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Top of the Town 2016

Our 20th annual list of the best places to eat, drink, listen to music, get pampered, and more!

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For 20 years, we’ve compiled an annual list of the best places to eat, drink, listen to music, indulge in a little relaxation, and more—and we’re at it again. Turn the page to discover 161 reasons to explore the Denver metro area. Plus: a barbecue throwdown and our recommendations for what to do in five of our favorite Denver neighborhoods.

TABLE OF CONTENTS

Dining

Culture and Nightlife

Services

Shopping

Outdoors

The Lowdown: How Top of the Town Comes Together

(Check out last year’s winners here)

Dining

The only dining recommendations you’ll need in 2016.



New Restaurant

Editors’ Choice: Hop Alley

Don’t get seven-month-old Hop Alley confused with a brewery: The name refers to Denver’s erstwhile Chinatown in what is now LoDo. This newfangled Chinese restaurant from Tommy Lee of popular ramen spot Uncle may not be located within the old neighborhood’s boundaries, but it serves bold family-style dishes rooted in the same traditions (see our review on page 60). Here, you’re served flavor-packed plates of fried-egg-topped chewy rice cakes tossed with ground pork, carrots, and oyster sauce and exquisitely balanced chilled tofu with bang bang sauce (a blend of sesame paste, chile oil, vinegar, and soy sauce) and smashed cucumbers. The latter will cool your mouth after bites of the fiery la zi ji fried chicken. No wonder a table at Hop Alley is the most sought-out destination in town. We expect it to stay that way. 3500 Larimer St., 720-379-8340

Readers’ Choice: Nocturne Jazz & Supper Club 1330 27th St., 303-295-3333


Coffeeshop

Editors’ Choice: Black Eye Coffee CapHill

It feels like a new artisan coffeeshop is opening every week and on every corner. With so many choices, picking a favorite is no easy task. At least, it wasn’t until Black Eye Coffee opened its second location in Capitol Hill and made us regulars with its trifecta of offerings: java hot spot in the morning, restaurant at lunch and dinnertime, and bar all day. The sultry, art-deco-inspired corner hangout serves everything from perfect cortados and scratch-baked pastries (try the gluten-free chocolate cake if it’s available) to craft cocktails and an ambitious dinner menu. With large windows, eclectic tunes, and seating that somehow works for both laptop work sessions and date-night dinners, we’d stay here all day if they’d let us. 800 Sherman St., 303-955-1205

Readers’ Choice: Black Eye Coffee 


Burger

Editors’ Choice: Meadowlark Kitchen

At RiNo’s Meadowlark Kitchen, bigger is better—at least, when it comes to the lone burger on the menu. The over-the-top dish starts with the basics: a buttery, house-made brioche bun and 5.5 ounces of juicy local Western Daughters Butcher Shoppe beef. Then things get decadent. Owner and executive chef Joshua Bitz adds a strip and a half of sweet-spicy candied bacon, a crispy onion ring, a wobbly poached egg, jalapeño-and-bacon confit, and a warm aged cheddar sauce. The only way to tackle this unwieldy, taste-bud-exploding monster is to squish down the bun to pop the egg yolk, lean over your plate, and dive in. A word of advice: Ask for a second napkin. 2705 Larimer St., 303-953-1815

Readers’ Choice: Park Burger multiple locations


Taco

Editors’ Choice: Dos Santos

No taco has seeped into our consciousness quite like Dos Santos’ cochinita pibil. For their version of the classic Mexican dish, the Wallenta brothers (who also run two restaurants in Cozumel, Mexico) slow-roast pork belly, dry-rubbed with achiote and other Yucatán spices, for almost nine hours and serve it atop corn tortillas with pickled jalapeño and red onion. The dish is only available as a special at this year-old City Park West joint Wednesday through Saturday. If you’re visiting any other day, opt for the O.M.F.G. and chicken tinga versions, and wash ’em down with a tequila old fashioned. 1475 E. 17th Ave., 303-386-3509

Readers’ Choice: Tacos Tequila Whiskey (Pinche Tacos) multiple locations


Indian

Editors’ Choice: Yak & Yeti Restaurant & Brewpub—Arvada 

The only thing that could improve Yak & Yeti’s menu of traditional Indian, Nepalese, and Tibetan dishes is a beer of equally superb quality to go with them. Oh wait, the 14-year-old Arvada spot (there are two other locations in the metro area) has that too: Its Himalayan IPA, brewed on-site, took home gold in the strong pale ale category at the 2010 Great American Beer Festival. The beverage pairs perfectly with an order of savory garlic naan—leavened bread garnished with fresh garlic and cilantro—and the silky chicken tikka masala, both expertly executed by chef-owner Dol Bhattarai, an eastern Nepal native who worked for years in high-end restaurants in New Delhi. Nab a seat outside the 1864 Victorian mansion that holds Yak & Yeti and indulge in the sunshine and a well-rounded introduction to South Asian fusion cuisine. 7803 Ralston Road, Arvada, 303-431-9000

Readers’ Choice: Little India 330 E. Sixth Ave., 303-871-9777; 2390 S. Downing St., 303-298-1939


Brunch

Editors’ Choice: Revelry Kitchen

The best thing about Revelry Kitchen’s brunch isn’t the delightfully diverse and fairly priced menu—although we do adore the lobster deviled eggs, roasted vegetable hash, Northside rancheros, chocolate-dolloped churros, and mouth-stretching Cubano sandwich (which executive chef Enrique Socarras borrowed from his time at Cuba Cuba Cafe & Bar in the Golden Triangle). Nor is it the 11-month-old venue’s sunny dining room and ample wood bar or the shaded patio that seats 32. And it’s not that Socarras sources many ingredients from local purveyors such as 7X Beef, the Spice Guy, and Morning Fresh Farms. No, the best thing about Revelry’s brunch is that you can enjoy it seven days a week, starting at 7 a.m. Which makes Monday mornings a heck of a lot better. 4140 W. 38th Ave., 303-455-3132

Readers’ Choice: Snooze multiple locations


Distillery

Editors’ Choice: Laws Whiskey House

When it comes to spirits, Denver is a whiskey town, and the current sheriff is Laws Whiskey House. Whereas many local distilleries craft expansive selections, 4.5-year-old Laws is focused on perfecting a single spirit. And Laws—aided by Jake Norris (the distiller who helped establish Stranahan’s Colorado Whiskey)—comes pretty darn close to doing so. A.D. Laws Four Grain Straight Bourbon is rich and complex; find it behind the bars of respected watering holes such as Williams & Graham and the Cooper Lounge. Last summer, Laws added a second offering: hard-to-find Small Batch Secale Straight Rye, a 100-proof spirit aged for at least three years that manages to be both spicy and smooth. The only way we’d like Laws more is if the distillery could speed up the barrel-aging process so we could taste its new concoctions sooner. 1420 S. Acoma St., 720-570-1420, lawswhiskeyhouse.com

Readers’ Choice: Laws Whiskey House


Sandwich

Editors’ Choice: Brider

We don’t fork over $14 for just any sandwich, but the Cajun-spiced blue shrimp option at seven-month-old Brider is worth it. It starts with a crisp honey-brown-hued baguette from Grateful Bread Company. Chopped avocado and a creamy, house-made purple, white, and green cabbage slaw add color and freshness. Then the headliner: perfectly cooked shrimp, which is flown in daily, dressed with a spicy Creole aïoli. You really can’t go wrong with any of the fast-casual spot’s between-the-bread options (the rotisserie chicken and pesto sandwich is another must-try)—just don’t expect us to share. 1644 Platte St., 303-455-3084

Readers’ Choice: Masterpiece Delicatessen 1575 Central St., 303-561-3354; 1710 Sherman St., 303-832-6732


Chef

Editors’ Choice: Max MacKissock, Bar Dough

Max MacKissock’s cooking has always been confident, innovative, and graceful. We first noticed the 37-year-old’s immense talent in 2007 when he was the opening chef at Vita. But it was his precisely executed, often-playful dishes at the Squeaky Bean (both iterations) that stole a little bit of our culinary hearts. And then, after a 2013 nod from Bon Appétit and a James Beard nomination for Best Chef Southwest, he took a hiatus. The local dining scene—and our stomachs—felt the loss. Not anymore. This past October, MacKissock opened Bar Dough in LoHi with partners Juan and Katie Padro, and what a pleasure it is to have him cooking again. His Italian-inspired dishes emerge from the kitchen thoughtfully composed and beautiful, whether it’s a simple crisp-bottomed, smoked-mushroom pizza or a curled octopus tentacle with charred eggplant and toasted pistachio. Welcome back, Max. 2227 W. 32nd Ave., 720-668-8506

Readers’ Choice: Troy Guard, Tag Restaurant


Kid-Friendly Restaurant

Editors’ Choice: Torchy’s Tacos

Rule number one of eating out with little ones: Don’t lose control before the food comes. If you swing by the first Colorado location of this Austin-born megahit at family meal times—as in, 5 p.m.—the line moves quickly. The booths in the main area are intimate without being cramped; settle your kid in the interior spot where she can entertain herself coloring the kids menu page and waving at people in line until the guacamole arrives. (You, of course, will be enjoying a margarita.) The 14-taco menu, not including served-all-day breakfast versions, can be overwhelming, so opt for our tried-and-true order: the taco of the month, plus the Baja shrimp (fried camarones with cabbage slaw and queso fresco). With four more locations opening across the Front Range this year, soon you won’t have to drive very far for a break from doing the dishes, wherever you live. 1085 Broadway, 303-436-1704

Readers’ Choice: Mici Handcrafted Italian multiple locations


Bakery

Editors’ Choice: La Fillette

Sitting in a well-loved armchair with sunlight streaming through the massive front window, a mug of drip coffee and a delightfully flaky croissant in hand, you’ll wonder why you don’t start every morning at La Fillette. The adorable year-old bakery near Rose Medical Center is easy to overlook, but you would be wise not to. Melissa Yanc and Keturah Fleming have crafted something special: a bakery that churns out remarkable breads and sweets. Crispy baguettes and sourdough boules share counter space with custard-y quiche Lorraine and even a concise lineup of breakfast sandwiches. The treats are tempting enough that you’ll want to order something to enjoy later. We won’t tell if you sneak a bite in the car—we’re guilty too. 4416 E. Eighth Ave., 303-355-0022

Readers’ Choice: Nothing Bundt Cakes multiple locations


Dessert

Editors’ Choice: To The Wind Bistro

Our widespread quest for Denver’s best dessert ended at To The Wind Bistro after we experienced co-owner Leanne Adamson’s made-from-scratch creations and unbeatable customer service. Her commitment to seasonality can mean a dazzling lemon-glazed huckleberry bread pudding in the fall and a bright strawberry rhubarb tart in the spring. It also means her desserts are fleeting—even, sadly, the two-year-old restaurant’s lick-your-plate-good goat cheese cheesecake, which is served with a rich port reduction and sliced dried figs. But give her your phone number and ask nicely, and Adamson might call you when your favorite final course is back on the menu. Now that’s a sweet deal. 3333 E. Colfax Ave., 303-316-3333

Readers’ Choice: D Bar Denver 494 E. 19th Ave., 303-861-4710


Fresh-Pressed Juice

Editors’ Choice: The Juicing Tree 

Juicing appears to be here to stay; dozens of juiceries have opened across the city over the past couple of years. Even our favorite spot, the Juicing Tree, continues to expand, with plans to open its third location, in south Denver, this summer. Every day, the juicery produces dozens of varieties of cold-pressed, raw juices (i.e., not pasteurized) from organic ingredients. Visit the quick-service spot for subtly sweet veggie blends (try the vitamin-loaded Gaia’s Garden, with kale, spinach, celery, cucumber, apple, lemon, and ginger), zesty citrus and fruit options, velvety house-made nut milks, and products that are so trendy even we haven’t heard of them yet (activated carbon water, anyone?). You can even automate your healthy routine by scheduling regular deliveries of blended juices as often as twice a week. Multiple locations, 720-509-9055

Readers’ Choice: Pressed Juice Daily multiple locations


Get A ’Cue

Rather than choose one top barbecue spot, we built our dream feast from 14 eateries around town.

Photo by Sarah Boyum

Mains

Ribs: Globe Hall
Big and meaty, these dry-rubbed ribs come off of the smoker so flavorful, there’s no need for sauce.

Brisket: Owlbear Barbecue
The sauceless brisket—with its hearty bark and tender interior—from this Finn’s Manor food truck is truly the best we’ve ever had.

Chicken: Kitchen Table BBQ & Comfort Food
This charming cafe coats its never-frozen chicken thighs in a flavorful dry rub and smokes them for about an hour to keep them juicy.

Pulled Pork: Russell’s Smokehouse
We can’t resist this subterranean smokehouse’s decadent, deeply flavorful, and never dry pulled pork.

Lamb Shoulder: Roaming Buffalo Bar-B-Que
A long smoke over pecan and oak flavors this dish, which is heavenly when hit with the spicy sauce.

Sausage: GQue Championship BBQ 
Order GQue’s juicy jalapeño-cheddar sausage for a dish with a spicy kick; then cut open the smoke-infused casing for a porky, cheesy treat.

Vegan Dish: City, O’ City 
Vegan mac and cheese, coleslaw, house-made pickles, and crispy shallots combine with spice-rubbed and barbecue-sauce-soaked tofu in the seriously satisfying BBQ Mac Wrap.

Sides

Potato Salad: Brook’s Smokehouse Catering BBQ & Cajun Cuisine
Any visit (Friday through Sunday) to this restaurant, inside owner Ronald Brooks’ Aurora home, must include the deviled-egg-like potato salad. 720-297-0017

Baked Beans: Crazy Mountain Taproom & BBQ
Crazy Mountain’s homey baked beans incorporate brown sugar, molasses, and smoked and diced sausage link bits.

Sconut: Jabo’s Bar-Be-Q
Every combo plate at this spot comes with two of the Utah-born treats: palm-size pieces of leavened fry bread topped with melty honey butter.

Hash-Brown Casserole: Yazoo BBQ Company
This gooey side (available only at the downtown location) reminds us of mac and cheese, except it stars shredded potatoes instead of noodles.

Pickles: Wayne’s Smoke Shack
The meat at Wayne’s arrives sans sauce—per Texas tradition—but you won’t miss it thanks to the zesty house-made pickled cucumber and jalapeño slices.

Coleslaw: Georgia Boys BBQ
Georgia Boys’ cilantro lime coleslaw is light, herbaceous, and delightfully acidic.

Collard Greens: Ragin’ Hog BBQ
We could make a meal of Ragin’ Hog’s porky collard greens.


Italian

Editors’ Choice: Americatus

With only a handful of entrées available each night, you’d think we’d have tried everything at four-year-old Americatus (formerly Amerigo Delicatus Restaurant & Market). But no matter what else is on the menu—squid-ink capellini with mussels, perhaps, or classic carbonara—we can’t pass up the sweet Italian sausage and egg noodles, both made in-house, often by chef-owner Iain Chisholm. We pair the comforting dish with a couple of shared appetizers, like the creamy Burrata and crispy polenta, and a tumbler of $7 Chianti or the aptly named F’n Good cocktail (gin, Byrrh, hibiscus liqueur, and lemon Pellegrino). Plus, Americatus’ authentically Italian charm extends beyond the menu: The energetic, wood-clad space on the edge of RiNo features warm but casual service that makes us feel at home every time we visit, just like Nonna does. 2449 Larimer St., 303-862-9850

Readers’ Choice: Mici Handcrafted Italian


Steak

Editors’ Choice: Butcher’s Bistro

Denver’s always been a steak town, and at Butcher’s Bistro, owners Scott Bauer and Tyson Holzheimer subscribe to the idea that we should be eating Colorado-grown cuts. We couldn’t agree more. Former regional managers at Snooze, the pair opened this contemporary Ballpark chop shop almost two years ago with a small menu (lunch and dinner) of charcuterie, stacked sandwiches, and meaty entrées. The cuts change daily; if available, order the Denver (shoulder meat). Or you can be more adventurous and try the tongue or bison balls (exactly what you’re thinking), which make regular appearances. Whatever cut is in the rotation, you can count on the quality and flavor of the meat: tender, salted just right, and with a touch of char. 2233 Larimer St., 303-296-2750, 

Readers’ Choice: Guard and Grace 1801 California St., 303-293-8500


Bottle Shop

Editors’ Choice: Pearl Wine Company

When it comes to picking out the perfect bottle of wine to take to your in-laws or your best friend’s housewarming, we’re partial to the more manageable, carefully edited selections at boutique wine shops. Take Pearl Wine Company in Platt Park. The inventory features vino from around the world (we love the moderately priced Old World selections from France and Italy), and the smart, accommodating staff is always eager to help you find the right fit for any occasion—even if it’s not wine you’re after. Pearl also carries spirits and an extensive beer selection, including cans and bottles—such as the Post Brewing Company’s refreshing Howdy Beer Pilsner—from smaller local and national craft breweries. 1886 S. Pearl St., 303-282-5103

Readers’ Choice: Pearl Wine Company 


Japanese

Editors’ Choice: Ototo 

It’d be more accurate to call this spot Ototo 2.0. Four and a half years ago, Toshi Kizaki—the wizard behind Sushi Den and Izakaya Den, along with his brother, Yasu—quietly closed the original Ototo. The new iteration, which opened this past September in the same Platt Park corner spot, is even better. At this intimate and bustling eatery, you can take a culinary tour of the island nation. There’s a raw bar (fresh hamachi carpaccio, please), a selection of silky ramens, traditional Japanese small plates (the honey miso eggplant is one of the best veggie dishes we’ve had), various rice bowls, and—and!—an entire menu page devoted to entrées (the grilled whole squid is a knockout). You won’t be able to taste it all in one visit; instead, delight in having a wholly different gastronomic experience with every visit. 1501 S. Pearl St., 303-733-2503

Readers’ Choice: Sushi Den 1487 S. Pearl St., 303-777-0826


Ethiopian

Editors’ Choice: Megenagna Ethiopian Restaurant

With new, trendy restaurants opening all the time in Denver’s core, it’s easy to neglect the tiny, out-of-the-way spots you’ve already tried and loved. One place we’ve never forgotten, though, is Aurora’s Megenagna Ethiopian Restaurant. How could we, what with tables designed to look like mini tiki huts, bamboo legs and palm-leaf overhangs included? We suggest relying on the recommendations of owner Beneyam Tessma and manager Haddis Ahmed. But if it’s available, opt for the signature kitfo dish and scoop up the spicy minced beef (it arrives rare), buttered greens, and house-made cottage cheese with a chunk of injera, a spongy Ethiopian flatbread. The four-year-old eatery, with an adjacent Ethiopian grocery store, added a gluten-free version this year—because even off-the-path eateries have to adapt in Denver’s flourishing dining scene. 306 S. Ironton St., Aurora, 720-532-0266

Readers’ Choice: Queen of Sheba Ethiopian Restaurant 7225 E. Colfax Ave., 303-399-9442 


Vegan/Vegetarian

Editors’ Choice: Handy Diner

A visit to this six-month-old, bare-bones vegan diner might just have carnivores reconsidering their dinners. Owner-cook Teri Font and cook Roland Pleasant Dunkerley IV (both formerly of Uptown vegan mainstay WaterCourse Foods) so deftly transform traditional comfort foods that you’ll wonder why they ever included meat or dairy in the first place. We’re big fans of the huevos rancheros plate, which substitutes tofu for eggs; the tender chickpea-fried “steak”; and the vegan carne asada taco—all of which ring in under $10. 2958 Downing St., 619-730-5264

Readers’ Choice: WaterCourse Foods 837 E. 17th Ave., 303-832-7313


Greek

Editors’ Choice: Melita’s Greek Café & Market

This order-at-the-counter space has been serving heaping, house-made plates of all the staples—spanakopita, dolma, souvlaki—since the early 1900s, when the restaurant was located downtown and known as Economy Greek Market. When Dennis Georgatos took it over in 2013, he continued the tradition. Sometimes we keep our order simple: the falafel platter, with four crispy-on-the-outside, soft-on-the-inside chickpea fritters on top of creamy hummus. On other days, we visit the small market area packed with straight-from-Greece products like feta cheese and green olives and grab an herby chicken souvlaki gyro to go. And we never say no to an order of the sweet and flaky baklava. Neither should you. 1035 Lincoln St., 303-629-1624

Readers’ Choice: Axios Estiatorio 3901 Tennyson St., 720-328-2225


Korean

Editors’ Choice: Funny Plus

We’re more than willing to drive extra miles for Korean food this good. Aurora’s lively Funny Plus, a “hof,” or Korean bar, comes with pulsing music, cooks chattering in Korean in the kitchen, gigantic mugs of cold Hite beer, and free-flowing soju. While the atmosphere is fun, the real draws are the massive platters of crisp Korean fried chicken, tender grill-at-your-table “galbi” (flanken-cut short ribs), and comforting “budae jjigae” (spicy kimchi stew). Funny Plus’ portions are reliably generous, and the kitchen doesn’t hold back on bold flavors, like the extra-funky kimchi. The proof is in the “buldak,” aka spicy fire chicken—order it if you dare. 2779 S. Parker Road, Aurora, 303-745-3477

Readers’ Choice: Dae Gee multiple locations


Pizza

Editors’ Choice: Blue Pan 

The Denver Broncos aren’t the only world champions in the Mile High City: Jeff “Smoke” Smokevitch, co-founder of Blue Pan in West Highland, is the 2015 World Pizza Champion. At this tiny year-old joint, Smokevitch and his friendly team cook Detroit-style—square deep-dish—pies with perfectly chewy dough. (Beyond the 12 Detroit pies, the vast menu also includes cracker-thin styles and New York City slices.) First-timers should opt for the Brooklyn Bridge, a pepperoni and Italian sausage masterpiece that won the 2014 International Pizza Challenge in Las Vegas. 3930 W. 32nd Ave., 720-456-7666

Readers’ Choice: Mici Handcrafted Italian


Chinese

Editors’ Choice: Zoe Ma Ma—Union Station

The arrival of Zoe Ma Ma next to Union Station in January 2015 seriously reduced our time in the car. Before, we had to get our traditional Chinese food fix by driving to Federal Boulevard or Aurora or Zoe Ma Ma’s original Boulder location. Now when the craving hits, we can easily hoof it over to the fast-casual spot for house-made noodles crafted from organic egg flour by Edwin Zoe and his mom, Ann “Ma Ma” Zoe, who are both from Taiwan. Try the “zha jiang mian” (redolent ground pork sauce and veggies over egg noodles) or—for the ultimate comfort food—the roast duck wonton noodle soup special on Fridays and Saturdays. It’s a home-cooked meal for when you just don’t want to cook it for yourself. 1625 Wynkoop St., 303-545-6262

Readers’ Choice: Hop Alley 


Middle Eastern 

Editors’ Choice: Beirut Grill

We don’t typically visit Middle Eastern restaurants for pie—but that’s precisely what Beirut, around the corner from the Gothic Theatre, is known for. Except here, “pie” means warm house-made pitas encasing a variety of fillings. Our favorite is the spinach (chopped veggies, onions, walnuts, and a hint of tart pomegranate sauce). Owner Pedro Bernal, who trained under a Lebanese chef for 10 years, has a special skill for understanding the delicate balance of citrus and spices. Traditionalists will want to try customary Lebanese bites like the stuffed grape leaves and tender chicken kebabs. 203 W. Hampden Ave., Englewood, 303-781-0808

Readers’ Choice: Jerusalem Restaurant 1890 E. Evans Ave., 303-777-8828


Doughnut

Editors’ Choice: OMG Donuts

No matter how many bacon bits, cereal nuggets, or cookie crumbles you top a doughnut with, nothing reveals its quality more than the deep-fried halo itself. Whether you’re a sprinkle person or a chocolate-glaze enthusiast, at OMG Donuts, you can trust that those extras aren’t hiding a bland product. This small Arvada bakery, which opened in 2014, crafts pillowy foundations that are never greasy and always fresh. Order a straightforward glazed loop and customize it with your choice of jellies or creams; the sweet-and-tart raspberry jelly is particularly tasty. 7355 Ralston Road, Arvada, 303-431-3686 

Readers’ Choice: Voodoo Doughnut 1520 E. Colfax Ave., 303-597-3666


Thai

Editors’ Choice: US Thai Cafe

US Thai embraces the heat. In fact, it’s the fierce spiciness of Thai chef Pichean Wongkamtra’s menu—an order of “mild” here would be “hot” at many other local Thai joints—that makes the no-frills Edgewater restaurant a standout. US Thai has all the classic offerings but also excels at dishes such as Thai-style grilled chicken wings (“pik kai laoding”) and “pra lad prik,” a grilled fish fillet on a bed of pineapple, carrot, and bell pepper—both of which are served swimming in house-made sweet-and-sour sauce. A Thai iced tea should help tame the heat. 5228 W. 25th Ave., Edgewater, 303-233-3345

Readers’ Choice: US Thai Cafe


Vietnamese

Editors’ Choice: Pho Saigon Star

Pho Saigon Star, near the University of Denver’s campus, introduced us to a menu with more than 20 (!) varieties of pho. The popular neighborhood spot serves the classic Vietnamese dish in two styles: traditional or central, the latter of which is significantly spicier. Try the traditional shredded chicken version and the fiery iteration with rare beef for a taste of both. And because the eatery delivers, you can enjoy your comforting pho with a side of Netflix and pajamas. 2045 S. University Blvd., 720-633-8133

Readers’ Choice: New Saigon Restaurant 630 S. Federal Blvd., 303-936-4954


Touring Around

What to check out in five of our favorite up-and-coming ’hoods. 


Illustrations by Halftone Def Studios

GLOBEVILLE

Eat: This oft-overlooked neighborhood is getting some foodie attention. Globe Hall, a barbecue and live music joint, started serving in November (the banoffee pie is a must-try); the Crafty Fox brought pizza and craft beer to the area in February. 

Drink: Classic cocktails (Negronis, Manhattans, etc.) are the focus at year-old Fort Greene. Make yourself comfortable on one of the green couches while you wait for an order of fried cheese curds to offset the booze.

Learn: Get a history lesson about this important Denver neighborhood by visiting three of its most cherished sites, founded by the area’s early immigrants: the Holy Transfiguration of Christ Orthodox Cathedral (built in 1898), St. Joseph Polish Roman Catholic Church, and Holy Rosary Catholic Church.

Get Outside: Argo Park offers respite from the urban bustle with a kid-friendly pool, a recently updated walking path, and a basketball court.

LOWRY

Eat: Justin Brunson (Masterpiece Delicatessen, Old Major) extended his sandwich empire with the launch of Masterpiece Kitchen in March; you can’t miss with anything on the menu, but the pastrami is made in-house. For south-of-the-border cravings, look to the Baja-inspired offerings at North County. And don’t miss Troy Guard’s latest, month-old Lucky Cat.

Drink: Sunny summer days should be spent enjoying the 4,500 square feet of outdoor space at Lowry Beer Garden. Order a local microbrew from the extensive lineup and an elk-jalapeño-cheddar brat.

See: There are plenty of ways to get your culture fix here, from a concert at the Soiled Dove Underground to a play at John Hand Theater (Spotlight Theatre Company’s Night Watch opens July 2).

Get Outside: Even scratch golfers will be challenged by CommonGround Golf Course’s layout; the wind can be a doozy here.

SUNNYSIDE

Eat: Last winter, Bacon Social House introduced the bacon flight. Look for a revamped Monkey Barrel and Kindred, from the minds behind Brazen, to start serving in the fall.

Drink: Sunnyside has options to satisfy any kind of thirst. Wine? Check out Bonacquisti Wine Company, Denver’s first urban winery. Beer? Snag a pint at Diebolt Brewing Company. Coffee? Buchi Cafe Cubano pours a killer cafe con leche.

Shop: At Diz’s Daisys Flower Shop, treat yourself to a bouquet of locally grown stems. There’s always a unique item to be found at Sub Rosa Mercantile, where the shelves are stocked with small-batch, handcrafted items. 

Get Outside: On September 10, Chaffee Park will host the ninth Sunnyside Music Festival. Check the website for this year’s lineup.

EDGEWATER

Eat: Weekend brunch at Sloan’s Bar & Grill means all the basics (a small menu of Benedicts, French toast, a breakfast burrito, you get the idea)—plus $1 mimosas and a $3 Bloody Mary bar.

Drink: Two-year-old Joyride Brewing Company is always packed with neighborhood residents clamoring for seats by the open garage doors and pints of Bear Paw oatmeal milk stout. (Fun fact: The 37-foot bar is crafted from century-old reclaimed boxcar floors.) Or pop into Coda Coffee for java that you know was grown sustainably by farmers who treat their workers fairly.

Indulge: At ÜberChic, it’s all about the green: The salon is committed to using all-natural, fragrance-free, nontoxic products—and you won’t spend an entire paycheck on your nails, wax, or facial (manicures start at just $22, facials at $35).

Get Outside: Across Sheridan Boulevard sits Sloan’s Lake Park, with its stellar playground and plenty of shaded areas to park it for the day. Or lace up your running shoes: It’s 2.6 miles around the namesake lake—long enough to earn you a post-run beer.

OLDE TOWN ARVADA

Eat: Steuben’s second location, which opened in March, is a no-brainer. But no visit to this ’hood is complete without a stop at 53-year-old Rheinlander Bakery for German strudel with house-made fruit fillings.

Drink: The Bluegrass Coffee & Bourbon Lounge has your a.m. covered with joe, breakfast sandwiches, and pastries, while its menu of 100 bourbons plus live bluegrass helps you unwind after the sun goes down.

Shop: Update your summer yoga wardrobe with Rolling Sands Yoga Boutique & Fitness Store’s impressive array of eco-friendly products and clothing.

Get Outside: Every Friday in August, Olde Town Square transforms into an outdoor movie theater for Flicks in the Square.


Culture and Nightlife

You don’t have to look hard to find a solid cocktail or conversation-starting art exhibit in this town. 


Cocktail Menu

Editors’ Choice: Union Lodge No.1

Downtown scored big when the husband-and-wife team of Mike Huggins and Lenka Juchelkova, owners of cult favorite Arvada Tavern, opened Union Lodge No.1 just off the 16th Street Mall. The century-old American flag displayed behind the L-shaped wood bar is your first clue that this isn’t a spot focused on being trendy. Rather, it’s a tribute to the great cocktail bars of the late 19th century. The 12-page book, er, menu details the stories behind a number of classic drinks—including the old fashioned, the julep, and the Tom Collins. For each entry, there’s a condensed history lesson, a list of ingredients, and a flavor profile. That thoroughness extends to every carefully crafted tipple and reflects Union Lodge’s determination to be more than your average cocktail bar—an ideal at which it’s clearly succeeded. 1543 Champa St., 720-389-0447

Readers’ Choice: Fire, the Art, A Hotel 1201 Broadway, 303-572-8000


Author

Editors’ Choice: Jonathan Waldman

The insidious process of oxidation may sound like a snoozer of a book subject, but Boulder author Jonathan Waldman managed to transform it into a page-turner in Rust: The Longest War. A writer who focuses on engineering, Waldman’s first foray into books stemmed from his experience living on a sailboat and constantly battling corrosion. The result, published last year, is a tome that’s both enlightening and entertaining, balancing weighty topics like the slow deterioration of our naval fleet with amusing tales such as the time Waldman nearly got kicked out of the Ball Corporation’s Can School. Waldman’s effort is in-depth and artful and ensures you’ll never look at rust—which costs America more than $400 billion to combat each year—the same way. No wonder his debut won the 2016 Colorado Book Award for general nonfiction and was named one of the Wall Street Journal’s best books of 2015.

Readers’ Choice: Helen Thorpe


New Brewery

Editors’ Choice: Little Machine Beer 

Designing breweries around clever themes seems to be a trend these days. At nine-month-old Little Machine Beer, that means sci-fi posters, a logo featuring beady red droid eyes, robot-arm-shaped flight holders, and old-school games such as Battleship and Star Wars Monopoly in the taproom. That stuff is fun, but what’s truly alluring about this small Jefferson Park suds purveyor is its wide variety of thoughtfully made brews. Here, you can sip a perfectly balanced Hyperdrive double IPA one day and a Razz Against The Machine tart raspberry ale the next or sample a one-off brew without worrying you’ll make  a poor pint selection. You can even geek out over the entirely Colorado-made brewing system—no one here will call you a nerd. 2924 W. 20th Ave., 303-284-7893

Readers’ Choice: Ratio Beerworks 2920 Larimer St., 303-997-8288


Band/Musician

Editors’ Choice: Nathaniel Rateliff & the Night Sweats

Nathaniel Rateliff has long been one of Colorado’s most beloved music exports; he’s even topped this list before. But previous accolades were for Rateliff as a solo artist, a mellow and introspective singer-songwriter. Since forming the Night Sweats in 2013, Rateliff has quite literally amped up his act: The seven-piece backing band is old-school funk and R&B meets 21st-century flair, with a thumping, brassy sound that provides an upbeat contrast to Rateliff’s often dark, emotional lyrics. Critics’ accolades of the group’s eponymous debut (released last August) landed the quirky crew on multiple late-night talk show gigs. Now the band is in the middle of a national headlining tour that includes a sold-out stint at Red Rocks next month. We just hope the crooner slows down long enough to give us a second album to groove to.

Readers’ Choice: Nathaniel Rateliff & the Night Sweats


Bartender

Editors’ Choice: Chad Michael George, The Way Back

Chad Michael George used to be a bartender without a bar. As president of the Colorado Bartenders’ Guild and a certified sommelier, the 38-year-old had the credentials and a regular gig crafting drinks at Williams & Graham, which was named Best American Bar at last year’s Spirited Awards. What he didn’t have after four years in Denver’s booze scene was a place to call his own—until he and partners Kade Gianinetti (of Method Roasters) and Jared Schwartz (of American Grind) opened the Way Back in West Highland this past March. Four months in, George’s depth of beverage knowledge is obvious: He’s a walking encyclopedia of cocktails, wine, and beer. Order the house old fashioned with Patrón Añejo (you can also choose a traditional whiskey base) which adds a compelling yet subtly smoky note. 4132 W. 38th Ave., 720-728-8156

Readers’ Choice: Victoria Furst, Los Chingones 2461 Larimer St., Suite 102, 303-295-0686


Date Idea

Editors’ Choice: Uncorked Kitchen

You might be thinking, Cooking classes? That’s your idea of a new hot-date-night idea?  Well, yeah, because few kitchens have the kind of view that comes with a hands-on session at Centennial’s Uncorked Kitchen. The year-old spot features a wall of floor-to-ceiling windows so you can ogle the Rocky Mountains while perfecting your paella recipe. Even better, you can match your culinary experience to your intimacy level: First-daters can casually commit to just sipping a glass of rosé on the massive second-floor patio, while those on date number three might enjoy a two-hour beginner wine-tasting class such as Grapes Anatomy ($44 per person). Steadier couples should consider the impressive roster of Date Night cooking classes (from $210 for two people) offered each week. Whether you choose Japanese Pub Food or Paris, City of Lights, your three-hour class will include a bottle of wine and, ideally, help you foster a deeper connection with your amoureux. 8171 S. Chester St., Centennial, 720-907-3838

Readers’ Choice: Nocturne Jazz & Supper Club1330 27th St., 303-295-3333


Place To See Art

Editors’ Choice: PlatteForum

A trip to PlatteForum provides something special: an up-close look at the impact art can make. In its year-round ArtLab and eight-week Learning Lab programs, the 14-year-old nonprofit pairs artists from around the world who are brought here for residencies with underserved youth to create inspiring exhibitions and engender a sense of possibility; 100 percent of ArtLab graduates have gone on to college. Little wonder the organization earned a national award from the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities in 2011. See what it’s all about at one of PlatteForum’s seasonal shows; past events have included quilts by Georgia’s Abigail Kokai and performance art by Chicago’s Blair Bogin alongside work by their student mentees. Stop by the first week of August for Counter/Current. 2400 Curtis St., Suite 100, 303-893-0791

Readers’ Choice: Denver Art Museum 100 W. 14th Ave. Parkway, 720-865-5000


Sports Bar

Editors’ Choice: Esters Neighborhood Pub

For convenience alone, we typically opt for our neighborhood sports bar—so long as the TV’s switched to our preferred channel, of course. We’re willing to change our MO for Esters, though. The patio and sleek main dining area make it worth the trek (the Southern-style brunch is especially appealing) to this year-old eatery in Virginia Village. But we go for the back room—Sully’s Back Room, to be specific. That’s where you’ll find eight flat-screen TVs, 22 taps, and, during England’s Premier League season, a sizable crowd of soccer fans. Owner and ex–New Belgium Brewing Company rep Paul Sullivan curates the suds lineup, and his craft-brew connections often mean Esters carries beers—like New Belgium’s La Folie—you won’t find many other places. Better-than-pub-grub food options range from a huge plate of crispy nachos with Fat Tire–braised pork to pizzas with unexpected toppings (the Prince Caspian is capped with mozzarella, Gorgonzola, figs, caramelized onions, prosciutto, and arugula). 1950 S. Holly St., 303-955-4904

Readers’ Choice: Highland Tap & Burger 2219 W. 32nd Ave., 720-287-4493


Artist

Editors’ Choice: Jen Lewin

If you haven’t experienced Boulder artist Jen Lewin’s interactive sculptures, it’s time. The 42-year-old has shown everywhere from Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, to London. Closer to home, she brought her famous “The Pool” installation (circular pads that emit color and light as you move over them) to the inaugural Wave: Light + Water + Sound Festival in Breckenridge last month; and through July 4, you can view “Chandelier Harp”—vertical laser beams that create ambient music as you pass under—as part of the Cherry Creek Arts Festival. She’s been lauded by Time and the BBC for crafting complex new media works that appear effortless and invoke a hefty dose of fun. Her stunning light installations (are they art or fixtures?) also hang at several of the Kitchen’s locations, so the artistry on your plate is equally matched by your surroundings. 

Readers’ Choice: Jaime Molina


Music Venue That’s Not Red Rocks

Editors’ Choice: Nocturne Jazz & Supper Club

There’s been an uptick in a particular kind of music venue in the city this year: restaurants that also feature killer live music. No new spot pulls off dinner and a show better than Nocturne, a speakeasy-esque jazz club located mere blocks from Denver’s historical jazz center, Five Points. Upon entering the sultry space, head straight to the ornate bar for a well-balanced cocktail; we’re partial to the bold, tequila-forward Last Plane Out Of Jalisco. Your drink will be good, but the music will be better: Scott Mattson, a former professional jazz drummer, and his wife, Nicole, own Nocturne, and they line up live jazz five nights a week. They also operate an artist-in-residence program that provides local musicians with a stage from which to pay homage to jazz greats. Hungry? The chef’s seasonal tasting menu is always inspired by a classic jazz record, such as Dave Brubeck’s Take Five. 1330 27th St., 303-295-3333

Readers’ Choice: Hi-Dive 7 S. Broadway, 303-733-0230


Patio

Editors’ Choice: Avanti Food & Beverage

A year ago, this culinary incubator housing seven fledgling eateries and two bar areas—all located in an airy, two-story complex—opened to lines out the door in LoHi. As delicious as Quiero Arepas and the certified sustainable Bamboo Sushi are, and as cool as the concept is—and it is super cool—the best part of Avanti is easily its rooftop patio(s). With an indoor-outdoor bar, umbrella-topped tables, full-sun bleacher seating, and an open-air sheltered area, Avanti’s deck offers just the right perch, no matter the weather, and affords some of the best views of the Mile High City skyline. Visit at sunset to truly appreciate the space: Ask the bartender to pull a beer from one of the 19 on-tap selections, order a Brava pizza to share, and then sit back and watch Denver’s sky turn Broncos orange. 3200 Pecos St., 720-269-4778

Readers’ Choice: Avanti Food & Beverage


New Bar

Editors’ Choice: Bar Fausto

Eleven months ago, Jonathan Power (of the Populist and Crema Coffee House), Koan Goedman (from Huckleberry Roasters), and Rob McGowan and Ben Olson (owners of Fin Art) opened Bar Fausto and introduced Denver to a near-flawless bar experience. The RiNo watering hole is industrial yet chic and low-key enough that you’ll want to visit often but polished enough to make any night feel like an occasion. Cocktails are serious business here: In addition to the classics—and the most perfect of Vieux Carrés—bar manager Rob Corbari rolls out 10 signature drinks at a time. Instead of fancy names, they are simply numbered and, after a turn, those recipes are archived and replaced with new ones. Some of the blends sound wacky (number 21: brown-butter-washed Bulleit rye whiskey, cream oloroso sherry, yellow Chartreuse, and apple bitters), but they all taste clean, balanced, and decisive. Pair your beverage selection with something from the equally focused food menu, like a half-dozen oysters or the baked meatball and creamy polenta, and savor the experience. 3126 Larimer St., 720-445-9691

Readers’ Choice: Nocturne Jazz & Supper Club


Theater Company

Editors’ Choice: Vintage Theatre

Is it just us, or does our local stage scene seem more vibrant than ever? Fourteen-year-old Vintage Theatre separates itself from the burgeoning crowd with its risk-taking, award-winning, and affordable (tickets top out at $32) productions and a collection of producers, directors, and actors who are regularly recognized by the Colorado Theater Guild’s esteemed Henry Awards. In particular, we were touched by this past January’s thoughtful production of The Normal Heart, a Tony Award–winning depiction of one journalist’s efforts to draw attention to the AIDS crisis. But what we love most is that this Aurora theater’s three stages mean Mom can go see a classic musical revival one night, and your politically aware hipster friend can enjoy an edgy drama the next. Discover it for yourself during this month’s stellar lineup: the historic drama Intimate Apparel and the old standby Frankie and Johnny in the Claire de Lune. 1468 Dayton St., Aurora, 303-856-7830

Readers’ Choice: Curious Theatre Company 1080 Acoma St., 303-623-0524


Happy Hour

Editors’ Choice: Cart-Driver

Like Cart-Driver’s perfectly charred, wood-fired pizzas, the tiny RiNo eatery’s happy hour is something special. Twice a day—from 3 to 6 p.m. and then again from 10 p.m. to midnight—you can choose from a simple but solid lineup of select $5 drinks and snacks. The generous schedule endows a large window to score chef Kelly Whitaker’s domestically sourced regular menu items at discounted prices. Snag a seat on one of the two petite patios to sip a refreshing Aperol spritz and slurp two market oysters under the sun, or grab a late-night glass of on-tap prosecco paired with liver mousse on toast and a Daisy pizza (tangy tomato sauce, mozzarella, and fresh basil) that easily feeds two. Experiencing one of Denver’s best restaurants and walking out with a tab under $20? Yes, please. 2500 Larimer St., Unit 100, 303-292-3553

Readers’ Choice: Fire, the Art, A Hotel


Festival

Editors’ Choice: Collaboration Fest

The philosophy of this annual celebration, now in its third year, is that when it comes to brewing beer, two (or three) brains are better than one. For this oh-so-Colorado event, two or more breweries—one in each group must be a member of the Colorado Brewers Guild—collaborate to craft a one-off brew and present it for tasting to quaffing enthusiasts. One hundred and forty-nine outfits participated in the March 2016 event. Of them, the partnership between South Broadway’s Former Future Brewing Company and South Carolina’s Brewery 85 produced, perhaps, the most interesting result: the Sweet Tea Amber Ale, a tasty American amber infused with black tea for a grown-up take on a Southern staple. Our (beer) bellies are thankful these brews are only available once a year.

Readers’ Choice: Telluride Bluegrass Festival

—Photo credits (from top): courtesy of Travis Rummel/Felt Soul Media, Brantley Gutierrez, Chip Kalback

Services

Whether you need the perfect flower arrangement, a reliable hair stylist, or an all-star interior designer, you’ll find your answer here.  


Mani/Pedi 

Editors’ Choice: Base Coat Nail Salon  

Base Coat’s toxin-free salon—you won’t find shellac or acrylics here—pampers customers with three levels of manicures and pedicures ($30 to $60) in a comfortable, clean environment. The three-year-old establishment—it relocated to its current Highland location in May 2015—uses Denver-based Fig & Yarrow lotions and scrubs and only stocks polishes sans the “big five” bad-for-you chemicals (formaldehyde, dibutyl phthalate, toluene, formaldehyde resin, and camphor). Founder Tran Wills, who also owns the gallery-shop Svper Ordinary in the Source, is so committed to the eco-friendly ethos that she recently launched Base Coat’s own nontoxic polish line with an array of eye-catching colors. 3244 Navajo St., 303-477-6245

Readers’ Choice: Fingers & Toes: A Nail Retreat 743 S. University Blvd., 303-955-1920


New Hotel

Editors’ Choice: The ART, A Hotel

Arriving at the Golden Triangle’s the Art, A Hotel, which made headlines when it opened near some of the city’s best museums last June, feels like an event. A 22,000-LED-light art installation welcomes you in the portico. You walk off the elevator onto the fourth floor—where reception is located—to find even more meticulously curated art and behold the alluring Fire restaurant’s open-air terrace. And then, of course, there’s your room: Huge windows with views of bustling Broadway or the mountains. Contemporary paintings on the walls. Plush white linens. Cheery colors everywhere. You sigh with happiness, set down your suitcase, and make a beeline for that terrace and an artfully crafted martini. 1201 Broadway, 303-572-8000

Readers’ Choice: The ART, A Hotel 


Pet Services 

Editors’ Choice: Mouthfuls Pet Supply

When our puppy chewed through (yet another) harness, we called Mouthfuls. The sales associate immediately offered to order a new one and have it delivered to the store in less than a week. (They’ll deliver straight to you if you live within a two-mile radius of the Berkeley store.) It’s this level of customer service that sets the longtime business apart, along with the vast selection of high-quality products, including Smart Cookie Bakery treats from Denver, the Honest Kitchen food, and Ruffwear toys, that fill the pleasantly crowded shop. More important, the employees are experts in everything from how to choose the right food to teeth cleaning (the shop offers anesthesia-free cleanings by certified techs every six weeks). And if you—or Fido—aren’t satisfied, no-receipt-needed returns are easy. 4224 Tennyson St., 720-855-7505

Readers’ Choice: U Lucky Dog 4040 Fox St., 720-328-8179


Landscape Design

Editors’ Choice: Luxescapes

Husband-and-wife team Stephen and Meghan Himschoot aren’t your typical landscape designers. Their free on-site consultation and generally complimentary initial design service will help you figure out what’s possible for your yard, whatever its size, without busting your budget. As natives of the West (Stephen grew up in Idaho Springs, and Meghan is from Wyoming), the Himschoots are also pros at outwitting finicky plants or just giving you low-maintenance options that are (nearly) impossible to kill. Bonus: The firm has its own full-time team that can handle everything from planting to masonry, so instead of waiting on subcontractors, you can spend time deciding whether to fess up to your friends or let them believe you really do have a green thumb. 303-288-5893

Readers’ Choice: B. Gardening Landscape Design 1450 S. Washington St., 720-320-3949


Bike Shop

Editors’ Choice: Elevation Cycles

You pick your go-to bike shop for one of two reasons: They sell the brand you like, or they have awesome customer service. At Elevation Cycles, you’ll likely find both. The knowledgeable crew eschews the snob factor in favor of genuine interest in helping customers get exactly what they need—whether it’s a tune-up (starting at $75), gear (they sell POC helmets and Shimano components and can order just about anything else), or even a brand-new road or mountain bike. Take note: Elevation’s downtown location is just a block off the Cherry Creek Trail, so there will be a friendly face waiting if you’re on a ride and find yourself with a flat tire. 1500 Wynkoop St., Suite 102, 303-835-3438; 2030 E. County Line Road, Highlands Ranch, 303-730-8038

Readers’ Choice: (TIE) Campus Cycles 2102 S. Washington St., 303-698-2811; 7310 W. Colfax Ave., Lakewood, 303-237-1115; Wheat Ridge Cyclery 7085 W. 38th Ave., Wheat Ridge, 303-424-3221


Hair Salon 

Editors’ Choice: Let Em Have It Salon 

When it comes to being eco-friendly, beauty businesses often land on the wrong end of the spectrum. Fallene Wells, a 14-year veteran of the hair and fashion industry, knew she could do better. In November 2013, she and her husband, Kyle, opened the environmentally focused—and socially conscious—Let Em Have It Salon in Uptown. In addition to using only sustainable products, Wells’ parlor was one of the first two in Colorado to partner with Green Circle Salons, a Canadian company that helps salons recycle all of their noxious waste, such as discarded color. Let Em Have It also runs a gratitude program that gives clients in occupations that are “making the world a better place” (teaching, nursing, and firefighting among them) a 10 percent discount on all services, all the time. 490 E. 20th Ave., 720-638-4619

Readers’ Choice: Matthew Morris Salon and Skincare 13 S. Broadway; 2644 Walnut St.; 303-715-4673 


Interior Designer

Editors’ Choice: Erin Iba, Iba Design Associates

If your Houzz searches keep turning up predictable decor, get some fresh ideas by taking a spin through interior designer Erin Iba’s portfolio. In 2012, the New York City transplant brought her wicked sense of style and just the right amount of risk-taking to Denver. While her own taste is subdued and classic, Iba’s work showcases a broad range of styles and a killer ability to combine big-ticket items like silk moiré wallpaper with wallet-saving pieces to make sure your home looks less like a stuffy showroom and more like, you know, a place you want to live. 1421 Oneida St., Suite 11, 212-729-1043

Readers’ Choice: Studio Thomas 7355 E. Orchard Road, Suite 375, Greenwood Village, 720-467-0131


Massage

Editors’ Choice: The Ritz-Carlton Spa, Denver

We’re happy to report that the Ritz-Carlton Spa, Denver’s $1.1 million upgrade (a new fitness center, a spacious salon, and a reimagined spa reception area), completed in early 2016, didn’t alter what was already great about this eight-year-old mecca of relaxation. That is, locker rooms decked out with a hot tub and steam room; cozy robes and quiet rooms; and more than 20 deftly executed treatments, like the deep-tissue Rocky Mountain massage ($125 for 50 minutes), which is the perfect way to wind down after a hectic day—or, really, any day. 1881 Curtis St., 303-312-3830

Readers’ Choice: Spavia Day Spa multiple locations


Spa

Editors’ Choice: The Woodhouse Day Spa–Littleton

Simply walking into this spa franchise’s Littleton location (the sixth in the state), which opened in November, is soothing thanks to the wafting scents of sunflowers, lavender, apricot, and sage. The 7,600-square-foot space looks more like a luxurious backcountry destination than a suburban retreat with its elegant wood decor, French doors, and high ceilings. We suggest treating yourself to the 80-minute seaweed facial ($150) or the head-to-toe Woodhouse Escape, which commences with a full-body scrub and volcanic stone massage and ends with a reflexology foot massage (110 minutes, $220). Arrive early for some extra me time in the relaxation room: a 500-square-foot covered porch where enormous windows look out on a thick forest and nearby McLellen Reservoir. 8351 Southpark Lane, Littleton, 720-390-7808

Readers’ Choice: Spavia Day Spa multiple locations


Florist

Editors’ Choice: Bella Calla

Nothing epitomizes the spirit of the West quite like succulents—and this tiny Five Points shop will send imaginative arrangements of the resilient plants to your special someone. We’re partial to the versions that feature tiny air plants inside hanging globes or even light bulbs. If you want to deliver a bouquet yourself, enjoy browsing shelves packed with local goodies (handmade soaps, Real Dill Pickles, Coda Coffee) while you wait for it to come together, or use the time to sign up for a build-your-own-terrarium group class ($55, including wine and snacks; events are held at the Golden Triangle location). We regularly pop in for the dollar-a-stem sales announced on Facebook—and are keeping our fingers crossed that the brand-new Broadway shop offers the same deal. 3100 Downing St., Suite A, 303-593-0716; 1111 Broadway, Suite 102, 303-284-5580

Readers’ Choice: The Perfect Petal 3600 W. 32nd Ave., Suite B, 303-480-0966


Barber

Editors’ Choice: Ollie’s Barber Shop

This Wash Park West barbershop is about cutting hair and, really, nothing else. Want a massage? Call a masseuse. Need a shampoo? Take a shower. By dialing back on the amenities, the cash-only outfit has become the best at doing what a barbershop should do: provide a top-notch cut at a fair price ($25). And fast, too, as you’ll typically be in and out in less than 30 minutes. Denver gents will also be pleased to know that basic beard trims are $5 with a haircut at Ollie’s (they’re $10 otherwise). 616 E. Kentucky Ave., 720-324-6608

Readers’ Choice: Steel & Lather Barber Co. 1750 15th St., Suite 100; 616 E. 13th Ave.; 303-573-0304


Ski/Snowboard Tune 

Editors’ Choice: Alpine Base & Edge

When it comes to keeping your skis and snowboards in carving shape, you want an obsessive ski racer in your corner. Owner Peter Boyer, who started hand-tuning planks as a teenager in Vermont in the ’70s, and his team of fellow ex-racers and coaches pay meticulous attention to base structures and edge geometry. A basic tune starts at $50, and you’ll have your gear back in 24 hours; we opt for the expert option ($90) to fill core shots and remove extra damage. But we’re not Alpine’s only fans: Atomic, Nordica, and Rossignol have certified the 11-year-old Boulder shop—which pulls double-duty as a boot and hard goods retailer—as an official ski supplier and tuning center. 2709 Spruce St., Boulder, 303-443-0814

Readers’ Choice: Eskimo Ski & Board Shop 8265 S. Holly St., Centennial, 303-761-1101

—Photo credits (from top): courtesy of Kathryn Bacalis/Our Love is Loud, Whoodhouse Day Spa

Shopping

Whether you’re looking to dress up your wardrobe or your home, we’ve got a spot to suit your style. 


Local Jewelry Designer

Editors’ Choice: Abby Sparks Jewelry

Too often, when jewelers use the phrase “customizable,” they’re referring to resizing a band or swapping out one gemstone for another. Denver jewelry designer Abby Sparks, of three-year-old Abby Sparks Jewelry, believes in a different definition: She selects fair-trade gems and recycled metals for every handmade, custom order, from engagement rings to cuff links. (The whole design process takes about five weeks from the initial consultation.) The University of Denver graduate works solely with recycled metals and precious and semiprecious stones and provides lifetime warranties to cover any defects in craftsmanship. Clients can also visit her LoHi showroom by appointment to view unique, already designed pieces, like a $150 sterling silver bangle featuring two flowers made of blue lapis or a showstopping quartz and red garnet cocktail ring ($2,700). 3216 Tejon St., Suite 200, 303-957-6502

Readers’ Choice: Megan Kaltenbach 


Home Accessories

Editors’ Choice: Lulu’s Furniture & Decor

Owned by mother-and-daughter design aficionados, this LoHi spot is a sure bet for furniture, accessories, and gifts you won’t see all over town. Score furnishings you can’t buy at the big-box stores by high-quality manufacturers such as Rowe and Norwalk. The shop always has a few sofas and chairs (including ultrahip, supercomfy Rothko Swivel Chairs) available to buy off the floor, but if you can tame the urge for immediate gratification, you can order a custom piece upholstered in any of the thousands of fabrics from Lulu’s library. Can’t decide? Lulu’s in-house designers can help with everything from selecting a few cool accessories (we love the brass hand sculptures) to creating a look for your whole house. 2050 W. 30th Ave., 303-756-2222

Readers’ Choice: Design Repeats 8200 S. Colorado Blvd., Centennial, 303-670-2900


Jeans

Editors’ Choice: Wish Boutique and W Boutique

Located just a few doors apart, these Washington Park sister shops complement one another like cuffed jeans and ankle boots. Denver native Lisa Figlino opened Wish in 2014; W followed this past August and showcases Figlino’s great taste at lower prices (most items cost less than $100). The women’s boutiques stock nearly every style of jeans, from flare to boyfriend to skinny, and carry about 10 brands between them (our favorite is Just Black, which has, we swear, magical slimming powers). Plus, Figlino and her team provide in-store hemming and alterations, and they host post-closing VIP shopping experiences for those times when you need your girlfriends’ advice—and no one else’s. 1099 S. Gaylord St., 303-733-4848; 1071 S. Gaylord St., 303-997-8719

Readers’ Choice: Hailee Grace 1423 Larimer Square, Unit 090, 303-698-2323


Antiques

Editors’ Choice: Black Tulip Antiques

Typically, comparing a place to your great aunt’s attic isn’t a compliment—unless you’re talking about antique shops. And that’s the best way to describe the experience of shimmying between aisles of stacked furnishings and decor at Black Tulip. Planted in the middle of South Broadway’s Antique Row, the store specializes in 18th- and 19th-century European antiques. So you’ll find handsome French bergères and carved Italian tables aplenty, plus an impressive array of light fixtures: Gothic iron chandeliers, Arts and Crafts sconces and hanging pendant lights, etched glass shades, and sculptural ginger jar lamps. Don’t see just the thing your home needs? Ask the staff if it could be hiding in one of the store’s two off-site storage spots. 1370 S. Broadway, 303-777-1370

Readers’ Choice: Brass Armadillo Antique Mall 11301 W. I-70 Frontage Road, Wheat Ridge, 303-403-1677


Baby/Kids’ Boutique

Editors’ Choice: Honeybee Baby Boutique

When you’re expecting, it seems like everyone—relatives, hair stylists, well-meaning moms at the park—has an opinion about what you’ll need. The knowledgeable staff at Honeybee has advice you should actually listen to. They’ll help you wade through all the devices and doodads and direct you to the stuff you truly must have, like Boppy nursing pillows (a Colorado company!) and supersoft Woombie swaddlers; they’ll lend a hand setting up your registry, too. The store also stocks plenty of options for your growing tot. Best of all, Honeybee doesn’t take itself too seriously (see: adorable “Nursing is my cardio” tank tops). And if there’s one thing every parent-to-be needs, it’s a sense of humor. 6200 S. Main St., Suite J-110, Aurora, 303-627-5464

Readers’ Choice: Nest 2940 E. Sixth Ave., 720-287-1372; 2525 Arapahoe Ave., Unit H-12, Boulder, 720-524-7676


Local Women’s Boutique 

Editors’ Choice: Fab’rik

The last time we visited this Aspen Grove store, it was because one of the shop’s stylists texted us a photo of new spring wardrobe essentials and we wanted to try on the dark-wash, ultraskinny denim capris before someone else grabbed them. That’s the kind of VIP experience you’ll get at Fab’rik, an Atlanta franchise Georgia native Leslie Clay introduced to Colorado in late 2014. The sleek suburban boutique—check out the metal chandelier lighting the space—is stocked with on-trend, sub-$100 blouses that easily transition from day to night; designer jeans by DL and Hudson; pieces from Fab’rik’s private label, Asher; and a small selection of jewelry from local companies like Harper Made. New shipments include only six of each item, so being on a first-name—or texting—basis with Clay and her team means you’ll have first pick of the season’s hottest trends. 7301 S. Santa Fe Drive, Suite 518, Littleton, 303-862-8364

Readers’ Choice: Goldyn 2040 W. 30th Ave., 720-489-0580


Local Fashion Designer 

Editors’ Choice: Salwa Owens

This 33-year-old designer is making a play to become the next big thing in fashion to come out of Denver. In November 2014, Owens’ Fierce in the City show at Space Gallery received much acclaim, and over the next year, she got ready for her biggest move yet: shifting to mass production for her ready-to-wear line, which launched in the spring as a complement to her custom couture items. The direct-to-consumer—as in, buy the Los Angeles–made items on her website—resort collection (prices range from $48 to $120) features statement-making staples, such as a classic black blazer and strapless asymmetrical dress, as well as lively jumpsuits and rompers. But she’s not stopping there. Owens also wants to be an expert source for her customers. Her blog, the SO Edit, showcases on-trend items from her line as well as from other designers (all available for purchase) and explains how to wear them. Look out for this up-and-comer’s new evening wear line in October.

Readers’ Choice: Stephanie Ohnmacht


Mobile Store

Editors’ ChoiceDenver Fashion Truck

If you’ve been to any farmers’ market or artisan event (hello, Denver Flea) around town, you’ve seen the Denver Fashion Truck. Since launching as a purveyor of mostly vintage clothing in 2013, when fashion trucks were a nascent trend, the company has transformed into a mobile local market featuring everything from Coloradical T-shirts to Jennifer Lane Designs’ necklaces to Denver’s own Craft Boner barware. (Plus, the “store” sports some sweet wood paneling and its own air conditioning and space heater, so it’s always comfortable inside.) Last year, owners Adrian and Desiree Gallegos-Barragan added a second truck to the fleet, making it easier than ever to up your closet’s—and home’s—cool factor.

Readers’ Choice: Meraki Moon 


Local Men’s Boutique

Editors’ Choice: Spruce 

If style and technology fell in love and had a retail baby, it would be Spruce. Co-owner Becca Romero studied fashion retail management at the Art Institute of Colorado and keeps her year-old Berkeley shop stocked with versatile threads (many of which are made domestically), from 7 Diamonds short-sleeve button-downs to Alternative’s Eco True T-shirts. Her husband, Taylor, designed an online style profile that allows Spruce staffers to get a feel for a customer’s taste before he arrives at the store. Men can log on, classify their look—goth? preppy?—and pick a goal (e.g., “I want to up my romance game,” or “I want a confidence boost”). Then you simply show up for your free appointment with a clothing consultant who will have pulled a selection of trousers, shirts, and accessories to match the look you’re going for. Since you’re there already, carve out a little extra time for a haircut and shave, especially if you have a date: Spruce operates a barbershop in the other half of the store. 4347 Tennyson St., 303-242-8689

Readers’ Choice: Armitage & McMillan 1550 Platte St., Suite D, 303-284-6222


Wedding Gowns

Editors’ Choice: Little White Dress Bridal Shop

From the moment you step into nine-year-old Little White Dress’ new Curtis Park boutique (it relocated from Highlands Square in January), you feel the way a bride should: special. There’s the sincere and effusive welcome from the staff. There’s the luxurious space itself, which offers plenty of natural light and plush viewing couches (with Kleenex within reach). And then there are the diverse dress options. Owner Cate Malone curates an impressive selection of renowned designers’ gowns, including J. Mendel’s architectural beauties (new this year) and Naeem Khan’s heavily embroidered and elegant silhouettes as well as an array of veils, headpieces, handbags, shoes, and jewelry so you can find the perfect wedding-day look all in one place. Heads up: A 3,400-square-foot expansion set to open this month will house special occasion outfits and even more dresses. Prices range from $1,500 to $15,000—but keep an eye out for regular sample sales and trunk shows—and an on-site seamstress will make sure you walk out feeling like Cinderella. 1130 31st St., 303-814-8972

Readers’ Choice: Little White Dress Bridal Shop


Consignment Store

Editors’ Choice: Greenwood Wildlife Consignment Gallery and Thrift

Owned by Lyons’ Greenwood Wildlife Rehabilitation Center, this Boulder shop is brimming with must-haves you won’t find at other consignment venues in town (perhaps we can thank the People’s Republic’s distinctive populace for that). Our visits have uncovered dozens of wall-ready prints and paintings, eye-catching antique world globes, and pre-loved furniture from Crate and Barrel at snatch-them-up-now prices. Head downstairs for less high-end items, including a nicely curated book collection and the small but snappy men’s section. Whatever you buy, you’ll feel great knowing your purchase helps benefit Greenwood’s efforts to rehabilitate injured and orphaned animals before releasing them back into the wild. 3600 Arapahoe Ave., Boulder, 303-245-0800

Readers’ Choice: Design Repeats


Gifts

Editors’ Choice: Wish Gifts

The best presents are often the spontaneous ones, proffered simply because the gifter was thinking of you. And the best place to discover these kinds of presents is five-year-old Wish Gifts (it moved to its current location a year ago). Drenched in pink, this cousin of two Old South Gaylord Street shops (fellow Top of the Town winners W Boutique and Wish Boutique, page 106) has the perfect find for your best friend, your sister, or your mom, from a B.U. necklace that reads “Rebel” to a $250 on-trend Hobo bag. Plus, Wish has some of the best greeting cards in town. Whether your friend has had a bad breakup or a stressful day at work, sarcastic, silly missives—think: “I’m sorry your boss is psycho”—from the likes of McBitterson’s and Farewell Paperie are guaranteed to give her the one thing she needs most: a smile. 750 S. University Blvd., 303-722-2900

Readers’ Choice: Hope Tank 64 Broadway, 720-837-1565


Fine Jewelry

Editors’ Choice: Sarah O. Jewelry

Sarah Ortega opened her eponymous storefront on Tennyson Street in April 2015, but she’s no newbie to the industry. The New Mexico native started polishing jewelry in her mom’s Albuquerque store at 13. By the time she started at Regis University, Ortega was selling her own creations to friends, and in 2013, she launched Sarah O. Jewelry. The showroom’s chic white interior is a fitting display case for her vintage-inspired rings, earrings, necklaces, and bracelets. Those with special occasions (ahem, popping the question) in mind should check out Ortega’s custom work, which accounts for half her business. 4301 Tennyson St., 720-502-3229

Readers’ Choice: Hyde Park Jewelers Cherry Creek Shopping Center, 3000 E. First Ave., 303-333-4446


Place To Buy Suits

Editors’ Choice: Beckett & Robb

You look good, you feel good. At least, that’s how the saying goes. But it’s hard to feel good when you just dropped an entire paycheck on a suit—regardless of how dashing the result. At this four-month-old downtown men’s boutique, owners Jason Yeats and Derek Bleazard keep their prices (mostly) in check—think $1,000 to $3,000—by cutting out some of the middlemen from their supply chain. B&R will outfit you (or, perhaps, your wedding party) in custom suits in luxury fabrics from designers such as Zegna and Loro Piana; you can also find everything you need for under that suit. We suggest letting the expert staff give you a hand via an in-store style consultation—walk-in or by appointment. You’ll step out the door feeling like a sharp-dressed man with enough left in your budget to take your new look out on the town. 707 17th St., Suite 100, 303-339-0914

Readers’ Choice: SuitSupply 299 Detroit St., 303-876-9900


Accessories

Editors’ Choice: Frinje 

What’s better than jewelry that garners regular compliments? Pieces that also give back. At Frinje, owner Julia Stavnitski focuses on stocking American-made and pay-it-forward brands whenever possible. The five-year-old Larimer Square shop, a satellite of the original Frinje boutique in Vail—there’s also one in Beaver Creek—sells TOMS sunglasses (buy a pair and a person in need receives an eye exam and necessary treatment) and the Giving Keys jewelry (the company employs women in Los Angeles transitioning out of homelessness) in addition to a small selection of trendy clothing. We love the crystal rings, earrings, and necklaces from Passion for Vintage, a hard-to-find line created by a Coloradan turned Costa Rican. With mid-range prices—around $22 to $100 for accessories—Frinje’s spacious shop is practically bursting with quality products you can feel good about buying and wearing. 1408 Larimer St., Suite 101, 303-623-7774

Readers’ Choice: Hailee Grace 

—Photo credit: courtesy of Enrique Parrilla

Outdoors: Sports and Fitness

Living in Colorado means easy access to mile upon mile of outdoor adventures. Here’s how best to spend your time in the wild.


Health Club/Gym

Editors’ Choice: Colorado Athletic Club–Union Station

Specialized small-group fitness classes, such as high-intensity interval training and hybrid barre workouts, are the vogue in Denver. And the newest addition to Colorado Athletic Club’s mini empire recognizes the trend: The four-month-old location behind Union Station boasts more than 100 such classes, plus a state-of-the-art hot yoga studio—104 degrees!—as part of your $126 per month membership. But we’re busy people whose lives don’t always conform to class schedules. For those times, the 38,000-square-foot space has a weight room, a massive cardio area with plenty of elliptical
machines, treadmills, and bikes, and a functional fitness space that allows you to get your sweat on, on your time. 1601 Wewatta St., 303-623-1601

Readers’ Choice: The Denver Athletic Club 1325 Glenarm Place, 303-534-1211


Sunrise Hike

Editors’ Choice: Mt. Flora

In many cases in Colorado, if you want to catch the sunrise from the top of a peak, you’ll be hiking mostly by headlamp. If you’d prefer to actually see where you’re stepping, opt for the three-mile (one way) calf-busting trek up Arapaho National Forest’s 13,132-foot Mt. Flora. Set out around 5 a.m. from the Berthoud Pass trailhead, part of the Continental Divide National Scenic Trail, and you’ll catch the forest waking up as you walk (backcountry camping is also allowed in the national forest). After 1,738 feet in elevation gain, you’ll reach your well-deserved reward—360-degree views of the Divide, Ethel Lake, and the Winter Park area all bathed in the kind of Colorado morning glow that makes every photo #nofilter-worthy. Plus, unlike some thirteeners, the summit actually has (a little) space to sit, making it one of the prettiest breakfast spots we’ve been lucky enough to come across.

Readers’ Choice: Red Rocks Park and Amphitheatre 18300 W. Alameda Parkway, 720-865-2494


Pilates Studio

Editors’ Choice: P.S.: The Pilates Studio

Whether you’re a jackknife master or curious beginner, Wash Park’s P.S.: The Pilates Studio has got your back…and legs and arms and abs. The naturally lit studio is outfitted with top-of-the-line reformers; expert instructors offer patient guidance; and class sizes are capped at seven, which makes for a comfortable setting for all skill levels. It’s the array of classes, however, that really sets this studio apart. Here, you won’t just find Pilates fundamentals and level two; P.S. offers a cardio class on Pilates jump boards, a full-body boot camp, and a session designed just for new moms and moms-to-be. Plus, with prices as low as $10 a class, you can focus on stretching your muscles instead of your budget. 614 E. Kentucky Ave., 303-733-3833

Readers’ Choice: The Ballet Physique 7600 Park Meadows Drive, Lone Tree, 303-955-7165; 2539 W. Main St., Littleton, 303-955-1698


Car Camping

Editors’ Choice: Mount Princeton Campground 

The best car-camping spots are tucked away and close to plenty of opportunities for adventure; they’re places like Mount Princeton Campground in the San Isabel National Forest near Salida. The area’s 19 tent sites are shaded by ponderosa pines, and each includes a fire pit, a picnic table, and room for two cars. Chalk Creek, where you can fish or just dip your toes in, runs through the southern part of the campground, and the nearby woods beg for exploration. If we were planning the itinerary, we’d bring our bikes for an easy three(ish)-mile ride down a quiet stretch of County Road 162 to the serene Mount Princeton Hot Springs. Because even when you’re roughing it, you deserve a little pampering. 

Readers’ Choice: (TIE) Golden Gate Canyon State Park; Rocky Mountain National Park


Yoga Studio

Editors’ Choice: The River Power Vinyasa Yoga

Practicing yoga should transport you to a different world—one where there’s no laundry to do or dinner to be made. Four-year-old the River Power Vinyasa Yoga has crafted that alternate universe in its Golden Triangle studio. Wood floors, natural hues, and an inspirational quote painted on the wall set the scene; the amped-up temperature in most classes (typically 94 degrees) brings your focus inward; and the teachers are encouraging while also reminding you to respect your body’s limitations. We mellow out during candlelight vinyasa sessions on Monday and Wednesday nights, but the schedule’s variety—both in times and types of classes (yoga with weights, meditation sessions, and more)—means you won’t have any difficulty making yoga a regular part of your schedule. 1212 Delaware St., 720-381-6070, 

Readers’ Choice: CorePower Yoga multiple locations


Ski Resort

Editors’ Choice: Steamboat Ski Resort

Any time Champagne is involved, you can count us in. We are, of course, referring to Steamboat Ski Resort’s legendary powder. Skiers and boarders flock to the ’Boat for its approximately 350 annual inches of snow, 2,965 acres of steep chutes and dense tree runs, and bargain night skiing (last season’s rates were less than $40). This coming season, riders can count on getting in even more laps in the Sunshine Peak area thanks to Elkhead Lift’s upgrade to a high-speed quad. And as if flying down the slopes on two feet isn’t adrenaline-boosting enough, an all-season alpine coaster is opening this fall. You know where to find us. 2305 Mt. Werner Circle, Steamboat Springs, 1-800-922-2722

Readers’ Choice: Vail Mountain


Best Reason To Lace Up Your Running Shoes

Editors’ Choice: Denver Trail Runners

Denver offers plenty of places where you can put shoes to pavement amid pretty scenery (Wash Park, City Park…we could go on). But the views are even better when you head just outside the city to jog on in-the-wild dirt paths. Gain the best introduction to Colorado’s vast network of trail-running options through Denver Trail Runners, a 16-year-old no-cost, no-reservations, no-expectations (slow runners welcome) group that meets Thursday evenings and Sunday mornings at various foothills trailheads. The crew typically heads to places like Centennial Cone, Lair o’ the Bear Park, or North Table Mountain and runs for about 90 minutes, no matter the weather. We promise that wherever you end up, the view is sure to beat the one from your treadmill.

Readers’ Choice: Washington Park


Place To Buy A Bike

Editors’ Choice: The Singletrack Factory

A new mountain bike will easily set you back a couple grand, and when you’re dropping that kind of dough, you want to be confident about your purchase. That’s not a problem at the Singletrack Factory, a small 19-year-old shop that specializes in high-end mountain bikes from top brands such as Yeti, Ibis, and Rocky Mountain. Staffers here are all avid riders, meaning they won’t recommend a set of wheels they wouldn’t consider riding on themselves. And the generous demo program lets you try out your potential new ride before you buy: On several weekends throughout the summer (check the store’s Facebook page), Singletrack brings a few dozen bikes to a local trailhead for free test rides. 1005 S. Gaylord St., 303-733-3334

Readers’ Choice: Wheat Ridge Cyclery 7085 W. 38th Ave., 303-424-3221


Ski/Snowboard Company

Editors’ Choice: Icelantic Skis

It’s not just the arresting graphics that prompted us to bestow this 10-year-old company with this award for the second year in a row: This past winter, we demoed and then purchased pairs of the women’s Maidens and men’s Nomads. Never before have we experienced such nimble skis with an instinct for fun. The Colorado-made planks practically anticipate our next move, whether we’re swooshing in powder, carving up corduroy, or blasting through bumps. These beauties have made us better skiers—and, thanks to the bold artwork, better-looking ones too.

Readers’ Choice: Never Summer


Outdoor Gear 

Editors’ Choice: Feral Mountain Co.

There’s not much shelf space at this four-month-old tiny Craftsman house turned store on Tennyson Street. But that’s OK because only a handful of brands pass Feral Mountain’s stringent standards. The vast majority of the products on display here have been personally tested by owner Jimmy Funkhouser and his crew, which includes an ultrarunner, an avid backpacker, and a climber. For summer and fall adventures, check out Snow Peak’s bomb-proof titanium cookware and Mountain Hardware’s ultralight (20 ounces), reasonably priced sleeping quilts. Even if you’re not in the market for new gear, a visit to the back room is worth your time: There, you’ll find one of Denver’s largest collections of Colorado trail maps, sure to get you primed for any adventure. 4320 Tennyson St., 303-903-8584

Readers’ Choice: REI multiple locations

—Photo credits (from top): Chris Harnish, courtesy of Jes Kimak

The Lowdown

Answers to common questions about how Top of the Town comes together. 

How does 5280 pick Top of the Town winners?

Our reporters and editors spend months exploring the city in order to choose winners for every category (taco, yoga studio, massage, etc.) on the ballot. We do our research anonymously and pay for all meals and services. Our readers also select their favorites by casting votes in our online ballot; the businesses that receive the most votes win.

But don’t your advertisers automatically win? 

No. Top of the Town recognition is based only on our research and your votes; there is zero connection between advertisers and winners. The fact that some winners happen to be advertisers, or later decide to advertise in the magazine, does not influence our selections. Sure, we could make some folks happy by “selling” winners, but in the end, we’d lose a lot more than we’d gain—like our integrity and credibility with you.

How can my business get on the ballot?

Our ballot is a write-in format, meaning we don’t provide multiple-choice options for our readers to choose from. Voters can suggest whatever restaurant, store, person, or service they deem worthy for every 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. Encourage your customers to vote for you next year (the readers’ choice ballot opens on 5280.com 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 our site and the ballot.

How do I vote?

Visit 5280.com (voting occurs online in February and March), sign in with your name and email address, and cast your ballot. It’s that simple.

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