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Top of the Town 2014

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Denver is changing—Union Station! A new outdoor music venue! More breweries!—and so is our annual list of the very best people, places, and experiences in and around the Mile High City. Our 18th compendium features dozens of new categories, including a whole lot more for adventure-seekers and families, plus the lowdown on where to spend special occasions and the best mountain towns for every season. There’s never been a more exciting time to live in Denver. Here’s why.

Table of Contents:
The Process
Dining
Sports & Outdoors
Shopping
Culture & Nightlife
Services

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THE PROCESS

How does 5280 choose Top of the Town winners?
Our reporters pick winners for every category (taco, flower shop, ski/snowboard tune, and so on) based on months of exploring. We conduct our research anonymously and pay for all meals and services. Our readers also choose their favorites, casting their votes via our online ballot. You can find our editors’ choice winners in the pages ahead, while the readers’ choice winners—the business or person with the most votes—are published online alongside the editors’ picks.

Don’t your advertisers automatically win?
Absolutely not. Top of the Town nods are based solely on our editorial staff’s research and your ballots; there is zero connection between advertisers and winners. The fact that some winners happen to be advertisers or later choose to advertise in the magazine does not influence our selections. Sure, we could make some folks happy by “selling” winners, but in the long run, we’d lose a lot more than we’d be gaining—like our integrity and credibility with you.

How do I get my business on the ballot?
Our readers’ choice ballot uses a write-in format, which means we don’t provide predetermined, multiple-choice options for our readers to choose from. Voters are free to suggest whatever business, service, shop, or person they deem worthy for each category.

I have a business that deserves an award. How can I win?
Let people know about Top of the Town voting. Contact an editor with your tip. Encourage your customers to vote for you in 2015. Note: The ballot goes online in February. To help you spread the word, we can make a Top of the Town “tool kit” available to you; it includes downloadable marketing materials and links to the ballot.

How can I vote?
Visit 5280.com (voting occurs online in February and March), sign in with your name and email address, and cast your ballot.

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The Best In Denver Dining

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Guard-Grace
Guard and Grace. Photo by Laura Brooks

Gluten Free Menu

Zeal
A hefty dose of clarity makes for a killer gluten-free menu at this six-month-old Boulder restaurant specializing in healthy, organic fare. There’s no need to pry ingredient information from your server here (though those with serious allergies should always confirm what’s in a dish). Instead, the menu employs an easy-to-decipher list of symbols (vegan; made with wheat, dairy, nuts, or soy) next to every item. Opt for a build-your-own bowl: Choose one of six sauces (try the nine-herb pesto), meat or veggies, and a base of rice, rice noodles, quinoa, or cauliflower “rice.” Between this and the smoothies, hearty salads, and sandwiches and wraps, even skeptics will accept that gluten-free doesn’t mean flavor-free. 1710 Pearl St., Boulder, 720-708-6309 

Steak

Guard and Grace 
Troy Guard’s four-month-old Guard and Grace doesn’t feel like a traditional steak house—which is precisely why we dig it. Tucked inside an office building in the heart of downtown Denver, the restaurant eschews a stuffy interior and heavy furniture for a more comfortable, modern vibe (think open layout with plenty of natural light). But make no mistake: The meat is the focal point here. Carnivores will appreciate the wide selection of cuts—and the option for prime, angus, or grass-fed beef—cooked to their liking over the oak fire. If this (combined with manageable portion sizes and more reasonable prices) is the direction steak houses are headed, count us in. 1801 California St., 303-293-8500

Coffeeshop

steam-espresso-bar
Roasted Start your morning with expertly poured coffee drinks at Steam Espresso Bar. Photo by Jeff Nelson

Steam Espresso Bar
Platt Park owes Starbucks a debt of gratitude. The Seattle mega-chain gave Steam Espresso Bar co-owner Hani Yaafouri his start in coffee. Six and a half years later, in April 2013, he opened this neighborhood sipping spot with his twin brother, Zahi. The light-filled cafe—a former photography studio—serves expertly pulled espressos, lattes, and Americanos made with beans from Boulder’s Boxcar Coffee Roasters. Pair your java with one of the beautifully displayed pastries from Trompeau Bakery or macarons from Paula Thomas. On sunny days, trade your seat at the bar for a prime spot on the expansive back patio. 1801 S. Pearl St., 303-952-9716

Chef

Peter Ryan, the Plimoth
The mark of an excellent chef isn’t just thoughtful dishes and a full reservation list—it’s also about leadership. Peter Ryan, the classically trained chef-owner of the Plimoth, which opened last November, delivers on all accounts. His French- inspired menu combined with the neighborhood eatery’s intimate service nabbed it a slot on our Best New Restaurants list this year. Behind the scenes, you’ll find a chef whose team of five has followed him from one job to the next. In fact, Ryan and this crew hatched the idea that would grow into the Plimoth years ago while working at Z Cuisine. 2335 E. 28th Ave., 303-297-1215

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Distillery

Leopold Bros
Six years ago brothers and former brewers Scott and Todd Leopold left Michigan to return home and launch a distillery in Denver (they had released a vodka called Silver Tree years earlier). As an early addition to Colorado’s burgeoning booze-making scene, the Leopold Bros label quickly gained esteem nationwide, earning major awards for everything from its liqueurs to its released-once-a-year Maryland-Style Rye Whiskey. This year the Leopolds are back to their pioneering ways: The duo moved to a new production facility in northeast Denver, where they use a process called floor malting—one of only about two dozen distillers in the world to do so.

burger-bonanza
Burger Bonanza From right to left: Park Burger, TAG Burger Bar, The Kitchen Next Door Glendale. Photos by Marc Piscotty

Burger: Classic

Park Burger
When we dubbed Park Burger’s version the top burger in town in 2010, we could only chow down on a Harris Ranch beef patty topped with all the traditional fixings—lettuce, onion, tomato, pickles, and a creamy house-made burger sauce—in Platt Park. Today, Park Burger has four locations (including Uptown’s Park & Co.), plus another one set to open in RiNo in September. Although we sometimes wish our favorite spots would stay small, and thus a bit secret, even we have to admit we dig the convenience of being able to tuck into a juicy (you’ll need two napkins, minimum) classic in nearly every area of town. Multiple locations

Burger: Upscale

TAG Burger Bar
To us, “upscale” doesn’t necessarily mean a hefty price tag and white tablecloths. It’s simply a sandwich that’s superlative in every way—creative ingredients, unparalleled taste, expert preparation, and a distinct flavor profile. You’ll find it all in the Hang Ten at TAG Burger Bar. A perfectly cooked beef patty (you can also opt for bison, turkey, veggie, or salmon) snuggles inside a seeded bun with gooey pepper jack cheese, oven-roasted tomatoes, applewood-smoked bacon, peppery arugula, and a not-too-sweet honey-mustard mayo. A single bite of this combination brings to mind another word: sinful. 1222 Madison St., 303-736-2260

Burger: Alternative

The Kitchen Next Door Glendale
If you were to serve us the Next Door Beet Burger blindfolded, we’d be as likely to guess it was made of “b-e-e-f” as “b-e-e-t.” Only a slightly sweet finish gives this veggie version—which arrives layered with feta, arugula, and balsamic grilled onions and is served with a side of bright, lemony coleslaw—away. Thanks to the February debut of the Kitchen’s Glendale satellite, you can now dig into this rich patty without making the trek to Boulder. Even better: Denver’s second Kitchen Next Door opens in Union Station this month. 658 S. Colorado Blvd., 303-757-0878

Lucky-Bakehouse
Lucky’s Bakehouse & Creamery. Photo by Jeff Nelson

Bakery: Pastries

Lucky’s Bakehouse & Creamery 
You need to know three words before visiting Lucky’s Bakehouse & Creamery in Boulder: lemon ricotta cake. This tender treat, dusted with powdered sugar and shaved almonds, is pure indulgence—and gluten-free. Lucky pastry chef and owner Jen Bush recognizes the importance of baking for every customer, allergies and all. Each morsel—classic, vegan, gluten-free, Paleo, or otherwise—made fresh in her kitchen daily (don’t miss the blissful blue cheese gougères) is crave-worthy and special. 3990 Broadway St., Boulder, 720-596-4905

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Breakfast

Olive & FInch. Photo by Carmel Zucker

Olive & Finch 
It takes a special place to tempt us from our warm beds to splurge on breakfast when we have perfectly good oatmeal or eggs or cereal in our kitchens. Mary Nguyen’s eight-month-old Olive & Finch qualifies as such. The cozy Uptown spot feels like home—if home were a cute French-inspired bakery outfitted with countryside decor (Mason jar water glasses) and charm (welcoming staff and curbside carry-out service). And the prices are even easier to stomach. Breakfast entrées (the morning menu is served all day long)—from decadent dishes such as the Sonoma hash (two eggs, roasted veggies, potatoes, arugula, and goat cheese served in a cast-iron pan) to refreshing juices like the Rise & Shine (apples, kale, grapes, celery, ginger, lemon, orange, and spinach)—range from $7 to $15. We’d feel guilty if it weren’t so darn good for us. 1552 E. 17th Ave., 303-832-8663

Host/Hostess

Aileen Reilly, Beast & Bottle
Step inside Beast & Bottle and you can’t help but get caught up in the friendly, come-one-come-all sense of the place. That energy originates with Aileen Reilly, one half of the affable brother-sister duo who own and operate the Uptown restaurant (her brother, Paul, is the chef). Reilly is the consummate hostess, making sure you’re welcomed, situated, and never left sitting before an empty glass or plate. (Sure, that’s what all hosts should do, but unfortunately, it’s a rare find in the Denver dining scene.) And she does it all so gracefully nothing ever feels stilted or choreographed. 719 E. 17th Ave., 303-623-3223

Wine Shop

R & D Wine 
Jesse and Nicole Bopp run the type of wine store we love to visit: friendly, approachable, and diverse. The sleek Wash Park shop holds rows of vinos from around the world that appeal to a wide range of palates while still maintaining a median bottle price of $21. Stop by on Thursdays or Saturdays between 2 and 7 p.m. for complimentary tastings, or sign up for R & D’s wine club and pick up new bottles monthly ($50 for three, $100 for six). 1080 S. Gaylord St., 303-722-2129

Babettes-Artisan-Bread
Babettes Artisan Bread. Photo by Laura Bomstedt

Bakery: Bread

Grateful Bread Company and Babettes Artisan Bread (TIE)
If Grateful Bread Company’s Golden retail operation (which, starting in September, is only accessible quarterly) were open more often, we’d have given the company and its flawless baguettes, pretzel buns, and jalapeño-cheddar bâtardes the solo win. (Though this summer we can also buy the fresh-baked breads at Le Jardin Secret on Saturdays in Larimer Square.) Since it’s not, we carbo-load at Babettes on the other days. The crunchy crusts and pillowy insides of the fresh-baked polenta bread and olive loaves have a permanent spot in our picnic baskets, while the heavenly morning buns—a flaky and not-too-sweet take on the cinnamon roll—give us a reason to throw back the covers early. 425 Violet St., Golden, 303-681-5406; 3350 N. Brighton Blvd. (in the Source), 303-993-8602

Pie

Long I Pie Shop
When you see Shauna Lott’s refabbed Airstream rolling down the road, follow it until it parks. Lott bakes a bonanza of sweet and savory flavors in cast-iron skillets (try the bourbon chocolate pecan or, Lott’s favorite, the spiced apple-cranberry), but the flaky-crusted creations are just the beginning of Long I Pie’s mission. Lott wants to hire at-risk youth to help teach them life and work skills. In addition to her admirable work ethic, she donates 10 percent from the sale of each slice to local nonprofits such as iEmpathize, which combats human trafficking.

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Salad

Session Kitchen
We can barely keep up with Session’s seasonal menu changes; regardless, we make reservations knowing we can count on finding a solid variety of hearty yet healthy(ish) salad options. We’re keeping our fingers crossed that chef Scott Parker reinstates our most recent craving: griddled kale hearts (a dish Parker brought with him from Table 6) tossed with salty pancetta, mussels, spicy Fresno chiles, lemon, mint, and crunchy peanuts and served warm in a mini cast-iron pot. In the meantime, we’ll happily dig into a blend of Thai-spiced chicken, napa slaw, cucumbers, Fresno chiles, and lemongrass aïoli. 1518 S. Pearl St., 720-763-3387

Coffee Roaster

Corvus Coffee Roaster
Our coffee addiction doesn’t mean we choose quantity over taste; we still crave something both flavorful and approachable in our two cups a day. We get both at Corvus. Co-owners Phil Goodlaxson and Travis Gilbert use a cast-iron Giesen roaster from the Netherlands, which results in a lighter product that showcases the beans’ individual flavors. Sound a bit hoity-toity to you? Keep it simple. The two will happily chitchat about the kind of coffee you dig and employ their java genius to recommend an appropriate selection from what’s available that day. Recently, that led us to Moreninha Formosa beans from Brazil, which added pleasant hints of nutmeg, walnuts, and tobacco to our morning dose. 1740 S. Broadway, 303-715-1740

Dessert

Sugarmill
Snag a seat at the chef’s counter to watch Sugarmill co-owner and pastry chef Noah French assemble edible works of art. His talent for sweets is especially evident in citrus-forward desserts; the singular (but not simple) flavor profiles free our taste buds to focus on the playful mix of textures. For example, this past spring’s Shades of Yellow combined orange chiffon cake, Meyer lemon cream, mandarin creamsicle ice cream, candied kumquat, and explode-in-your-mouth mango bobas—soft, creamy, chewy, crunchy. For those who still feel compelled to finish their dinner before indulging in dessert, Sugarmill’s regularly changing menu includes about a dozen equally well- crafted savory items. 2461 Larimer St., #101, 303-297-3540

Ace-Eat-Serve
Ace Eat Serve. Photo by Taryn Kapronica

Kid Friendly Restaurant

Ace Eat Serve
Going out for dinner with the kids can be…let’s say “challenging.” You’ve got to time it right and bring along coloring books (maybe a snack, too). The crew at Ace Eat Serve gets it. Fresh-pressed juices and activity sheets keep the little ones busy until their dishes arrive (around the same time as the adult entrées, thank you very much). Plus, meals like the wok-tossed rice noodles with chicken are served with fresh fruit, edamame, plenty of dipping sauce, and a chork (a chopstick-fork combo). The check comes quickly, too—and sans servers breathing not-so-subtle sighs of relief. 501 E. 17th Ave., 303-800-7705

Doughnut

Glazed & Confused
Yes, we heard that Oregon exported Voodoo Doughnut to Denver this year. We’re still partial to the homegrown, organic, preservative-free goodies from Glazed & Confuzed. The seemingly unlimited yeast-raised and cake doughnut flavor options—Confuzed samoa, bacon and chocolate, and our go-to, the carrot cake cookie sandwich—mean we never get bored. And at its one-month-old retail operation you’ll never have to wait—ahem—in an out-the-door line for your sugar fix. 5301 Leetsdale Drive, 303-324-1112

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Cholon-sandwich
ChoLon Modern Asian Bistro. Photo by Laura Brooks

Sandwich

ChoLon Modern Asian Bistro
Leave it to the foodie wizards at ChoLon, a high-end Asian fusion hot spot in LoDo, to come up with some of the most inventive sandwiches we’ve tried in town. We’ve had the pork banh mi (good) and the Korean hot fried chicken (great) off the ever-changing lunch menu, but it was the tandoori turkey grinder that TKO’d our taste buds. The house-made turkey sausage is braised in a tomato-curry broth and served with yogurt, sweet onions, and Bibb lettuce on a fresh baguette. As is typical of chef Lon
Symensma’s style, the dish’s simplicity belies a compelling flavor punch. 
1555 Blake St., 303-353-5223

Barbecue

Georgia Boys BBQ
We’re not willing to make a more than 70-mile round-trip journey for many meals. The down-home grub coming out of the two backyard smokers at the Longmont location of Georgia Boys BBQ merits a notable exception, though. Grab a seat at one of the outdoor picnic tables and dig into classic Southern barbecue from owners Nickolas Reckinger’s and Matt Alexander’s family recipes: crispy burnt ends, fall-off-the-bone St. Louis–style ribs, skillet cornbread, and a flavor-packed slaw that gets some welcome crunch from Granny Smith apples. Bring the South home with a Mason jar filled with one of the restaurant’s five homemade sauces; we recommend the Mop Sauce, a stellar vinegary version made with crushed red pepper. 237 Collyer St., Longmont, 720-999-4099; 141 Fifth St., Frederick, 303-833-3140

Littleman
Little Man Ice Cream. Photo by Laura Brooks

Ice Cream/Gelato

Little Man Ice Cream
So delicious are the 42 flavors at Little Man Ice Cream that even the dozens of people already lined up outside this 23-foot-tall milk can don’t deter us from our goal: a scoop of the best ice cream in town. The staff indulges all taste buds, whether you’re craving salted Oreo or milk-stout-chip ice cream or the refreshingly tart strawberry-banana sorbet. And starting this month, you can stare at some new scenery while you’re standing in line for Little Man’s treats with the opening of Milkbox Ice Creamery at the revamped Union Station. 2620 16th St., 303-455-3811

Thai

Terra Thai
It’s rare that we recommend friends visit the Hill in Boulder—too many college kids, too few parking spots—for dinner out, but eight-month-old Terra Thai’s authentic street food is just that good. You won’t find pad thai on this concise, 10-item menu. Instead, sample the tangy lettuce wraps, crisp papaya salad, spicy green curry, or sweet, perfectly chewy mango-topped sticky rice (often a daily special). Eat in and the welcoming proprietors just might ask you to taste test a new dish inspired by a recent trip to their native Thailand. 1121 Broadway, Suite 103, Boulder, 303-440-3559

Westerndaughters
Western Daughters Butcher Shoppe. Photo by Laura Brooks

Butcher

Western Daughters Butcher Shoppe
What the 720-square-foot Western Daughters lacks in space, it makes up for in dedication. Owners Kate Kavanaugh and Josh Curtiss try to source all their meat—lamb, beef, pork (don’t miss the pork rib-eye), and more, all pasture-raised, grass-fed, and hormone- and antibiotic-free—from Eastern Plains farms and ranches that use holistic land practices and are located within 150 miles. The shop is as much a place to buy top-quality regional meats as it is a spot to find delectable complements for them: artisanal mustards, jams, caramels, and maple syrup. And as huge proponents of whole-animal butchery, Kavanaugh and Curtiss create their own sausages from the trim; slow-simmered stocks and demiglaces from bones; and butters—such as Western Daughters’ popular herb pork butter—from rendered fat. 3326 Tejon St., 303-477-6328

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Cookie

Victory Love & Cookies
If you want to see a group of grown-ups turn into real-life Cookie Monsters, put a plate of goodies from Victory Love & Cookies in front of them. Baker Kristy Greenwood’s unique concoctions—apricot-pistachio doodles, lavender-blueberry shortbread—are crumbly when they need to be and chewy when they don’t. If you have difficulty finding the tiny shop, don’t fret. Simply look for the Denver Bread Company sign; you’ll find Victory Love & Cookies’ goodies inside. 3200 Irving St., 303-455-7194

Chinese

China Jade
It’d be easy to reach for the familiar at this small restaurant tucked into a strip plaza along Federal Boulevard. The extensive Chinese-American menu boasts all the favorites—shrimp with cashews, sweet and sour chicken, and egg rolls—cooked to perfection. But the best meals here are based on a separate, seemingly never-ending menu dedicated entirely to dim sum dishes. Start with the delightful shrimp dumplings and go from there. Just be sure to save some room and swing by the neighboring Celestial Chinese Bakery for tasty sesame balls with bean paste. 375 S. Federal Blvd., Unit 109, 303-935-0033

Italian

Frasca Food and Wine
For four straight years, Frasca has topped our list of the Front Range’s best restaurants. But we’re not the northern Italian restaurant’s only devotees: Frasca has racked up awards from prestigious outlets such as the James Beard Foundation, Food & Wine, and Wine Spectator. It’s easy to see why. Celebrating the heritage and culture of Friuli-Venezia Giulia, Italy, the eatery delivers the dining trifecta: exquisite service, consistently high-quality seasonal food (recently, we’ve been eyeing a dish of Wagyu chuck rib, cauliflower, rhubarb, and roasted garlic), and that intangible atmosphere that makes for a fantastic night on the town. 1738 Pearl St., Boulder, 303-442-6966

Mexican: Tamales

Torta Grill
Torta Grill, neighbor to the dive-y Squire Lounge on East Colfax Avenue, may be tiny—it’s essentially a walk-up window with seating for 10 inside—but this two-year-old joint serves big flavors. Pass on the famous (and delicious) tortas (Mexican sandwiches) in favor of the restaurant’s lesser-known tamales. Owner Steve Clifton serves two versions of the traditional Mesoamerican dish: cheese with green peppers and chicken with red sauce. Order one of each; it’ll only set you back $4. 1818 E. Colfax Ave., 720-420-0964

Mexican: Nachos

Tocabe
We applaud Denver’s only Native American eatery for agreeing with our nacho-ordering dogma: Let the customer be picky. The fast-casual restaurant’s Medicine Wheel nachos start with a base of sturdy multicolored corn chips. From there, the choice of protein, beans, and veggies is all yours. Our fail-safe combo is shredded bison topped with black beans, spicy queso, crisp jicama-squash salsa, and a drizzle of sour cream. Be forewarned: You’ll need extra napkins. 3536 W. 44th Ave., 720-524-8282

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Mexican: Tacos

Moontower Tacos
We admit having a chicken-and-waffle taco on the menu doesn’t exactly scream authentic Mexican. But don’t let the Dazed and Confused–inspired Moontower’s more unique offerings scare you off. The migas breakfast taco—a traditional Tex-Mex dish with scrambled eggs, tortilla strips, and pico de gallo—presents a safe (and scrumptious) option any time of day. And at an average of $3.75 per taco, you can afford to challenge your taste buds. 609 Grant St., 303-832-1107

Mexican: Enchiladas

El Taco Veloz
Federal Boulevard’s quaint El Taco Veloz has been serving some of the best enchiladas in the 303 for 15 years (a second location opened seven years later). We rarely stray from the chicken enchilada plate, with its savory shredded meat smothered in a tomato sauce that has just the right amount of heat. Picky eaters can go the classic route and order a cheese version with a side of Spanish rice. No matter your dish of choice, count on a genuine experience. 5145 Federal Blvd., 303-477-1881; 400 Federal Blvd., 303-825-2882 

Pizza

The Walnut Room
Dough. Sauce. Cheese. Toppings. Making great pizza may not sound tough, but it’s a tightrope walk: The grease must add flavor without becoming drippy; the sauce can’t be too sweet or too spicy; and the crust needs to be crispy without tipping toward dry and crumbly. The Walnut Room excels at all of these elements. And the RiNo location’s newly expanded kitchen—double the size with two new pizza ovens—means we can enjoy our heaping-with-toppings Mile High pie with some welcome elbow room. 3131 Walnut St., 303-295-1868; 2 Broadway, 303-736-675 

Vegetarian

Sputnik
When we’re in need of hearty meat-free eats, we head to Sputnik, where comfort food rules the menu. At this South Broadway hot spot, herbivores (and vegans) chow down on Cubano sandwiches (jackfruit takes the place of pork), banh mi (made with flavor-packed marinated tofu), and a vegan “mac and cheese” that miraculously transforms a potato-based mixture into a cheeselike sauce. Just keep an eye on your plate: You’ll be fending off your carnivore friends’ forks. 3 S. Broadway, 720-570-4503

Middle Eastern

Phoenician Kabob
This East Colfax establishment plates well-executed and hearty servings of all our favorite Middle Eastern dishes: house-made pita with za’atar, shawarma, gyros, kibbeh (ground beef and pine nuts), and baklava, to name a few. As the name suggests, the kabobs are not to be missed—especially the tasty lamb version that comes with salad and rice at lunch. Go with an empty belly at dinner to justify ordering a heaping appetizer of creamy, lemon-infused hummus with warm pita and a cup of Lebanese coffee. Did we mention the extensive wine list? It’s a coup among the Middle Eastern establishments around town. 5709 E. Colfax Ave., 303-355-7213

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Street Vendor/Food Truck

Peteybird
Led by owner Pete Bredemann, this pink-bike-riding crew has upped the cool factor when it comes to mobile food service in the Mile High City by crafting some seriously good ice cream sandwiches. The menu changes monthly, but if it’s available, order the strawberry ice cream on sea salt sugar cookies or mint-avocado on lemon zest cookies. Too impatient to track them down? Peteybird is also sold at Tony’s Market. 720-432-2430

Noodle Bowl

Uncle
In the United States, ramen has come a long way from the Cup Noodles we all ate in college. In Denver, Chef Tommy Lee deserves some of the credit—his nearly two-year-old ramen mecca still has a line out the door most nights and remains our go-to for Asian comfort food. Don’t miss the LoHi restaurant’s spicy but not sinus-clearing kimchi bowl (pork, daikon, chili broth, and a poached egg). It’s encouraged us to abandon the Maruchan for good. 2215 W. 32nd Ave., 303-433-3263

Specialty Market

Pete’s Fruits and Vegetables
“Local” and “fresh” are more than trends to Pete Moutzouris. The Greece-born owner of Pete’s Fruits & Vegetables has been living those mantras since he opened his market near Crestmoor Park in 1982. Besides selling some of the most affordable fruits and veggies in the city (from local farms such as Velano’s and Gruber), Pete’s shelves are lined with Colorado-made products, including Real Dill jarred pickled bites, Udi’s granola, and Morning Fresh milk. We never leave without sampling some house-made Greek goodies based on traditional recipes—like the superfresh Greek salad topped with imported-from-Greece feta or dolmathakia (stuffed grape leaves)—from the connected deli. 5606 E. Cedar Ave., 303-393-6247

Domo
Domo. Photo by Laura Brooks

Japanese

Domo
Domo doesn’t just serve exemplary Japanese meals such as udon and grilled squid; it puts you in the Land of the Rising Sun with a flourishing Japanese garden and traditional Japanese service. The off-the-beaten-path restaurant consistently wins this category with its authentic dishes (we particularly like anything on the sashimi donburi side of the dinner menu) and a dining room—and stellar patio—that whisks us to the Japanese countryside. The 15 varieties of to-go bento boxes especially deserve an “arigato.” 1365 Osage St., 303-595-3666

Vietnamese

Kim Ba Vietnamese Cuisine
Pho and banh mi dominate the lineup at most of Denver’s Vietnamese restaurants. Cozy Kim Ba’s menu is more all-encompassing when it comes to the southeast Asian country’s history, revealing France’s colonial influence with sophisticated dishes such as bò xào dãm (tender strips of beef in wine vinaigrette) or scallops xã ót (scallops in a spicy butter sauce). This 28-year-old Aurora favorite is so popular you might have to wait for a seat even on a Tuesday night. But missing out on the made-to-order pork egg rolls, served piping hot with lettuce, cucumber, bean sprouts, mint, and cilantro for personalized wrapping, would be a mistake. 2495 S. Havana St., F31, Aurora, 303-745-1637

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Ethnic Market

Edwards Market
A more than 5,000-square-foot purveyor of meats might not be exactly what comes to mind when you think “ethnic market,” but if you want to make a dish hailing from the Emerald Isle or Scandinavia, there’s no better place to start. Edwards maintains an enormous selection of specialty cuts, types, and preparations of meats (fresh, frozen, or ready-to-eat): mouthwatering corned beef brisket and traditional Irish breakfast bangers (both made in-house), Swedish meatballs, and lutefisk among them. Your recipe box just went global. 12280 W. 44th Ave., Wheat Ridge, 303-422-4397

On The Town

Celebrate a special occasion with your special someone—on any budget.

Less than $50: There are few moments more om-inducing than striking Dancer pose amid the natural beauty of Red Rocks. This opportunity comes four times a summer (7 a.m. on July 26, August 2, August 9, and August 16) with Yoga on the Rocks ($12). Afterward, stop off at the Golden Farmers’ Market and make a breakfast picnic of iced coffee, baked goods, and Western Slope peaches and cherries.

$50: One of Denver’s best-kept dining secrets (until now) is Cheap Date Night at Amerigo Delicatus Restaurant & Market. Every Tuesday evening, this 40-seat Italian cafe serves couples two salads, two entrées, one dessert, and a bottle of wine for $50. The price is skimpy, but the experience is anything but.

$100: At Lower48 Kitchen in Ballpark, an indulgent steak dinner means a dry-aged rib-eye big enough for two. The $74 cut arrives with condiments and a changing array of accoutrements (think grilled sun chokes or fork-smashed potatoes). Enjoy the 45-minute cook time wait by cozying up to the chef’s counter, ordering some wine, and perusing the “each” menu in which one-bite appetizers run $2 apiece.

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Unlimited: When your fete takes you to Vail… Start the day with an overstuffed breakfast sandwich at Avon Bakery & Deli. Grab a smoked turkey with Muenster to go; it’ll fit perfectly in your golf bag. Share it, and you’ll still have room for dinner at Mountain Standard. Don’t miss the multilayered carrot cake with carrot-yuzu sorbet. For a nightcap, wander over to Restaurant Kelly Liken and order a glass of Pedro Ximénez, a fine Spanish sherry designed for slow sipping.

Headline Makers

The five people, places, and trends we’re keeping an eye on in 2014.

Peyton Manning: 5280-selected number one power broker John Elway may be this QB’s boss, but we’re focusing on St. Peyton (or, more accurately, his neck). With a bit of luck, he’ll be front-page news through early February.

Governor John Hickenlooper: Until November, tracking the Gov’s re-election chances will become a part-time job. Then the question becomes: What are his national ambitions?

The Gaylord rockies hotel and conference Center: Will this $800 million project be a shining example of regional cooperation or the launching pad for a corporate and governmental civil war between Denver and Aurora?

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The rental market: If the flurry of residential construction doesn’t loosen up enough inventory, rent prices will continue to stay high, potentially presenting Denver with a cost-of-living crisis previously limited to the coasts.

Ramen: Around the nation, ramen houses are the restaurants with lines out the door. We’ve got Bones and Uncle (see page 194) and the soon-to-open Osaka Ramen—and we’re expecting several more shops to debut in the coming months.


The Best in Sports & Outdoors

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Green-Mountain-Hike
Dawn Patrol Wake up early for a sunrise hike on Green Mountain, and you’ll be rewarded with a breathtaking view of Denver’s skyline. Photo by Jeff Nelson

Sunrise Hike

William Fredrick Hayden Park on Green Mountain
Last summer, we roused ourselves early to watch the sun come up over the plains at Red Rocks. What we saw instead was the sun rise over the view-blocking Green Mountain—pretty, yes, but not the glowing horizon we’d envisioned. So this year, we’ll be rolling out of bed in the wee hours to arrive at the Florida Trailhead with plenty of time to hoof it a steep half-mile on Green Mountain Trail, where a grassy expanse overlooking Denver offers an ideal spot to spread out your blanket and wait for the rays to set the cityscape aglow. If you’re game, continue along the 2.75-mile Summit Loop Trail once the sun’s up.

Tour-De-Fat
Tour De Fat. Courtesy of Tour De Fat.

Festival

Tour de Fat 
New Belgium Brewing Company’s whimsical Tour de Fat extravaganza brings together three of our favorite things: beer, cycling, and music. At this annual fete, now in its 15th year, festivalgoers throw on old Halloween getups for a costumed cruise around City Park or try their skills on a custom Franken-cycle (like a bike with wheels made from tennis shoes). Throw in live music and plenty of brews (money from beer sales benefits local nonprofits), and you’ve got yourself a perfect day in the sun. (Denver’s event will be held on September 6 this year; Fort Collins’ is on August 30.)

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Dog Park

Bark Bar 
Most dog parks are designed with dogs in mind—which is great for canines but less stellar for humans, who are often relegated to an old picnic table that smells not-so-vaguely of puppy pee. Not at the Bark Bar, a brilliant, seven-month-old Highland business that’s figured out how to make the park a pleasurable experience for man and best friend alike. The spot’s full-service bar area (it has coffee drinks, too) opens up onto an almost-4,000-square-foot outdoor, fenced-in, mulched area for your four-legged companion. So while Fido enjoys his freedom, you can enjoy some fresh air and a freshly pulled pint. 4132 W. 38th Ave., 720-550-6970

Paddleboarding
Chatfield Reservoir. Courtesy of Surf’Sup

Active Date

Stand-up Paddleboarding
Dinner and a movie is stale. We’d rather earn our meal while enjoying some quality bonding time with that (soon-to-be) special someone. With guidance from Surf’SUP Colorado, take your date out on the water for a two-hour stand-up paddleboarding lesson ($50 per person; get $10 off when you buy as a pair) at Gravel Pond in Chatfield Reservoir. All you need to bring is your adventurous spirit and charming personality—and the ability to laugh at yourself when you fall. It’ll give you something to commiserate about while you dig into a Lucky 7 pie at McKinners Pizza Bar in downtown Littleton after you’ve dried off.

Centennial-Center-Park
Centennial Center Park. Courtesy of Laurie Reed

Playground

Centennial Center Park
This behemoth of a play center—part of an 11-acre park—adjacent to Centennial’s municipal building has been a playdate paradise for families in Arapahoe and Douglas counties since it opened two years ago. Sit in the shaded picnic area—complete with a fancy gas fireplace for cooler evenings—and watch your children bounce, jump, swing, and splash (yes, there’s even a water feature) for hours. Did we mention there’s a rock climbing wall, food trucks, and a brand-new amphitheater with free concerts? 13050 E. Peakview Ave., Centennial

Water Sports Spot

Boyd Lake
If you’ve never heard of Boyd Lake, you’re not alone. This 1,200- to 1,700-acre (depending on the water level) aquatic playground in Loveland wasn’t on our radar until friends rented a ski/wakeboard boat ($195 for four hours) for a daytrip last August. Surrounded by still-snowcapped mountains, we tubed and wakeboarded until our biceps gave out. Then we dropped the anchor for some snacks as a parade of jet skiers, canoers, and sailors glided by. The best part: Only a 50-minute drive separates you from these water-soaked adventures. See you there this summer.

Golden-Gate-State-Park
One of the Reverend Ridge cabins in Golden Gate State Park. Courtesy of Golden Gate State Park

Close-To-Home Camping

Golden Gate State Park
Nestled 15 switchbacking miles northwest of Golden, Golden Gate Canyon State Park boasts more than 35 miles of hiking trails, several creeks and ponds for fishing (we fancy Dude’s Fishing Hole), and plentiful camping options. Take your pick from RV, tent, or walk-in sites, or—for the dirt averse—try Reverend Ridge’s yurts and cabins. For a real backcountry experience, opt for one of the three-sided trail huts spread throughout the park. Between all of this and the road’s 19 percent grade on the way in, Golden Gate promises the adventure your family desires—with none of the “are-we-there-yets.”

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Hike with Kids

Lair o’ the Bear Park
Outdoor adventures with kids are 100 percent doable so long as you have flexibility, activity, and proximity. Still recuperating from last year’s disastrous floods, the Lair o’ the Bear trail system just west of Morrison checks off all three requirements better than any other hikes we’ve tried (and that’s a lot). During the flat 1.7-mile meander along Bear Creek Trail, toddlers can dip their toes in the water, while longer-legged kids will feel a sense of accomplishment after trekking 1.9 miles up and around the Bruin Bluff Trail Loop. No matter their age, don’t let your kids miss a photo op at the gates of the private Dunafon Castle. And when you’re done exploring, it’s only a 30-minute drive until you’re back home in Denver.

Your First 5K

bRUNch
bRUNch. Courtesy of bRUNch

bRUNch
Even on the most beautiful Colorado day, we sometimes need a little extra motivation to lace up our Nikes. We found it with bRUNch, a running club for the less competitive crowd. Every Sunday morning from April through September, $25 gets you a group atmosphere on your 5K or 10K jaunt plus an entrée and two boozy drinks at a local eatery (past hosts include Linger, Marg’s Uptown, and Vesper Lounge). Heads up: The organization is holding its inaugural timed race at Stapleton Central Park on September 28—to be followed by a “brunch festival,” of course.

Ski/Snowboard Company

Wagner Custom Skis
Telluride-based Wagner Custom Skis operates with a simple philosophy: Not every ski fits every person. Makes sense to us. In addition to straightforward personal data such as height and weight, owner Pete Wagner uses a computer model he designed to craft personalized planks. He built 1,000 pairs in 2013, and 2014 is set to be the company’s biggest year yet. Sure, not everyone can throw down a few thousand dollars on gear (prices start at $1,750), but for advanced skiers committed to spending winters—and perhaps part of their summers—on the slopes, Wagner’s custom gear is worth it.

Copper-Triangle
Copper Triangle bike ride. Courtesy of Steve Peterson

Organized Bike Ride

Copper Triangle
Each summer, Colorado boasts more than two dozen organized bike rides, but we have a soft spot for the Copper Triangle (August 2). The 78-mile route packs just about every classic Colorado element into a single ride. Mountain passes? Check (Fremont, Tennessee, and Vail for almost 6,000 feet of climbing). Ski resorts? Yep (Copper, Ski Cooper, and Vail). Gorgeous alpine scenery? Duh. Plus, after you’ve finished, you’ll still have a good chunk of the afternoon for some well-deserved post-ride pale ales at the base of Copper Mountain.

Outdoor Gear

Kelty-PK-50
Kelty PK 50. Courtesy of Kelty

Kelty
There’s no denying the quality coming out of tent-, pack-, pad-, and bag-maker Kelty. The Boulder-based outdoor equipment company collects “best gear” awards like Beyoncé snags Grammys. In the past two years alone, Kelty has earned nods from Outside, Men’s Journal, and gearjunkie.com for everything from its water-resistant DriDown sleeping bags to its car-camping castle, the Mach 4 tent. We’re currently infatuated with the PK 50, a rollable, foldable, clippable 50-liter pack with nary a zipper in sight. The only other thing you need is an adventure worthy of it.

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Ski Deal

Crested Butte’s Grandest Christmas
Colorado has a host of run-of-the-mill ski deals (buy this, get that free), but none quite match this discounted Christmas ski vacation in “Colorado’s last great ski town.” For $999, up to two adults and two children (17 and younger) get four nights of lodging at the superclose-to-the-slopes Grand Lodge, three days of skiing, and three days at the adventure park. The special only runs for two weeks—December 12 to 26 this year—making this one holiday present it’s OK to open early.

Make The Trek

The best mountain towns by season.

SUMMER
Town:
Crested Butte
What You’re Doing: Testing out your new fat tires next to a wildflower meadow before chowing down on pizza at Secret Stash (303 Elk Ave., 970-349-6245).
What Clinched The Title: The Crested Butte Wildflower Festival (July 7 to 13)

FALL
Town: Aspen
What You’re Doing: Maxing out your camera’s memory card while hiking 3.2 miles (one way) to American Lake.
What Clinched The Title: Golden Leaf Half Marathon (September 27)

WINTER
Town: Steamboat Springs
What You’re Doing: Confirming that the snow deserves the name “champagne powder” (it does) and then soaking your tired muscles at Strawberry Park Hot Springs.
What Clinched The Title: Winter Carnival (February 4 to 8, 2015)

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SPRING
Town: Salida
What You’re Doing: Watching daredevil early-season kayakers fight the current from the patio at Rivers Edge restaurant (300 W. Sackett Ave., 719-207-4267).
What Clinched The Title: Bluegrass on the Arkansas (Dates TBD)


The Best In Denver Shopping

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Emma-Grace
Down the Aisle The amiable staff at RiNo’s Emma & Grace Bridal Studio makes finding the dress a stress-free experience. Photo by Jeff Nelson

Wedding Gowns

 Emma & Grace Bridal Studio
When our best friend found the dress at this loftlike, sunlight-filled contemporary boutique in RiNo, we were thrilled. When we heard that the designer (and in-house seamstress), Mayra Moreno, doubles as the shop’s co-owner and would be custom-making the strapless number, we were elated. (Moreno and partner Terrie Boesel are both former Priscilla of Boston pros, the high-end boutique behind Grace Kelly’s wedding dress.) And when the studio’s friendly staff allowed our pal to squeeze in an extra fitting appointment because her bridesmaids happened to be in town, we realized we’d stumbled upon Denver’s very own set of fairy godmothers. 1320 27th St., Suite B, 720-383-8091

Colorado Product of the Year

OG Sack
In our active city, owning an OG Sack is kind of like owning a puppy: You can’t walk more than a few blocks without someone stopping you to ask about it. The bright, versatile carryall ($75 to $85) can be used as a tote, a backpack, or a messenger bag and comes with plenty of easy-to-access pockets for all your stuff. Equally at home in the yoga studio, gym, backcountry, or even an airplane overhead bin, the homegrown OG Sack also comes with a removable liner (read: no residual pine needles from your weekend camping trip). But perhaps the best part is what you don’t see: For every OG Sack purchased, the year-old company works with plantabillion.org to plant a tree in Brazil’s Atlantic Forest.

Armitage-McMillian
Armitage & McMillian. Photo by Laura Brooks

Men’s Clothing

Armitage & McMillan
We all want a personal style, but not many of us are willing to really work for it. Armitage & McMillan owners Daniel Armitage and Darin Combs (McMillan is Combs’ mom’s maiden name) achieve that delicate balance with a carefully cultivated selection of lines from designers in New York City, France, Japan, and Colorado (such as bags by Winter Session). The resulting blend of laid-back but sophisticated fashion—equally at home during dinner in LoHi or over beers and a bonfire in Aspen—is quintessential Colorado. 1550 Platte St., Suite D, 303-284-6222

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Baby/Kids’ Boutique

Real-Baby
Real Baby. Photo by Laura Brooks

Real Baby
John and Hilary Horan started Real Baby in 2003 with the goal of opening more than just a store where people buy pint-size clothes. Instead, this Highlands Square shop serves as a partner for parents: It soothes moms-to-be with no-stress, one-on-one registry services; once your new addition arrives, the basics—from Sophie the Giraffe to NoseFrida—are always in stock. When you’re not the one expecting, check out our current recommendation for most adorable gift: Tiny “natives” can show off their Mile High pride in exclusive Little Locals T-shirts. 3616 W. 32nd Ave., 303-477-2229

Home Furnishings

Studio Como
Brad Fentress brought the best of contemporary European design to his RiNo showroom in 2004—well before “River North” was a thing. Seven years and one name change later, we continue to beautify our homes with his smart picks because Studio Como’s room-by-room displays show us exactly how a geometric Moooi light fixture or a modern Maxalto Febo chair can work with, and often enhance, Colorado’s warm, mountain aesthetic. 2590 Walnut St., 303-296-1495

Stephanie-Ohnmacht
Stephanie Ohnmacht. Courtesy of Stephanie Ohnmacht

Fashion Designer

Stephanie Ohnmacht
Making sure the kids’ lunches are packed; catching up on the news; squeezing in an extra cup of coffee. There’s enough to get done in the mornings without worrying about what to wear. Denver designer Stephanie Ohnmacht (who made it to episode eight on season one of Project Runway: Under the Gunn) gets that—which is why she crafts collections of ready-to-wear mix-and-match separates (think dresses, blouses, and skirts) that transition from day to night. “Wearable” doesn’t mean boring, though. In fact, Ohnmacht’s recent focus on making clothing inspired by fine art is anything but. Last spring, she collaborated with a Seattle painter to create vibrant prints; in August, Clyfford Still’s abstract works inspired some bold fabrics. Perhaps she should look to our Top of the Town Artist winner as her next muse….

Accessories

Frisk-flower-cuff
Frisk Flowery Cuff. Courtesy of Frisk

Frisk
You have to be doing something right to reach your 10th anniversary in business. At Frisk, that means collecting (and crafting) handmade pieces with vintage flair—and near vintage prices. Whether you seek daring jewelry such as bronze pirate ship earrings from smaller lines like Flotsam and Jetsam or original pieces, such as chunky floral statement cuffs by shop owners (and mother and daughters, respectively) Donna, Jessica, and Amanda Rubino, you’ll rarely break $150. 1144 13th St., Boulder, 303-449-3030

Place to Buy Suits

Austin/Hauck
One of Littleton’s best-kept secrets won’t remain hush-hush for much longer. Gentlemen in the know swear by this clothier for its relaxed vibe and quality selection (think respected brands such as Pal Zileri, Eton of Sweden, and David Donahue). The staff’s personalized attention—they keep all your sizing info on hand, help you create a wish list for next season, and notify you of new items or sales you might be interested in—makes the obligatory buying of shirts, ties, suits, and formal and casual wear (custom tailoring is available) a, dare we say it, enjoyable experience. 2569 W. Main St., Littleton, 303-730-7778

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bookbar
BookBar. Courtesy of Betsey Holley.

Bookstore

BookBar
No detail has been overlooked in this charming indie bookstore meets coffeeshop meets watering hole on Berkeley’s hip Tennyson Street, from poems sealed into the bartop to handwritten staff reading recommendations. Round up friends for monthly literary trivia and local beers, bring the kids for story time every Thursday (4:30 p.m.), or treat yourself to an evening spent snuggled up on an armchair with a Kent Haruf novel, a glass of Bonacquisti’s d-Red, and the Steinbeck flatbread pizza (truffle oil, garlic, rosemary, red potato, and crumbles of bacon). That’s what we call happily ever after. 4280 Tennyson St., 720-443-2227

Women’s Clothing

Hailee Grace
We expect a little sticker shock when we shop in Larimer Square, but nothing primed us for the jaw-droppingly low prices at Hailee Grace, where almost every item in the store is under $100. Opened by former University of Colorado Boulder roommates Hailee Satterfield and Grace Evans, the year-old boutique boasts youthful brands such as THML, Joie, and Honey Punch. The twentysomethings source their lines—think casual weekend wear, flirty date-night dresses, mix-and-match separates, and amped-up work outfits—from Los Angeles, where Satterfield was once a personal stylist (after her stint as an assistant at Vogue). Translation: breezy fabrics, colorful palettes, and a casual elegance that’s right at home in Denver, too. 1423 Larimer Square, Suite 090, 303-698-2323

Garbarini
Garbarini. Courtesy of Erin K. Sturga

Cocktail Dress

Garbarini
It’s not just the top designer brands—BCBG, Nicole Miller, Twenty8Twelve—and Garbarini’s move to a twice-as-big space last July that have kept us loyal to this 29-year bastion of Denver fashion; it’s the sharp taste and candor of the staff. During one visit, consultant Julie Lizak talked us out of a $1,000 Robert Rodriguez Collection skirt (for which she could have pushed a Tracy Reese top…and a Streets Ahead belt…and perhaps a chunky stone necklace from local designer Anne Gangel) and into a $400 dress from his line that was much more flattering. 239 Detroit St., 303-333-8686

Garden Store

City Floral Garden Center
Surviving one year of gardening in Colorado’s fickle and arid climate qualifies as a serious accomplishment. This urban garden center has weathered 103 growing seasons. Although it looks minute from the street, City Floral’s back rooms and nursery take up the better part of a city block. Inside you’ll find everything a green thumb desires: mandevillas, water sculptures, herbs, you name it. If they don’t have it, they’ll order it, free of charge. City Floral even helps you stay ahead of the gardening game with online resources, including a printable summerlong seed-planting calendar. 1440 Kearney St., 303-399-1177

Fine Jewelry

Rika-Earrings
Rika Jewelry earrings. Courtesy of Geistlight Studios.

Rika Jewelry Design
“Fine jewelry” isn’t the sole domain of the wedded set. Colorado designers Kathleen Brennan and Richard Kimball’s collaborations move beyond sun-catching solitaire diamonds and wedding bands to one-of-a-kind statement pieces inspired by the world’s natural wonders (such as the palette of the Grand Canyon). Handcrafted rings, earrings, and necklaces combine gemstones and precious metals for wearable art that’s simultaneously elegant and raw. Have an idea for a dream piece percolating? The duo will help you make it a reality—and seek your input from conception to final fitting. 408 Downing St., 303-388-6624

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Local Jewelry Designer

Peter Rosen
There’s only one word to describe Peter Rosen’s artful designs: breathtaking. The exquisite settings on his one-of-a-kind jewelry—which range from classic diamond pieces to exciting modern works—are as lovely as the stones they encircle. Rosen puts his 40 years of experience to work on custom designs and engagement rings, too. If diamonds aren’t your best friend, his bright shop on Pearl Street also carries plenty of beaded jewelry and pearls. 1600 Pearl St., Boulder, 303-443-2852

Toymaker

BeginAgain Toys
“The toy box is the child’s first toolbox.” That smart observation (from 20th-century Fort Collins inventor Benjamin Barlowe) inspired toymakers David Bowen and Chris Clemmer to found BeginAgain Toys. The company’s back-to-the-basics “A Wish” collection connects preschool- and elementary-age kids with five creative callings—artist, writer, inventor, sportster, and hero—through imagination, storytelling, and role playing. Smaller playmates will dig the Beginner series of push toys and engaging puzzles. And grown-ups will appreciate the fact that BeginAgain Toys are made with green materials, such as natural rubber, cotton fabrics, and sustainably harvested wood—and don’t require any batteries. 201 Linden St., Suite 204, Fort Collins, 970-372-0522

Jeans

The Garment District
We’ve tried and tried to find a retailer with a bigger, better selection of designer denim in the Denver area—and, well, we’ve failed. The Garment District routinely stocks no fewer than 10 brands of jeans—from Citizens of Humanity and Hudson to Joe’s and Paige—and they’re never short on sizes or washes. Our latest denim obsession: the Tomboy jean from Adriano Goldschmied, which the pleasant staff pulled off the rack after correctly guessing our size. Naturally, we bought two pairs. 2595 S. Colorado Blvd., 303-757-3371

Costume Jewelry

Jewelius
Be forewarned: It’s near impossible to walk out of this almost-two-year-old Highland boutique (on the corner of West 32nd Avenue and Zuni Street) empty-handed. Owner Rachel Lubow—who named the store after her grandfather, Julius—handpicks every ring (on our last visit, we spotted some cool anchor designs), statement necklace, and bangle during scouting trips to New York City then curates well-edited racks of separates to pair them with. Finding a complete outfit at one shop? Yes, please. 2405 W. 32nd Ave., 303-975-6745

Pet Boutique

Two Pals & A Pup
Two Pals’ shelves upon shelves of hound-approved treats (fresh-baked!) and toys alone could clinch the Top of the Town title. But it’s the store’s Alfa Dog Referrals program which has us really giddy. This online database of the city’s best dog services—vets, pet sitters, groomers, and trainers—is curated and regularly updated by the affable staff. Sure, there’s Google and Yelp, but our pups are family members, too. We don’t trust just anybody to give us advice on our offspring, so why would we when it comes to our dogs? 231 Clayton St., 303-350-4498

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Marijuana Retailer

Karmaceuticals
This Santa Fe arts district–area shop has great inventory—more than 80 strains—and a knowledgeable staff (the manager and budtenders have all received industry accolades, including Cannabis Business Awards) that will provide answers to all your smoking and eating questions so you can make informed buying decisions. Plus, they grow about half of their product on-site (the rest is from their warehouse), so you know exactly where your bud is coming from. 4 Santa Fe Drive, 303-765-2762

Hope-Tank
Hope Tank. Courtesy of Hope Tank

Gift Boutique

Hope Tank
We prefer giving gifts to receiving them (honestly), and Hope Tank helps elevate the good-vibe feeling: A portion of each sale supports a charity of the artist’s or maker’s choice. A brightly colored xylophone for your nephew aids Habitat for Humanity Denver; buying those irreverent but affectionate cards for your college buddy means Judi’s House can help more families participate in grief counseling. And the delicate earrings for your mom are made by—and benefit—the human trafficking survivors who work with International Sanctuary. 64 Broadway, 720-837-1565

Stationary/Paper Goods

Paper Source
Cutesy meets classic at this cheerful Cherry Creek shop filled with a varied collection of stationery, wrapping paper, notebooks, and gifts. (A second location in Centennial opened in April.) The store’s type A layout really sold us, though: Neat rows of cards occupy the left wall, colorful wrapping paper covers the right, and tables of novelties sit in the center of the space. That means we don’t have to hunt through a maze of shelves to find what we’re looking for if we’re a little late picking up a card for that baby shower that starts in half an hour (not that that ever happens). 201 Fillmore St., 303-586-2050; 6851 S. Gaylord St., Suite B2-227, Centennial, 720-214-5585

Antiques

The Annex
Leave your pretension at the door of this Broadway mainstay. The well-apportioned shop’s impressive collection of antique and vintage knickknacks appeals to a variety of tastes—and may just convince you that an “old is new” vibe is just what your house needs. On a recent visit, we spotted a metal coat rack; decorative modern globes in a variety of colors (perfect for a study); and an assortment of oversize, ’50s-inspired block letters we just couldn’t resist. 1534 S. Broadway, 303-733-9008

Consignment Store

Mercer Place
Nothing is more than a year old at this South Broadway women’s clothing treasure trove (the chest for the rest of the family is considerably smaller). You may not uncover a plethora of designer labels, but the uncluttered, nicely organized boutique abounds with near-perfect-condition business casual wear—from beloved brands such as Banana Republic, Free People, and Anne Taylor—for a fraction of what you’d pay at the mall. You’ll even find proof that some things really do get better with age: For every month an item spends on the rack, the price drops 10 percent. 1388 S. Broadway, 303-765-4776

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New Again

Bargain hunters won’t leave empty-handed from these top resale stores.

For: Clothes
Visit: SecondLove3440 W. 32nd Ave., 720-398-884 
Because: There’s no shortage of “pre-loved,” high-end stock (think Frye boots and artisan jewelry) here—and we’re willing to pay a bit more than at other thrift shops for the upscale selection.

For: Gear
Visit: Wilderness Exchange Unlimited2401 15th St., Suite 100, 303-964-0708
Because: It may be almost-neighbors with outdoor giant REI, but Wilderness Exchange thrives thanks to its niche affordability. Check out the consignment area downstairs to nab half-off discounts on brand-name gear such as base layers from Patagonia and Mountain Hardwear sleeping bags.

For: Furniture
Visit: Home Again Furniture, Inc.1900 W. Mississippi Ave., 303-935-4889
Because: With a wide variety of home furnishings and decor, from La-Z-Boys to Japanese vases, this one-stop shop is like a walk-in Craigslist. Bonus: They deliver.


The Best In Culture & Nightlife

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CPAC
On Display View rotating exhibits—or learn a new skill with seminars and workshops from some of the state’s masters —at the Colorado Photographic Arts Center. Photo by Jeff Nelson

Place to See Art

Colorado Photographic Arts Center
For an inside-the-artist’s-studio experience, check out the Colorado Photographic Arts Center in LoHi. This nonprofit dedicated to fostering photography in all forms not only features a rotating gallery space—see an exhibition of work by Binh Dahn, Denis Roussel, and David Emmit Adams this month—but it also serves as an educational venue with classes, seminars, workshops, and rentable dark rooms (yes, they still have those). You can even keep tabs on photography exhibitions going on across Colorado through CPAC’s blog. 1513 Boulder St., 303-837-1341

Craft Brewery

Avery Brewing Company
Whether it’s old standbys (White Rascal, Ellie’s Brown Ale) or more experimental beers, such as a mouth-puckering sour from the barrel-aged series, Avery Brewing Company rarely misses. And soon we’ll have even more reason to toast this about-to-turn-21-years-old Boulder staple: At the beginning of this year, the company broke ground on a new $27 million brewery, taproom, and production facility, which is scheduled to open in northeast Boulder in 2015. 5763 Arapahoe Ave., Unit E, Boulder, 303-440-4324

Author

Peter Heller
A longtime nonfiction author and adventure writer for the likes of Outside and Men’s Journal, Peter Heller’s first novel, The Dog Stars, which was released in 2012, established him as one of Colorado’s great new fiction voices. Heller’s postapocalyptic tale made the New York Times bestseller list and landed on Amazon’s lineup of the best books of 2012. In spare, evocative prose, Heller follows protagonist Hig and his dog, Jasper—two survivors of a superflu that killed 99 percent of the population—on their journey through Colorado. From the buzz his sophomore effort, The Painter (published in May), is generating, Heller looks poised for a long career in literary fiction.

Work-and-Class
Work & Class. Photo by Laura Brooks

Happy Hour

Work & Class 
Among the city’s infinite happy hour spots, five-month-old Work & Class wins this coveted title for making that most delightful of hours easy and inventive. The “Early Work Release Program” menu (available from 4 to 6 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday) includes $3 beers, $4 wines, and, our guilty pleasure, $5 build-your-own cocktails. Combine one of the four house flavors (spicy basil sour—a favorite—tart pomegranate cucumber, Yucatan orange clove, or strawberry rhubarb) with the well spirit of your choice. Then balance out the booze with one of four bites ($3 to $5), such as the creamy chicken and poblano gravy biscuit sandwich. 2500 Larimer St., Unit 101, 303-292-0700

Band/Musician

Nathaniel Rateliff
Easily one of Denver’s most celebrated local troubadours, Nathaniel Rateliff shifted his focus last year with soul-laden tunes featuring his band the Night Sweats. He’s also tackled the indie rock genre with side projects such as Born in the Flood and the Wheel, and this spring he released Falling Faster Than You Can Run, a “desperate but hopeful” (his words) return to his singer-songwriter roots. With this prolific musician, you never know what’s coming next, but you’re always listening.

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Svper-Ordinary-Art
Svper Ordinary gallery in the Source. Photo by Laura Brooks

First Date Idea

The Source/RiNo First Friday
Show off some of your, er, Denver’s best assets—its food, art, and weather—and you’re sure to lock down a second date. Start at the Source, an artisanal market where haute taqueria Comida promises a casual experience (we recommend the Arrachera torta and a watermelon-jalapeño margarita), or go big at best cocktail menu–winning eatery Acorn (see page 202). Walk off those full bellies a few blocks in any direction during RiNo’s underrated and not overly crowded First Friday activities—everything from gallery-hopping to miniconcerts by local bands to tours of area residents’ cool homes. 3350 Brighton Blvd., 720-443-1135

Kids’ Class

Sticky Fingers Cooking. Courtesy of Erin Fletter

Sticky Fingers Cooking
In a world where too many children think dinner comes from a microwave or a drive-through, Sticky Fingers Cooking provides a welcome—and delicious—antidote. This roaming cooking school (it sets up shop at elementary schools, birthday parties, and camps) teaches kids cooking basics such as knife skills and how to read a recipe. After preparing playful dishes in class (think fruit salad salsa, cinnamon-sugar tortillas, and cauliflower nuggets with tomato jam), children head home excited to show off their culinary prowess. 303-648-4078

Bartender

Allison Widdecombe
You don’t have to try one of Allison Widdecombe’s exemplary concoctions to understand their superior nature—but we’d recommend it. The Alaska-born, Hawaii-raised bartender’s keen intuition for flavor combinations earned her a nod from GQ as the Front Range’s most imaginative bartender in 2013. And earlier this spring, the Williams & Graham mixologist claimed a regional finalist spot in the U.S. Bartenders’ Guild’s World Class 2014 competition (winners were announced as we were going to press, but W&G was the only drinking hole in the country with two finalists). If you’re lucky enough to catch her behind the bar, we suggest telling her your favorite spirit and letting her impeccable palate take care of the rest. 3160 Tejon St., 303-997-8886

Artist

Chris Coleman
When Monkey Town 4, the immersive cinema, art, and food experience, came to Denver this past spring, we spent two hours entranced by the video works of more than a dozen artists as they swirled around our dinner table. But we walked away talking about just one: Chris Coleman. The University of Denver professor produces surprising work in a variety of mediums—sculpture, sound, performance, and video —and has a unique ability to create feeling and empathy in pixels. View his creations in person this summer during an exhibition at the Arvada Center (running through August 31), where you might also see pieces by his talented wife, Laleh Mehran, a gifted video and installation artist (and DU professor) in her own right.

hi-dive
Hi-Dive. Courtesy of Evan Semón

Venue to Discover New Bands

Hi-Dive
Few of us can commit to spending hours scouring the depths of the Internet for the next big thing in indie rock (and frankly, who wants to?). We are, however, convinced that Ben Desoto, who books the music at the gritty Hi-Dive, does just that. Whether it’s local musicians or little-known touring acts, the Hi-Dive has a reputation for landing bands on their way to stardom. Case in point: Vampire Weekend, Fleet Foxes, and MGMT all passed through this South Broadway mainstay long before they were Red Rocks–worthy stars—and we only had to pay about $12 to see ’em. 7 S. Broadway, 303-733-0230

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Cocktail Menu

Acorn
You can’t go wrong when choosing a drink at Acorn. The myriad offbeat combinations—take “Brunch on the Danube,”
which mixes Zwack (a Hungarian herbal liqueur), tawny port, nocino liqueur, and ginger beer—mean you’ll always discover something new. Don’t be intimidated by the many options, though. The menu makes things easy: Cocktails are split into three sections that delineate the mild options from the heavy mixes—because it’s good to know what you’re getting into before you start imbibing.
3350 Brighton Blvd., 720-542-3721

Director (Theater)

Christy Montour-Larson
If Denver had its own Hollywood-style walk of fame, this veteran director would own a star: She’s helmed 75 productions for some of the Front Range’s most prominent theater companies, including the Denver Center Theatre Company and Curious Theatre Company. She’s on the faculty at Metropolitan State University of Denver. And she has range; you’ll find her credit on everything from intimate dramas to grand musicals. (In May, she directed the acclaimed This for the Boulder Ensemble Theatre Company.) We’re fans of her gutsy focus on rough and somber pieces and her ability to wring the rawest emotions from her actors.

Dive Bar

Dive Inn
When Jason Tietjen, a longtime Candlelight Tavern employee (another of our favorite neighborhood bars), took over this space in late 2011 (it opened the following May), we trusted him to satisfy our dive bar requirements: cheap, stiff drinks; casual ambience; conversational bartenders; zero judgment. He succeeded—and then some. With three patios, two rooms filled with activities (pool, darts, foosball, corn hole, ping-pong), and a lighthearted nautical theme—including an actual boat you can sit in—Dive Inn turned Sunday Funday into an everyday possibility. 1380 S. Broadway, 720-242-6157

Brewer

Chad Yakobson, Crooked Stave Artisan Beer Project
In a town that takes its beer as seriously as its football, Chad Yakobson has achieved John Elway–like status in just a few years as the owner/brewmaster of Crooked Stave Artisan Beer Project, a small Denver brewery that specializes in sour and barrel-aged beers. He’s been heralded in mainstream publications, ranging from the New York Times to Sunset, as a trailblazer for brewing these Belgian-influenced styles in the United States. (He’s also a pioneer when it comes to working with Brettanomyces, the yeast that produces sour beers—he wrote his master’s dissertation on the process.) But the proof’s in the glass: Head to Crooked Stave’s taproom in the Source (see page 96) and try one of Yakobson’s wild creations (like a glass of the tart and citrusy L’Brett D’Or) for yourself.

Do-Gooder

Paula DuPre’ Pesmen, There With Care
Although she would likely eschew the attention, Paula DuPre’ Pesmen—an associate producer of the early Harry Potter films, among other blockbusters—should be applauded for using her success for good. In 2005, she founded There With Care, an organization that assists families with critically ill children by connecting them with people and organizations that can provide everyday assistance, from car repairs to meals. Almost a decade later, the group continues to expand its influence. Since its founding, There With Care has collected more than $5 million in in-kind donations, enabling it to continue helping more families. And DuPre’ Pesmen did it all without waving a wand.

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Drink with a View

The Rooftop, Coors Field
There’s no competition here: Coors Field’s newest addition frames the best view of the Rockies (meaning the mountains, but also the team) and the city that we can get from a bar. Plus, the $14 to $26 ticket for general admission here includes a $6 credit for concessions or merchandise. Sold. Climb the stairs to the right-field upper deck for a magnificent backdrop, a pint of one of the 52 beers on tap (keep it local with Great Divide’s Titan IPA), and a grass-fed beef patty from CHUBurger. If that doesn’t keep you fueled for nine innings of America’s favorite pastime, we don’t know what will.

Gay Bar

Denver Wrangler
If you’ve ever driven by the corner of 17th and Logan streets on a summer afternoon, you already know why this is Denver’s best gay bar (besides its massive PrideFest celebration). The large patio—a prime people-watching spot—is regularly packed with gents sipping cool brews and frosty cocktails (the Wrangler boasts three frozen drink machines inside). Don’t cut your weekend festivities short, though. On Sundays, the Wrangler hosts the Legendary Beer Bust: Pay 10 bucks for a Coors Light cup and drink from 4 to 8 p.m. in the name of that week’s nonprofit beneficiary. 1700 Logan St., 303-837-1075

New Brewery

Station 26 Brewing Co.
Park Hill’s starring characters—ample maple trees and gorgeous brick homes—now have to share the spotlight with a talented neighborhood newcomer: Station 26 Brewing Co. opened in a converted fire station in December. The brewery has a cool-but-not-contrived vibe with a bright red fire hose stretched behind the draft wall and two requisite fire poles (not for the public’s use, even—no, especially—after a few pints). We particularly dig the patio, accessed through the firehouse’s massive doors, where you can sip, when available, a red (duh) IPA, our favorite, or a Belgian-American pale ale while noshing on goodies from a rotating lineup of food trucks parked outside. 7045 E. 38th Ave., 303-333-1825

Phamaly-Theatre-Company
Phamaly Theatre Company. Courtesy of Michael Ensminger

Theater Production

Fiddler on the Roof, Phamaly Theatre Company
Between movies and musicals, Fiddler on the Roof has been performed—and performed well—thousands of times. But what made last summer’s Mile High City production so memorable was the troupe behind the acting: Phamaly Theatre Company (formerly known as the Physically Handicapped Actors & Musical Artists League). In a familiar story about family and tradition, we were forced to confront our own biases of how things should be as we watched well-known choreography be performed perfectly by actors in wheelchairs or with vision impairments. In their capable hands, a classic transformed into something wholly invigorating. 303-365-0005

Sports Bar

British Bulldog
Soccer is never going to best football in a popularity contest in the United States. Every four years, though, the World Cup (currently underway in Brazil) cranks up the intensity dial among even the most casual fútbol fans. There’s no better place in Denver to catch a match than the British Bulldog. During the English Premier League season, well-lubricated dudes ordering yet another round of Newcastle to wash down their eggs over easy pack the bar beginning at 8 a.m. That’s dedication. 2052 Stout St., 303-295-7974

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Twitterer

@PeytonsHead
Peyton Manning may be the biggest name in Mile High City sports, but the superhuman QB has avoided Twitter thus far. So when we want news on number 18, or the Broncos, or pop culture—or if we’re just looking for a good laugh—we turn to the parody Twitter account of Mr. Manning’s forehead (you read that right). With more than 101,000 followers (you read that right, too), the prolific feed skewers all things sports, including Peyton himself. A sample tweet, from Easter Sunday: “Went to church. Passed the collection plate. 21-29, 379 yards.” Irreverent? Yes. Hilarious? Of course. Essential Denver reading? Most definitely.

And…Action!

Not all movie theaters are created equal.

If you want to recline your seat:
Buy a ticket at…
AMC Flatiron Crossing 14,61 W. Flatiron Crossing Drive, Broomfield, 303-256-2184
Because… sitting in a La-Z-Boy–style recliner (with sizeable armrests and cup holders!) gives you an at-home experience, with the added benefit of a giant screen. Tip: Pay the small fee to reserve your seat in advance, especially for hot new releases.

If you want to enjoy dinner and a movie:
Buy a ticket at… Alamo Drafthouse Littleton7301 S. Santa Fe Drive, Littleton, 720-588-4107
Because… every movie is better with a glass of Pinot Noir (or a boozy milk shake) and a prosciutto and goat cheese sandwich in hand. Even better: Bottomless popcorn comes in a large bowl—just like at home—for $6.

If you want to sip a beer:
Buy a ticket at… Mayan Theatre110 Broadway, 303-744-6799
Because… this 84-year-old, Art Deco–inspired theater has one bar and a lineup of some of the best indie and foreign cinema in town—and you won’t get any nasty glances for leaving your seat to grab a refill.

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If you want to take the kids:
Buy a ticket at… a participating Regal or United Artists theater
Because… the nine-week Summer Movie Express program (which runs through August) gives kiddos the chance to see Adventures of TinTin or Rio 2 on Tuesdays and Wednesdays for just a buck.


The Best In Denver Services

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Savvy-Dog
Good Doggie Grooming, nail trims, and bison bones? Your four-legged best friend will be begging to visit Dog Savvy Boutique and Spa. Photo by Jeff Nelson

Pet Services

Dog Savvy Boutique and Spa
At least a dozen places in Denver proper could claim this title—we really do love our four-legged friends—but Dog Savvy fetches the award based on superior customer service, a cozy boutique vibe, and its central location in Larimer Square. And we don’t have to worry about emptying our wallet every time we visit this full-service spot: A full groom for small dogs costs about $50, including ear wax removal (really), and walk-in nail trims are just $10. You can put your savings toward some local bison bones, grain-free dog biscuits, and—if you’re feeling frisky—a doggie backpack from Savvy’s broad selection. 1402 Larimer St., 303-623-5200

Manicure/Pedicure

ÜberChic
In many ways, what makes this small Edgewater-based salon so alluring is what it lacks. You’ll find zero pretension (the ambience is reminiscent of your friend’s living room); no harsh product odors (ÜberChic uses all-natural, fragrance-free, nontoxic products); no noisy—and unsanitary—jet-powered pedi chairs (you won’t miss them, promise); and not a single overpriced item on the menu (the Maniküre is just $18 and the Pediküre is $30). Save a buck with the Green Discount: Bring your own sandals or bike, walk, or carpool to your appointment. 5223 W. 25th Ave., Edgewater, 303-462-2442

Yoga Studio

kindness-yoga
Kindness Yoga. Courtesy of Jennifer Davies

Kindness Yoga
Yoga studios are kind of like hair stylists: Everyone already has a favorite. But if you’re one of the few who haven’t yet made a commitment, we suggest giving Kindness Yoga a go. With four central-Denver locations, a low-key vibe, and over 300 classes taught by more than 70 instructors each week, independently owned Kindness has everything an aspiring yogi could ask for. Check out Nicole Hagg’s Kindness Hot Yoga classes for a lower heat, higher humidity take on the practice, or if you’re new to the mat,
sign up for the six-week Yoga 101 series with Patrick Montgomery at the Capitol Hill studio to learn the basics in an inclusive atmosphere.
Multiple locations

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Barre Class

Barre3
Barre3’s upbeat but focused classes are the best introduction to this trendy fitness routine we’ve found. The added time spent on body alignment and the foundations of barre—a ballet-, Pilates-, and yoga-inspired workout designed around small movements and isometric holds—were exactly what we wanted, ahem, needed to counter the rest of our intense Colorado lifestyle. And Barre3 delivered, particularly instructor Jessica Mason’s encouraging without intimidating style. Moms (and dads!) will appreciate the on-site childcare ($5 per class per child, available for kids from six weeks to eight years old); reservations are required. 2828 E. Sixth Ave., 303-484-1287

Andrea-Schumacher-Interiors
Andrea Schumacher Interiors. Photo by Emily Minton Redfield

Interior Design

Andrea Schumacher Interiors
Andrea Monath Schumacher has some cred: The Harvard-educated designer, who honed her skills as a set designer for Days of Our Lives, was listed as one of House Beautiful magazine’s “Next Wave” designers under 40 in 2010. But we rely on the Highland-based decorator because her MO of creating spaces that involve striking splashes of color and “green” material options matches our relaxed sensibilities. 2406 32nd Ave., Suite D, 303-458-6462

Bike Shop

City Velo
There’s no grease to be found at this breezy retail and service store (which recently relocated to Cherry Creek North); instead, a curated selection of 20 or so road steeds are displayed on the wall like fine art. Once you pick one out, you’ll receive a professional fit based on sizing and flexibility assessments. Then the crew will send you out on a lengthy solo ride (you’ll get a better feel for your almost-purchase during a 90-minute road test than a quick around-the-block jaunt). 220 Steele St., 303-954-9110

Barber

Semion Barbershop for All
The folks at Semion get the lost art of the neighborhood barbershop: fast, sociable, and capable. On a recent weekday visit to this bright space, one block east of the Golden Triangle neighborhood, we were greeted, seated, and trimmed in less than 20 minutes. Our cut left zero stray hairs and a perfectly straight neckline—and even came with a muffin when we paid. A stellar experience for just $20? We could get used to that. Don’t be jealous, ladies; women are welcome, too. 507 Lincoln St., #102, 303-284-8954

Personal Trainer

Jamie Atlas, Bonza Bodies Fitness
Jamie Atlas is a fitness giant—really. The six-foot-seven-inch former member of the Australian National Basketball League recently expanded his boot camp to two locations, and he serves as a spokesman for LiveWell Colorado’s campaign to reduce obesity. But those aren’t the only reasons we’re fans. We keep pushing ourselves through the high-intensity small group workouts thanks to Bonza’s team of motivating trainers and the variety of classes, from Bonza Blast Booty Buster at his urban gyms to sweat fests at Red Rocks. In fact, Atlas is about the only person who can convince us to set our alarms for 7 a.m. and drive to Morrison for an 8:15 workout—on a Saturday. 1800 Glenarm Place; 8790 W. Colfax Ave., Lakewood; 720-257-9328

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moss-pink-flower
Moss Pink Flora & Botanicals. Photo by Laura Brooks

Flower Shop

Moss Pink Flora & Botanicals
Forget just pausing to smell the flowers at Moss Pink Flora & Botanicals. It’s nearly impossible to pass this colorful shop without taking a few just-unpacked blooms with you. We suggest a quirky and fragrant hydrangea and ranunculus bouquet—a rare but genius pairing—for your dining room table. Speed up your visit by checking the website for a list of seasonal monthly blooms. 4615 E. 23rd Ave., 303-388-1666

Eyebrow Shaping

Brows on Upper 15th
Get a bad haircut and you can throw it in a ponytail. A bad eyebrow wax? Unless you have bangs, you’re likely to garner a few awkward looks. Avoid those uncomfortable stares by booking an appointment at this LoHi mecca where every specialist is also a licensed aesthetician (read: you can trust ’em). They do it all—waxing, threading, tinting—with a friendly smile and affordable rates (basic brow shaping starts at $20). And they don’t just cater to those with XX chromosomes; this all-in-one location provides “guybrow” treatments as well. For overtime toilers: Brows is open until 9 p.m. on Wednesdays. 2540 15th St., 720-855-3021

b-gardening
B. Gardening Landscape Design. Courtesy of Emily Minton Redfield.

Landscaper

B. Gardening Landscape Design
Making things grow in Denver’s harsh climate is a laborious endeavor. Even more difficult: Crafting an outdoor area that challenges the Rockies for your attention. Alissa Shanley and Chris Silkwood’s designs achieve both. Opulent potted containers along an entryway, tranquil fire pits next to an outdoor couch—it all appears effortless. (No, that doesn’t mean you don’t need to water and prune.) The pair’s designs are so svelte, you may not need an interior decorator because you’ll be spending all of your time outside. 720-320-3949

Massage

Moyer Total Wellness
We get it: Sitting for long periods of time is bad for our health. Offset your workweek slouch with Moyer massage therapist Beth Williamson’s “whole self” approach, in which a firm but therapeutic massage ($69 for one hour) is just the beginning. Before you leave, Williamson will demonstrate a few key yoga poses to help loosen your back (because who can afford a massage every day?) and provide a natural recipe for a relaxing bath salt. Tranquility? Check. 1325 S. Colorado Blvd., Suite B16, 303-756-9355

Hair Salon

Berenices
We first visited this Congress Park staple after a disastrous round of Top of the Town research left our coif looking particularly mistreated. But thanks to Ashley Cady’s deft handiwork, no one knew. That was more than five years ago—and we’re still regulars. The salon recently expanded to a 4,500-square-foot space and doubled its roster of stylists. We love the massive windows that drench the new space with sunny highlights (see what we did there?). 3500 E. 12th Ave., 303-399-9156

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Pilates Studio

pH7 Pilates
Sometimes all our hard-core Rocky Mountain playing results in injury. Take care of yourself before you get hurt—and, if need be, after—with mat and reformer classes at the airy pH7 Pilates studios. The tough, full-body workouts (starting at $15 for mat classes) are taught by a host of instructors trained to help you mitigate any current or lingering injuries. Our recommendation: Sign up for gut-busting sessions taught by Cher Aslor, owner of pH7, a former professional dancer and a certified yoga instructor. 1162 Madison St.; 4928 W. 29th Ave.; 720-235-2131

OrangeTheory
Orangetheory Fitness. Photo by Laura Brooks

Health Club/Gym

Orangetheory Fitness
The heart doesn’t lie—at least not at Orangetheory Fitness, where a heart-rate monitor captures every beat and broadcasts them on a massive screen for your workout buddies to see. The theory: Working at 84 percent of your max heart rate (the orange zone) for about 15 minutes of the hourlong cardio and strength-training session helps you continue to burn more calories afterward. Started by Ellen Latham in 2010, the Florida-based chain brought its interval-training workout to Colorado in 2012 and now has eight metro-area locations. Monthly memberships start at $59, but you can put your ticker to the test for free with a gratis initial visit. Multiple locations

Ski/Snowboard Tune

Eskimo Ski & Board Shop
You expect a decent tune when you visit one of the oldest ski shops west of the Mississippi, and Eskimo Ski & Board Shop delivers on that—and much more. In this tucked-away spot in a suburban strip mall, the dedicated staff doesn’t just supply a solid wax. They guarantee an exceptional all-around skiing experience by adjusting bindings and double-checking fit. The quick turnaround time (typically two days) ensures you’ll be flying down the mountain by the time the next powder day arrives. 8265 S. Holly St., Centennial, 303-761-1101

Spa

The Ritz-Carlton Spa, Denver
Everyone deserves a spa day. Make that days, plural, thanks to the Ritz-Carlton’s new daily specials, such as Wine Down Wednesdays. The midweek deal gets you 20 percent off a manicure or pedicure (around $50 each for a 50-minute tune-up) and a complimentary glass of wine—plus the same high-end service we’ve come to expect from this urban oasis. If only all of life’s luxuries were so affordable. 1881 Curtis St., 303-312-3800

Medical Spa

Ageless Aesthetics Medical Spa
When it comes to our bodies, we’ve got a no-compromise policy: If we get a medical treatment—even a cosmetic one—we want someone with an M.D. involved. At Cherry Creek’s Ageless Aesthetics Medical Spa, owner Dr. Herbert Parris is on-site almost every day. Although certified aestheticians perform chemical peels, laser hair removal, and photo facials, the doctor, who’s been practicing for more than a decade, does all injections himself—and he’s usually within earshot if one of his staffers needs assistance. 3150 E. Third Ave., 303-320-1515

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Tailor

Erol’s Tailoring
Erol and his wife, Filiz, have been making Cherry Creek residents—and Denverites beyond—look sharp for more than 20 years. With warm, old-school customer service, reasonable prices, and expert fixing and fitting for everything from suits to wedding dresses, these are the tailors we count on for our most important fashion moments. In case you need more convincing, consider that Erol’s is the preferred tailor for Burberry’s Cherry Creek outlet. 314 Columbine St., 303-377-2400 

Keep The Change

It’s the universal dilemma: How much should I tip? We asked Mimi McCroskey, founder of Denver Etiquette Workshop (thedenveretiquetteworkshop.com), for a gratuity cheat sheet to help avoid being that customer.

Restaurant server 15–20 percent (before tax and/or happy hour discounts)
Food delivery and takeout 15–20 percent
Barista 15–20 percent (if ordering for the whole office; otherwise, not required)
Maid $2 per night
Hair stylist or manicurist 15 percent
Parking valet $2–$3
Taxi driver 15 percent
Doorman 50 cents–$1

Customer Service All-Stars

Readers commented on the best customer service they received this year. Here, a sampling.

Front Range Boot Camp owner Robyn Morrisette assisted me while I was out with a personal illness by sending emails, running errands, having fellow boot campers send numerous cards, [and giving me] a welcoming return. What a way to make someone feel special and valued.”

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Lululemon gave me VIP treatment after I had catastrophic damage in the Estes Park flood. They gave me a new outfit, yoga mat, etc., plus passes to ‘Hanuman Presents: A Weekend Gathering to Benefit Colorado Flood Relief.’ They made a difference!”

Bob Sullivan, manager at Christy Sports’ Englewood/Park Meadows location, outfitted our niece and nephew for a ski trip with our family. He not only selected the perfect gear for everyone, but he did so in a fantastically inclusive way that made these teens feel confident and adult. His knowledge of the sport and Colorado mountains was amazing, but his manner and customer service was tops. Bob really helped get them excited about the ski trip and helped dispel their natural anxiety.”

“I ordered a personalized Broncos-themed bracelet from Megan Kaltenbach two days before the game, and she personally delivered it to make sure my girlfriend had it in time.”

Amore Fiori is amazing. They can put together something gorgeous at any price point. When my sister-in-law had her third child, we went there with her two older daughters to pick up some ‘welcome home’ flowers. The kids wanted to buy flowers for Mom with their own money, and the staff wrapped the single stems as carefully and as beautifully as they would have a large bouquet.”

Humboldt made a major mistake with cooking my burger, but my server turned it around 100 percent. It made me feel welcome, and he continued to take care of our table with warmth and true hospitality. It totally made up for any kitchen mistakes.”

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Edge Restaurant in the Four Seasons is phenomenal. Unusually heavy traffic made us late for a Colorado Symphony Orchestra performance. The Edge staff took our orders over the phone, were incredibly accommodating to several food allergies, and made dining a delightful experience prior to the performance. We will dine at Edge before every CSO performance in the future.”

“The folks at Cervantes’ Masterpiece Ballroom are doing a great job. Even when they’re slammed (which is often because their bands have been excellent), the bar moves fast and everyone is friendly.”

Frasca Food and Wine: Before my spoon even hit the floor after I knocked it off, it was replaced by the maître d’. Impeccable.”

Mile High Wine and Spirits is all about customer service. They special-order kegs for us, recommend new ales based on our tastes, get great deals on wines, and have twice-a-week ale and wine tastings in the store.”

“As newcomers to Denver, we found our apartment and neighborhood (RiNo) thanks to a server at Old Major.”

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This article appeared in the July 2014 issue of .

Daliah Singer, 5280 Contributor

Daliah Singer is an award-winning writer and editor based in Denver. You can find more of her work at daliahsinger.com.

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