meal—the flawless dishes prepared by chef Michael Long, the beautiful wines poured in exquisite glassware, and the noteworthy service. Dishes arrive with aplomb but are whisked away unnoticed, water glasses are quietly kept full, and flatware magically appears. The waitstaff, obviously proud of the Opus experience, provides a level of service that is second to none. Plus, a little stroll around Old Town makes the evening just that much more pleasant. 2575 W. Main St., Littleton, 303-703-6787, www.opusdine.com

The Perfect Meal

If we could hop restaurants between courses, this would be our ultimate fantasy dinner.

Amuse Bouche: Opus
Whether it’s a taste of roasted bison with smoky cheddar popcorn crisps or a nibble of pistachio-encrusted Gorgonzola cheesecake, chef Michael Long’s amuses are artistic and bursting with flavor—all in one tiny bite. 2575 W. Main St., Littleton, 303-703-6787

Appetizer: Restaurant Kevin Taylor
Restaurant Kevin Taylor’s foie gras appetizer tastes of perfection: Seared foie gras takes the starring role, while caramelized cashews and a butterscotch gastrique harmonize on the sidelines. 1106 14th St., 303-820-2600

Soup: The Kitchen
The Kitchen’s simple tomato soup combines San Marzano tomatoes with onion, sea salt, artisan butter, and cream. Add a drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil over the top and this is a dish you’ll order every time. 1039 Pearl St., Boulder, 303-544-5973

Salad: Fruition
It’s rare we find a salad that needs neither salt nor pepper, but the Fruition salad—watercress, grilled asparagus, avocado, red onion, and crispy fried shallots—offers spot-on tang, freshness, and richness in each forkful. 1313 E. Sixth Ave., 303-831-1962

Entrée: Frasca Food and Wine
Frasca elevates simple ravioli by stuffing it with house-made ricotta, goat cheese, and roasted red peppers and pairing it with Cure Farms spinach. It only gets better when chef Lachlan Mackinnon-Patterson adds fresh lobster meat. 1738 Pearl St., Boulder, 303-442-6966, www.frascafoodandwine.com

Dessert: Duo
Pastry chef Yasmin Lozada-Hissom’s chocolate torte arrives crowned with a balancing fleur de sel caramel ice cream. 2413 W. 32nd Ave., 303-477-4141

The Taco Strategist

Here, we honor the city’s best and most authentic taquerías.

El Trompito Taquería
The Draw Tacos are served up simply at this strip-mall joint—warm corn tortillas wrapped around tender cubes of grilled chicken, marinated pork, or juicy beef. Our favorite is the shredded chicken taco ($1.75 each).
Tip Stop by the toppings bar and load up your tacos with crispy cabbage, lime wedges, spicy onions, and more. 1540 W. 70th Ave., 720-540-3483

Tacos Jalisco
The Draw Tender bits of steak, crisp pieces of bacon, and soft sautéed onions and peppers practically spill out of this restaurant’s popular tacos de alambre ($8.75). Melted cheese, guacamole, and sour cream add the final touches.
Tip The tacos are super-filling, so skip lunch on the day you plan to go. 4309 W. 38th Ave., 303-458-1437

Taquería Patzcuaro
The Draw When we want spicy, we head to this Highland staple and order the tacos albanil ($7.50), with slices of golden potatoes, sautéed onions, and juicy steak. Tip When you get a bite with jalapeño, don’t panic. Sit tight until the potatoes and steak provide balance. 2616 W. 32nd Ave., 303-455-4389, www.taqpatz.com

Los Carboncitos
The Draw A midday meal at this locale is straight out of Mexico. The house favorite is the taco al pastor ($1.50), whose slow-cooked pork filling comes topped with finely diced pineapple. Tip Order an icy rice and cinnamon horchata drink to sweeten the deal. 3757 Pecos St., 303-458-0880, www.loscarboncitos.com

Bargain Bites

Our go-to spots (by neighborhood) for dining well on a shoestring budget.

Congress Park/City Park:

Encore Restaurant
Sure, Encore’s filet mignon tops out at $29, but most of the menu (which boasts high-end, beautifully crafted eats) comes in under $15. What to order: The burger ($9) is topped with Gruyère, bacon, blue cheese compote, and arugula, and served with fries and a mustard drizzling sauce. 2550 E. Colfax Ave., 303-355-1112, www.encoreoncolfax.com

Park Hill:
Satchel’s Market
Located on the north edge of Park Hill, the well-worn Satchel’s Market serves up breakfast and lunch offerings for $10 or less. What to order: The voluptuous sammy ($8.50) with triple-cream cheese, prosciutto, and sautéed pears. Comes with a small, organic salad. 5021 E. 28th Ave., 303-355-2137, www.satchelsmarket.com

Downtown:
Biker Jim’s Sausage Cart
At this downtown street-food hotspot, a five-spot buys you chips, a drink, and one of Biker Jim’s piping-hot gourmet sausages. What to order: Peppery reindeer or Southwestern bison. Or stop by on Wednesdays and nab yourself a pheasant sausage. Be sure to try them topped with cream cheese and grilled onions. Corner of 16th and Arapahoe streets.

Cherry Creek:
Tambien
Tambien joins the ranks of the Cricket by bringing affordable and tasty eats to ever-expensive Cherry Creek. What to order: The mole rojo ($13) or the fajitas ($16). Portions are generous and can often feed two. 250 Steele St., 303-333-1763, www.tambien-restaurant.com

Belmar:
The Oven
We love the Oven’s wood-fired pizzas made with fresh, natural ingredients like house-made mozz and sausage from Marczyk Fine Foods. What to order: Pop in for the lunch special ($10.95) and snag a nine-inch signature pizza, field green salad, and drink. 7167 W. Alaska Drive, Lakewood, 303-934-7600, www.theovenpizzaevino.com

DIVERSIONS

BrewPub

EDITORS Bull & Bush Brewery
Glendale’s Bull & Bush Brewery doesn’t make the classic brewpub mistake: a myopic focus on the beer. Trust us, the beer is excellent—we’re huge fans of the Man Beer, a balanced American IPA, and the Tower ESB, a strong extra special bitter—but the Bull & Bush is actually an enjoyable place to hang out—even if you’re not drinking. It has the crowded, cozy fellowship of an English pub, blended with American elements—namely, flat-screen TVs and good food—that make time disappear. Our only complaint? You can’t get a six-pack of Man Beer at the liquor store. 4700 Cherry Creek South Drive, 303-759-0333

READERS Wynkoop Brewing Company
Despite opening 20 years ago, the Wynkoop Brewing Company hasn’t lost it. Tasty suds like the Railyard Ale and the spicy Patty’s Chile Beer—not to mention the savory grub, pool tables, and great events like “Beer Drinker of the Year” and the Impulse Comedy shows on the weekends—keep loyal customers returning time and again. 1634 18th St., 303-297-2700

Cocktails

EDITORS City, O’ City
When the vegetarian-food mecca WaterCourse Foods moved out of its old digs on 13th Avenue and over to 17th, we anxiously waited to see what new venture would appear. We never expected it would become one of our favorite spots for imbibing cocktails, but it has. In this hipster bar classic cocktails are making a comeback, so order an old standard or sample the daily special—a cocktail riff created nightly by the bar staff. The place is often overcrowded, but if you can manage to nab a seat at the bar they will let you stay for as long as you like. 206 E. 13th Ave., 303-831-6443, www.watercoursefoods.com

READERS The Cruise Room at the Oxford Hotel
For more than 70 years, the Cruise Room has been synonymous with cocktails. Shaken, stirred—it doesn’t matter. We just love what they serve in their Z-stem martini glasses. From the Vanilla Bean, which smells like a cookie, to the Classic, which can be finished with a twist or olive, you can’t go wrong. 1600 17th St., 303-825-1107, www.theoxfordhotel.com

Art Installation

EDITORS “Toxic Schizophrenia,” Museum of Contemporary Art
This sculpture of a biker-style heart tattoo—complete with a dagger dripping droplets of blood—contrasts with the Museum of Contemporary Art’s polished and reflective building on Delgany Street. And maybe that’s just the point British artists Tim Noble and Sue Webster wanted to make with the piece—to showcase street culture and capture their own rebellion. Located at the museum’s entrance, the electrical sculpture (titled: “Toxic Schizophrenia”) is best seen at night. 1485 Delgany St., 303-298-7554, www.mcartdenver.org

READERS “I See What You Mean” (aka: Big Blue Bear), Denver Convention Center
What’s big, and blue, and quite the Peeping Tom? The Big Blue Bear. 700 14th St., 303-228-8000, www.denverconvention.com

Neighborhood

EDITORS Berkeley
OK, the architecture is more hit-or-miss than favorites like Wash Park or Park Hill, but Berkeley is a neighborhood that still feels real—a genuine mix of old-timers, hipsters, artsy types, young couples, ethnic enclaves—flanked by two city parks and tied together by a growing dining and retail scene. The eight-block span of Tennyson Street that runs through the area plays host to one of Denver’s cooler First Friday scenes and serves as home to a growing number of galleries, indie businesses, boutiques, and restaurants (local faves Parisi, BigHoss Bar-B-Q, and DJ’s Berkeley Café, for starters). Bonus: For northwest Denver, affordable-ish single-family home options abound, as do new row homes and scrapes.

READERS Highlands (West Highland and Highland area)
It’s official: After years of crying “Wash Park!” our readers have shifted their love to this huge ‘hood anchored by the up-and-coming 32nd and Zuni district, along with the established and hopping Highlands Square. The Highland area lays claim to some of the hottest new restaurants and boutiques in the city, and boasts great front-stoop culture, an engaged community, plenty of parks, and easy access to downtown and the foothills—not to mention a decent real estate scene in an otherwise shaky market.

Hotel Bar

EDITORS Second Home
This new upscale watering hole at the back of the JW Marriott lobby in Cherry Creek (former home of Mirepoix) is just the spot for a cozy fireside chat with a glass of Napa Cellars Merlot or a breezy raspberry gimlet on the patio. The microbrew selection and reasonably priced wine list complement the tempting bar menu—comfort food with a delicate twist, like beer-battered baby artichokes and BBQ lamb riblets with green apple slaw. While the unpretentious service, warm decor, and comfy seating make for a relaxing experience, the space is elegant enough for a more formal soiree as well. 150 Clayton Lane, 303-253-3000, www.secondhomedenver.com

READERS The Cruise Room at the Oxford Hotel
Sipping a cocktail in the Oxford Hotel’s 1930s art deco lounge is like stepping back in time—to the day after Prohibition was repealed, to be precise. You can almost feel the history when you order one of the infamous martinis—a surreal reddish glow illuminates the historic panels lining the narrow room, which is modeled after a lounge on the plush Queen Mary ocean liner, circa 1936. Pssst: We swear those ghost stories are true. 1600 17th St., 303-825-1107, www.theoxfordhotel.com/cruise-room.htm

Sports Bar

EDITORS Blake Street Tavern
It’s fairly easy to park (except sometimes during Rockies’ games), the TVs are everywhere and intelligently organized into nooks of varying sizes (particularly useful during football season if you are a transplant and want to watch something other than CU or the Broncos), the menu is fresh and tasty, and the waitresses are, well, cute. Need we say more? 2401 Blake St., 303-675-0505, www.blakestreettavern.com

READERS Chopper’s Sports Grill
This wide-open pub features ample TVs (though not always ample seating and parking, depending on the event), a broad menu, and a Cherry Creek location that’s a welcome distance from the LoDo crush. Tip: If it’s too full and you still want to watch the game, the nearby Bull & Bush (our choice for Top Brewpub) is a great alternative with a good TV setup and a great pub-style menu. 80 S. Madison St., 303-399-4448

Dive Bar

EDITORS and READERS Don’s Mixed Drinks
If you’ve been to Denver’s best dive bar, count yourself as worldly. If you know that the bar’s real name is Don’s Club Tavern, count yourself as in-the-know. If you’ve lived here for more than a year and have never been, count yourself as a bad person. 723 E. Sixth Ave., no phone number

Bar for Live Music

EDITORS El Chapultepec
Before there was LoDo, there was El Chapultepec, a dive-y bar dishing up bad Mexican food and good jazz for the beatniks and down-and-out customers. Today, the clientele has changed—you’ll find a mix of postgame Rockies fans, middle-aged couples after dinner, and hipsters avoiding the LoDo party scene—but the bar and the jazz are still thankfully the same. 1962 Market St., 303-295-9126

READERS Herman’s Hideaway
The folks at Herman’s Hideaway have been introducing customers to bands ranging from reggae to hardcore since the early ’80s. They’ve also done it on the cheap—covers rarely cost more than $10—so you’ll still have some cash to buy a few beers and enjoy the show. 1578 S. Broadway, 303-777-5840, www.hermanshideaway.com

Gay Bar

EDITORS Charlie’s
There’s a country-western dance floor on one side, and a black-light, techno-pop dance room on the other. It’s home to the Colorado Gay Rodeo Association, and also home to the Monday-night underwear special (show up in your skivvies and get half-off drinks, boys only). No where else in Denver can you find a place more little-bit-country, little-bit-rock-‘n’-roll—and everyone gets along just dandy. But be forewarned: Restrooms are not necessarily gender-specific. 900 E. Colfax Ave., 303-839-8890, www.charliesdenver.com

READERS JR’s
With incredible weekly specials (Thursday nights it’s 50-cent drafts and half-off wells), one can get into all kinds of trouble, especially considering there are two bars, pool tables, and Rihanna videos blasting everywhere. Bonus: You just might get in a conversation (we did) with gay men about which celebrity women they would sleep with, if they had to. 777 E. 17th Ave., 303-831-0459, www.myjrs.com

Happy Hour Menu

EDITORS and READERS McCormick’s Fish House & Bar
Combing the city for the utmost happy hour menu, we found some incredible treasures: wings for a quarter, 2-for-1 sushi, and a 14-inch gourmet pizza for just $5. But nothing compared to the deals we found at McCormick’s. Its famed $1.95 menu has delicious steamed mussels and fish tacos. High rollers can get an ahi tuna burger and fries for around $3. That’s less than what it will cost you to park downtown. 1659 Wazee St., 303-825-1107, www.mccormickandschmicks.com

First Date

EDITORS Neighborhood Flix Cinema & Cafe
Dinner and a movie is the classic first-date scenario, right? The problem is that this classic date lacks innovation. That was, until Neighborhood Flix—Colfax’s neighborhood bistro meets art film house—opened its doors in the Lowenstein Center. Now you can sip on a cocktail, chat over a dinner, and watch a cool indie film, all in one place. And, if things go well, flip up the armrest and cuddle during the movie. Now that’s a lot more romantic than the local cineplex. 2510 E. Colfax Ave., 303-777-3549, www.neighborhoodflix.com

READERS Vesta Dipping Grill
While the décor sets the mood, the menu, which pairs a trio of dipping sauces with entrées, is the reason this spot is so darn date-friendly (interactive food—gives you something to play with). 1822 Blake St., 303-296-1970, www.vestagrill.com

Summer Festival

EDITORS Colorado Renaissance Festival
Here at 5280, we’re all about big, freakin’ legs of meat. So what better place to get your chomp on than at the Colorado Renaissance Festival in Larkspur? Grab a turkey leg, buy a jester’s hat, and keep your boyfriends/husbands away from those saucy wenches. www.coloradorenaissance.com

READERS Cherry Creek Arts Festival
Really, what did you expect? Whether it’s lookin’ or buyin’, this festival is tops for checking out the best of the regional art scene. Spend a day winding around booths or checking out the townsfolk. Slap down some cash and walk away with some original, regional culture. www.cherryarts.org

Theater Round-Up

Theaters abound in Denver, but these are our hands-down favorite destinations for catching a show.

Best place to see a semi-obscure band
With a tiered, mostly standing-room floor, an open balcony, good sound, and a self-contained mosh pit, the Bluebird hosts a wide variety of acts that are on their way up the fame ladder or cozily ensconced in their cult-following years. 3317 E. Colfax Ave., 303-377-1666, www.bluebirdtheater.net

Best place to see a borderline superstar band
Its sound quality varies, and it can get mighty hot during a crowded summer show, but the Fillmore’s size, history, and street cred still make it the place most busting-out bands would like to play. 1510 Clarkson St., 303-837-0360, www.fillmoreauditorium.com

Best place to see an outdoor show
Red Rocks. Duh. www.redrocksonline.com

Best art-house movie theater
Its ancient seats can get butt-bruisingly uncomfortable, but the Mayan still has Denver’s best selection of indie films shown in old-school surroundings. For more comfort, check out the new Neighborhood Flix. Mayan: 110 Broadway, 303-352-1992; Neighborhood Flix: 2510 E. Colfax Ave., 303-777-3549

Best place to see performing arts (or an indie film once a year)
Whether you’re an opera/ballet season ticket holder or seeing the opening-night movie at the Denver Film Festival, the Ellie Caulkins Opera House is Denver’s most beautiful venue—with luxurious seating and sweeping design. 950 13th St., 303-893-4100, www.denvercenter.org

Best place to wear a cowboy hat and feel totally in place
Even if country music isn’t your thing (which it should be…you live in Denver, after all), the Grizzly Rose is a must-see music venue. A mechanical bull, Coors in the bottle, and real-life cowboys (both urban and rural) abound. Plus, there’s the sing-along tunes. 5450 N. Valley Highway, 303-295-1330

Colorado-rama

The best of the square state.

Export: Dale’s Pale Ale
Lyons’ Oskar Blues has gotten a lot of love over the years, gathering attention in the New York Times, Men’s Journal, and even on The Today Show. Unlike other spotlight grabbers—ahem, Britney Spears—this attention has actually been earned. Quite simply, Dale’s is the best beer—can or bottle. It’s hoppy, strong, but eminently drinkable. And now that Oskar Blues is distributing across the country, the rest of America gets to savor our finest beverage.

Flower: Denver Daisy
The eponymous new Black-eyed Susan, named for the celebration of Denver’s 150th Anniversary (Nov. 22) makes its debut this summer.

Song: Rocky Mountain High
Last year, John Denver’s can’t-help-but-sing-along ballad became one of Colorado’s official state songs, thanks to state Senator Bob Hagadorn of Aurora, who got a resolution passed through both state houses. This, of course, earned Hagadorn attention from The Colbert Report. But before the jokes recommence: John Denver himself said the song refers to the high you get from the mountains.

Breakfast: Anything but the Denver Omelet
It pains us to admit it, but it’s true: The one food named after our city is plain gross. Who orders this for breakfast, anyway? Cheddar, ham, green peppers. Bo-ring. Besides, none of the ingredients are particularly Denver-y. Now, if it came with buffalo sausage, some salsa, a dash of sour cream…You writing this down, Snooze?

Snack: Elk jerky
Go into any gas station in Colorado and you’ll find plenty of jerky. But the best in the state is the elk jerky you’ll find on the side of the road in the high country from some guy selling it out of the back of a semi-sketchy van. Next time you think, “That looks good,” pull over.

Postcard-Worthy View: Independence Pass
The drive up Highway 82 is tight and narrow, but the top-of-the-world view at the summit is why postcards are printed.

PEOPLE

Athlete

EDITORS and READERS Matt Holliday
Sure, we’re only three months away from this year’s Fall Classic, but the Rockies’ remarkable playoff run in 2007 will not soon be forgotten. And the catalyst for it all was Matt Holliday, the 28-year-old bomber nationally known for his lip-first slide to end the playoff-play-in game versus San Diego. Not only did Holliday pound 36 homers and drive in 137 runs in 2007, en route to National League MVP consideration, the now-fifth-year outfielder has assumed the mantle of one of Major League Baseball’s true elite.

Politician

EDITORS Michael Bennet
Though the bookish superintendent of the Denver Public Schools system wasn’t elected to office—and hasn’t shown any inclination to run for one—we think he’s one of the savviest politicians in the city. In April, he used the newspapers to unveil his proposal to use student progress to reward and punish principals and teachers—neatly sidestepping objections of the teachers’ union. Bennet, who was the former chief of staff for Mayor Hickenlooper, also publicly supported the appointment of Republican Bruce Benson as president of the University of Colorado at a time when most Democrats were attacking him. Bennet‘s not immune to missteps—he was blasted for closing Manual High School in 2006—but he’s a quick learner. Last fall, he reopened Manual, placing Rob Stein, the widely respected former principal of Graland Country Day School and a former Manual grad, at the school’s helm. If he’s able to enact his plan for the Denver school system—and it succeeds—he’ll be able to run for any office he wants.

READERS John Hickenlooper
Our humble, boyish-looking, slightly goofy mayor continues to earn the love of Denverites—he’s won our readers’ choice award five years in a row—for his progressive, pragmatic style of politics. Under Hickenlooper’s leadership last year, Denver voters approved ballot amendments earmarking nearly $550 million to rebuild the city’s infrastructure and enhance its cultural institutions. It appears that the mild winter this year—along with beefed-up snow removal crews—removed the bad taste from 2006-2007’s disastrous snowstorms. Next month, the mayor—who’s been tagged as a rising star in the party—gets to show off his city to the rest of the nation’s Dems. We’ll all be watching to see how he’s received.

Loudmouth in Need of a Muzzle

EDITORS and READERS Douglas Bruce
Let’s be honest. “Loudmouth in Need of a Muzzle” is just a family-friendly way of saying “Jackass of the Year.” Put that way, it’s hard to think of a more worthy nominee than Douglas Bruce, the convicted slumlord and anti-tax crusader (see story on page 76). Not content with crippling the government’s ability to do what it’s obligated to do with his now-discredited TABOR amendment, Bruce wrangled an appointment to the Colorado Legislature, where he promptly began embarrassing the state at every opportunity—kicking a photographer and slandering legal Mexican workers as “illiterate peasants.” Douglas Bruce, on this issue readers and editors speak with one voice. You, sir, are a jackass.

Author

EDITORS Eli Gottlieb
You could say it’s been a good year for Boulder-based writer (and 5280 contributing editor) Eli Gottlieb. His second novel, Now You See Him, was published in February and received a starred review in Publisher’s Weekly, was optioned to Hollywood producer Jeff Sharp, whose previous credits include Boys Don’t Cry and You Can Count on Me, and, as of press time, has been on the Denver Post’s local best-seller list for more than 10 weeks. We could go on, but let’s just say: The guy can write. From Now You See Him: “This sense of continuity felt like a unique accomplishment, and if there was real ease when we finally fell into each other’s arms, there was a touch of relief as well—relief at the thought that the entire humiliating audition of running to and fro in the world with your heart in a lockbox, praying for a living soul to find the key, was over.” Precise, generous, humorous, and poignant—Gottlieb can do it all.

Theater Company

EDITORS Curious Theatre Company
For 10 years this theater troupe has tackled taboo modern themes: economic disparity and corporate evil, to name a few. Which means either you’ll end up weeping over the implications of driving lessons or you’ll bust your gut laughing about the misfortune of corporate millionaires. Some of the best performances lie in the middle, in purely masterful performances like The Denver Project, which weaves the art of hip-hop and beat-boxing into a powerful commentary on the homeless. 1080 Acoma St., 303-623-0524, www.curioustheatre.org

Local Band About to Get Big

EDITORS The Flobots
With a quirky, funky sound, a broadening fan base, and a summer tour schedule that will see them sharing the stage with numerous big-name acts, the Flobots are about to follow the Fray and DeVotchKa into the national music spotlight. The band’s unusual mix of hip-hop, rock, and classical influences was on display on the Carson Daly show in May, and they followed that with opening gigs for Cypress Hill, the Kooks, and others. Catch these locals this month at the Mile-High Music Festival. www.flobots.com

Artist

EDITORS Dale Chisman
What do we love about Dale Chisman’s abstract paintings? He has, in a series of brushstrokes, the ability to create both calm and chaos that coexist in shape and color. These are paintings that can be studied endlessly, each time giving up something new. And that’s certainly the reason this Denver painter’s pieces are part of the permanent collections of the Denver Art Museum, the Smithsonian Museum of American Art, and the Kirkland Museum. Right now he’s working on pieces for a 2009 show at the Museum of Contemporary Art. www.dalechisman.com

Humanitarian

EDITORS Tim Marquez
The son of two public-school teachers, Colorado native Tim Marquez has never forgotten his roots. Last year, Marquez (an oil executive) and his wife, Bernadette (a nurse), put up $42.5 million in stock to establish the Marquez Foundation, which addresses educational and health-care issues. If that weren’t enough, the couple donated another $50 million in 2006 to create the Denver Scholarship Fund, which aims to give scholarship money and laptop computers to all Denver Public Schools grads who need assistance.

Radio Talk-show Host

EDITORS and READERS Jay Marvin
Jay Marvin’s isolation as one of only a few left-wing voices on the local radio dial reminds us just how laughable the idea of the vast liberal media has become. And while Marvin (mornings on AM-760) wears his liberal views on his sleeve, he differs from his conservative rivals in another important way—he remains one of the last radio yakkers willing to have a conversation.

Entrepreneur

EDITORS E. Stanley Kroenke
If you watch sports in Denver, chances are that you’re either rooting for a Stan Kroenke-owned team (Avalanche, Crush, Mammoth, Nuggets, Rapids, or even the St. Louis Rams) or catching the game on Stan Kroenke’s television station (Altitude). In the last two years, the Missouri-native-cum-Denver-sports-mogul (and son-in-law to the late Wal-Mart cofounder Bud Walton) pulled the trigger on the deal that brought Allen Iverson to the Nuggets and built a soccer-only stadium in Commerce City for his Rapids. (By the way, have you checked out those adjacent rec fields?) A major player in the real estate market nationwide, you can find Kroenke’s projects throughout the metro area, such as the Pepsi Center (where he also has a home). Plus, he’s been chosen to create a line of merchandise for Denver’s 2008 Democratic Convention Host Committee. He just keeps going and going and going.

Columnist

EDITORS Al Lewis, Denver Post
OK, so the goatee’s gotta go (we kid only because we love), but Denver Post business columnist Al Lewis can’t be beaten in the fave-columnist category. What other journalist can wax poetic on the stupidity of Sharper Image, on the sex life of a local judge, and on the kicking ability of a certain Colorado Springs Republican (“Doug Bruce kicks like a little girl.”)? Yeah, we thought not. He’s a straight-talker, and if you’re not reading him you’re missing something special. http://blogs.denverpost.com/lewis/

READERS David Sirota
A transplant from Montana, Sirota is the up-and-coming voice for populist Democrats nationwide. Though the Los Angeles Times recently referred to him as a “liberal activist and former congressional aide,” Sirota’s columns run in at least two newspapers statewide and have put policies of both President George W. Bush and Senator Hillary Clinton in its crosshairs. In addition to his newspaper-writing duties, Sirota is a blogger and a best-selling author. His newest book, The Uprising, was released in May. www.davidsirota.com

Best Blog

READERS The Denver Egotist
We have to admit that it’s hard not to ignore our readers’ choice, the Denver Egotist (www.thedenveregotist.com). Committed to “helping Denver suck less,” particularly Denver’s advertising and marketing communities, the anonymous Egotist often crosses the line with criticism that forsakes being constructive for pettiness, but at its best he/she speaks truth to an all-too-complacent creative community.

SERVICE

Florist

EDITORS Bouquets
We hate getting phoned-in flowers. You know, gerbera daisies with some sprigs of willow, or blah mixed blooms with the odd iris to keep things interesting. You want interesting? Bouquets’ arrangements (ask for the tropical and exotic) are as fearless as they are lovely—kangaroo paws pairing with forsythia and palm fronds. There’s an Ikebana-esque sensibility to the precise choices and fierce editing of blooms, as well as sculptural modern containers (no frumpy fluted-glass vases here). Multiple locations, 303-333-5500, www.bouquetsonline.com

READERS The Perfect Petal
This hip Highland shop wins hearts with ever-changing store windows and some of the most artful displays of floral and home accoutrements in the metro—readers love ducking into this sweet florist/boutique for strange succulent houseplants, funky pottery, letter-pressed thank-you notes, and even vintage jewelry. 3600 W. 32nd Ave., 303-480-0966, www.theperfectpetal.com

Tailor

EDITORS Y&Y Tailoring and Alterations
The best thing about Y&Y, besides the friendly, efficient, and impeccable service, is the private fitting space. With a large mirror and several curtained-off dressing rooms, the try-on area is completely separate from the entryway where customers stand in line. No twirling about in front of strangers, no standing awkwardly in your too-big bridesmaid gown while Joe Schmoe from down the street picks up his suit jacket. And, for a totally doable price, pants always come back cuffed exactly as they were when you brought them in and requested four inches off the bottom. 2645 E. Second Ave., 303-377-9887

READERS Cherry Creek Tailoring and Alterations
Husband-and-wife team Hamdi and Kiraz Sahin of Turkey have been stitching away for 23 years in Cherry Creek, building themselves a faithful clientele. From the front counter you can see the back room where the craft happens, sewing machine and all, and feel confident that your suit/skirt/trousers/gown are going to come back like they were custom-made for you, just like you envisioned. Don’t be afraid to put a rush order on your request—they’ll be honest about the turnaround time. 211 Clayton St., 303-321-6278

Dog Groomer

EDITORS Vanity Fur
Located in South Hilltop, this huge pet salon has four certified groomers and more than 1,000 clients. The salon is lauded for its quick turnaround, so if you plan to stay, no need to bring a book. Besides, the wood-and-glass French doors allow you to watch Fido get beautified. Grooming starts at $38 (for small dogs) and includes two baths, nail trim, haircut, and paw cleaning. 5075 Leetsdale Drive, 720-974-5064, www.vanityfurpetsalon.com

READERS Takoda’s Pet Depot
Some kids had lemonade stands; Laura Thornburg had a dog-grooming stand. The former show-dog handler is now the head groomer of Takoda’s. She returns naturally groomed dogs with a scissor-finish trim. Splurge on the Comfort Spa treatment, which includes a choice of animal cologne. 7735 West Long Drive, Littleton, 303-932-7387, www.takodaspetdepot.com

Customer Service

EDITORS Ritz-Carlton, Denver
Sure, we expect ace service, what with the posh price point that accompanies all things Ritz-Carlton, but the arrival of the hotel in our fair city has brought a fresh level of excellence to downtown. The minute you cross the threshold, the refrain “my pleasure” is on the lips of every staff member. From valet to desk to hotel shop, even (and especially) to the service at Elway’s restaurant within, the level of calm, sophisticated attention is top-notch—and never snooty. Overheard from one happy guest on our latest visit: “Where do they import these people from?” 1881 Curtis St., 303-312-3800, www.ritzcarlton.com

READERS Nordstrom
Everyone’s got a Nordstrom story—the clerk who overheard you worrying about a hot date, hand-picked three perfect outfits, and brought them to your fitting-room; the sympathetic barrista at the café who gave your squalling toddler a nip of hot chocolate in his own tiny cup. Front to back, these folks know how to care for people. Multiple locations, www.nordstrom.com

Salon

EDITORS and READERS Luxe Salon
This LoDo institution pleases with a hip locale and concept, but what we bank on is Luxe’s consistency—evidenced by years of excellent client feedback and a roster of longtime industry pros with extensive training and top-notch credentials. Of note, too, is the relaxed and professional vibe in the salon. A visit is pleasant and client-centered, neither too clubby nor too ordinary, and service is low-pressure but attentive. Bonus: The junior staff is well trained and capable. 1743 Wazee St., 303-296-0166, www.luxesalon.com

Barbershop

EDITORS Al’s Barber Shop
This is not your father’s barbershop—there are no old-timers hanging out and debating the relative merits of Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier, and there are certainly no Playboys lying around (believe us, we looked). Instead, tucked among the swank Larimer Square eateries, Al’s offers a hip, urban environment with blond wood floors, exposed brick, and classic tunes from the likes of Bruce Springsteen and Tom Petty. Not least, the “barbers” (all women when we were there recently) know how to cut hair—they are fastidious, down to the straight blade they use to clean up your neck fuzz. It may be a little more expensive than your father’s barbershop (a cut with shampoo and conditioner runs $35 before tip), but, as they say, you get what you pay for. 1425 Larimer St., 303-534-1583

READERS Floyd’s 99 Barbershop
You really can’t go wrong at Floyd’s, with its friendly staff, clean cuts, and rock ‘n’ roll-poster decor. (Fun game: While waiting for your appointment, count how many of the bands on the posters were popular when you were in high school.) You want a buzz cut? Try Floyd’s. A faux-hawk? Ditto. And they’ll do a pretty darn good job on more conservative trims—if that’s your thing—for a price that won’t break the bank. Multiple locations, www.floydsbarbershop.com

Hairstylist

EDITORS Dana Huskey, Buhok Modern Hair
After 10 minutes in Dana Huskey’s chair we were already planning to schedule our next appointment. She had quickly analyzed the mess we were calling a hairdo and strategized a plan for updating our look. An hour and a half later, we were in silent awe as this detail-oriented, 17-year veteran fine-tuned our strands like she was working on a piece of art. Our hair as art? You bet. And that’s why we’ll be going back in six weeks. 3195 Blake St., 303-295-2300, www.buhokmodernhair.com

READERS Matthew Morris, Matthew Morris Salon
Some might balk at the months-long waiting list for an appointment with Matthew Morris, but his legion of die-hard fans just provides testament that the anticipation is well-worth it. Morris brings Big Apple fashion to Denver’s streets, crafting ‘dos that are runway-worthy and hiking-trail compatible. 277 Broadway, 303-715-4673, www.matthewmorrissalon.com

Colorist

EDITORS Jeffery Miller at Flirt

A co-owner of Flirt salon, Jeffery Miller has a knack for using color to complement skin tone, eye color, and hairstyle, rather than just covering up gray. Plus, we found when he goes a bit lighter around the visage it really brightened us up. But with his skillful color technique and charmingly sweet personality, don’t expect to get a last-minute appointment; Miller’s top clients know his schedule fills up fast. 1039 S. Gaylord St., 720-570-3540

Massage

EDITORS Elixir
Not all massages are created equal. Anyone who’s ever had a bad one can attest to that. But what makes a good massage a great massage? Affordability, a comfy setting, good use of pressure, and customizable options. We found all four of these elements at Elixir, an unassuming massage-focused spa in LoDo. The hour-long signature massage costs only $65, the treatment rooms are completely cozy, and massage therapist Lisa Stacey took time to ask us our preferences (we wanted her to concentrate on the upper body) while adjusting her pressure throughout the treatment to suit our desk-weary muscles. 1518 Wazee St., 303-571-4455, www.elixirinlodo.com

READERS Woodhouse Day Spa Denver
Located just off 17th Avenue in Denver’s Uptown district, the Woodhouse Day Spa caters to an eclectic crowd of young urbanites, brides-to-be, and suburban moms taking a day in the city. That diverse clientele, much like our ultra-knowledgeable readers, understands that at Woodhouse a spa-goer can find peace, relaxation, and a darn good full-body massage. We usually go with the old standby—a one-hour Swedish massage ($80)—but the sports and joint relief and neck and shoulder relief massages certainly don’t disappoint. 941 E. 17th Ave., 303-813-8488, www.denver.woodhousespas.com

Manicure & Pedicure

EDITORS Ten20
Sex and the City reruns on a giant screen. A Diet Coke-filled mini-fridge. M&M’s everywhere. Oh, yes, and the manis and pedis. Have you died and gone to chick heaven? Nope, you’ve just made your way up Highway 36 to Boulder’s first-class nail spot, Ten20. Situated at the corner of 20th and Pearl streets, this funky-clever business boasts cushy chairs for pedicures, tall tables for the manis, and a swanky retail area, all of which have a perfect view of the giant TV screen. We got a French mani and pedi that looked elegant, but it was the detailed filing and cuticle removal that will bring us back for more. 2005 Pearl St., Boulder, 720-565-1020, www.ten20.tv

READERS Tootsies, the Nail Shoppe
This retro-cool nail salon, complete with Audrey Hepburn posters and fancy teal walls, is hard to beat for more reasons than one. We appreciate the salon’s focus on hygiene—no jets in the pedi tubs, and new files for every customer. We also love the fact that the manis and pedis seem to last a week longer than the ones we’ve gotten at the quickie places in town. Note: They’ve opened a new, equally adorable location on Tennyson. 1021 S. Gaylord St., 720-570-0971; 4230 Tennyson St., 303-433-0898, www.tootsiesnailshoppe.com

Facial

EDITORS The Retreat on Larimer
What makes a great facial? First, your aesthetician should talk to you about your skin, examine it, and then treat it according to its condition (this part isn’t necessarily enjoyable…extractions, ugh). Then comes the relaxing part. Creams, moisturizers, and hydrating masks massaged into the face, neck, shoulders, arms, and hands. If you find yourself nodding in and out of sleep during this stage of the facial, your therapist is doing something right. At the Retreat on Larimer, a two-year-old hideaway just north of downtown, they get it all right. Licensed aesthetician Jaclyn Losie performs the spa’s 90-minute signature facial ($110) so capably that, even after an hour and a half, you’ll be begging for more. 2111 Larimer St., 303-292-4600, www.theretreatonlarimer.com

Eyebrow Wax

EDITORS Brows on Upper 15th
We threw the ultimate test at this perennial favorite: We hid our tweezers for two months and walked into our appointment with a pair of very unkempt eyebrows. Amber, our unlucky aesthetician, pondered the situation for a full two minutes before setting to work. The result? Graceful but effortless-looking brows. And, if that weren’t enough to win us over, the staff’s patience when we showed up atrociously late did. 2540 15th St., 720-855-3021, www.browsonupper15th.com

READERS Studio Urban Wax
The aestheticians at Studio Urban Wax are all about making you feel comfortable. So next time you head in to clean up your brow line, bring along your iPod—they totally don’t mind if you’re not in the mood to chit-chat. 40 S. Broadway, 303-325-3479, www.studiourbanwax.com

Bikini Wax

EDITORS Studio Urban Wax
Getting a bikini wax is one of those necessary evils. Then we walked into Studio Urban Wax’s new location. The spacious room—no claustrophobic cubicle-like rooms here—was filled with natural sunshine, and the easygoing conversation of our waxer, Rebekah, meant that the dreaded bikini was actually quite pleasant. We left with such a confident grin that when we met up with a friend a few minutes later she couldn’t believe we’d just been waxed. 40 S. Broadway, 303-325-3479, www.studiourbanwax.com

READERS Wax in the City
With discreet online booking, a no-tipping policy, and three locations—in LoDo, the Tech Center, and Boulder—it’s no surprise that Wax in the City is your pick for a bikini wax. And their extended hours (as late as 7 p.m.) ensure that you can often nab a same-day emergency appointment. Multiple locations, www.waxinthecity.com

Health Club

EDITORS Pura Vida Fitness & Spa
If you’re going to sweat, you might as well do it in style. At Pura Vida, Cherry Creek North’s new athletic club, you can do nearly anything—Pilates, spin class, yoga, kinesis, treadmill, free weights—in a setting with flair to spare. The sleek, four-level club dresses out in pale blue and brown hues, which accent the clean white walls adorned with contemporary art. But while the decor is fabulous (even the locker rooms have panache), it’s the first-class equipment (TVs on every treadmill) and accessible yoga and Pilates classes (many of which are included in membership) that really get your heart pounding. 2955 E. First Ave., 303-321-7872, www.puravidaclub.com

READERS Denver Athletic Club
It’s really hard to disagree with you on this one, folks. The Denver Athletic Club, with its combination of elegance and hard-core fitness, feels exactly how you’d want your gym to feel. Plus, there’s rarely a wait for machines, the pool always has an open lane, and the café serves up killer smoothies. 1325 Glenarm Place, 303-534-1211, www.denverathleticclub.org

Shoe Repair

EDITORS Westerfield Cobblers
When we took a long lunch to drop off our broken boots, the friendly owner, Frank Westerfield, offered a practical, affordable solution for fixing our beloved shoes. It’s no wonder 5280’s fashion editor takes her shoes here, and nowhere else. www.westerfieldcobblers.com

READERS Dardano’s Shoes
After three generations of reheeling, restitching, and resoling the shoes of Denver, the Dardano family is pretty confident that if it’s broke they can fix it. 1550 S. Colorado Blvd., 303-692-9355, www.dardanos.com

Car Wash

EDITORS Waterway Gas & Wash
Quick and thorough, with locations everywhere in the metro area, Waterway is the place to take your car before putting it up for sale. Pay the extra money for the mat shampoo. Multiple locations, www.waterway.com

READERS Fire House Car Wash
Great service + great wash = Denver’s best destination for your extra-filthy vehicle. Multiple locations

Veterinary Clinic

EDITORS Alameda East
Excellent general-practice care can be found at Alameda East, but it might be better known for the famous crew from TV’s Emergency Vets (you watch Animal Planet, right?), as well as the top-flight grooming services, “lodge” boarding options, physical therapy programs, and world-renowned advances in animal prosthetics. 9770 E. Alameda Ave., 303-366-2639, www.alamedaeast.com

READERS Firehouse Animal Health Centers
Locally based chain Firehouse Animal Health Centers wins high marks from our readers—the hip, friendly practices offer well-rounded care (including dental) as well as a special mobile animal health service, with hospitals-on-wheels making house calls for routine check-ups as well as at-home euthanasia. Multiple locations, www.myfirehouse.com

Adventures at the Spa

You’ve done the usual manicures and massages. Ready for something a little more daring?

Flotation A New Spirit Wellness Center & Spa
($40 per hour) This therapy definitely leans on the New Age-y side of spa treatments, but there’s no denying the relaxation it affords. Climb into a futuristic-looking, compact car-size, soundproof tank filled with a foot of highly concentrated warm salt water; then lie back and float. It’s said to renew energy and alleviate pain. That all may be true, but we simply thought it felt cool. 4907 W. 29th Ave., 303-477-1652, www.anewspirit.com

Marma Point Head Treatment: Spa Universaire
($62 for 30 minutes) According to Ayurvedic tradition—the ancient healing system of India—there are more than 40 pressure points on the face and scalp. In this half-hour “massage,” a therapist’s light touch stimulates these “energy centers,” which they say helps clear the mind and “cleanse blocked energy.” Or, it just might put you to sleep, which is good, too. 475 W. 12th Ave., 303-629-9070, www.spauniversaire.com

Reiki: Reiki School of Denver
($100 per hour) While you lie on a comfy spa bed, the administrator gently places her hands on your body, allowing “universal life-force energy” to flow from her into the areas that most need it in your weary bod. And, though it could be the power of persuasion, it feels like you’ve just had an hour-long deep-tissue massage. 303-800-4482, www.reikidenver.com

Raindrop Therapy: Aspenfalls Spa
($100 for 75 minutes) The treatment, which gets its name from the droplets of essential oils (spruce, fir, cedarwood, and ylang ylang) that are applied from about six inches above the neck and back, sends a tingling sensation throughout the body. The light massaging motion easily lulled us to the edge of sleep. But the piney aroma of the oils kept us awake just enough to enjoy it. 880 Happy Canyon Road, Castle Rock, 303-660-1511; 5425 Landmark Place, Greenwood Village, 303-221-5995

Party People

If we were planning an event (and we often are), here’s who we’d call for help.

Venue: The Lab at Belmar
The art gallery meets cultural learning center meets community space at the Lab is home to diverse lecture series and international exhibits. Use the elegant space for your next party and you can be assured that your guests will have plenty to talk about. Though, since it’s in the ‘burbs, you might want to arrange for taxi rides home. 404 S. Upham St., Lakewood, 303-934-1777, www.belmarlab.org

Food: Big Bang Catering
When this Boulder-based company—which was featured on celebrity chef Bobby Flay’s Food Nation—caters an event, the preparation starts months beforehand: The vegetables, herbs, and flowers used in Big Bang’s dishes are grown on its 35-acre, organic Pastures of Plenty farm. P.O. Box 4361, Boulder, 303-447-8900, www.bigbangcatering.com

Liquor: Sip Fine Wine & Spirits
The last time we popped into Sip to grab a bottle of wine for dinner, we couldn’t help but eavesdrop on owner Jim Rice’s end of a phone conversation with a catering client. We already knew that we loved this intimate wine store’s wide selection of varietals and prices, but when we saw how friendly and accommodating Rice was, we were sold on using him for our next soiree. 1920 Market St., 303-298-9463, www.sipwinedenver.com

Invites: The Paper Lady
Rosie G. Wiedenmayer really is the paper lady. She searches far and wide for the trendiest, sweetest, most modern paper products so that when you walk in the door of her Wash Park store, all you have to do is point at your favorite and nod. She’s a one-stop shop for all types of invites, from formal weddings to informal baby showers. 2125 E. Mississippi Ave., 303-722-6877, www.paperladyonline.com

SHOPPING

New Boutique

EDITORS A. Line Boutique
This Greenwood Village boutique still has that new-store smell, but we’re confident it will soon become a regular shopping destination for Denver women. The store has an elegant, urban vibe (architecturally, the ceiling arches recall a New York subway) and you won’t find any pushy salespeople here—just gorgeous updates on classic pieces. The ever-expanding list of designer labels—including Catherine Malandrino, Rag & Bone, and Tibi—has owners Mary Alice Malone and Sarah McLaughlin already planning to annex the adjoining space, with an opening planned for September. 5375 Landmark Place, Greenwood Village, 303-773-8200, www.aline-online.com

READERS DS Additions
Walk into Cherry Creek’s DS Additions and it feels like you’re walking into a friend’s closet. And really, that is what you’re doing. Co-owners—and friends—Danielle Goldyn and Samantha Holloway (the “D” and “S” in the name) opened the store last fall to share their style with Denver women. It’s a good place to find that finishing touch—a shiny clutch or delicate necklace—but the clothing options are limited. 2432 E. Third Ave., 303-322-3531, www.dsadditions.com

Bicycles

EDITORS and READERS Wheat Ridge Cyclery
Let’s say you love bikes (like we do). Now, let’s say, sometimes, even though you already have a pretty cool bike (or bikes), you like to slip away on the weekend and ogle ridiculously beautiful carbon-fiber steeds and check out the latest bib shorts and ultra-light helmets. Where do you go? Turns out we all go to Wheat Ridge Cyclery—so it’s a good thing it’s got 40,000 square feet. From the massive selection of road and mountain rides, to the expert—and nonsnooty—staff, to the fit studio, Wheat Ridge is a bike geek’s paradise. If you haven’t already, sneak away on a Saturday or Sunday afternoon and see for yourself. 7085 W. 38th Ave., Wheat Ridge, 303-424-3221, www.ridewrc.com

Eyewear

EDITORS DisRespectacles
This Platte Street store feels like a hip art gallery, not a prescription glasses store. That’s because the New York chain’s Denver outpost makes eyewear an art form. Let manager Heidi Tanner (right) show off her talents by asking her to pick styles off the wall for you. She’ll take a few risks, but you’ll find a trendy-sophisticated pair to perch on your nose. 1550 Platte St., 303-458-0500, www.disrespectacles.com

READERS Europtics
From lightweight designer frames made of surgical steel to sport-friendly Oakleys, Europtics’ huge selection of eyewear is good for Colorado’s schizophrenic lifestyle interests. The busy staff is helpful and honest, gently pointing out flaws and telling you when they love a pair. Multiple locations, www.europtics.net

Contemporary Furniture

EDITORS Studio Como
It’s Euro-modern with a Denver twist at Studio Como (the “Como” is short for Colorado Modern). Owner Brad Fentres opened the furniture and kitchen showroom this December in the former P Design Gallery space in Walnut Street’s emerging art district. And it’s in this supremely sleek store—with requisite exposed brick and concrete floors—that he’s introducing Denver to some of Europe’s more approachable contemporary lines. Look for wooden chairs by De La Espada and sofas from Cassina. 2590 Walnut St., 303-296-1495, www.studiocomo.com

READERS Room & Board
Sure, Room & Board is a chain…but it’s one of those really good chains. There are only a handful of showrooms across the country, and each store looks and feels independent (the Cherry Creek shop was designed by Denver’s Roth + Sheppard Architects). Plus, the furniture is architecturally interesting, not trendy or catalogue-y. 222 Detroit St., 303-322-6462, www.roomandboard.com

Bookstore

EDITORS Boulder Book Store
This gem of a bookstore has been locally owned and operated since David Balduc opened it on Pearl Street in 1973. Today, its three levels of paper-bound treasures, creaky wooden floors, and quirky-brilliant clientele pretty much solidify its reputation as a literati institution—one that draws author readings by the likes of Chuck Klosterman and Barbara Ehrenreich (even, shameless plug, 5280 contributing editor Dougald MacDonald). 1107 Pearl St., 303-447-0064, www.boulderbookstore.booksense.com

READERS The Tattered Cover Book Store
This Denver bookstore (now with three locations) keeps sweeping the vote year after year, and for good reason: It rules the literary school. In addition to thousands of books and magazines, Tattered Cover boasts lectures, film previews, author readings, and children’s events on topics ranging from quilting to space exploration. Plus, you can always find cozy seating and in-store coffee shops for that escape into an urban wonderland of words. Multiple locations, www.tatteredcover.com

Women’s Clothing (Affordable)

EDITORS Sarah
Don’t you just love it when someone stops you on the street and asks, “Where did you get that?” It’s a feeling only surpassed, really, by the thrill of a great bargain. That’s why Wash Park boutique Sarah is one of our favorite places to shop. The adorable store features a great mix of showstoppers by exclusive designers (Trinka Turk) and basics by well-known affordable labels (3-Dots). We love exploring the racks for the good finds, which make the mini-splurges all the more satisfying. Hint: Sign up for Sarah’s e-mail newsletter to stay in the know on monthly sales. (At one sale we got a pair of Billy Blues dress pants for 75 percent off!) 1067 Old S. Gaylord St., 303-482-2299, www.sarah-denver.com

READERS Nordstrom
We have to admit, we thought it was a bit odd when you guys voted Nordstrom as both the affordable and splurge option for readers’ choice. But then we thought about it, and you’re kinda right. Nordstrom has a great cross-section of price points, great for any budget. We love trolling the teeny-bopper Brass Plum section for the season’s more disposable, “right now” trends at great prices. Multiple locations, www.nordstrom.com

Men’s Clothing (Affordable)

EDITORS Players

Most guys don’t like shopping, and we think we know why: They don’t know how to do it. But at Players, a man gets some help. The store’s knowledgeable staff is on point to assist even the most style-challenged; for those requiring extra attention, they even offer after-hours personal wardrobe consulting (at both locations). But even better, the handsome selection of tailored-but-modern sport and business wear is priced well for the quality. That means you can stock up every time you go (translation, less shopping time). We think a guy could get used to a store that makes buying clothes this easy. 1501 Wazee St., 303-752-9377; 5425 Landmark Place, Greenwood Village, 303-752-9377, www.playersclothing.com

Women’s Clothing (Splurge)

EDITORS Max
What keeps Denver’s fashionable women going back to Max, year after year? Owner Max Martinez—and his uncanny ability to deliver the biggest names in high-end and contemporary fashion. From young designers like Phillip Lim to established ready-to-wear labels such as Miu Miu, Martinez cultivates a mix and a vibe that make us feel like we’re shopping in New York City. 3039 E. Third Ave., 303-321-4949; 1177 Walnut St., Boulder, 303-449-9200; 609 E. Cooper Avenue, Aspen, 970-544-3445, www.maxfashion.com

READERS Nordstrom

Nordstrom’s debut in Cherry Creek last year took Denver shopping up a notch, offering brands like Proenza Schouler, Burberry Prorsum, and Andrew Gn. Indeed, as Nordstrom makes the march toward luxury, we gladly follow. Multiple locations, www.nordstrom.com

Men’s Clothing (Splurge)

EDITORS Andrisen Morton Men

A favorite for the business crowd, this Cherry Creek mainstay is well known for its fine array of Italian suits. But also turn to AMM for your sportswear needs, including looks from Bruno Cucinelli and Robert Talbott. Bonus: This fall, the former shoe department becomes an entire space dedicated to the coveted Italian line Isaia. 270 St. Paul St., 303-377-8488, www.andrisenmorton.com

READERS Nordstrom

Our readers really love their Nordstrom—even the boys. And for good reason: From casual to sportswear and even suits, a guy will get the look he wants. Multiple locations, www.nordstrom.com

Fine Jewelry

EDITORS Art & Soul Gallery
Gorgeous jewelry is probably the last thing you’d expect to find at this Boulder art gallery—and that’s just the way owner Debbie Klein likes it. When you walk in, of course, the first thing you notice is the artwork—colorful contemporary pieces adorn every wall. But take one look in the cases and let the drooling commence. Klein selects lines based on their quality, design, and craftsmanship. Hence, the treasure trove of today’s hottest designers: Alex Sepkus, Stephen Webster, and Gurhan. Klein’s artistic eye has even made Art & Soul a favorite of eclectic brides-to-be looking for something extraordinary. 1615 Pearl St., Boulder, 303-544-5803, www.artandsoulboulder.com

READERS Hyde Park

Known for its attentive customer service and sumptuous selection of classic and contemporary fine jewelry, Hyde Park is always a reader favorite. Whether it’s a chic Mikimoto pearl necklace, Kwiat sparkling diamond earrings, or a delicate gold and semiprecious stone bracelet by Marco Bicego, Hyde Park has something to please almost everyone’s taste and budget. 3000 E. First Ave., 303-331-7756, www.hydeparkjewelers.com

Jeans

EDITORS The Blues Jean Bar
When we sidled up to the bar at the Cherry Creek branch of this West Coast chain, we presented the impossible: our own description of the perfect pair of jeans. The bartender/salesperson didn’t even bat an eye but pulled three different styles off the bar and sent us to the dressing room. First pair? Perfect fit. Second pair? An even more perfect fit. Third pair? Well, we purchased those. The dressing rooms are each equipped with hand mirrors, so you can check out your derrière before heading out to the three-way to model. And, as a nice touch, the staff is quick to pull out a pair of heels or flip-flops so you can make sure your favorite shoes will work with your new favorite pair of jeans. 250 Fillmore St., 720-542-3756, www.thebluesjeanbar.com

READERS The Garment District
If options are what you want, it’s options you’ll get in this denim hotspot on South Colorado Boulevard. With dozens of styles to choose from (Rock & Republic, Citizens, Seven), you’ll find a pair of jeans for a night on the town and a trip to the coffeeshop. Once you’re stocked up on denim, don’t forget to browse the stellar selection of purses, shoes, and accessories to complete your outfit. 2595 S. Colorado Blvd., 303-757-3371, www.garmentdistrict.com

Women’s Shoes

EDITORS Two Sole Sisters
We might sound like shoe divas with an obsession for all things south of the ankle, but we are totally enamored with this sparkly new shop on East Pearl Street in Boulder. Intrigued by the teal, ankle-wrap sandals beckoning from the front window display (Jeffrey Campbell, $98), we popped in to the three-month-old boutique to find a lovely selection of cute flats by Biviel, flirty stilettos by Oh…Deer, and a Brazilian fair-trade line called Corso Como, whose kicks are not only fashion-forward, they’re also straight-up comfy, thanks to the gel inserts in the foot-bed. Socially responsible, waaaay hot, and walkable? Have we died and gone to heaven? 1703 Pearl St., Boulder, 303-442-0404, www.twosolesisters.com

READERS Strut
All wedge-o-philes know where they belong: That’s right—in the shoe-and-handbag heaven we call Strut, where classy peep-toe pumps and bold ‘n’ sassy platforms call to you from the shelves. From this season’s way-hot gladiator styles (try Dolce Vita or Cocobelle) to that perfect pair of wedge-heel, ankle-strap kicks (Frye has several options), this sunny Tennyson Street shop is where it’s at for shoe lovers who can’t resist gotta-have-’em foot candy—especially when the already-affordable selections (those sexy, mid-calf boots you drooled over all winter) go on sale. 3877 Tennyson St., 303-477-3361, www.strutdenver.com

Ski and Snowboard Gear

EDITORS and READERS Colorado Ski & Golf
After the Gart family sold their stake in the Gart Sports chain—which was later gobbled up by Sports Authority—they started Colorado Ski & Golf to focus not just on selling to customers but also on serving them. That service, which includes a guarantee to match competitors’ prices and happiness with gear, has won eight consecutive gold medals from SKI magazine—and helped the Gart family expand from one store to four. Multiple locations, www.coloradoskiandgolf.com

Wedding Gowns

EDITORS Andrisen Morton Bridal
We’re all about personal flair when it comes to our wedding looks—unexpected color or subtle, beautiful detailing—and that is the very essence of Andrisen Morton’s bridal department. We love the Carolina Herrera selection (in particular the strapless fan bodice), the removable-skirt concept (floor-length becomes mid-length for the reception), and the sweet trumpet-shaped gown with flattering pastel lace at the waist. Other classics like Vera Wang and fresh couture like Amsale make for an appealing variety and elegant overall experience. 210 St. Paul St., 303-321-0404, www.andrisenmorton.com/bridal

READERS Anna Bé
Ode to Anna Bé: We love you because of your beautiful, hip, tasteful gowns and affordable-yet-elegant designers. We love you because of your savvy vibe and laid-back ambience. We love you because bling is not part of your vocabulary. And we especially love you because we don’t feel like cupcakes on a pedestal when we try on your gowns. 3215 Zuni St., 720-855-1111, www.anna-be.com

Maternity

EDITORS Decade
Tucked in the back room of our favorite eclectic gift haven are racks and tables of maternity garb brimming with sweet empire-waist tops, sassy printed tees, comfy lounge and yoga pants, and baby-doll-esque tanks. Affordable designers like Juliet Dream and Maximum Mama make shopping for nine months (technically 10 months, right moms?) a breeze. A must-have: the Warm-Weather Survival Kit for Maternity, which includes a sleeveless top, cap-sleeve dress, basic skirt, and pants in soft, black cotton-spandex—all packaged into one adorable, ready-made box-to-go ($152). 56 S. Broadway, 303-733-2288

READERS Belly Maternity
You are spot-on in choosing a shop where the maternity wear is cute and trendy enough to covet as everyday wear (i.e., when you’re no longer dressing for two). The tasteful frocks and bold, patterned tunic tops, gathered and cinched in all the right places, look like they could hang in any high-end fashion boutique. Look for Olian, Jules and Jim, and T Bags. Plus, we are digging the under-the-tummy Chip & Pepper jeans that’ll make you the cutest preggy in town. 3003 E. Third Ave., 303-320-1150, www.bellymaternity.com

Baby Boutique

EDITORS Bugabee Baby Boutique
Thornton mom Heather Landois opened her independent baby shop at FlatIron Crossing last year (and just relocated into a newer storefront near Dillard’s in June). Blessed with great taste and good buying instincts, Landois stocks the store with beautiful and contemporary pieces for the nursery—like Dwell Studios crib sets. Plus funky-fun threads for baby—like tops from Bella Serra Baby (a Denver company). Bonus: Most of the lines she carries are sustainable or green, and many are local. 1 W. Flatiron Circle, Broomfield, 303-464-1720, www.mybugabee.com

Pet Boutique

EDITORS Ciji’s Natural Pet Supplies
Snow booties? Check. Natural kitty chow? Check. Park Hill’s favorite pet store has nearly anything your four-legged friends might want. And without getting too pointed, this place is refreshingly different from most modern pet boutiques in one important way: It’s all about the animals and not the people. Meaning, you won’t find rhinestone-studded, pink-satin outfits for your pug. Plus, friendly owner Bonnie Simpson always greets your mutt with a tasty treat from the biscuit-filled glass case. 2260 Kearney St., 303-322-8000

READERS Mouthfuls
For the second time in three years, this Berkeley neighborhood pet shop has garnered high praise from our readers. And we know why: The store is full of its own delightful products (Doggone Fresh Breath Mints for dogs), as well as a variety of other pet paraphernalia. We like the treat tasting bar (think candy store for animals), the loaded bakery case, and the Barker’s Dozen Food program, which gives you a free bag of food for every 12 you purchase. Honorable mention: Takoda’s Pet Depot in Littleton gave Mouthfuls a run for its money. Readers love the big-box-like convenience (it’s a regional chain) with a little-box feel. Mouthfuls: 4224 Tennyson St., 720-855-7505, www.mouthfuls.net; Takoda’s Pet Depot: 7735 W. Long Drive, Littleton, 303-932-7387, www.takodaspetdepot.com

Traditional Furniture

EDITORS Nielsen-Metier
It might be new to Santa Fe Drive, but Nielsen-Metier is one of the city’s most well-established showrooms, with more than 15 years in the Denver design business. Owner Richard Nielsen made the leap from the Design District last summer and so far has been very well received in the art district. Look for the same brands—Pierre Frey fabrics and Summer Hill furniture, to name a few—elegantly arranged in the new space (a former motorcycle garage). Ask about owner Richard Nielsen’s gorgeous canvases that the Santa Fe artists have been scooping up since he first put them out for sale a couple of months ago. (We hear that Nielsen is thinking about phasing out the furniture to focus on artwork sales. So shop there now while you can.) 965 Santa Fe Drive, 303-722-0072

Eclectic Furniture

EDITORS Ashley Campbell
Your husband wants everything modern. You prefer something just a tad more feminine. You’re having a really hard time finding a compromise, so everything in your house is beige. Sound familiar? Ashley Campbell’s got your back. Her eye for style is completely gender-neutral, focusing on one thing: elegance. Plus, she’s an interior designer, so she can help settle disagreements, lickety-split. 262 Fillmore St., 303-996-6195, www.ashleycampbell.com

Home Accessories

EDITORS Homefest
Mike and Lindy Di Paulo opened Homefest 11 years ago as a sister store to their wildly successful Fort Collins location. Today, the beautifully staged home-goods emporium is something of a mainstay for the Littleton and Cherry Hills set. And there’s only one reason they’ve stayed so popular in today’s Crate & Barrel/Williams-Sonoma world: selection. Find Le Jacquard Français linens, Arte Italica flatware, and candlesticks of every imaginable shape and size—plus an enthusiastic and helpful staff. 6002 S. Holly St., Greenwood Village, 303-741-3920

READERS Crate & Barrel
We walked into Crate & Barrel one day looking for candles and left with two throw pillows, a new set of red-wine glasses, plus an avocado slicer (the last item, admittedly, was an impulse buy). The point is: Anything you need, they’ve got…and then some. Multiple locations, www.crateandbarrel.com

Music Store

EDITORS and READERS Twist and Shout
Despite its way-too-cluttered space, less-than-intuitive organization, and listening stations that are awkwardly positioned and work only about half the time, Twist and Shout still has the broadest selection of well-priced new and used CDs, vinyl, and DVDs. But the door is open to any challengers that want to step up. 2508 E. Colfax Ave., 303-722-1943, www.twistandshout.com

Children’s Bookstore

EDITORS Simon Says Read
Located in Stapleton Town Center, this independently owned kids’ bookstore carries a plethora of books for the wee ones. The store hosts birthday parties and story times, as well as an everyday 20 percent discount on best sellers for grown-ups. Parents with strollers will appreciate the open floor plan; all will appreciate the super-friendly and accommodating staff. 7349 E. 29th Ave., 303-333-7323, www.simonsaysread.net

READERS The Tattered Cover Bookstore
Harry Potter parties, young poet contests, story times, banned books essay contests…this bookseller has it all for little readers. Multiple locations, www.tatteredcover.com

Living Room 201

Sure, you’ve got the basics—the sofa, the coffee table, the entertainment hutch—but your living room feels like it needs a little something…special. Here are a few of our favorite stores for glamming up your home.

Occasional Chairs: HW Home
From upholstered wingbacks to leather clubs to salons, HW Home has an accent chair for any style. All of HW’s pieces are made with fine craftsmanship, which, of course, you’ll pay for. But they’ll last you a lifetime. Multiple locations, www.hwhome.com

Lamps: Conrad Lee Gallery
This Broadway newcomer has absolutely gorgeous home accessories (both refurbished antiques and new), but its selection of one-of-a-kind lamps—handcrafted by storeowners Jim Johnson and Paul Franke—and the sconces are what really wow us. 238 N. Broadway, 303-722-1005, www.conradlee.com

Wall Art: Piñon Fine Art
We’ve learned to count on this elegant Littleton gallery for some of the best landscape oils by Western artists. You’re bound to find the perfect canvas for that empty spot above the fireplace. 2510 W. Main St., Littleton, 303-733-3133, www.pinonfineart.com

Rugs: Swank Space
This Highland mainstay moved to Cherry Creek North where it fills the urban-casual niche nicely. We like the well-edited selection of contemporary rugs—great for a playful splash of color. The prices are good, too. 270 Columbine St., 720-855-0725, www.swankspace.com

Frames: 5 Green Boxes (The Big Store)
This furniture store (an offshoot of the Platt Park boutique by the same name) is one of our favorite places to find that artistic, conversation-worthy accent piece. The frames, especially, are super-unique. 1705 S. Pearl St., 303-282-5481, www.5greenboxes.com

Throw: Pillows One Home
If you’re looking for traditional florals, this is probably not the place for you. But for a more architectural/contemporary splash of color, go to One Home. Ask for designs by Boulder company é bella. 2445 E. Third Ave., 720-946-1505, www.onehomedesign.com

Green Buys

Our favorite eco-conscious finds from five homegrown companies.

Pangea Organics: Facial Scrub in Egyptian Geranium with Adzuki Bean & Cranberry
This Boulder-made exfoliator (see story on page 30) is made from all-natural ingredients—including the packaging. Just remove the label, soak the box in water, bury it in soil, and voilÀ—an herb garden. $32, Whole Foods or Vitamin Cottage, www.pangeaorganics.com

OlovesM: Bernie small bag
Look for this hip handbag from a line of eco-totes and clutches that Aspen-based mom, entrepreneur, and yoga enthusiast Merle O’Brien created using discarded landfill-bound plastic scraps from yoga-mat manufacturers. $45, Baudines in Tamarac Square, www.olovesm.com

Apparel of the Earth: Truffle Tank
We heart this beautiful summer basic from the Arvada-based online eco-retailer; we also dig that it’s made from sustainable hemp fibers. $46, online at www.appareloftheearth.com

Totem Industries: Brush Pullover
You can’t go wrong with a soft, fleecy midlayer with thumbholes for brisk fall days—especially when 92 percent of it is made from recycled soda bottles. $80, online at www.totemindustries.com

Pixie Mate: Original Mate Latte Mix
This yummy drink concentrate is made from Yerba Mate—a South American tea that packs a crash-free caffeine buzz. Best part: The Boulder-based company supports sustainable agriculture with its growers. $4.59, Whole Foods, www.pixiemate.com

Recommended for You

Newsletter Signup

Keep me up to date on the latest trends and happenings around Denver. 5280 has a newsletter for everyone. Sign Up

Top of the Town

BIFF! BAM! POW! HERE WE COME TO SAVE THE DAY! OUR INTREPID TEAM OF WRITERS AND EDITORS HAVE SLEUTHED OUT THE BEST OF THE BEST IN DENVER TO CREATE 5280'S MUST-HAVE GUIDE TO THE MILE-HIGH CITY.

By |

Contributors: Alese Beckett, Georgia Benjou, Daniel Brogan, Britten Chase, Jennie Dorris, Patrick Doyle, Julie Dugdale, Beth Ellerman, Amanda M. Faison, Rose Fredrick, Scott Gornall, Chris Hawkins, Luc Hatlestad, Nick Hartshorn, Sandra Keats, Mike Kessler, Lindsey B. Koehler, Gretchen Kurtz, Carol Maybach, Cara McDonald, Stephanie Powell, Patrick Soran, Jake Schroeder, and Ken Zachmann

Shop! | Play! | Kids! | Primp! | Pets! | People! | Eat!

Advertisement

SHOP

Jewels that sparkle, chandeliers that twinkle, rip-worthy ski boots, and jeans that actually fit. Our favorite places to buy things in Denver.

Women’s Clothing (Splurge)

EDITORS’ CHOICE Lawrence Covell
225 Steele St., 303-320-1023, www.lawrencecovell.com
If you’re seeking big-city fashion in Denver, Lawrence Covell is your holy grail. Find a great selection of ready-to-wear by Nina Ricci, Yohji Yamamoto, Viktor & Rolf, as well as accessories by Bottega Veneta. Plus, the knowledgeable sales associates are there to guide you on your fashion quest.

READERS’ CHOICE Nordstrom
Multiple locations; www.nordstrom.com
The allure of Nordstrom is its ability to offer so much in one store. Look for premium denim, trendy contemporary suits, and designer lines such as Valentino Roma, M Missoni, and Alice & Olivia.

Menswear (Affordable)

EDITORS’ CHOICE Soul Haus Menswear
226 E. 13th Ave., 303-830-7685, www.soulhaus.com
This Capitol Hill men’s boutique has all the anti-Brooks-Brothers button-downs a young, hip guy needs for a proper weekend on the town, plus a good selection of denim, khaki, and just-urban-enough accessories (engineer caps, chunky belt buckles, and the occasional bowling shirt, if that’s still your thing). The kicker? Everything’s less than $100.

READERS’ CHOICE MetroBoom
1550 Platte St., 303-477-9700, www.metroboom.com
At MetroBoom, find mid-priced casual shirts and denim. And with its personal wardrobe services, you’re sure to walk out a lady-killer.

Advertisement

Menswear (Splurge)

EDITORS’ CHOICE Austin Hauck
2569 W. Main St., Littleton, 303-730-7778, www.austinhauck.com
Located in historic downtown Littleton, Austin Hauck boasts an international roster of business and casual brands (Pal Zileri, Jack Victor, and Kinross Cashmere). Owners Bill Austin and Doug Hauck personally work with each client, from collar to trouser hem. They even make office and house calls to help CEO and lawyer types avert any premeeting wardrobe disasters.

READERS’ CHOICE Nordstrom
Multiple locations; www.nordstrom.com
Athletic, casual, and office. Nordstrom’s got it all.

Men’s Suits

EDITORS’ CHOICE Lawrence Covell
225 Steele St., 303-320-1023, www.lawrencecovell.com
Suit shopping can be a real drag. Department stores overwhelm (50 navy suits to choose from?), the discounters have the charm of a used-car lot (spend $500 and we’ll throw in a free tie!), and the single-brand boutiques are just that—single brand. But at Lawrence Covell—the boutique that’s been outfitting Denver’s impeccably dressed since 1967—you can find classic, handmade Italian suits by Kiton and Raffaele Caruso, and fashion-forward sets by Paul Smith or Etro.

READERS’ CHOICE Andrisen Morton Men’s
270 St. Paul St., 303-377-8488, www.andrisenmorton.com
This tony men’s retailer has been serving Denver’s biggest movers and shakers since 1979. Boasting a roster of A-list designers including Gianluca Isaia, Loro Piana, Ermenegildo Zenga, and Armani Collezioni, this Cherry Creek North boutique keeps Denver’s power crowd happy with expert service and a full menu of made-to-measure services.

Denim

EDITORS’ CHOICE Octane
1436 Larimer St., 303-893-5100, www.myoctane.com
To keep your logo-emblazed behind truly au courant, head to Octane, a LoDo shop with a great selection of designer dungarees for men and women. Along with all the usual suspects (575, Earnest Sewn, Rock & Republic), look for more obscure brands like Genetic Denim, Jetlag, and Seal Kay. Or go green with the 100 percent organic-cotton jean from the eco-chic Loomstate.

Advertisement

READERS’ CHOICE The Garment District
2595 S. Colorado Blvd., 303-757-3371
Off the beaten path and far from any mall, the Garment District is a designer deni oasis. You’ll find all the most popular brands, including 7 For All Mankind, Citizens of Humanity, and True Religion. But the real story here is the wide selection of sizes and an expert staff that can almost call out your inseam from across the store.

Women’s Clothing (Affordable)

EDITORS’ CHOICE Loft.22
1410 Larimer St., 303-893-5010
Sister act Brittin and Kelly Asbury have hit gold with their bright and cheery Larimer Square clothing and home accessory boutique. Featuring well-priced contemporary lines like BCBGirls, Laundry, Yumi Kim, and Voom, as well as hot denim from Kasil and Antik Denim, Loft.22’s real appeal is the fun it puts back into shopping.

READERS’ CHOICE Swank
2405 W. 32nd Ave., 303-433-6116, www.swankdenver.com
Wendy Van Der Maas’s LoHi neighborhood boutique is chock full of easy casual wear, along with a smattering of fun accessories. Her mix includes hip denim, sweet dresses, and feminine tops for day and evening. Also, she stocks long, lean tops and denim for tall girls.

Bicycles

EDITORS’ CHOICE Cycle Analyst Inc.
722 S. Pearl St., 303-722-3004, www.cycleanalystinc.com
With readers chorusing a righteous “Wheat Ridge Cyclery!” we’re tempted to agree—for our competitive cycling needs, they nail it—but for the kid in us, this year we can’t help but call out Cycle Analyst Inc. in Wash Park. Sure, it caters to the usual road and mountain crowd to a fine degree, but also to the bike-messenger-tear-it-apart-and-rebuild-it crowd, and it boasts a particularly splendid array of cruisers and accessories. Go find your streamers, baskets, horns, fenders, and sparkle seats. Or bring in your childhood bike to spiff up for your kid (or your inner kid). We won’t think you’re any less rad.

READERS’ CHOICE Wheat Ridge Cyclery
7085 W. 38th Ave., Wheat Ridge, 303-424-3221,
www.ridewrc.com
The fabulous and aforementioned Wheat Ridge Cyclery is particularly deserving this year, as it celebrated the opening of a 15,000-square-foot expansion in March—meaning there’s that much greater chance you’ll walk in with a longing and walk out with just the right thing, in just the right fit (the shop’s specialty).

Advertisement

Summer Dresses

EDITORS’ CHOICE Ella Bleu
200 Quebec St., 720-859-3111, www.ellableuboutique.com
Whenever we walk into this lovable Lowry boutique (with another opening in Greenwood Village in the fall), owner Kim Inghilterra is sporting a beautiful this-season dress (Beth Bowley, Trina Turk, Bianca Nero). Inevitably, we get so inspired by her frock that we end up with one for ourselves.

Party Dresses

EDITORS’ CHOICE MAX
3039 E. Third Ave., 303-321-4949; 1177 Walnut St., Boulder, 303-449-9200; 609 E. Cooper Ave., Aspen, 970-544-3445; www.maxfashion.com
Whether it’s for cocktail-casual or black-tie optional, you’ll always find a dress to match the occasion at MAX. It’s hard not to with designers like Stella McCartney, Alberta Ferretti, and Dries Van Noten in the inventory. And with multiple stores in Colorado (Denver, Boulder, and Aspen), plus a new outlet store in Highland, MAX has Denver dress shoppers covered. Bonus: We think the outlet store is well-worth a visit. Diane vonFurstenberg 75 percent off? Yes, please!

READERS’ CHOICE Neiman Marcus
Cherry Creek Shopping Center, 3030 E. First Ave., 303-329-2600, www.neimanmarcus.com
Dolce & Gabbana, Badgley Mischka, David Meister, and Tadashi. Need we say more? After 100 years in the apparel business, Neiman Marcus knows what it takes to look fabulous.

Shoe In

Our fashion editor picks the city’s best for every kind of foot. —Georgia Benjou

Designer
Neiman Marcus
Cherry Creek Shopping Center, 3030 E. First Ave.,
303-329-2600, www.neimanmarcus.com
Consistently carrying the largest collection of international designer shoes in town— France (Chanel, Robert Clergerie, Dior), Italy (Gucci, Prada)—Neiman Marcus gets you runway-ready in no time.

Urban Cool
Strut
3877 Tennyson St., 303-477-3361, www.strutdenver.com
Find fashionable shoes for the sophisticated city girl by Coclico, Miss Sixty, Ted Baker, and Chie Mihara. Bonus: Owner Elyse Burja has succeeded in making her boutique comfortable and her price range affordable ($79 and up).

Advertisement

City Sneakers
The 400
1010 Bannock St., 303-446-0400; 2445 Larimer St., 303-292-2646; www.strutdenver.com
The city’s best limited-edition selection of Nike, Adidas, Onitsuka Tiger, New Balance, Reebok, and Puma from a decidedly hip Golden Triangle outpost.

Running
Boulder Running Company
2775 Pearl St., Boulder, 303-RUN-WALK;
8116 W. Bowles Ave.,303-932-6000;
www.boulderrunningcompany.com
Highly regarded for its free video gait analysis—used to fit each customer into the perfect pair—BRC features a wide range of performance running shoes like Saucony, Brooks, and Mizuno.

Mountain Casual
Baudine’s
7777 E. Hampden Ave., 303-751-5778
It’s definitely a comfort shoe store, but the selection is all-European, proving that comfort doesn’t have to equal Soviet-era fashion. Baudine’s fine range of brands includes Ecco, Dansko, Naot, Finn Comfort, and even Donald Pliner.

Bargain
True Love Shoes & Accessories
42 Broadway, 303-860-8783
Fall for the perfect pair of chic-and-trendy yet reasonably priced shoes—and, at these prices, you can even buy two or three pairs, if your heart desires.

Chic and Stiletto’d
Garbarini
3003 E. Third Ave., 303-333-8686,
www.garbarinishop.com
This urban oasis for the shoe-savvy carries designer lines like Donald Pliner, Stuart Weitzman, Barbara Bui, and Anne Klein.

Wedding Dresses

EDITORS’ and READERS’ CHOICE Anna Bé
3215 Zuni St., 720-855-1111, www.anna-be.com
Full disclosure: Our latest 5280 bride-to-be just purchased her dress here. And she chimes in with readers who chose Anna Bé by a landslide: The entire trying-on experience feels hip but friendly, like a fashion show in your girlfriend’s LoHi loft. We love the sanely priced selection of dresses from up-and-coming designers who think outside the box (or in this case, outside the strapless pouf). Bonus: The duo that owns the shop will help you conceptualize your wedding theme and design stationery.

Fine Jewelry

EDITORS’ and READERS’ CHOICE Hyde Park
Cherry Creek Shopping Center, 3000 E. First Ave., 303-333-4446, www.anna-be.com
Last year, Hyde Park celebrated its 30th year in Denver—and that’s without ever putting its owner, Michael Pollak, in any super-dry radio advertisements. Through word of mouth and sheer bling-bling know-how, Hyde Park has become a mainstay in the Cherry Creek Shopping Center, forever sparkling with the latest from big-time designers Vera Wang, Judith Ripka, and Yossi Harari. After three decades in the bauble biz, Hyde Park is still going strong.

Fashion Jewelry

EDITORS’ CHOICE Decade
56 S. Broadway, 303-733-2288
Lately, it seems like every time we ask one of our friends where she got that cute necklace/bracelet/earrings/brooch, the answer is almost always Decade. And for good reason. The store is jam-packed with adorable (and affordable) finds. Every time you’re there, you’re bound to discover artsy, natural-materials and chunky-stone pieces by Bohm and Luna Rosa, plus some great vintage finds.

READERS’ CHOICE Nordstrom
Multiple locations; www.nordstrom.com
You smart and trendy readers! You know the one-stop shop for all things adorable. Juicy Couture charm bracelets, Betsey Johnson crystal spider rings, and Marc by Marc Jacobs watches. What more could a girl (or boy) want?

Girlie Gift Shop/Boutique

EDITORS’ CHOICE Red Door Swingin’
2556 15th St., 303-433-6900
One stroll around this appealingly cluttered hipster haven, laden with bright colors, quirky housewares, artsy decor, and all-around funky flair, is good for at least five legitimate, girlie “ooohs.” (No joke…they just kept coming.) Owner Suzanne Blaylock has an eye for the unusual, from the trendy geometric jewelry to her own hand-sewn messenger bags, called HipSlips. In the market for a gorgeous Japanese-style paper lantern or some Guzzini Italian salad bowls? Check and check.

READERS’ CHOICE Polkadot
1577 S. Pearl St., 303-282-4307
We know, we know, you just can’t help stopping by this neighborhood boutique on your way to Sushi Den…neither can we. The handbags are fab (look for owner Dezi Gellman’s own line of Dezi Bags), the jewelry one-of-a-kind, and the inspired artwork reasonably priced. Cutie-cute-cute.

Lingerie

EDITORS’ CHOICE The T-Bar
1500 Pearl St., Boulder, 303-444-5453, www.nordstrom.com
If the name of her store is any indication (“T-bar” is slang for “thong”), T-Bar owner Debra Caplin prefers the come-in-and-play approach to undergarment shopping. She’s got a hip-cool selection of all things small and desirable (Hanky Panky, Commando, Betsey Johnson, and Velvet). But the fact that you and your beau can wander the store together and not feel a wee bit embarrassed/intimidated is what keeps us coming back.

READERS’ CHOICE Sol Store of Lingerie
248 Detroit St., 303-394-1060, www.sollingerie.com
A gauzy-elegant Cherry Creek North boutique, Sol is where Denver gals in the know go to get their sexy on. Plus, the staff is well-versed in the art of bra fitting, so you’re sure to walk out looking “just right.” But what we really dig is that in the last year Sol donated 1,500 bras to the Gathering Place, a daytime drop-in center for Denver’s homeless women and children. Philanthropic lingerie? That’s something we all can get behind.

Ski and Snowboard Gear

EDITORS’ CHOICE Larry’s Boot Fitting
2709 Spruce St., Boulder, 303-402-6733
Sorry snowboarders, we need to huddle with the skiers for a sec. Let’s face it: Breaking in new ski boots can turn your feet into hamburger. Thank goodness for Larry Houchen and his namesake ski shop in Boulder. The shop’s a trifle Spartan, but the service is smart (Larry’s fitted Olympians and CU ski team members). With a custom foot bed, he’ll align your tib-fib; then, just for good measure, he’ll grind out any hotspots. Plus, you can bring ’em back—after they get packed out—for a refitting. And, of course, Larry’s got the handle on new gear and tune-ups for your skis or board.

READERS’ CHOICE Colorado Ski & Golf
Multiple locations, www.coloradoskiandgolf.com
If you slide down snow, one plank or two, Colorado Ski & Golf has you covered. CS&G has a massive selection and friendly service, and should you get a hankering to whack a small white ball with a metal club, it’s got those, too.

Home Accessories

READERS’ CHOICE Ashley Campbell
262 Fillmore St., 303-996-6195, www.ashleycampbell.com
When interior designer Ashley Campbell opened her home-decor shop in Cherry Creek two years ago, we went gaga over the selection. The store’s eclectic East-meets-West, traditional-meets-contemporary feel (Ashley calls it “rustic contemporary”) has a decidedly warm-hued color palette ideal for real-life homemaking. And if choosing the perfect plush chenille couch gets too overwhelming, Ashley and her co-owner husband Chase (or co-owner Tyler Conley) will gladly chime in with design tips.

Linens

EDITORS’ CHOICE McKirnan Bed and Bath Co.
2460 Canyon Blvd., Boulder, 720-406-8651, www.mckirnanbedandbath.com
In Boulder (in a new location on Canyon Boulevard), McKirnan Bed & Bath is a gem of a store featuring luxurious American and European bedding. We absolutely salivate over sensual linens by Yves Delorme, Sferra, and Peacock Alley. And though fine bedding definitely comes at a price, McKirnan strives to accommodate every budget.

READERS’ CHOICE Bed, Bath, & Beyond
Multiple locations, www.bedbathandbeyond.com
It’s everyone’s favorite home store for well-priced, everyday bedding—from Egyptian cotton sheets to Nicole Miller duvet covers.

Contemporary Furniture

EDITORS’ CHOICE Boyd & Dreith
595 S. Broadway, 303-777-4600
When we visit B&D, we feel like we’re wandering through the pages of Architectural Digest. Sofas from Donghia; tables from Dakota Jackson; lighting by Flos and Boyd. The best thing here, though, is that the staff is helpful and knowledgeable, never snotty or snooty.

READERS’ CHOICE Room & Board
222 Detroit St., 303-322-6462, www.roomandboard.com
Room & Board wrote the book on smart detailing, careful design, and consistent craftsmanship. And the price point is approachable—a tad high, but a good value.

Traditional Furniture

EDITORS’ CHOICE Baker at Town
601 S. Broadway, 303-282-0125, www.bakerfurniture.com
Sure, you could play furniture roulette at a big-box furniture store and hope the upholstery outlasts the drive home. Or you could head to Baker at Town and buy something that will one day be an heirloom. The store’s recipe for fine traditional furniture is pretty simple: better woods, better craftsmanship, and better design.

Rugs

EDITORS’ CHOICE The Rug Source in Denver
595 S. Broadway, 303-871-8034, www.rugsourcedenver.com
Whether you’re in the market for a needlepoint from China, a contemporary hand-knit from Nepal, or a totally custom rug to perfectly frame that new dining room table, you’ve come to the right spot. Located in the Denver Design Center, this global rug emporium with expert staff and broad selection will not only wow the most sophisticated rug connoisseur but also make even a first-time buyer feel right at home. Note: You’re welcome to come in and browse, but you’ll need a designer to buy.

READERS’ CHOICE Allure Rug Studio
595 S. Broadway, 303-871-8848
When it comes to choosing the right rug for your home, you could shop around and sift through sky-high stacks of rugs from the world over, or you could simply create your own. Allure Rug Studio is in business to do just that. Take a seat with one of its designers and you’ll get the chance to choose the size, pattern, and even the material.

Stationery

EDITORS’ CHOICE The Stationery Company
2818 E. Sixth Ave., 303-388-1133, www.rugsourcedenver.com
Prepare to get lost in a forest of the most decadent paper in the city. The selection: traditional Crane & Co., letterpress by Elum, and sassy Kate Spade. And with all the other goodies—Thymes bath products, gorgeous wrapping papers, and the cutest Caspari paper plates—you’ll only have to make one stop for your next party.

READERS’ CHOICE The Paper Lady
2125 E. Mississippi Ave., 303-722-6877, www.rugsourcedenver.com
Rosie Wiedenmayer’s cozy shop is packed floor to ceiling with fabulous paper goods, such as Meri Meri, Smudge Ink, Egg Press, and the Wren Press. But don’t let the abundance intimidate you. Just tell her what you’re looking for and she’ll give you lots of suggestions. Ask about design and printing services—she does that, too.

Lighting

EDITORS’ CHOICE The Lighting Studio
1024 Cherokee St., 303-595-0900, www.thelightingstudio.com
Interior designers say that lighting is the jewelry for a room. If that’s the case, this is one hot little jewelry store. With pendants flying and sconces sconcing, you’ll stroll around with that “gotta own it” jaw-drop on your face. Diamonds may be a girl’s best friend, but nothing makes her look better than good lighting.

READERS’ CHOICE Foothills Lighting & Supply
1393 S. Santa Fe Drive, 303-989-8895, www.foothillslighting.com
Every time we venture into the vast acreage and vaster selection of this store—it has so many shiny, pretty things (like Kichler and Savoy House)—our brains go on overload and we end up wanting to buy everything.

Kitchen Supplies

EDITORS’ CHOICE Cresco Restaurant Equipment and Supply
751 Billings St., 303-343-3333, www.restaurantequipment.com
Visit Cresco Restaurant Equipment and Supply and pimp out your kitchen like the pros. Kegerators, pizza peels, popcorn poppers, sushi knives, tortilla warmers, and everything in between.

READERS’ CHOICE Sur La Table
Multiple locations; www.surlatable.com
This place is like a candy store for the kitchen lover. Bins burst with garlic peelers, ramekins, cookie cutters, measuring cups, and nearly any other gizmo your kitchen might need. Seriously, do you know what an adjustable dough divider does? Neither do we, but we’re sure the helpful staff at Sur La Table could tell us.

Books

EDITORS’ and READERS’ CHOICE Tattered Cover Book Store
2526 E. Colfax Ave., 303-322-7727; also in LoDo and Highlands Ranch; www.tatteredcover.com
Many love this bookseller-as-civic-institution because of its laid-back vibe, helpful staff, and bookish thoughtfulness. So do we. And we give special props this year to owner Joyce Meskis for telling her Cherry Creek landlord to stuff it and relocating to (and with that move, revitalizing) a nifty little stretch along Colfax.

Flower Shop

EDITORS’ and READERS’ CHOICE The Perfect Petal
3600 W. 32nd Ave., 303-480-0966, www.tatteredcover.com
No shop in Denver responds better to the phrase “emergency anniversary floral arrangement, stat!” better than the creative people who staff this eclectic card, gift, and flower store. Their designs are witty and thoughtful art, rather than sentimental and sugary confection.

Records/CDs/Music

EDITORS’ and READERS’ CHOICE Twist & Shout
2508 E. Colfax Ave., 303-722-1943, www.tatteredcover.com
Maybe it’s because it moved out of the old, manky Alameda location into a new, modern home on Colfax, or maybe it’s because it just plain rocks—either way, this year we all seem to agree: If you’re looking for anything music, you’ll find it at Twist & Shout. There’s a separate room for dance and hip-hop, listening stations, employee recommendations, a selection by local artists, vinyl till you burst, and a music-savvy staff that’s straight out of High Fidelity.

Best Customer Service

EDITORS’ CHOICE Duo Restaurant
2413 W. 32nd Ave., 303-477-4141, www.tatteredcover.com
In a town where the service personnel are usually friendly but not always so competent, the folks at Duo cover all the bases. The servers and support staff—even if you’re not sitting at their table—go out of their way to be genial and chatty, doing everything they can to make sure you have a fulfilling dining experience, from pre-meal drinks right on through dessert.

READERS’ CHOICE Nordstrom
Multiple locations, www.nordstrom.com
This multiyear winner scores again with the unsurpassed courtesy and professionalism of its service staff. Nordstrom’s staff doesn’t give you the impression that you’re being “helped” by some bored kid on a summer job.

Worst Customer Service

EDITORS’ CHOICE Denver International Airport
8500 Peña Blvd., 303-342-2000, www.flydenver.com
Lord knows DIA couldn’t control the snow, but last winter this wasn’t an airport that acted like the fifth busiest in the nation. Upon reopening after the 2006 holiday blizzard, security lines of desperate customers (fighting, bribing, pushing, crying) snaked around the terminal, with nary a sign or arrow to guide people. (Couldn’t someone have cracked out some paper and magic markers for some “line forms here” signs?) Customers with tickets couldn’t get past customers without; passengers with flights in five hours clogged the line in front of those with flights in 30 minutes. Add to the crowds and chaos a hefty dose of misinformation: Flight-info screens went un-updated and at one point simply went dark, and DIA’s website comically described the security-line wait as 45 minutes (in fact, it was three hours). We’re still mad we missed our flights.

Shop! | Play! | Kids! | Primp! | Pets! | People! | Eat!

PLAY

Good libations, hikes for every mood, plus the absolute best places in the city to make out. Sometimes you just need a diversion; these are the best Denver has to offer.

Museum

EDITORS’ CHOICE Museum of Contemporary Art
1840 15th St., 303-298-7554, www.mcartdenver.org
MCA is like that fun girlfriend from college. You know you’ll have a blast every time you see each other, but you also know that a steady diet might be too much. And this is exactly what makes MCA so good. It brings in fun, challenging, often local, and always edgy art, but you never feel like you have to get too serious about it all. Bonus: With the grand opening of its acclaimed, David Adjaye-designed building on the horizon this fall, the world, too, is about to take notice.

READERS’ CHOICE Denver Art Museum
100 W. 14th Ave. Parkway, 720-865-5000, www.denverartmuseum.org
The architecture critics are split 50-50 on the new building, but who cares? We think the whole thing is like the best parts of climbing a Colorado fourteener. Like a well-marked trail, the topsy-turvy atrium tempts us up into the stratosphere of fine art. The reward for the climb? Full-on mountain vistas and Denver’s finest contemporary collection spread out for our enjoyment.

Art Class

EDITORS’ CHOICE The Laboratory of Art and Ideas at Belmar
404 S. Upham St., Lakewood, 303-934-1777, www.belmarlab.org
Aspiring do-it-yourselfers will dig the offbeat craft-assembly classes at the Lab for their sheer eclecticism. These two-hour Wednesday-night sessions are an assorted mishmash of creative how-tos, such as a jewelry-reconfiguring class where you learn to disassemble your old gaudy accessories, mix and match the parts, and reconnect the pieces for totally fresh looks.

READERS’ CHOICE Art Students League of Denver
200 Grant St., 303-778-6990, www.asld.org
You can’t go wrong in a class taught by a national artist at an institution entirely devoted to the learning and teaching of art. It’s kinda their shtick. Classes range from basic drawing to fiber art, and generally meet once or twice a week. Interested, but no artsy-smartsy background? No sweat. The League recommends you enroll in the Fundamentals of Art class to bone up before diving into an open-lab ceramics session.

Tourist Attraction Worth Seeing

EDITORS’ CHOICE Georgetown
East of I-70, 45 miles west of Denver
Georgetown: How do we love thee? For the bighorn sheep that form the welcoming committee, for the old firehouse, the unpretentious cafes and shops, the sweet and sleepy main street, the painted-lady architecture, the steam-train that chugs visitors up to 9,000 feet and back…and the total lack of a Starbucks, even now. This is Colorado day tripping for the uninitiated.

READERS’ CHOICE Red Rocks Amphitheatre
www.redrocksonline.com
When you want to wow ’em with killer views, soaring pinnacles of stone, amazing acoustics, and those dudes who are always hanging out and drumming on the stage during the off hours, our readers bring out-of-towners to the Rocks. Work in a hike (like the Mt. Falcon trail) and you’ve got an afternoon. Or go in the summer for the music and movies.

Dance/Arts/Theater Company

EDITORS’ CHOICE Colorado Symphony
303-623-7876, www.coloradosymphony.org
There’s nothing uptight about this group of performers, led by dynamic music director Jeffery Kahane. With an annual lineup including classics, jazz, pops, holiday fare, and family entertainment, they are sure to have something to pique everyone’s interest. Still not sure? Catch them as they tour the state this summer, playing free of charge in cities near you.

READERS’ CHOICE Buntport Theater Company
717 Lipan St., 720-946-1388, www.buntport.com
Don’t sit home watching predictable reruns. Get your underused funny bone over to Buntport, just off Santa Fe, for a much-needed live-sitcom laugh riot.

Public Art

EDITORS’ CHOICE “Opening Doors” by Christopher Weed, 2005
Located between the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center-Fitzsimons Education Facility buildings, these three giant doors stand ajar, beckoning students, professors, and patients to open their minds to the power of lifelong learning. And, yet, at the same time, this playfully creative installation offers a lighthearted break from the intensity of all that surrounds them.

READERS’ CHOICE “I See What You Mean” by Lawrence Argent, 2005
At 40 feet tall, the Big Blue Bear (as he’s been dubbed) has easily become Colorado’s most recognizable public art icon. Peeking into the Convention Center, his inquisitive and unassuming nature reflects not only his image in the glass, but also our own Western ideals.

Bar to Catch Live Music

EDITORS’ CHOICE El Chapultepec
1962 Market St., 303-295-9126
El Chapultepec’s faithful house band makes us want to wear a loose-fitting summer dress and fan ourselves like we’re in an old jazz club in the South. This hole-in-the-wall gem offers the live jazz standards that will get you dancing with the older regulars. Tip: If you want a booth with a good view of the band, plan on getting there at around 8 p.m. because, when the music starts at 9 p.m., it’s standing room only.

READERS’ CHOICE Hi-Dive
7 S. Broadway, 720-570-4500, www.buntport.com
Offering nightly live music from punk to indie to metal, the Hi-Dive is the venue that great local bands deserve and that touring bands covet. And we can’t get enough of the Monday $1 PBR. Grab your hoodie and your Chuck Taylors and go hear the local music you need to know about.

Hotel Bar

EDITORS’ CHOICE Peaks Lounge
650 15th St., 303-436-1234
What do you get when you couple great martinis and a sophisticated appetizer menu with a killer view of the Front Range? Peaks Lounge atop the Hyatt Regency hotel, of course. Any vantage point will do in this chic bar. For something to satiate, try the creamy smoked salmon stack, cool tomato Caprese, or gourmet ham and Brie cheese panini on toast. For something to regret later, try the decadent crème brûlée.

READERS’ CHOICE The Cruise Room
1600 17th St., 1-866-696-3617, www.theoxfordhotel.com
Boasting a huge menu, full of sizzling seafood options and even bigger drinks, you can’t argue with the Oxford Hotel’s Cruise Room. Just off the hotel’s main lobby, this long, thin bar emanates an intoxicating red glow that couldn’t feel less like, well, a hotel bar. And here’s a bit of history: The place was modeled after one of the lounges on the Queen Mary and opened the day after prohibition was repealed.

Sports Bar

EDITORS’ and READERS’ CHOICE Choppers Sports Grill
80 S. Madison St., 303-399-4448, www.chopperssportsgrill.com
If you’re searching for maximum square inches of television, head to Choppers, where the Broncos are damn near life-size on the monstrous televisions. Camaraderie and/or rivalries can build quickly in the wide-open bar area, so leave that Raiders hat home—your kind’s not welcome in these here parts.

Gay Bar

EDITORS’ CHOICE The Compound
145 Broadway, 303-722-7977, www.compounddenver.com
Whether you’re out to dance the night away under the disco ball or just kick back with a cocktail and friends, the Compound is your joint. With a newly remodeled dance floor, two bars, and an enclosed back patio, it’s no wonder the gay community has gotten its groove on here for more than 20 years.

READERS’ CHOICE JR’s Bar and Grill
777 E. 17th Ave., 303-831-0459. www.myjrs.com
Don’t let the name fool ya. JR’s is anything but junior league. Drawing huge crowds nearly every night, this expansive two-level pub is a staple for those in the gay community looking for seriously strong cocktails. Libations aside, JR’s also boasts Broadway musical sing-alongs on Mondays and a Gong Show on Tuesdays.

Bar in a Bar

EDITORS’ CHOICE The Tavern Lowry
7401 E. First Ave., 303-366-0007, www.tavernhospitalitygroup.com/lowry
The quintessential bar—a long, spacious wooden altar with well-worn stools where locals swill away the day—seems to be a dying element of architecture. Today, most bars at trendier digs suffer little space and less focus; bars just aren’t the spectacular centerpieces they once were. The bar at the Tavern Lowry (from the owners of Tavern Uptown and Tavern Downtown), however, would make Norm proud. Congenial bartenders service a huge, oblong, dark-wood bar with mounted flat-screen TVs that rests squarely in the middle of the restaurant. It’s the kind of bar where you can belly up and never feel like you have to—or want to—leave.

READERS’ CHOICE Sengers on the Fax
3014 E. Colfax Ave., 303-355-0823
Open only since January of this year, Sengers’ bar has quickly made an impression on our readers. It’s not hard to see why—the epoxy-finished bar with at least 14 stools and easily hundreds of bottles of liquor stretches across nearly half of the space. And that’s only the first bar. You can also head out back to the patio for a frosty cold beverage (happy hour is Monday through Friday, 5 p.m. to 7 p.m.) or pub food at the fully stocked outdoor bar. Yes, it’s just like heaven—for bar rats anyway.

Beers on Tap

EDITORS’ CHOICE The Cherry Cricket
2641 E. Second Ave., 303-322-7666, www.cherrycricket.com
At what other hamburger joint could you choose from more than 20 tasty drafts to complement your juicy quarter-pounder? The Cherry Cricket is the place to get chow with friends, which makes its extensive draft menu perfect for pitchers, from Kronenbourg 1664 to Great Divide to O’Dell’s Pale Ale.

READERS’ CHOICE Falling Rock Taphouse
1919 Blake St., 303-293-8338, www.fallingrocktaphouse.com
Falling Rock is the beer lover’s mecca, a shrine to the malts and hops that flow from the more than 70 taps lining the walls. The Falling Rock also understands that Colorado’s beer snobs thrive on variety—its draft offerings change as often as the local breweries can produce new seasonal brews.

Martini

EDITORS’ CHOICE Purple Martini
1201 16th St., 8000 E. Belleview Ave., 1710 29th St., Boulder, 1-877-486-3521, www.purplemartini.com
Whether you’re an ultratraditionalist who can comment on bruised vermouth, or a modern drinker more concerned with the size of the cherry garnish, there’s one martini here in Denver that does what no other can: Help fight breast cancer. The folks at Purple Martini have created “The Cure” martini, a pink vodka concoction that yields $1 from every pour to breast cancer research. Now that’s a toast-worthy drink.

READERS’ CHOICE Cruise Room
1600 17th St., 303-628-5400, www.theoxfordhotel.com
This landmark Denver cocktail lounge has been shaking its famous martinis since 1933. The secret? The bartenders. These cocktail-creating veterans will tell you that the key to a great martini is in the vermouth, adding, “Just a quick glance at Martini & Rossi is all you need to shake a superb martini.”

Bloody Mary

EDITORS’ CHOICE Sports Column
1930 Blake St., 303-296-1931, www.denversportscolumn.com
If you’ve crawled out of bed to watch your favorite sports team on a weekend morning, a fizzy draft might be a bit too much of a shock to the senses. No problem. Sports Column has your number and serves up a great, spicy Bloody Mary—it’s a thick, mouth-tingling drink with no frills but for a few green olives.

READERS’ CHOICE Lucile’s
275 S. Logan St., 303-282-6258, www.luciles.com
This Bloody Mary was born in the culture of New Orleans, and its brash garnish (a huge celery stalk stabbed with pickled shrimp, pickled okra, and lime) matches Lucile’s brunch-time laughter. The Bloody itself is a simple tomato drink, but the extra veggies and Creole seasonings on the rim make it sassy enough to fit into the colorful atmosphere.

Tequila Selection

EDITORS’ CHOICE Tahona Tequila Bistro
1035 Pearl St., Boulder, 303-938-9600, www.luciles.com
Tahona encourages tequila enthusiasts to try sippin’ tequilas rather than the standard margarita—though its coin-style margs are puckery enough to keep you coming back. Come here prepared to learn about tequila—its blancos, reposados, and anejos are offered in vertical and horizontal tastings with tasty flavored salts. If you’re feeling adventurous, try a Hot Tamale, a drink that features chile-pepper-infused tequila.

READERS’ CHOICE Mezcal
3230 E. Colfax Ave., 303-322-5219, www.mezcal-restaurant.com
You’ll be tempted to try one of Mezcal’s tasty 30/30 margs—as most of the young professionals are during happy hour—but it’s time to branch out. Tequila flights aren’t on Mezcal’s menu, but ask your tattooed server for a sample flight of its extensive list. (We got tasty samplings served with a palate-clearing tomato-orange sangrita.)

Dive Bar

EDITORS’ CHOICE Gabor’s
1223 E. 13th Ave., 303-832-3108
Sometimes you wanna go where they always know your name. And at Gabor’s, Capitol Hill’s coziest no-frills bar, they’re always glad you came. It’s dark, but not dingy. Small, but never cramped. And the ’50s Hollywood decor (James Dean posters, Marilyn Monroe glamour shots, etc.) just feels cool. Pull up a stool and engage the dedicated regulars in conversations ranging from Chinese Zen patriarchs to zombie flicks.

READERS’ CHOICE Don’s Club Tavern
723 E. Sixth Ave.
If the name Don’s Club Tavern doesn’t ring a bell, it’s probably because folks simply refer to this classic Denver dive as Don’s Mixed Drinks. Arguably one of the coolest bar names ever. And the joint ain’t bad either: throwback neon signage, wood-paneled walls reminiscent of a 1970s rumpus room, a mixture of punk and politician patrons, and, most importantly, cheap PBR.

First Date

EDITORS’ CHOICE The Santa Fe Stroll
Art District on Santa Fe (fifth to 10th avenues): www.artdistrictonsantafe.com; Cuba Cuba: 1173 Delaware St., 303-605-2822, www.cubacubacafe.com
The Art District on Santa Fe Drive has garnered national attention lately—all the more reason to woo a date here. Stroll along the six-block radius and enjoy over 30 participating galleries and artist studios during a First Friday Art Walk. Afterward, splurge on dinner at the bright and lively Cuba Cuba, just a bit farther. Before digging in to delicious entrées such as the camarones al ajillo ($20) or the lechon asado ($16), sip mango mimosas and pomegranate mojitos at the bar. Your art walk should give you plenty to talk about.

READERS’ CHOICE Vesta Dipping Grill
1822 Blake St, 303-296-1970, www.vestagrill.com
With its exposed brick walls and romantic lighting and decor, this readers’ favorite feels like a chic urban loft. But the food is the reason to stay. Entrées like sofrito-grilled pork tenderloin ($19) and five-spice grilled scallops ($24) come with three dipping sauces, so experiment and find your favorite dip—and don’t forget to share with your new friend sitting across the table.

Make-Out Spot

EDITORS’ CHOICE Cinderella Twin Drive-In Theater
3400 S. Platte River Drive, Englewood, 303-761-8232, www.cinderelladrivein.com
Drive-ins make us feel like giddy teenagers again (Danny Zuko and Sandy, anyone?). And we’re lucky to have one of the few remaining old-school theaters right here in the metro area. So pick a clear Saturday night, motor on in, and stake your claim in the soft light of the big screen. Don’t get too close, though—the Joneses in the SUV behind you don’t need to be witnesses.

READERS’ CHOICE Lookout Mountain
Five miles up Lariat Trail (19th Street) off Sixth Avenue in Golden
The stars are out, the moon is shining, the lights of Golden are twinkling below. You’re looking out over the vastness of Colorado, two tiny people under a wide-open sky. C’mon, nobody’s watching…

Rock of Ages

5280 contributor (and Opie Gone Bad front man) Jake Schroeder picks Denver’s top bands for 2007.

Eclectic
DeVotchKa
The score from Little Miss Sunshine might just vault this sickeningly talented band into the national spotlight they’ve deserved for years. Their annual Halloween show at the Boulder Theater is consistently rad, as is their sousaphone player, Jeanie Schroder. www.devotchka.net
You might also like… Go Go Lab or The Motet

Country
The Railbenders
Their musical honesty and willingness to take collaboration chances cement them as the leader in Denver country and western. Plus, their shows are a guaranteed beer-swilling sing-along. www.railbenders.com You might also like… Fondis

Rock
Born in the Flood and Rose Hill Drive tie
Edgier and more gripping than (and international superstars) the Fray, look to Born in the Flood to fill some tour dates with the Fray this year. Also, don’t be surprised to see Boulder’s Rose Hill Drive (one of Rolling Stone’s picks to watch in 2007) ascend to a Fray-like level in the near future. www.bornintheflood.com,
www.rosehilldrive.com
You might also like… Vices I Admire

Funk
Filthy Children
Their horn section is enough to get even the stodgiest suburbanite’s feet moving. And the band (an octet, chock-full of talented musicians) is a lab of sorts for shredding players, and a joy to witness.
www.filthychildren.com
You might also like… Buckner Funken Jazz

Jazz
Eric Gunnison
For the best Denver jazz, follow Eric Gunnison’s gig list. Every act this jazz pianist and composer plays with (like the Darren Kramer Organization or Dotsero) is the cream of the crop. www.ericgunnison.com

You might also like… Wake Up Call

Girl Watching

EDITORS’ CHOICE Wash Park and 16th Street Mall tie
Pick your poison: If you prefer spandex- or shorts-clad twentysomethings and soccer moms getting in a jog or a stroll, or just lolling in the sun—roll on over to Wash Park. If the polished, professional look is more your thing, the 16th Street Mall is wall to wall with attractive ladies who (power) lunch in heels. Hint: Check out Green Fine Salad Co. (1137 16th St.) at noon for some primo hottie spotting.

Boy Watching

EDITORS’ CHOICE Coors Field
20th and Blake streets, Coors Field, www.rockies.mlb.com
Just about every guy in the country has a soft spot for America’s favorite pasttime. Which is great for those of us on the prowl. When fans congregate at Coors Field during the height of summer, boy watching hits an all-time peak. Whether you’re in the good seats or the Rockpile, you can be sure boys abound. (The guys in the good seats are usually a better bet…and generally less inebriated.) If no one strikes your fancy, it’s not a total loss: You’ll still be treated to a breathtaking view of the Rockies (and we’re not just talking about the mountains).

Shop! | Play! | Kids! | Primp! | Pets! | People! | Eat!

KIDS

Party piñatas, model trains, glitter, and glue. We show you how to show the kids a good time.

Baby Shower Gifts

EDITORS’ CHOICE Red Carpet Baby
1511 S. Pearl St., 303-698-2229, www.redcarpetbaby.com
As the baby industry spirals out of control à la the bridal industry, take heart that Red Carpet Baby still offers a personal touch, an understanding about babies, and high-quality products. Owner Emelia Nidel is a Montessori-certified early-childhood educator, and her expertise shows up in the types of toys (wooden learning toys), furniture (child-size wardrobes), and gifts (hand-sewn blankets and natural bath products) she sells.

READERS’ CHOICE Real Baby
3616 W. 32nd Ave., 303-477-2229, www.realbabyinc.com
Highland’s Real Baby has you covered when it comes to shower gifts: Thomas & Friends toys, kitchy onesies with irreverent phrases (My Mama Drinks Because I Cry), beautiful diaper bags by Petunia Pickle Bottom, running strollers, car seats, cute cribs, baby blankets, and hip maternity wear, all housed in a great location on 32nd.

Kids’ Shoes

EDITORS’ and READERS’ CHOICE Little Feet
201 University Blvd., 303-388-9535,
www.littlefeetandmore.com
After 14 years, Little Feet still out-runs/out-walks/out-toddles the competition when it comes to outfitting tiny toes. Need classic Mary Janes for back-to-school? This is the place. What about toddler Tevas for summer? Sure thing. Gold foil boots or Jibbitz? You betcha. And Beth Saper, who owns and operates the business with her husband, Buddy, watches over the shop like a mother hen, ensuring that no matter which clerk waits on you, the fit will be perfect.

Family Outing

EDITORS’ CHOICE Denver Art Museum
100 W. 14th Ave., 720-865-5000,
www.denverartmuseum.org
In addition to renowned African, American Indian, European, and modern art collections, the DAM features plenty of kid-friendly spots throughout its two main buildings. The cartoon mascot Seymour is there to show you where kids (and kids at heart) can hold a real samurai sword or try out Navajo weaving. Complimentary family backpacks filled with puzzles, toys, and activities are available to tote around the museum while you’re there. Plus, the downtown attraction is free for Colorado residents on the first Saturday of every month, making it a budget-friendly outing to boot.

READERS’ CHOICE Denver Zoo
2300 Steele St., 303-376-4800, www.denverzoo.org
New animals (like bongo calf Maddie) are just two of the reasons readers give the zoo top honors. And that’s not to mention the summer picnics and family-focused events such as Family Night and Zip A De Do.

Toy Store

EDITORS’ CHOICE Caboose Hobbies
500 S. Broadway, 303-777-6766,
www.caboosehobbies.com
Ever since the Union and Central railroads hooked up in 1869, Coloradans have had a love affair with trains. There’s no place better to nurture your little engineer (or pacify your grown-up one) than in this magnificent shop, which boasts five working train models and every train-related toy and part you could possibly want.

READERS’ CHOICE Kazoo & Company
2930 E. Second Ave., 1-800-257-0008,
www.kazootoys.com
Not only loved by Coloradans but also lauded nationally as one of the very best, Cherry Creek’s Kazoo has two floors packed with every imaginative toy known to man and child.

Miniature Golf

EDITORS’ CHOICE Gateway Park
4800 N. 28th St., Boulder, 303-442-4386,
www.gatewayfunpark.com
We are shocked—shocked!—that a mini-golf course in Boulder would have loads of giant mushrooms dotting the course. And a pink elephant? Who woulda thunk? Gateway Park, apparently. It also thought to put in not one but two 18-hole courses, not to mention go-karts, batting cages, and a golf range, keeping the weekend crowds to a minimum and everyone in the family happy.

READERS’ CHOICE Adventure Golf
9650 N. Sheridan Blvd., Westminster, 303-650-7587, www.adventuregolfandraceway.com
Big, fake, and fun, Adventure Golf is the Las Vegas of local mini-golf courses. The elaborate holes—54 in all—are set amid volcanoes, pyramids, and Aztec ruins, which means it’s sort of educational, right? Right?

Kids’ Furnature

EDITORS’ CHOICE Cradle & All
6448 E. County Line Road, Littleton, 303-798-2150
In a world of trite children’s stores, this Littleton shop is playful, imaginative, and different. Sure, you might pay a bit more, but the furniture is quality (plan on eight to 10 weeks for delivery), the bedding is adorable (and not just baby blue or petal pink), and the customer service is excellent. One 5280 editor ordered a crib, bookshelf, and changing table, and the store not only delivered and assembled, but its staffers also stuck around to make sure everything was arranged just so. And that makes moms and dads happy.

READERS’ CHOICE Pottery Barn Kids
Multiple locations, www.adventuregolfandraceway.com
Thumb through the PB catalog and it’s no surprise why readers love this furniture. It’s fresh, sturdy, and hip to the latest design trends.

Family Restaurant
Parents Love

EDITORS’ CHOICE Steuben’s
523 E. 17th Ave., 303-830-1001, www.steubens.com
We’ve never met a half-pint who didn’t love Steuben’s over-the-top kids’ meals, with eight generous main courses plus a starch and veggie to keep mom smiling. (Or is it the retro cocktail list and decidedly upscale diner fare—pan-roasted chicken in white wine sauce—that’s causin’ mommy to grin?)

READERS’ CHOICE Red Robin
Multiple locations, www.redrobin.com
You could act your age and order a grilled salmon burger on a whole-grain bun, but why fight your inner voice? Fries! Milkshake! Burger! Oh wait, that’s the voice coming from the tot in the high chair.

Family Restaurant
Kids Love

EDITORS’ CHOICE Ling & Louie’s Asian
Bar and Grill

8354 E. 49th Ave., 303-371-4644,
www.lingandlouies.com
At Ling & Louie’s, the open kitchen is curtained from the dining room by a sleek wall of running water. What better way to keep kids occupied while waiting for bento boxes with chicken teriyaki, rice, orange slices, and sweets? There’s nothing to stop little fingers from touching the fountain, so bring an extra shirt in case junior’s sleeves get wet.

READERS’ CHOICE Casa Bonita
6715 W. Colfax St., Lakewood, 303-232-5115,
www.casabonitadenver.com
The Elitch Gardens of restaurants, this Mexican-restaurant-theme-park wows kids with cliff divers, cowboy shoot-outs, an arcade, and more. Order a liter of Casaritas, the house margarita, and settle in for the show.

Birthday Parties

EDITORS’ CHOICE Big Blue Brush
8100 S. Quebec St., Englewood, 303-770-6775,
www.bigbluebrush.com
For kids with a creative bent, the Brush offers a large workspace for kids to gather and express themselves in paint, glue, glitter, and all the other messy stuff you dread opening at home. Parties run an hour and a half and are led by a licensed art teacher and staff. Big Blue Brush also offers art classes and a camp for kids during the week. Parties start at $195 on weekends, $175 on weekdays.

READERS’ CHOICE Monkey Bizness
9950 E. Easter Ave., Centennial, 303-790-8885,
www.monkeybizness.com
The perfect place to load your kids up on birthday cake and then let them bounce off the walls (literally) on interactive inflatable bouncers, obstacle courses, slides, and a climbing wall. Parties start at $195.

Tiny Fashion

A clothing store for every kind of kid.

Outdoorsy Kid
Little Mountain Outfitters
1136 Spruce St., Boulder, 303-443-1757, www.outdoorgearforkids.com
Owners Dan and Lori Nichols stock all the gear necessary for kids (newborn to 14) to enjoy the outdoors—Patagonia jackets, fleece onesies, Wellies-style rain boots, little board shorts, kiddo CamelBaks, and North Face hiking boots.

Traditional Tike
Le Petite Cadeau
260 S. Downing St., 720-570-2505
For traditional, Southern-style, Easter-ready smock dresses and jumpers (plus adorable plaid and floral prints), hit up the new—and rare for Denver—traditional Petite Cadeau (opened in December). Bonus: Everything in the store can be embroidered.

Hipster Kiddo
Decade
56 S. Broadway, 303-733-2288
Kid stuff is a new foray for this Broadway girlie boutique. But the lines live up to Decade’s already high standards of hipness. Find poochie print dresses and skirts, and slogan T’s. Plus, a just-as-cute line of maternity clothes for mommies who want to stay adorable through the next pregnancy (including Tala jeans, Preggrs N Proud T’s, and Hooter Hiders).

Fashion-Forward Baby
Studio Bini
1030 Speer Blvd., 303-477-3227; 200 Quebec St., 303-366-5644; www.studiobini.com
Owner Linde Schlumbohm opened Studio Bini in 1999 following the birth of son Max. Frustrated by lack of cute kids’ clothes in town, she set out to design her own line. Studio Bini is now where fashionista mommies shop for pink rodeo dresses and even bowling shirts for their little Vince Vaughns.

Piñatas

EDITORS’ CHOICE Piñateria el Tambor
3812 Lowell St., 303-593-2666
The readers had no consensus on this one (What’s wrong with you people? Don’t you like candy?), but we’ve got you covered. At tiny Piñateria el Tambor in the Highland/Berkeley area of 38th and Lowell, we found one of the most charming and diverse collections of the folksy, handmade, papier-mâché variety: unicorns, llamas, bulls, and Batmans, fairy princesses in paper gowns, trucks, soccer balls, lions, and this cool guy with the goofy grin (he was a sweet 16 bucks).

Playground

EDITORS’ CHOICE Belleview Park
4800 S. Windermere St., Englewood
A gentle stream runs through this park, but we really love the petting zoo, child-size working train, picnic and play areas, and baseball diamond. Train rides and zoo: one dollar each. Wearing out your kids: priceless.

READERS’ CHOICE Washington Park
Downing and Louisiana streets
The hub of life in the city, Wash Park has it all and grows with your family—from the toddler play area to the soccer fields, and from the boathouse to the tennis courts.

Shop! | Play! | Kids! | Primp! | Pets! | People! | Eat!

PRIMP

Paraffin dips, sugar scrubs, spray-on tans, and downward dogs. Where to go in the city to get your body and mind in order.

Hairstylist

EDITORS’ CHOICE Robert Cook, Berenices
3500 E. 12th Ave., 303-399-9156,
www.berenicesdenver.com
When a 5280 staffer told stylist Robert Cook she felt bad about leaving her “nice” hairdresser to start seeing Robert exclusively, his response completely won us over: “Nice doesn’t give good haircuts.” Amen, brother! Sometimes we get so attached to our stylists that we don’t realize our hair is pretty darn bad. Especially if said stylist is still giving you that circa-1997 layered do we’ve dubbed “the shelf”—also known as “the Rachel.” (Hint: You know you’re getting a shelf if your stylist still uses a razor to texturize your hair. Yikes!) But after just an hour under the skilled scissors (never razors) of Robert Cook, your hair will transform from bubbly and dated to shaped and sexy. That’s why he’s earned this nickname in our office: The Shelfinator. Dear Robert, here’s to getting hair right! (Finally.)

READERS’ CHOICE Ty Tomlinson,
Blanc the Salon

1133 Bannock St., 303-572-1133,
www.blancthesalon.com
You can’t be attached to your current haircut when you pay a visit to Ty—his vision inevitably trumps your comfort zone. Nor can you be averse to thumping music or the occasional four-letter word. But if you’re looking for something oh-so fresh, oh-so now, you should think about getting on Ty’s waiting list.

Barbershop

EDITORS’ CHOICE Floyd’s Barbershop
Multiple locations, www.floydsbarbershop.com
Floyd’s knows men’s hair. Whether it’s for a quick trim or major hair overhaul, this modern-day barbershop is the place to go. The vibe is retro-cool. And we like that you can peruse the Internet while you wait or get a quick shoulder massage while you’re in the barber’s chair.

READERS’ CHOICE MetroBoom
1550 Platte St., 303-477-9700, www.metroboom.com
Metrosexual mania may be over, but the idea of queer-eyeing an average Joe into a perfect gentleman is far from extinct. Or at least that is what Jung Park thought when he launched MetroBoom in 2005. Unlike the bare-bones feel of a traditional barbershop, MetroBoom is a stylish one-stop shop—get a quick buzz, stock up on upscale grooming products, and pick up trendy custom shirts and jeans. Think of it less as a barbershop and more an outpost for all things gentlemanly.

Spa Treatment

EDITORS’ CHOICE Head-to-Toe Delight,
St. Julien Hotel & Spa

900 Walnut St., Boulder, 720-406-9696,
www.stjulien.com
The spa at St. Julien leaves little to be desired, including indulgent locker rooms and all-around great service. And with treatments like the Head-to-Toe Delight ($190), you’ll want to book a repeat visit straight away. You’ll start with a Babassu sugar scrub that leaves your skin soft and rejuvenated. Next you’ll be wrapped in a warm, moisturizing buttermilk and honey wrap while your therapist administers a goose-bump-inducing wild sage scalp massage. The highlight of the treatment comes at the end: a soak in a hydrotherapy buttermilk bath.

READERS’ CHOICE The Quencher at TallGrass Aveda Spa & Salon
997 Upper Bear Creek Road, Evergreen,
303-670-4444, www.tallgrassspa.com
If Colorado’s arid climate has your skin feeling a little like sandpaper, you need to drench yourself in moisture with the Quencher (three hours, $235)—a superhydrating, ultramoisturizing spa treatment that includes an antioxidant facial, a sinful mocha body scrub, a damage-remedy hair and scalp renewal, and a paraffin dip for those overused and undernourished hands.

Manicure

EDITORS’ CHOICE Coco Nail Salon
2625 E. Second Ave., 303-333-4014
Although there are plenty of places to get a full-blown spa manicure with paraffin and a glass of wine, we generally feel like manis should be clean, quick, and cheap. For a place that you can visit regularly (read: not a $55 trip), check out Cherry Creek North’s Coco Nail Salon. A bright room, adept staff, walk-in availability, and $15 manis make this spot perfect for a spontaneous afternoon indulgence.

READERS’ CHOICE TallGrass Aveda Spa
& Salon

997 Upper Bear Creek Road, Evergreen, 303-670-4444, www.tallgrassspa.com
Like everything else at TallGrass, the manicures are indulgent. Plus, there’s more to choose from. While the Regular Manicure (35 minutes, $35) is fab, readers opt for the Spa Manicure (50 minutes, $40) or the Caribbean Therapy Manicure (50 minutes, $45) for their ultraluxurious treatments and extra-special attention paid to the cuticles and skin.

Colorist

EDITORS’ CHOICE Jessica Garduño,
Grand Salon

1435 Wazee St., 303-572-1435, www.grand-salon.com
She’s relatively new to the hair biz, but Jessica Garduño knows her color. We’ve gone from natural-looking highlights with a little bit of pop on one visit to a bold and dramatic statement the next, and every time she gave us just what we needed. Want shine? No problem—just ask. Garduño is more than happy to whip up a potion of lovely smelling Phyto oils to follow the color application. She also does balayage, a method of painting hair color onto the hair without foils that results in a softer, more natural look. Even after partial highlights (only $65!), we felt like a million bucks.

READERS’ CHOICE Kenneth Seegrist,
Blanc the Salon

1133 Bannock St., 303-572-1133, www.blancthesalon.com
Kenneth specializes in the very now, very bold school of hair. For a little bit of fun and a whole lot of pop, get your head over to Blanc.

Massage

EDITORS’ CHOICE The Spa at the Inverness
200 Inverness Drive West, Englewood, 303-397-7808, www.invernesshotel.com
This fledgling spa is pulling out all the stops to compete with the grande dames of Colorado’s spa industry—and it’s working. The facilities (complete with eucalyptus steam room and comfy lounging area) are decadent. The treatments also hit the right note, particularly the Swedish massages, which are expertly administered and leave you wishing you’d ordered the 80-minute version ($115) instead of the 50-minute one ($85).

READERS’ CHOICE TallGrass Aveda Spa & Salon
997 Upper Bear Creek Road, Evergreen, 303-670-4444, www.tallgrassspa.com
The massage menu at TallGrass includes your usual hot stone and therapeutic massages (which are great, by the way), but do yourself a favor and let this top-notch spa show you what it can do. For our money, the 80-minute Aromatherapy Massage ($115) using essential oils feels like a week’s vacation. Or, if your bod really needs a good knead, try the Four Hands massage ($170), a treatment where two massage therapists work in synchronized rhythm to bring you to a deep level of relaxation.

Pedicure

EDITORS’ CHOICE The Spa and Salon at the Brown Palace
317 17th St., 303-312-8940, www.brownpalacespa.com
The Brown Palace is every woman’s little piece of heaven on earth. After all, where else can you eat a champagne brunch, indulge in high tea, and get a luxurious pedicure all under the same roof? The Classique pedicure ($55) is all you need to soothe your high-heel-weary toes, as the treatment includes a foot soak, exfoliating scrub, mineral foot masque, hydrating massage, and exquisite nail care.

READERS’ CHOICE Tootsies, The Nail Shoppe
1021 S. Gaylord St., 720-570-0971
Manicure and pedicure places are becoming a dime a dozen in our fair city, but that doesn’t mean they’re all created equal. Take, for example, Tootsies on Old South Gaylord. With a super-retro vibe (think Audrey Hepburn artwork, funky crystal chandeliers, and pressed-tin and teal walls) and an easygoing staff, Tootsies certainly has a better atmosphere than most other nail spots. And, with its focus on cleanliness (no jets in the pedi tubs and new files for each person), Tootsies is miles ahead of the competition. Plus, the pedis are quick, competent, and long-lasting.

Facial

EDITORS’ CHOICE Marianna’s L’Esthetique
1215 Spruce St., Boulder, 303-415-0959,
www.mariannaskincare.com
When you book a facial at Marianna’s—the official spa of the Hotel Boulderado—you don’t choose from a menu. Rather, your knowledgeable aesthetician uses a pretreatment consultation to build the facial around your skin’s specific needs. We wouldn’t expect any less, considering this ethereal Santorini-themed spa comes to us from skincare diva extraordinaire Marianna Ali—a 45-year veteran of the industry, who came to Boulder by way of Greece, London, Toronto, Houston, and Laguna Niguel.

READERS’ CHOICE Bosali Skin Care and TallGrass Aveda Spa & Salon Tie
Bosali: 8745 E. Bellewood Place, 303-741-6710, www.bosaliskincare.com; TallGrass: 997 Upper Bear Creek Road, Evergreen, 303-670-4444, www.tallgrassspa.com
It’s all a matter of taste. Pam Boosalis runs Bosali Skin Care in the Denver Tech Center, offering patrons skin resurfacing, LED light therapy treatments, and eyebrow arching. At Evergreen’s TallGrass, clients get gauzy robes, heated stones, and exfoliating scrubs. Both leave your skin glowing and rejuvenated.

Eyebrow Wax

EDITORS’ CHOICE Michael Moore,
Simply Moore

3000 E. Third Ave., 303-399-4151,
www.simply-moore.com
If you’re looking for brows like Julia Roberts’, look no further than the deft hand of Michael Moore and his tool of choice: tweezers. That’s right, the best brow wax in town involves no wax at all. One hair at a time, Moore brings out the natural brow shape without risking half of your eyebrow to a hunk of wax and a slip of the hand. Ouch, right? Not at all—he chats you up so you barely notice the plucking. And you can trust him. He’s been in the cosmetics biz for almost 20 years, working with industry all-stars like Bobbi Brown, Chanel, and Estée Lauder.

READERS’ CHOICE Sara DeLuca, Berenices
3500 E. 12th Ave., 303-399-9156,
www.berenicesdenver.com
Another member of the “tweeze-only” club, Berenices co-owner Sara DeLuca (and brow archer for 12 years) just says no to wax. Tweezing allows her to shape the eyebrow naturally; she insists the best shape for your eyebrow is the “one you’re born with.”

Bikini Wax

EDITORS’ CHOICE Wax in the City
1664 Market St., 303-592-2929; 7730 E. Belleview Ave., Greenwood Village, 303-221-0081;
www.waxinthecity.com
The worst part about getting a bikini wax isn’t the wax (or the removal thereof); it’s making the appointment. Particularly if you’re making said appointment from your office cubicle with five male coworkers within earshot. That’s why we think Wax in the City—where you can conveniently (and silently) make all your appointments directly on the website—is so great for working gals. Plus, its central locations (Market and 16th streets and in the Tech Center) make for easy lunchtime drop-bys. And then there’s the no-tipping policy. Could they make it any easier?

Spray-On Tan

EDITORS’ CHOICE Revive Spa
500 E. 19th Ave., 303-284-2550,
www.revivespadenver.com
No one likes the pasty translucence of winter skin, but baking in the UVs doesn’t sound that great, either. Solution? Sunless tanning at Revive Spa in Uptown. For those wishing to avoid Oompa-Loompa orange skin, streakiness, or missed spots, Revive’s Magic Tan ($29 for clear, medium application) satisfies. Yes, the giant misting shower where you’ll stand in four different positions is a bit intimidating at first, but the resulting bronzed skin is definitely worth it.

READERS’ CHOICE Darque Tan
Multiple locations, www.darquetan.com
With five locations, Darque Tan offers convenience along with its fabulous (fake!) tans. Plus, at $20 a session (or three for $50) you can afford to bronze a few times before you break out the short shorts.

Health Club

EDITORS’ CHOICE The Denver Athletic Club
1325 Glenarm Place, 303-534-1211,
www.denverathleticclub.org
Where else in the city can you take a spin class next to the city’s top judges, lift weights beside a news anchor, and train on the elliptical next to the mayor himself? The Denver Athletic Club is where Denver’s power brokers go to get their endorphin fix. Why wouldn’t they? At the DAC it’s all about the cherry-on-top approach to customer service—lemon wedges in your water and a shoe shine on your way out the door—all served up in that effortlessly casual, quintessentially Denver way.

READERS’ CHOICE Cherry Creek
Athletic Club

500 S. Cherry St., 303-399-3050,
www.cherrycreekclub.com
With two gorgeous outdoor pools, state-of-the-art equipment, racquetball/squash/handball courts, even an in-house spa, the expansive 10,000-square-foot Cherry Creek Athletic Club offers the perfect mix of amenities for its eclectic roster of working professionals and active families. Hint: If you’re single, you might want to check out the post 5 p.m. scene—a nice selection of yuppie eye candy for browsing.

Yoga Studio

EDITORS’ CHOICE Samadhi Center for Yoga
639 E. 19th Ave., 303-860-YOGA,
www.samadhiyoga.net
For the second year in a row, Samadhi reigns as top dog—the downward kind,
of course. In Sanskrit “Samadhi” means
to merge with the divine spirit. And
that’s exactly what hundreds of Denver yogis come to do at this Uptown spot. Samadhi has all the components for a meaningful practice—two beautiful studios, six to 10 classes a day, and qualified instructors who teach various styles, from Vinyasa and Anusara to Kundalini and Tantric Hatha.

READERS’ CHOICE CorePower Yoga
277 Broadway; 333 E. 13th Ave., 303-863-9642; 1538 Wazee St.; 5004 E. Hampden Ave.;
www.corepoweryoga.com
The Yoga Sculpt class, infusing dumbbells, body bars, and free weights into sun salutations, side angles, and warrior poses, is yoga for the city’s fitness fanatics.

Hair in the ‘Hood

Denver’s top salons, by neighborhood.

Cherry Creek
Click
231 Milwaukee St., 303-399-9469
It’s one of our favorite salons in town because of the vibe: centered, clean, subdued, and very Zen, just like its co-owner (and renowned stylist) Charlie Price. Here, the client always comes first.

Golden Triangle
Blanc the Salon
1133 Bannock St., 303-572-1133, www.blancthesalon.com
The music pulses at Ty Tomlinson’s concrete-and-mirror space on Bannock (the READERS’ CHOICE this year). And the cast of stylists’ personalities is almost as bold and vibrant as their hair color.

Riverfront
Salon Denver
1744 Platte St., 303-458-9823, www.salondenver.net
Whatever stylist or colorist you book at Salon Denver, you’re guaranteed a fantastic hairdo. You’ll like the central location plus the loftlike brick interior that feels very “downtown.”

LoDo
Luxe Salon
1743 Wazee St., 303-296-0166, www.luxesalon.com
Luxe has a fun, welcoming feel with
good music, interesting art on the walls,
and a skilled team of stylists you’ll want to see again.

Baker
Matthew Morris Salon
277 Broadway, 303-715-4673,
www.matthewmorrissalon.com
A crisp, white Aveda concept salon and spa brought to us by the very accomplished Matthew Morris. Not to be missed: the First Friday spa deals.

Hilltop
3rd Ave. Studio
5575 E. Third Ave, 303-355-8480, www.3rdavestudio.com
The quintessential neighborhood salon, 3rd Ave. Studio is a sunny space with even sunnier service. We love the interesting mix of clientele—retirees, mother-and-daughter duos, and working professionals—bopping in for low-key cuts and color.

Shop! | Play! | Kids! | Primp! | Pets! | People! | Eat!

PETS

For Denverites, pets are part of the family. Our picks for how to pamper the pooch/
parakeet/potbelly pig properly.

Pet Groomer

EDITORS’ CHOICE Muddy Paws
4902 W. 38th Ave., 303-433-4642
Consider yourself warned: Muddy Paws is no Vanity Fur. But know that at Muddy Paws, groomer Tricia Sanchez and owner Zia Meranto (a prof at Metro State) will bathe, cut, style, clip, and express (look it up) your dog with love—at a price that won’t make you howl (starting at $15). Once primped, Fido gets to hang, cage-free, in the waiting area with Dali, the terrier mix/house mascot. Bonus: Meranto just moved the biz to dishier new digs, and has even been known to take the doggie customers out for walks.

READERS’ CHOICE Vanity Fur
5075 Leetsdale Drive, 720-974-5064,
www.vanityfurpetsalon.com
Michelle Caster (owner) and Donna Cool (head groomer) started this first-class Hilltop operation back in ’05 and have managed to stay busy no matter the season. The place is tidy and tightly run, with plenty of shopping opportunities—beds, toys, treats—to help run up your tab. Class comes at a price. Grooming prices start at $38 (for small dogs). Ask about the “Furminator”—an anti-shedding treatment.

Self-Serve Dog Wash

EDITORS’ CHOICE U-Shampooch
Dog Washing

7474 E. 29th Ave., 303-321-5353, www.u-shampooch.net
It’s peak shedding season. Let your dog’s hair clog someone else’s drains. U-Shampooch will provide the tubs, brushes, towels, shampoo, blow dryer, and even ear wipes. But if you want every ear, tooth, and paw to pass extensive inspection, schedule an appointment with veteran groomer
Jennifer Bell.

READERS’ CHOICE The Wag Shop
1222 E. Sixth Ave., 303-282-1894, www.thewagshop.com
Owners Deidre and Dave Hered hired a friendly and knowledgeable staff of dog lovers to help you through the grooming process, offering shampoo advice (anti-tick vs. anti-itch?) or picking a color-enhancing shampoo to make your pooch shine.

Dog Boarding

EDITORS’ CHOICE Animal Lodge at Alameda East Veterinary Hospital
9870 E. Alameda Ave., 303-366-2639,
www.aevh.com/AnimalLodge
Dog heaven on earth. This east Denver outpost is the most ably staffed, kind-hearted venue that you (or your four-legged child) could imagine. Some suites even offer an in-room television for your dog to enjoy doggie DVDs.

READERS’ CHOICE Deer Creek
Animal Hospital

10148 W. Chatfield Ave., Littleton, 303-973-4200, www.dcah.com
These folks are disarmingly friendly, attentive, and entirely professional when Baxter checks in for a stay.

Doggie Daycare

EDITORS’ CHOICE City Bark
370 Kalamath St., 303-573-9400 (also locations in LoDo and Englewood), www.citybark.com
You wouldn’t put your kids in just any old daycare, so why subject your dog to one? City Bark gets that. An upscale pet center offering top-notch doggie daycare and other services to pets and pet owners, services include daycare, boarding, training, grooming, self-wash tubs, pet sitting, dog walking, and more. After all, even pets need to get social. And we can’t forget to mention the doggie cams, for checking in on your pup online as he frolics in the indoor play area and pool.

READERS’ CHOICE Camp Bow Wow
Multiple locations, 1-866-358-2267,
www.campbowwowusa.com
You remember summer camp, right? Fun outdoor activities, new friends, great snacks, and afternoon naps. Well that’s what your pooch has to look forward to at Camp Bow Wow—right down to the doggie-size, climate-controlled cozy cabins and comfy cots.

Dog Park

EDITORS’ CHOICE West Arvada Dog Park
17975 W. 64th Parkway, Arvada
Four-legged friends from Arvada, Golden, Wheat Ridge, and other Front Range communities gather inside this fenced-in, five-acre park for off-the-leash frolicking, sniffing, and socializing. Now two years old, this volunteer-run puppy playground offers rugged, grassy terrain, two small-dog areas, faux fire hydrants, benches, poop-bag dispensers, trash cans, hooks for hanging leashes, water bowls (B.Y.O. water) and idyllic views of the foothills. And this is just phase one—plans call for an additional 15 acres to be completed when funding allows.

READERS’ CHOICE Chatfield State Park
11500 N. Roxborough Park Road, Littleton
This state park has set aside 75 acres of trails, open space, and water holes for dogs and their owners to have some off-leash fun. For optimal mingling and stick retrieving, head to one of the area’s two ponds. But, beware: The dog park is not fenced in, so Fido should be trained to come when called. Also note the $6 daily fee (or pay for an annual state parks’ pass).

Veterinary Clinic

EDITORS’ CHOICE Broadview Animal Clinic
10300 E. Evans Ave., 303-755-1424,
www.broadviewanimalclinic.com
We love our pets. Heck, we even let them sleep with us. And we want what’s best for them, which means great vet care. But here’s where love has its limits: Pet owners often complain that competent animal care is way too expensive. Honestly, should it really cost $240 to get your dog’s teeth cleaned? We don’t think so, and neither do the vets at Aurora’s Broadview Animal Clinic, a full-service vet hospital specializing in small animals. Service fees are super-reasonable—$31 for an exam, $7 for a nail trim, $98 for a dog neuter ($50 for cats). Broadview’s also there for allergic reactions or broken legs.

READERS’ CHOICE Deer Creek
Animal Hospital

10148 W. Chatfield Ave., Littleton, 303-973-4200, www.dcah.com
For 23 years, Deer Creek Animal Hospital has been caring for Littleton’s four-legged friends. With 12 vets on staff, one of them is bound to have the expertise your chocolate lab needs, whether its ophthalmology, critical care, or even veterinary acupuncture. As an added bonus, Deer Creek has received the highest accreditation by the American Animal Hospital Association, an honor bestowed on only 18 percent of small-animal hospitals in the United States.

Pet Boutique

EDITORS’ CHOICE Muttropolis
29th Street Mall, 1855 29th St., Boulder, 303-545-6888, www.muttropolis.com
OK, so not everything is diamond-studded, but that doesn’t mean you won’t find the most hip and happening items for your pet—from print leather collars to cushy doggie beds (like the retro espresso dutchie pillow). And while you’re there, pick up a bag of gourmet Mutt Munchers dog treats. Bonus: Muttropolis also hosts a variety of fun in-store events for pets and their parents, like the Howl-O-Ween costume party in October, Smooch A Pooch in February, and the Mutt Mingle (non-purebreeds only) the third Thursday of every month.

READERS’ CHOICE Dog Savvy
1402 Larimer St., 303-623-5200, www.dogsavvy.com
You might be jealous of the exceptional treatment your pooch receives at this luxury doggie boutique and day spa. That is, until you make yourself at home shopping for organic treats and high-fashion puppy sweaters as Fido gets pampered with a bath, brush, fluff, and even a “blueberry facial.” You’ll both leave feeling relaxed and ready to face the day—with a new blinged-out collar to boot!

Shop! | Play! | Kids! | Primp! | Pets! | People! | Eat!

PEOPLE

Our who-to-know list for 2007.

Politician to Vote Out of Office

EDITORS’ and READERS’ CHOICE Tom Tancredo
The irony, of course, is that if Terrible Tommy were simply a man of his word, he wouldn’t have to keeping winning this category (year after year after year). When first elected in 1998, the longtime supporter of term limits pledged to serve no more than three terms in Congress. He reneged on that promise in 2004, and because his district remains overwhelmingly Republican, he continues to make Colorado a national laughingstock.

Loudmouth in Need of a Muzzle

EDITORS’ CHOICE Jon Caldara
Way back in 1998, 5280 dubbed Jon Caldara the “anti-Slick Willie” and described him with words like “affable,” “smart,” and “charming.” Sadly, in the wake of 9/11, this once intellectually honest conservative (currently on 850 KOA) has gone the way of so many other popular talk-show hosts (left and right) who rely on bullying, buffoonery, and outright lies to claw their way to the top of the radio ratings. A few Caldara lowlights from the last year:
1. After a South Dakota senator suffered a brain hemorrhage, Caldara joked about his condition and declared, “Republicans are just praying that the guy kicks it.”
2. Debating Denver’s smoking ban, Caldara opined, “We should be encouraging smoking because smoking saves tax dollars because it gets stupid people to die sooner.”
3. Caldara claimed that a state legislator’s e-mail criticizing charter school supporters was “more embarrassing” than the sexually explicit text messages sent to underage pages by disgraced Rep. Mark Foley.
4. Explaining Sen. Joe Lieberman’s primary defeat, Caldara wondered, “Or is it just that the Democrats hate Jews?”

READERS’ CHOICE Tom Tancredo
A perennial winner in this category, Tom Tancredo is now taking his personal Crazy Bus national with a quixotic bid for the presidency. The Littleton Republican’s biggest gaffe of the year? His statement that Miami has become a “Third World country,” which he later tried to defend on CNN by claiming that a Miami newspaper poll showed that 70 percent of the city agreed with him. No such poll exists.

Athlete

EDITORS’ CHOICE Todd Helton
Now in his second decade as the face of the Rockies franchise, Helton has been the epitome of consistency and class, quietly producing every year even when most of his teammates, well, haven’t. He handled the recent trade rumors with all the dignity local fans have come to expect from a guy who simply leads by example. (Honorable mention: the Nuggets’ Eduardo Najera, a perennial fan favorite who’s built a long NBA career on little more than hustle and guts.)

READERS’ CHOICE Joe Sakic
Having just completed his 18th season in a certain Hall-of-Fame-worthy career, Sakic is still on top of his game. This year he racked up his highest point total since 2001 and became the 17th man in NHL history to reach the 600-goal plateau. He’s done it all with one franchise (in Denver and Québec before the Avs arrived), and though he’s famously shy with the media his work on the ice has always spoken volumes.

Up and Comer

EDITORS’ CHOICE Taylor Phinney
Anyone with a rudimentary understanding of genetics wouldn’t be surprised by the rapid ascension of 17-year-old Taylor Phinney as one’s of America’s most promising young cyclists. The son of Olympians Connie Carpenter and Davis Phinney (who also won two stages of the Tour de France and is the winningest American racer ever), Boulder-based Taylor is now turning heads as a member of the TIAA-Cref/5280 developmental squad. (Full disclosure: As the name suggests, 5280 sponsors this team.)

READERS’ CHOICE Jay Cutler
Though the season ended out of the playoffs, our readers have ratified the choice made by coach Mike Shanahan in November when he gave rookie Jay Cutler the job as the Broncos’ starting quarterback.

Politician

EDITORS’ CHOICE Elbra Wedgeworth
Next summer, when Denver takes center stage in the national spotlight, thank Elbra Wedgeworth. More so than any other individual, it was the former Denver City Council president who brought the Democratic National Convention to the Mile-High City. Term limits forced Wedgeworth off the council; here’s hoping she’ll return to elected office soon.

READERS’ CHOICE Mayor John Hickenlooper
If December’s snowstorms didn’t end the city’s honeymoon with Hickenlooper, it’s hard to imagine what will. The popular bar-owner-turned-politician recently cruised to re-election, which gives him another four years to advance such key initiatives as his campaigns for the homeless and the environment.

Radio Talk Show Host(s)

EDITORS’ CHOICE Caplis and Silverman,
“The Caplis and Silverman Show,” 630 KHOW

A JonBenét suspect. A murdered Bronco. A high school shooting. The Dems booking Denver for ’08. It was quite a big year in Denver news, to be sure. And on any given afternoon commute, you could count on Caplis and Silverman—the trial-lawyer-cum-talk-show wonder twins—to be discussing and dissecting each story (if not sometimes ad nauseam). Since 2004, the duo has become the afternoon-drive talk show for Denverites in the know, and by keeping their show lively with thought-provoking questions, guests, and callers (plus frequent forays into national news as “resident experts”), they’ve made us listen. Psst: Before Bob Schaffer threw his hat in the ring, Caplis was pondering a run for the Senate. So stay tuned.

READERS’ CHOICE Jay Marvin, “The Jay Marvin Show,” 760 KKZN
Mornings with Jay Marvin—the blue-collar-championing, tirade-loving, left-of-center host of Boulder’s Air America affiliate—is always good for getting your blood flowing early in the day, particularly during his hour of open phone lines—featuring a steady stream of callers that either make you want to roll down the window and shout “Right on!” or slam your steering wheel and scream “Could you be more wrong?” Marvin’s got more than 33 years’ experience in the radio biz, but you can expect his voice to really make waves as Denver gears up to host the Dems next summer.

Sports Trade of the Year

EDITORS’ CHOICE Jake Plummer to Tampa Bay Bucs for ’08 Draft Pick
This was a win-win situation for the Broncos. After struggling through the first part of the season with a passer rating of just 70.5—14th among 15 AFC quarterbacks—Plummer was unceremoniously benched in favor of strong-armed rookie Jay Cutler. Of course, that meant Denver had a very expensive (and surly) second-string quarterback riding the pine. In a brilliant move, the Broncos’ front office sent Plummer packing in hopes of gaining a middle-round draft pick, knowing that no matter what happened (i.e., Plummer retires instead of approving the trade) they were rid of old Jake the Snake—and his salary.

READERS’ CHOICE Andre Miller and Joe Smith for Allen Iverson
While the full potential of this trade may not have been realized in the ’06-’07 season (after all, the Nuggets tanked in the first round of the playoffs), our readers are still optimistic that AI is the Answer. As the second-highest scorer and the No. 1 assist man on the team, Iverson adds much-needed offensive power and competent ball-handling skills. But something still isn’t quite right…here’s hoping Karl can figure it out over the off-season.

Newspaper Columnist

EDITORS’ CHOICE Tina Griego
Unlike most columnists who spout partisan soap-box drivel (e.g.: Vincent Carroll’s recent defense of local radio shock jock Gunny Bob’s anti-Muslim statements), the Rocky’s Tina Griego actually gets off her butt and reports. Take, for example, her yearlong series “The North Side” and “Border Street.” For each, Griego spent a year writing about two very specific Denver cultures to illustrate universal social problems. In the former, she followed students and teachers in Denver’s predominately Hispanic North High School to show why so many Hispanic students don’t graduate from Denver schools. That piece earned her a Print Journalist of the Year award from the National Association of Hispanic Journalists in 2006. Write on, sister.

READERS’ CHOICE Woody Paige
Our readers must have missed Denver Post sports columnist Woody Paige—he’s only been back in town for seven months after a yearlong hiatus at ESPN’s “Cold Pizza,” but he ran away with our best-columnist category. Welcome back, Woody.

Author

EDITORS’ CHOICE Dan Baum
www.knoxandbaum.com
It’s not just his two books (Smoke and Mirrors: The War on Drugs and the Politics of Failure and Citizen Coors, A Grand Family Saga of Business, Politics, and Beer) that make Dan Baum a literary heavyweight. Baum, a Front Ranger and New Yorker staff writer since 2003, is one of the finest nonfiction authors working today, locally and globally. Check out his New Yorker features on soldiers returning from Iraq, or his reports, in that magazine’s “Talk of the Town” section, from New Orleans during the aftermath of Katrina—short, fly-on-the-wall stories that are thoroughly reported, understated in their prose, and as memorable (and human) as anything the magazine publishes today.

READERS’ CHOICE John Shors
www.beneathamarblesky.com
This native-Iowan turned resident-Boulderite made a splash a couple of years back with Beneath a Marble Sky, a historical novel about the creation of the Taj Mahal, circa the mid-1600s. Written in the first-person voice of a contemplative princess, the book has been hailed by critics, adored by book clubs, and optioned by Hollywood for feature-film treatment. Whether the movie gets made before Shors’ next book is finished (he’s hush-hush on the title) remains to be seen.

Artist

EDITORS’ CHOICE Patrick Marold
www.patrickmarold.com
Leave it to a Denver artist to harness the wind to power his artistic statement. Marold, a 32-year-old artist and graduate from Wheat Ridge High School, specializes in using the environment as a catalyst to art, and this time he drew on the wind to light up nearly 3,000 twinkling windmills on Vail Mountain. The result: a breathtaking starry-night installation, framed by darkness. Marold’s creativity and the success of his work (which ran as part of Vail’s Art in Public Places program from late March to May) might have already netted him a larger-scale project in Santa Fe in 2008.

Radio Music DJ

EDITORS’ CHOICE Mike Casey, 99.5 The Mountain
We fancy our tuneage at the hands of a true craftsman, someone who possesses encyclopedic knowledge yet isn’t too impressed by it. Those traits come to life weekdays from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. during Casey’s forays into album rock. Why this guy isn’t doing the morning show confounds us.

READERS’ CHOICE Bret Saunders, 97.3 KBCO
For the 84th year in a row, our readers have overwhelmingly endorsed Saunders’ part breezy, part cheesy way of easing them through the morning commute. He marries the good (holding up his end of chats about football, politics, or the environment quite admirably) with the bad (schlocky bits like “The Sage”) in a most palatable way.

Bartender

EDITORS’ CHOICE Dwight Long, My Brother’s Bar
2376 15th St., 303-455-9991
When we waltzed into My Brother’s Bar and asked for a whiskey, Dwight Long talked us into trying a rye. When the patron next to us started getting loud about his love of illegal substances, Dwight talked him down from his tirade. He remembered our name, loved recommending good booze, and had one coworker saying that working with Dwight is “like being on vacation.”

READERS’ CHOICE Rich Wisniewski, Stadium Inn
1703 E. Evans Ave., 303-733-4031
The Stadium Inn is the bar of regulars—$2 Jim Beam specials, FHM magazines on the wall, and comfy vinyl booths, perfect for eavesdropping on the DU crowd. Rich handles it all in stride, keeping easy conversation going with his diverse clientele. And though he laughed at our request for a dirty martini—they don’t have any martini glasses—he made us an old fashioned to remember.

Comeback Kid

EDITORS’ CHOICE Dick Wadhams
He was last seen watching the Virginia senatorial campaign go up in flames after his candidate George Allen’s regrettable “Macaca” moment. Now Wadhams, viewed by many as the heir apparent to Karl Rove, has returned to his native Colorado to run the state’s GOP just in time for the Dems to descend on Denver in 2008. Is he nervous? Hardly. The prospect of playing the foil to the “left-wing sideshow otherwise known as the Democratic National Convention” has this bulldog licking his chops.

Shop! | Play! | Kids! | Primp! | Pets! | People! | Eat!

EAT

The best beignets, the creamiest korma, the most mouthwatering sashimi, and the cheesiest cheeseburger. Our top picks for Denver’s most enticing grub.

Mexican

EDITORS’ CHOICE El Taco de Mexico
714 Santa Fe Drive, 303-623-3926,
www.eltacodemexico.com
It’s tiny and there are no margaritas, but this hole-in-the-wall is the best thing since patted tortillas. The green chile sports deep chile and pork flavors; heavenly tortillas hug succulent carnitas, tender barbacoa, or even chiles rellenos fillings; and the salsas are muy deliciosas.

READERS’ CHOICE Benny’s Restaurante y
Tequila Bar

301 E. Seventh Ave., 303-894-0788,
www.bennysrestaurant.com
For 20 years, locally owned Benny’s has been serving up killer margaritas, massive chiles rellenos, and the chippiest chips in town. Take-out’s almost as much fun as eating in the restaurant, as special bar seats are reserved for hungry hombres on the go.

Authentic Italian

EDITORS’ CHOICE Il Posto
2011 E. 17th Ave., 303-394-0100,
www.ilpostodenver.com
We heap our love on this 17th Avenue restaurant for several reasons—the most important being Milan-born chef-owner Andrea Frizzi’s menu, which is written in Italian on two chalkboards and changes daily depending on what ingredients he sources. You might be lucky enough to eat mozzarella that, yesterday, was being made by hand in Italy. No matter what you order, don’t miss the gnocchi—Frizzi and crew make the dough 45 minutes before the doors open for the evening, and each bite is heavenly and light.

READERS’ CHOICE Carmine’s on Penn
92 S. Pennsylvania St., 303-777-6443
At Carmine’s you’ll find the family-style portions enough to feed a hungry army. One of our favorite dishes includes the ultradecadent chicken Montana with penne, sun-dried tomatoes, asparagus, and chicken in a cream sauce. Little-known tip: If you’re not dining with a large party sit at the bar, where they’ll serve you a half order.

Caribbean

EDITORS’ CHOICE Cuba Cuba
1173 Delaware St., 303-605-2822,
www.cubacubacafe.com
Order a plate of vaca frita (mojo-marinated flank steak and sautéed onions, with white rice, black beans, maduros, and garlic mojo). Cuba Cuba does a bang-up job of creating an ambience that’s dreamy, relaxing, and oh-so island-y (in the middle of the Golden Triangle, no less).

READERS’ CHOICE 8 Rivers Café
3609 W. 32nd Ave., 303-477-1126, www.8riversrestaurant.com
This cozy Caribbean spot satisfies the island-food-loving palate with dishes such as jerk chicken, curried shrimp, and fried plantain won tons. Wash it all down with a Red Stripe (hooray beer!) or a dirty mojito made with dark Caribbean rum.

Chinese

EDITORS’ CHOICE Super Star Asian Cuisine
2200 W. Alameda Ave., 303-727-9889
Dim sum and then some—it’s all delicious at Super Star Asian Cuisine. Tender sweet-and-spicy chicken feet; steamed barbecue pork buns; handmade dumplings brimming with juicy shrimp and a touch of orange tobiko. Expect a long line on weekends, but, if the overwhelmingly Chinese crowd is any sort of endorsement, know that this food is worth waiting for.

READERS’ CHOICE Little Ollie’s
2364 E. Third Ave., 303-316-8888
For gussied-up Chinese that caters to American palates, Cherry Creek’s Little Ollie’s is the winner. Try the barbecued spare ribs or steamed fish for specialties that are big on authentic flavor.

Thai

EDITORS’ CHOICE US Thai Café
5228 W. 25th Ave., Edgewater, 303-233-3345,
www.usthaicafe.com
Walk inside the doors of the tiny US Thai Café and you’re practically hovering over chef Aung Kyaw’s wok station. A shoulder-high wall divides you, but it doesn’t prevent the tantalizing smell of garlic, coconut milk, and ginger from tempting your hunger. Owner Ma Vue and Chef Kyaw serve the real deal here in this corner of Edgewater—and they discourage diners from ordering dishes “Thai hot” unless you’re, well, from Thailand. Take them seriously, and don’t pass up the garlic shrimp or massman curry.

READERS’ CHOICE Tommy’s Thai and Thai Basil Asian Fusion tie
Tommy’s Thai: 3410 E. Colfax Ave., 303-377-4244; Thai Basil Asian Fusion: multiple locations
Our readers love these Thai staples equally, which must explain why they’re both perpetually busy. Your best bet for both: take-out. (Though Tommy’s does boast a design-forward building that garnered a Mayor’s Design Award in 2005.) Our fave dish from Tommy’s is the reliable tom kha (coconut soup), while over at Thai Basil we always order the panang curry with chicken.

Sushi

EDITORS’ CHOICE Sushi Sasa
2401 15th St., 303-433-7272, www.sushisasadenver.com
The next big thing in sushi was born from the excellence of chef Wayne Conwell, formerly of the esteemed Sushi Den. What we love: the ethereal, minimalist digs, a tight collection of specials for the sushi snob/purist (on one night, three different kinds of snapper), and incredibly precise—and gorgeous—presentation. New kid, welcome to the block.

READERS’ CHOICE Sushi Den
1487 S. Pearl St., 303-777-0826, www.sushiden.net
With the dining scene booming on sweet little South Pearl Street, its anchor must not be ignored: The Den, a perennial winner, never fails to deliver some of the best sushi in the West, not to mention hip interpretations of classic Japanese dishes and flavors.

Waitstaff

EDITORS’ CHOICE Frasca Food and Wine
1738 Pearl St., Boulder, 303-442-6966,
www.frascafoodandwine.com
The relaxed graciousness of Bobby Stuckey and his entire crew makes every guest feel like the evening’s most important VIP. The unsurpassed knowledge about food and wine, thoughtful choreography, and uncanny ability to anticipate every diner’s needs are the qualities that set Frasca’s team up as the gold standard.

READERS’ CHOICE Vita
1575 Boulder St., 303-477-4600, www.vitadenver.com
What’s not to love here? Vita’s professional crew is fun, hip, confident, and unpretentious. Best of all, they work the sexy new restaurant as a true team. Every bartender, server, and host can describe dishes without a moment’s hesitation, making this dining room run like a well-oiled machine.

Indian

EDITORS’ CHOICE Sherpa’s Adventurers Restaurant & Bar
825 Walnut St., Boulder, 303-440-7151,
www.sherpaascent.com/restaurant.htm
Feel immediately at home in this cozy setting that serves up authentic Tibetan, Nepalese, and Indian cuisine. Between mouthfuls of curry and vegetable samosas, trade mountain tales with Nepal native and owner Pemba Sherpa, a former Everest guide. If the service is a little slow, make efficient use of time by checking out the guidebooks that adorn the bar area. By meal’s end, you will be fueled up and ready to tackle your next adventure.

READERS’ CHOICE Little India
Multiple locations.
Creamy korma, barbecued tandoori chicken, piping hot naan, and excellent service has made this a readers’ favorite year after year. And it’s not just the quality; it’s the quantity at the $7.95 weekday lunch buffet.

Seafood

EDITORS’ CHOICE Potager
1109 Ogden St., 303-832-5788
Chef Teri Rippeto’s unwavering respect for quality products helps her bring to Denver some of the most coveted seafood on the planet. (Often her fish is from the same catch as Thomas Keller’s or Jean-Georges’). And Rippeto’s restraint with cooking allows her to coax out the seafood’s greatest assets (think roasted grouper with leek and lobster broth). For exquisite seafood with finesse and integrity, we tip our hats to Potager.

READERS’ CHOICE Jax Fish House
1539 17th St., 303-292-5767; 928 Pearl St., Boulder, 303-444-1811; www.jaxfishhousedenver.com
It’s surprising that seagulls don’t sit on the parking meters outside Jax—chef Sheila Lucero’s creations are so fresh, you’ll swear the wharf ends on 17th. Sail in for the spectacular raw bar or Lucero’s wasabi-crusted ono with blood-orange beurre blanc.

Tacos

EDITORS’ CHOICE Taqueria Patzcuaro
2616 W. 32nd Ave., 303-455-4389, www.taqpatz.com
In the biz since 1978, Patzcuaro is low-key (it’s a pay-at-the-register and seat-yourself kind of place), and that’s just why we like it. Choose from seven different kinds of tacos—beef cheeks and pork stomach are two of the more authentic offerings—and order a Mexican beer to wash down the down-home eats.

READERS’ CHOICE Wahoo’s Fish Taco
Multiple locations, www.wahoos.com
We like the 2-A with blackened fish and white beans (that’s the two-taco combo plate for you novices). Bonus: Ask for a side of the green sauce. We’re not quite sure what makes it so addictive, but who cares?

Steak House

EDITORS’ CHOICE The Keg Steakhouse
1890 Wynkoop St., 303-296-0023,
www.kegsteakhouse.com
We like the laid-back vibe of the bar area and great appetizers, but LoDo’s Keg won us over for one reason—the steak. Grilled Chicago-style—charred on the outside and cooked to order on the inside—it’s everything a steak should be.

READERS’ CHOICE Denver ChopHouse
& Brewery

1735 19th St., 303-296-0800, www.chophouse.com
An old standby, the Denver ChopHouse has been pleasing Denver meat lovers for more than 10 years. The restaurant really hits it out of the park with its starters—onion rings that’d fit around a softball and mussels in a spicy, finger-licking-good herb tomato Vermouth sauce. Don’t fill up too much, though—the bacon-wrapped filet, topped with portobello mushrooms and Wild Turkey whiskey sauce, is top-notch.

Vegetarian Restaurant

EDITORS’ CHOICE Leaf Vegetarian Restaurant
2010 16th St., Boulder, 303-442-1485,
www.leafvegetarianrestaurant.com
Boulder’s newest veggie lovers’ nook jazzes up all your favorite staples (tofu, tempeh, polenta, seitan, eggplant) with world-inspired flavors (Thai, Indian, and Middle Eastern) in a crisp, understated spot off Pearl Street. Our fave? The Oaxacan mole ($17), a warmly spiced mixture of chayote, plantain, jicama, red pepper, and dried fruit and oats with a roasted poblano relleno, all over a sweet potato cake and subtle chocolate mole.

READERS’ CHOICE WaterCourse Foods
837 E. 17th Ave., 303-832-7313,
www.watercoursefoods.com
The dishes make you feel like you’re eating an actual meal, not a plate of veggies. Pot pie? Turnovers? Fajitas? Yes, please. Scarf down all the comforts of savory pasta, stuffed burritos, and barbecue (yes, barbecue) goodness, all served up at the new location on 17th Avenue.

Diner

EDITORS’ CHOICE Snooze
2262 Larimer St., 303-297-0700, www.snoozedenver.com
Lines form early at this year-old, retro-fab diner, where you’ll find all your faves for breakfast and lunch. Chorizo-stuffed breakfast burritos and cheesy hash browns are a must, as are the sweet potato pancakes—so fluffy and sweet, you’ll wonder where they’ve been all your life.

READERS’ CHOICE Pete’s Kitchen
1962 E. Colfax Ave., 303-321-3139,
www.petesrestaurantstoo.com
Late-night noshers simply can’t resist Pete’s overstuffed breakfast burritos and gyro sandwiches. And even though the menu is straight from the 1950s, there are hints that not all is stuck in yesteryear—signs on the wall declare Pete’s a “trans-fat-free zone.” But what about saturated fats? Don’t ask, don’t tell, my friend.

Comfort Food

EDITORS’ CHOICE Fruition
1313 Sixth Ave., 303-831-1962,
www.fruitionrestaurant.com
Maybe they’re not the dishes your mama made, but Fruition’s version of upscale comfort food will turn you in to buttah. Chicken soup with perfect brunoise veggies, handmade pasta, and a stock base so savory it makes you shudder. Add to that menu items like chef Alex Seidel’s barbecue pork shoulder confit, fresh vanilla-bean pudding, and seared Alaskan halibut cheeks, and you’ve got the culinary equivalent of being swaddled in cashmere.

READERS’ CHOICE Steuben’s
523 E. 17th Ave., 303-830-1001, www.steubens.com
Steuben’s retro-style diner whisks us away to a time when flavors were less complicated and food went straight to the heart (or thighs?). Authentic Maine lobster rolls, deviled eggs, crispy fried chicken, and mouthwatering frosted cupcakes are sure to resurrect memories from your childhood.

Tapas

EDITORS’ and READERS’ CHOICE The 9th Door
1808 Blake St., 303-292-2229, www.ninthdoor.com
Editors and readers agree that the 9th Door takes top honors for inspired small plates. You can hardly strike out with chef Kevin Marquet’s Spanish meatballs, pan-fried artichoke hearts, or fire-roasted pequillo peppers. Pair those with a glass of sangría (red or white) and the dark, sexy LoDo space, and you’ve got a good night ahead.

Sunday Brunch

EDITORS’ CHOICE Gaia Bistro & Rustic Bakery
1551 S. Pearl St., 303-777-5699, www.gaiabistro.com
We can’t decide what’s best at Gaia. The grapefruit-size cinnamon rolls? The melt-in-your-mouth blueberry bread? Or the crêpes—the oh-so-heavenly crêpes—filled with fancy cheeses, veggies, fruits, and meats. The only thing more exciting than brunch is the upcoming August debut of Gaia’s dinner menu.

READERS’ CHOICE Lucile’s Creole Cafe
275 S. Logan St., 303-282-6258, www.luciles.com
Other locations in Boulder, Longmont, Fort Collins,
and Steamboat.
If you drive past Lucile’s on a sunny weekend morning, you’ll find a smiling, happy crowd waiting outside. They’re happy for two reasons: 1. They’re tossing back a kick-ass Bloody Mary and/or mimosa. 2. They’re in line for a pillowy, powdery beignet and a monstrous breakfast scramble. These are smart people—we humbly suggest you join them.

Barbecue

EDITORS’ CHOICE Brickyard BBQ
4243 W. 38th Ave., 303-561-4875,
www.brickyardbbq.com
After plowing through a slab of Brickyard’s ribs, you’ll be drinking their Kool-Aid. Literally. You can order up a glass of the red, sugar-laden ambrosia to chase your ‘cue. Hey, Brickyard keeps it old-school like that, with its red-checkered tablecloths, Muddy Waters jams, and “burnt ends” (the ends of the meat that act like flavor magnets). This barbecue’s so good you’ll want to bust through a wall and bellow, “Oh yeah!”

READERS’ CHOICE Brothers BBQ
Multiple locations, www.brothers-bbq.com
Brothers was founded by two British siblings who got a taste for barbecue while traveling around the country to race cars. But don’t be fooled by their fish-and-chips ancestry. These limeys know how to smoke a swine: Grab some slow-cooked livestock, and then slather it with one of five sauces, including a tangy Memphis-style and a tangier Carolina-style.

Chips and Salsa

EDITORS’ CHOICE Blue Bonnet Cafe
457 S. Broadway, 303-778-0147,
www.bluebonnetrestaurant.com
First the chips: handmade and deep-fried corn tortillas served warm, one basket per person. Then the salsa: also handmade, also delicious, and with a kick at the end. You’re not supposed to fill up on chips and salsa before your meal, but in the Blue Bonnet’s case we’ll make an exception.

READERS’ CHOICE Benny’s Restaurante y
Tequila Bar

301 E. Seventh Ave., 303-894-0788,
www.bennysrestaurant.com
Are there any words greater than “free chips and salsa?” Yes: “bottomless free chips and salsa.” That’s how they serve ’em up at Benny’s, the established Governor’s Park cantina. The salty corn tortillas and subtle heat of the salsa will have you reaching for one of the house margs, which are equally satisfying.

Burgers or Bust

You might think it unwise to choose a guy who’s perfectly content with a microwave slider to be the one who decides which Denver burger is best. But who better than this man—with a palate unpolluted by culinary snobbery, honed by decades of chowing down on patties of varying pedigree—to decide what constitutes an elite burger? Realizing that the READERS’ CHOICE would be the Cherry Cricket, our own Senior Editor Luc Hatlestad set out to see what other ground beef goodies Denver has to offer. And he was not disappointed.

The High End
Elway’s White Cheddar
and Bacon Burger

2500 E. First Ave., 303-399-5353, www.elways.com
“The crème de la crème. From the succulent beef, to the crispy bacon, to the tangy Cheddar, to the lightly toasted, soft pinwheel Kaiser roll, to the delicately crispy homemade chips that accompany it, this burger is made with love.”

The Standby
CityGrille Steakburger
321 E. Colfax Ave., 303-861-0726, www.citygrille.com
“Looks like it came out of a bag of preformed patties, but tastes like one of a kind. Just a good, solid burger on a ciabatta roll with a side of grilled onions—all served to you, if you’re lucky, by a Harley-sassy waitress.”

The Unburger
Rocky Mountain Diner
Santa Fe Burger

800 18th St., 303-293-8383, www.rockymountaindiner.com
“This one’s got some kick. The Santa Fe takes a beef patty, wraps it in a tortilla, and smothers it in green chile and cheese to put a south-of-the-border spin on an all-American meal.”

The “Joint” Burger
Candlelight Tavern Cheeseburger
383 S. Pearl St., 303-778-9530, www.candlelighttavern.com
“These baby burgers taste like they came right off your backyard grill. They’re a bit small, but at only $3.75 a pop you’ll probably want to order two or three. I suspect that either the meat or the buns are cooked in butter. This is a good thing.”

Pizza

EDITORS’ CHOICE Famous Pizza
98 S. Broadway, 303-778-7998; 2035 S. Broadway, 303-744-1446
The pizza spinners’ kids are doing homework on a back table, there’s a soap opera on overhead, and there are ’80s shots of feather-haired ladies enjoying gyros on the wall. This beloved pie joint is the real deal. Why we go? Authentic New York-style slices: thin crust and sauce with a hint of spice.

READERS’ CHOICE Anthony’s Pizza
& Pasta

Multiple locations, www.anthonyspizzandpasta.com
The hole-in-the-wall feel to the downtown Anthony’s only adds to the allure of the big, greasy slices. We always eat in-house—only the reckless would carry a box of Anthony’s pizza around downtown. (Heck, we might mug you.)

French Fries

EDITORS’ CHOICE Aji Restaurant
1601 Pearl St., Boulder, 303-442-3464,
www.ajirestaurant.com
If the bright orange hue of Aji’s sweet potato fries doesn’t shock your senses, the kickin’ flavor will. Thin and crispy on the outside and silky smooth on the inside, these distinctive fries are the definition of sinfully sweet—Latin American style. And the savory dipping sauce puts traditional ketchup to shame.

READERS’ CHOICE Steuben’s
523 E. 17th Ave., 303-830-1001, www.steubens.com
A poor schmuck might lose a finger if he nabs a fry off someone else’s plate at Steuben’s, but he’ll be glad he did. And the gravy fries? You better watch yourself! Whatever style you choose, there’s no going wrong with the skinny, crispy fries at this Uptown hotspot.

Bagels

EDITORS’ CHOICE The Bagel Deli
6439 E. Hampden Ave., 303-756-6667,
www.thebageldeli.com
What makes a New York bagel so hard to replicate? Some say it’s in the water. And if that’s true, then this kosher-style deli must ship in gallons a day. Since 1969, these old-schoolers have been slicing and schmearing bagels like they’re on the Upper West Side. The bagel: a light glossy crust surrounding billowy yet not-too-chewy dough. Try the “B2″—bagel, cream cheese, lox, tomato, and onion…delish.

READERS’ CHOICE Moe’s Broadway Bagel
550 Grant St., 303-733-7331, plus two Boulder locations; www.moesbagel.com
There’s a reason why Front Rangers line up at Moe’s on Saturdays: quick, friendly service and fresh-baked bagel sandwiches stacked with egg, cheese, and crisp bacon or overflowing with gobs of cream cheese (we love the scallion). If only they’d stop calling the “Everything” bagel an “Italian”—that’s not what it’s called on the real Broadway.

Deli

EDITORS’ CHOICE Mendelson’s Deli
600 17th St., 303-996-5555
With friendly, timely service and a wide variety of sandwiches made with love and Boar’s Head meats—the filet mignon of cold cuts—Mendelson’s is a classic New York-style deli for the downtown lunch crowd. Try one of the stacked club sandwiches or some steaming hot soup, and don’t forget to treat yourself to a nice, gooey brownie for dessert.

READERS’ CHOICE Heidi’s Brooklyn Deli
Multiple locations, www.heidisbrooklyndeli.com
With a wide variety of sandwiches and soups, this longtime favorite continues its run as one of the best delis in town.

Happy Hour Menu

EDITORS’ CHOICE The Dish Bistro and
the Coral Room tie

Dish Bistro: 400 E. 20th Ave., 303-863-7472, www.thedishbistro.com; Coral Room: 3489 W. 32nd Ave., 303-433-2535, and 7352 E. 29th Ave., 303-321-9463, www.coralroom.com
OK, so maybe it’s a little unorthodox, but we liberally imbibed in many fine after-work drink specials before realizing that a happy hour need not be restricted to the evening business set. Heck, we think the late-morning Sunday-snoozer crowd deserves an hour or two of happiness as well. Enter the bottomless mimosa—the $5 star of Sunday brunch at the Dish Bistro (11 a.m. to 2 p.m.) and $8 at the Coral Room (10 a.m. to 2 p.m.) Nothing goes with French toast and scrambled eggs like a glass of bubbly with a refreshing citrus punch…and another…and another.

READERS’ CHOICE McCormick’s Fish
House & Bar

1659 Wazee St., 303-825-1107; 8100 E. Union Ave., 720-200-9393, www.mccormickandschmicks.com
You called it again, and we just can’t argue: McCormick’s dishes up steamed mussels, spinach and artichoke dip, and blackened fish tacos for $1.95 each, 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. every day. Big spenders can order the chilled bay shrimp or baked Brie for $2.95. Bonus: Swing by late-night for a second happy hour if you missed the early goods (weekdays 9 p.m. to 11 p.m., Friday and Saturday 10 p.m. to midnight).

Patio Dining

EDITORS’ CHOICE Black Pearl
1529 S. Pearl St., 303-777-0500,
www.blackpearldenver.com
This elegant Platt Park favorite takes its outdoor seating up a notch with a cozy fire pit. Ambience factor? Off the charts. It doesn’t get more inviting than sipping a Pinot Noir around flickering flames that ward off the nighttime breeze. Treat yourself to the decadent truffle mac and cheese and warm your hands between bites. Heat lamps are so yesterday. (But the Black Pearl has got those, too…who says you can’t dine outside in March?)

READERS’ CHOICE LoLa
1575 Boulder St., 720-570-8686, www.loladenver.com
Hit up LoLa’s patio with the city’s thirtysomething scenesters on a balmy evening and order up a Brazilian Caipirinha and guac, made tableside. Get in there and stake your claim, though; the after-work crowd flocks like moths to a flame.

New Coffee Shop

EDITORS’ CHOICE Geez, Louise!
Coffee House

4924 E. Colfax Ave., 303-322-3833,
www.geezlouisecoffee.com
It’s not so much the smiling mannequin (that’s Louise) beckoning to us from the street corner outside that makes us want to visit this hip coffee joint. Rather, it’s smiling owners Dan Gundlach and Bill Sylvester and their talent for whipping up killer lattes, cappuccinos, and steamers. The loftlike interior has the essentials: local art, free wi-fi, and a handful of tables and comfy chairs.

READERS’ CHOICE Aviano Coffee
955 Lincoln St., 303-860-7054, www.avianocoffee.com
It’s no wonder Aviano is our readers’ fave. This coffee shop serves some of the best espresso drinks in town, pulled by baristas extraordinaire. But there are also incredible iced toddies and yummy chai, plus made-fresh-daily French pastries and a comfy decor to encourage lingering.

Bargain Meal

EDITORS’ CHOICE LoLa
1575 Boulder St., 720-570-8686, www.loladenver.com
Supercool atmosphere, stellar views, and $2 tacos—that makes LoLa a favorite in our book. The kitchen doesn’t skimp, either; these soft tacos come jammed with shredded chicken and cabbage slaw. Plus, you can drink for cheap: $1.50 cans of Modelo, $2 draft Tecate, $3 sangrías and margs, and $5 mojitos. The catch: You gotta dine on Monday night.

Ambience in a Restaurant

EDITORS’ CHOICE Z Cuisine
2239 W. 30th Ave., 303-477-1111,
www.zcuisineonline.com
At Z Cuisine we don’t linger over dinner only to savor French chef Patrick Dupays’ dishes. We take in the whole vibe: the French menu written on a chalkboard, the wine poured from a ceramic pitcher, the crispy baguette wrapped in a paper bag. This feels like Paris. You’ll even hear chef Dupays gossip in French with the waitstaff.

READERS’ CHOICE Vita
1575 Boulder St., 303-477-4600, www.vitadenver.com
Vita offers up what many other restaurants try but fail to provide: a sexy space that snuggles you in while making you feel trendy. Why? Could be the hipsters milling about the bar, the cushy black booths (if you’re lucky enough to score one), or the deep cocktail list.

Wine List

EDITORS’ CHOICE Frasca Food and Wine
1738 Pearl St., Boulder, 303-442-6966,
www.frascafoodandwine.com
There are restaurants with wine lists the size of War and Peace. But true connoisseurs know it’s about more than abundance. At Frasca, master sommelier Bobby Stuckey identifies nuances in the wine and pairs vintages with the spectacular Friulian menu to send the evening into the stratosphere. Frasca’s list is at once provocative and approachable, rare and affordable, friendly and intelligent.

READERS’ CHOICE Crú—A Wine Bar
1442 Larimer St., 303-893-9463, www.cruawinebar.com
Sexy, intimate surroundings coax diners into Larimer Square’s only true wine temple. Crú’s 400-bottle collection spans the globe, but vintages from California dominate the list. More than 10 wine flights, with names like “Exotic Italian,” give oenophiles a chance to challenge their senses.

Dessert Menu

EDITORS’ CHOICE Duo Restaurant
2413 W. 32nd Ave., 303-477-4141, www.duodenver.com
Yasmin Lozada-Hissom is a goddess of sugar. As pastry chef at Duo, she pushes the envelope in every direction—fruits sing with more intensity, pastries whisper with delicate crumbs, textures delight with consistent playfulness, and custards soothe with velvety creaminess. Try the sinful chocolate toffee crunch cake with crème fraiche gelato, or the pink-peppercorn-punctuated pineapple coconut tart.

READERS’ CHOICE The Cheesecake Factory
Multiple locations, www.cheesecakefactory.com
Hearty is an understatement at the Cheesecake Factory. Portions are big (and, admit it, delicious) so bring a friend to help.

Ice Cream

EDITORS’ CHOICE Glacier Homemade Ice Cream & Gelato
Multiple locations, www.glacierhomemadeicecream.com
With more than 80 decadent varieties to choose from, you’ll have to leave your indecisive tendencies at the door. Try the popular coffee caramel crunch, chocolate raspberry truffle, Key lime pie, or—this
is great—chai. Our fave? The caramel Wally Biscotti bada bing. It’s even fun
to say!

READERS’ CHOICE Bonnie Brae Ice Cream
799 S. University Blvd., 303-777-0808
If you can stomach the wait, your stomach will thank you. Lines are just part of the deal at this Denver mainstay, but the rich ice cream and welcoming staff make it worth the wait.

Cupcake

EDITORS’ CHOICE Mulberries Cake Shop and Spruce Confections tie
Mulberries, 1570 S. Pearl St., 303-282-1044, www.mulberriescakeshop.com; Spruce Confections, 767 Pearl St., 303-447-6773, and 4684 Broadway, 303-449-5819, Boulder
5280 conducted an officewide taste test for the cupcake category this year. Yummy cupcakes. Easy shmeasy, right? Not quite. After the 10th taste test, we realized that cupcakes are a sensitive topic. Everyone has an opinion about cupcakes. So, unable to come up with a consensus, we were forced to chose two winners this year—each on opposite sides of the taste spectrum. If you’re in the pretty-pretty-princess camp (you want your cupcake to look just as beautiful as it tastes: frothy frosting topped with perfectly precious Technicolor flowers), Platt Park’s Mulberries Cake Shop is for you. But if you’re in the savor-with-a-cup-of-coffee camp (the cupcake experience is cerebral: You opt for muted colors and mature flavors—almond, strawberry, and white chocolate), head on over to Spruce Confections.

READERS’ CHOICE Gateaux Bakery
1160 Speer Blvd., 303-376-0070,
www.gateauxpastries.com
This Golden Triangle bakery is known citywide for its flaky butter cookies, fruity tarts, and topsy-turvy Dr. Seuss-style cakes. So it’s only natural that these cupcakes—top-heavy with mounds of frosting and giant fondant flowers—are also go-to faves for our readers. Plan accordingly: Cupcake orders take two days to fill.

Street Vendor

EDITORS’ CHOICE Boney’s Smokehouse
Express BBQ

16th and Lawrence streets
After walking past a hot-dog cart, and then…another hot-dog cart, this country-cookin’ hut near Writer’s Square brings a refreshing variety to the downtown
street-vendor scene. Get there early before they run out of smoked turkey legs. But if you miss these, opt for the lunchbox
sandwich combos, a steal at $6.95. We
recommend the pulled pork, beans, and
a Coke.

Stadium Snack

EDITORS’ CHOICE Elk Quesadilla, Blue Sky Grill, Pepsi Center
1000 Chopper Circle, Pepsi Center, www.pepsicenter.com
Truth told, we didn’t have the cajones to try the Rocky Mountain oysters at Coors Field, but after tasting this mountain Mexican delicacy, the contest was over. Stuffed with tasty ground elk meat, drizzled with crema fresca, and dipped in tangy guacamole, this new spin on an old favorite is the perfect pre- or post-game nosh.

READERS’ CHOICE Rocky Dog, Coors Field
2001 Blake St., Coors Field
Evidently, baseball fans aren’t flocking to the Rocky Mountain oysters, either. No matter. Few things beat a dog at the ole ballpark.

Meat Market

EDITORS’ CHOICE Steve’s Meat Market
5751 Olde Wadsworth Blvd., Arvada, 303-422-3487, www.stevesmeatmarket.com
Tucked along Olde Wadsworth Boulevard in Old Town Arvada, Steve’s offers shoppers something a little different—buffalo and elk, processed on site. If you’re a hunter, chances are you’ve already found this gem, but if not stop by for the excellent buffalo kielbasa, ground elk meat, beef jerky (10 different kinds), or pork breakfast links. And the prices are cheap, cheap, cheap.

READERS’ CHOICE Tony’s Market
Multiple locations, www.tonysmarket.com
Can’t tell a skirt steak from a flank steak, a pork loin from a tenderloin? No worries: Tony’s butchers will not only graciously explain the difference but also give you cooking tips and recipe hints.

Wine Shop

EDITORS’ CHOICE Reserve List
1886 S. Pearl St., 303-722-5478, www.reservelist.com
The staff at the Reserve List knows that wine shopping is intimidating, so they’ve taken great pains to make the experience simple. White wines occupy a wall, and red wines are organized from the lightest bodied (Pinot Noir) in the shop’s front to the heaviest (Cabernet) in the back. Don’t be bashful about asking for a $10 bottle, either—the staff will recommend a dozen choices, without a whiff of pretension.

READERS’ CHOICE Mondo Vino
We hate to stereotype, but the Mondo Vino wine shop might be the quintessential Highland storefront: It’s clean and bright, staffed by a knowledgeable and helpful staff, and is loaded with hip thirtysomething customers with a dog/stroller in tow. Lest we forget: There’s that killer wine selection.

Bakery for Sweets

EDITORS’ CHOICE Daniel’s of Paris
12253 E. Iliff Ave., Aurora, 303-751-6084
At this out-of-the-way French pastry shop, the menu alone made us swoon: buttercream coffee squares, dark chocolate ganache. And that’s before we took a bite of the “opera,” a traditional French pastry with almond sponge cake, coffee buttercream, and rich chocolate ganache. Even Bob Greene diehards will be singing ooh-la-la.

READERS’ CHOICE Gateaux Bakery
1160 Speer Blvd., 303-376-0070,
www.gateauxpastries.com
The fondant fairy must flutter in at dawn to put all those finishing touches on what are surely the fanciest cakes in town. Less ornate but equally irresistible are the buttery croissant cinnamon rolls. Yum alert.

Bakery for Bread

EDITORS’ CHOICE Breadworks
2644 N. Broadway, Boulder, 303-444-5667,
www.breadworks.net
Boulder’s carbo outpost is the premier bread supplier for some of Denver and Boulder’s best restaurants (L’Atelier and the 9th Door) and grocery stores (Whole Foods and Wild Oats). We like that the newly expanded bakery and cafe has a sit-down-and-linger-for-a-while vibe. Next time you’re in Boulder, head over to Breadworks for delicious, homemade soup or gelato before grabbing a loaf of rustico bread on your way out the door.

Recommended for You

Top Of The Town

By |

Denver suffers from a civic inferiority complex. For years, the rest of the country thought of us as little more than a stopping off point on the way to the ski slopes. Today, a booming economy, 300 days of sunshine per year, and proximity to those very same mountains have made the Mile-High City one of the country’s most desirable places to live.

But here in town, we haven’t seemed to get the message. Though the metro area accounts for the vast majority of their viewers and advertisers, our leading television stations promote themselves as “Colorado’s News Leader” or the “Spirit of Colorado.” Our newest sports teams — including those that build stadiums with local taxes and benefit from other city incentives — choose names like Colorado Rockies, Colorado Avalanche, or Colorado Rapids. Even the Broncos have removed the “D” from their helmets.

Advertisement

Well, enough.

At the risk of sounding like the Chamber of Commerce (though perhaps it’s time somebody did), the Denver metro area is a terrific place to live. That became plainly evident when we sat down to compile our first-ever Top of the Town Awards.

Unlike other “Best Ofs” that honor just about anyone and everyone, we’ve kept ours to a relatively short list of categories. In many regards, that made our selection process harder (we’re still arguing among ourselves about deep-dish vs. thin-crust pizza), but we hope that it gives our Top of the Town Awards a bit more credibility and weight.

As the name suggests, the Editors’ Choice awards were selected by a team of 5280’s editors and writers. The Readers’ Choice awards were based on ballots published in the April/May issue, as well as on the magazine’s website (http://www.5280pub.com/). Even after weeding out several obvious attempts to stuff the ballot box, more than 200 ballots were cast.

Your choices were an interesting mix of old favorites (Beau Jo’s, Pete’s Kitchen, and John Elway) and new contenders (our editors gave Top Martini honors to the venerable Cruise Room; the readers said cheers to the two-year-old Purple Martini).

Advertisement

On the pages that follow, we offer the winners in 52 categories. Not every category has a corresponding Readers’ Choice. In some instances, no clear winner emerged from the balloting. In others, we exercised the editors’ prerogative of adding categories after the readers’ ballot was published.

Top Department Store

Editors’ & Readers Choice: Nordstrom – Park Meadows Shopping Center,
I-25 and County Line Rd., 303-799-3400

Top Women’s Wear

Editors’ Choice: Harold’s – Park Meadows Shopping Center,
I-25 and County Line Rd., 303-706-1407

Readers’ Choice: Ann Taylor – Cherry Creek & Park Meadows Shopping Center.

Top Bagel

Editors’ & Readers’ Choice: Moe’s Broadway Bagels – 550 Grant St., 303-733-7331

Advertisement

Recommended for You

Top Of The Town

By |

Denver is on a winning streak. After four failed trips to the Super Bowl, our Denver Broncos finally won the big one, and John Elway finally got his ring. Over at Coors Field, the Rockies’ Larry Walker slugged his way to the National Leagues most valuable-Player Award. It’s little wonder that the Sporting News calls Denver America’s top sports town.

Of course, there’s more to the Mile-High City than balls and bats. Local filmmakers Donna Dewey and Carol Pasternak took home an Academy Award for their short documentary, “A Story of Healing.” And the Denver Center Theatre Company won a Tony as the nation’s outstanding regional theater troupe.

Advertisement

Recommended for You

Top Of The Town

By |

For the third year in a row, we asked readers to tell us what they love about the Mile-High City. And for the first time, we also asked them to tell us what’s not so hot. One thing is for sure: Our readers are very opinionated. (That’s good; we like that.)

The results are more than just a three-peat – to use a Denver-coined word – of the last two years, however. There’s tons of cool new stuff in Denver since our last survey, including Colorado Ocean Journey, the Denver Pavilions, and another Super Bowl victory.

Advertisement

Not every Editor’s Choice is accompanied by a Readers’ Choice. In a few categories, no strong ?winner emerged, and we declared no victor. Of course, that didn’t stop us from voicing our own ?opinions, because, like you, we’re very opinionated.

On the pages that follow, we list Denver’s Top people, places, and things in dozens of categories. You’ll find some old favorites, and discover some new ones, too. Most importantly, we’d like to inspire you: To get some fresh air, to try some new shops and hangouts, to write to your local and state governments, and even to talk to strangers. And please, let us know what you find. Who knows? We may feature your ideas next year.

Recommended for You

Top of the Town

By |

For the last year we’ve been sampling, scrutinizing, shopping, slurping, singing, salsaing, and sitting our way through Denver’s places and spaces to find the exceptional, the fantastic, the matchless.

Our crack team of writers and editors (you know, the foodie-hipster fashionistas-working professional-night-crawling-dog-loving Mile-High experts we have on staff) put our discerning palates to the test for you, dear Denver. We also got a whole lot of help from our readers this year (more than 75,000 votes logged online. Right on!).

The final result? Our ultracomprehensive annual list of Denver’s best. With 292 winners this year, it’s our biggest TOT yet. As it should be. This year, Top of the Town celebrates 10 years. But now onto the good stuff: Ready, set, read!

Advertisement

Contributors: Brian T. Atkinson, Brian Barker, Georgia Alexia Benjou, Daniel Brogan, Patrick Doyle, Julie Dugdale, Amanda M. Faison, Rose Fredrick, Steve Goldner-de Beer, Nick Hartshorn, Kazia Jankowski, Mike Kessler, Lindsey B. Koehler, Gretchen Kurtz, Colbèrt Levy, Dougald MacDonald, Carol W. Maybach, Cara McDonald, Ric Nepomuceno, Maximillian Potter, Stephanie Powell, Brian Roundtree, Patrick Soran, Kat Valentine, Joel Warner, and Ken Zachmann.

Recommended for You

Top Of The Town

By |

Top Home Accessories

Readers’ Choice: Great Indoors For the third year in a row, readers say that for home accessories, this warehouse-size store should be your first stop. Great Indoors’ prices are usually decent and the selection of goods – from placemats and candles to carpet and washing machines and everything in between – is excellent. There’s even a coffee shop inside – and you might need the caffeine jolt to make it through the store’s vast selection of merchandise. 8585 S. Yosemite St., Lone Tree, 303-708-2500.

Top Jewelry

Editors’ Choice: Fifth Avenue Design Larry Blauweiss simply makes the jewelry shopping experience a pleasure. Quick to discern your tastes and budget, he will work with you to design a piece or find one that already fits the bill. The popularity of this Cherry Creek North jewelry store has really taken off in the last year, so shop early to ensure on-time delivery. 150 Steele St., 303-394-2020.

Advertisement

Recommended for You

Top of the Town

Cheers to the 2003 winners! Raise your glasses to more than 250 things that make Denver a great place to live. While we hope you’ll discover some new businesses, people, and places, we’re sure this year’s list also highlights a few old favorites.

By |

Top Places, Service, Personalities, Shopping, Dining, Kid Stuff, Entertainment, and Worst Stuff

Top Place to Break Up – Highline Chair Lift on Vail Mountain
Need someone’s undivided attention? You’ve got it on the Highline chair. With a 14-minute ride, whatever needs to be aired can be said with total privacy. Then, at the top, you can go your separate ways and head for cover in the trees, bash some bumps, or find a nice groomer. After all, Vail Mountain is big enough for the both of you!

Top New Restaurant – Clair de Lune
Owner-chef Sean Kelly’s latest gift to Denver’s dining scene is barely bigger than a bread box, but his kitchen is a tower of culinary riches. Kelly is a leave-me-out-of-the-limelight kind of chef whose “simple is better” philosophy translates into fine food. Relying on impeccable ingredients that don’t require gimmicks to push the boundaries, Kelly has the good sense not to take himself too seriously. He also has a panache for hiring intelligent, professional, and genuinely caring servers who are passionate about their customers. Indeed, the greatest surprises often do come in small packages. 1313 E. Sixth Ave., 303-831-1992.

Advertisement

Top Place to Pop the Question – Main Gondola over Telluride at night
As the sun falls over the lights of this sleepy Colorado mountain town, the quiet 15-minute gondola ride should be plenty of time to ask, and there is room to kneel if necessary. If you expect things to go well, make reservations at Allred’s, the restaurant at the first landing, which shares a spectacular view of the town and Bridal Veil Falls.

Top Restaurant to fall off your diet – Cherry Creek Grill
If the smell alone – that of the Grill’s wood-fired rotisserie – doesn’t make you gain serious poundage, what arrives on your plate, in gluttonous portions, undoubtedly will. The roasted chicken, its skin crispy and crackling, oozes heart-stopping juices, but not so much as the cheeseburger or prime rib “French dip,” both of which yield a bounty of artery-clogging decadence. If that weren’t enough to stop you, uh…dead in your tracks, there are always the buttery-skilleted cornbread or mashed potatoes. 184 Steele St., 303-322-3524.

Recommended for You