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Quality Italian brings a New York City–style steak house—not to mention killer pasta—to Cherry Creek. Courtesy of Nicole Franzen

Top of the Town 2017: Dining

From classics like steak to new of-the-moment categories such as market hall and eatertainment, we’re here to push your palate no matter what cuisine—or dining experience—you’re hungry for.

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Indian

Himchuli
Editors’ Choice

When it comes to Indian cuisine, it’s all about creating layers of flavor—and this Highland Square joint does it right. Opened on Christmas Eve 2016 by Nepali native Khagendra Gurung, Himchuli imports its spices from the places (Nepal and Eastern India) the menu honors. You’ll find the usual korma, chicken tikka masala, and samosas, but diners can taste a handful of lesser-known dishes as well. Try the Sherpa, a hearty stew with dumplings, veggies, and your choice of protein, or the housemade “momos”—aka Tibetan dumplings. The drink menu isn’t entirely authentic, but that’s only because Himchuli offers a slew of Centennial State–made brews, like those from Lakewood’s WestFax Brewing Company. So no hard feelings. 3489 W. 32nd Ave., 303-728-9957 

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

Sandwich

Hi-Rise Bakery
Editors’ Choice

If you’re familiar with this eight-year-old eatery, it’s probably because of the boiled-then-baked New York–style bagels. But owner Doug Anderson’s deft command of flour and water also extends to bread, the foundation on which a superior sandwich stands—and Anderson’s simple, $9-or-so options are terrific (and made in short order). Start with the must-have Cuban: warm ham and pulled pork with cilantro mayonnaise, honey mustard, and gooey Swiss cheese piled on a freshly made roll. Then graduate to the pesto chicken panino or the Ogden, Hi-Rise’s hearty roast beef sandwich. Served on an Italian baguette, it includes capers and arugula, which add a briny and peppery twist to the classic. When you’ve fully explored the lunch options, return to the breakfast menu, but not for the bagels. The torta (chorizo, egg, tomato, jalapeños, and chipotle sauce on a bolillo roll) provides a deliciously spicy wake-up call. 2162 Larimer St., 303-296-3656

Snarf’s
Readers’ Choice
Multiple locations

Habit-Doughnut
Habit Doughnut Dispensary. Courtesy of Rachel Robinson

Doughnut

Habit Doughnut Dispensary
Editors’ Choice

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We’re not sure when it became cool for Mile High City doughnut shops to include weed references in their names (see: Glazed & Confuzed in Stanley Marketplace). LoHi’s year-and-a-half-old Habit Doughnut Dispensary, marked with a pink cross, has certainly taken the trend the furthest—to delicious effect. Don’t worry, abstainers: You don’t need to have the munchies to savor inventive, rotating varieties like the not-too-sweet Daily Chai or chocolate-bomb OG Blackout. Our go-to for a (sugar) high, though, is a menu staple: the Blazed doughnut, a simple melt-in-your-mouth ring coated in a brûléed malted-milk glaze. 1553 Platte St., Suite 130, 720-428-8565

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

Eatertainment

Nocturne Jazz & Supper Club
Editors’ Choice & Readers’ Choice

Denver provides plenty of dinner-with-a-show options, though most have a strong suit—the food or the entertainment. Nocturgne excels at both. Renowned jazz acts, such as Grammy-winning bassist Eddie Gomez, regularly perform beneath the building’s high ceilings, surrounded by graceful industrial accents and blessed by pitch-perfect acoustics. Meanwhile, the rotating tasting menu, which is inspired by jazz classics, illustrates Nocturne’s eatertainment mastery: For less than $60, chef Greg Weadick will delight your palate with five custom courses that explore a featured artist or album through taste, texture, and technique. Beet-cured scallops to start and white chocolate–goat cheese mousse to finish, for example, served as an ode to French jazz guitarist and composer Django Reinhardt. For $35 or less, Nocturne’s sommelier will pair wine with each course, creating the perfect accompaniment for the night’s main (culinary) acts. 1330 27th St., 303-295-3333 

Strava
Stava Craft Coffee. Courtesy of Seth K. Hughes

Coffee Roaster

Sträva Craft Coffee
Editors’ Choice 

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Sträva has been delivering hand-roasted beans to spots like Denver Bicycle Cafe and the Denver Central Market’s Crema Bodega since summer 2016. (Sträva doesn’t have its own storefront; you can order beans, which brew beautifully balanced coffee, online.) Last year, the company launched its Peace & Wellness line of hemp-infused—read: cannabidiol—beans aimed at giving you a buzz (not that kind) without the jitters (this is where the CBD comes in). If CBD isn’t your thing, you can’t go wrong with one of Sträva’s seven single-origin roasts. We especially like the sweet, chocolaty Costa Rica Llano Bonito, a semi-washed bean grown on a former dairy farm. But don’t take our word for it: When Jeffrey Knott—a coffee consultant who helped open Union Station’s Pigtrain, among seven other popular Denver cafes—debuted Backyard on Blake’s Blue Sparrow Coffee in March, he picked Sträva to fill most of the mugs.

Corvus Coffee Roasters
Readers’ Choice
1740 S. Broadway, 303-715-1740; 4925 S. Newport St., 720-458-0943

Steak

Quality Italian
Editors’ Choice 

Sure, you know how to grill a mean piece of meat. But unless you’re Peter Luger reincarnate, the overall dining experience inside your Congress Park bungalow probably doesn’t compare with the impeccable design and service at Quality Italian. A New York City import, the 125-seat restaurant brings the white-tablecloth, your-napkin-gets-refolded-when-you-step-away steak-house experience to Cherry Creek. The carefully sectioned-off eating nooks and neatly arranged vintage portraits give each room a cozy, intimate feel, and the face-flattering low light doesn’t hurt either—especially during a first date. Although Quality Italian eschews Colorado-grown beef in favor of tender sirloins and rib steaks raised on a Washington state ranch, at least the eatery’s sauce is hyperlocal: Your server whips it up tableside. 241 Columbine St., 303-532-8888

Guard and Grace
Readers’ Choice
1801 California St., Suite 150, 303-293-8500 

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Il-Posto
Il Posto. Courtesy of Aaron Colussi

Italian

Il Posto
Editors’ Choice

This past January, Italy native Andrea Frizzi closed Il Posto’s cramped City Park West location of nine years and moved to RiNo. The resulting space, twice as big as the original, feels entirely different than its predecessor. An airy statement chandelier of Murano glass baubles dominates the two-level industrial-chic locale, and bright wood, earth tones, and natural light keep things warm. The upgraded digs reflect Frizzi and culinary director Mario Pacheco’s reinvigoration of the menu. You can taste the harvest-driven creativity in the iced asparagus soup with coconut milk and lemon as well as in the seared octopus with braised bacon, peas, cipollini onions, and horseradish. However, Il Posto hasn’t completely disregarded the intimacy and classic fare that it nailed in its previous location. Cozy wraparound booths provide plenty of privacy, and mainstays such as the risotto and house-made Burrata with lavash crackers, prosciutto, balsamic vinegar, and basil continue to charm patrons. 2601 Larimer St., 303-394-0100

Mici Handcrafted Italian
Readers’ Choice
Multiple locations

Japanese

Mizu Izakaya
Editors’ Choice

The best meals are those enjoyed among friends, and this seven-month-old LoHi Japanese gastropub ensures your entire posse will be satisfied. There are more than 70 bottles of thoughtfully selected sakes to pick from and also 12 cocktails bound to entice—especially the Happy Death, made with gin, passion fruit, lemon juice, Cointreau, and egg white. Your adventurous buddies will lust after the creative “kara age” (deep-fried) frog legs, while the traditionalists in your crew can order delicious classics, like miso black cod and beef tataki. But the best thing about bringing a crowd to this hip Japanese tavern? You get to sample everything. 1560 Boulder St., 720-372-7100

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Izakaya Den
Readers’ Choice
1487 S. Pearl St., 303-777-0691

Annette
Annette. Courtesy of Jonny Marlow

New Restaurant

Annette
Editors’ Choice

Chef Caroline Glover has cooked at both New York City’s celebrated Spotted Pig and Denver’s illustrious Acorn. Despite coming up through those headlining eateries, when Glover opened her own restaurant (named for a beloved aunt) in Stanley Marketplace in February, she sought to deliver relaxed hospitality over flash. She succeeded. Glover has created a small oasis—there are only 50 seats inside, two to three cooks, and one bartender—that leaves patrons feeling like they’re dining at a friend’s house. A friend with exceptional culinary skills: Open for brunch, lunch, and dinner, Annette’s concise menus are expertly executed. The wood-fire-grilled dishes change with the seasons, but the whole grilled fish and the house-made pastas (both mainstays) are consistently satisfying, as are Glover’s ultrafresh salads. Don’t be shy about trying one of the rotating desserts, which, at press time, included a from-scratch chocolate chip cookie ice cream sandwich and an individual pecan pie. Like Annette, they’re small but mighty. Stanley Marketplace, 2501 Dallas St., Aurora, 720-710-9975

Dio Mio
Readers’ Choice
3264 Larimer St., 303-562-1965

Market Hall

The Denver Central Market
Editors’ Choice & Readers’ Choice 

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The Denver Central Market is certainly crawling with the sort of hipsters you’d expect to see at a RiNo food hall, especially one housed in a nearly 100-year-old building decked out in trendy gray patterned tile, exposed brick, and twinkling light fixtures. But fashionable urbanites aren’t the only clientele here. From baby-toting parents to teens, from seniors to suits—it seems no one can resist the draw of 11 vendors hawking a smorgasbord of culinary delights, such as artisan ice cream from High Point Creamery, Curio’s craft cocktails, and tangy ceviche from Silva’s Fish Market. With its infinitely chill atmosphere and decidedly un-food-court feel, the Denver Central Market makes an ideal hangout for every demographic. 2669 Larimer St.

Bar-Dough
Bar Dough. Courtesy of Adam Larkey

Brunch

Bar Dough
Editors’ Choice

The most important meal of the weekend is supposed to be indulgent. The sauces coming out of year-and-half-old Bar Dough’s kitchen only underscore this point. The kitchen dresses simple cacio e pepe in a luscious lemon beurre fondue; in the eggs Benedicto, a brown butter hollandaise drips down poached eggs and onto jalapeño-cheddar toast; what could otherwise be a standard mushroom scramble gets the royal treatment with creamy Taleggio fondue that melts in your mouth. Bar Dough also serves sweet entrées, such as the Overnight French Toast, topped with spiced apple butter, pine nuts, and golden raisin maple syrup—because sugar is a delicious substitute for caffeine at the start of the day. 2227 W. 32nd Ave., 720-668-8506

Snooze: an AM Eatery
Readers’ Choice
Multiple locations

Korean

Seoul Korean BBQ & Sushi
Editors’ Choice

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A Korean meal isn’t complete without great “banchan,” the small plates that come gratis to complement the main course. In Denver, no one does banchan better than Seoul BBQ, which rolls out an average of more than 14 side dishes—from glazed sweet potatoes to pickled daikon, plus a cornucopia of kimchi—to add seasoning and texture to your bibimbap, barbecue, or fragrant kimchi-pork stew. Once you’ve eaten your fill, mosey next door to Seoul Korean’s 11-month-old takeout/catering spot (there’s also a second location in Northglenn) to stock up on the banchan you liked best—or maybe to satisfy your sweet tooth with a colorful green tea cake roll. 311 W. 104th Ave., 303-280-3888; 2080 S. Havana St., Aurora, 303-632-7576

DAE GEE
Readers’ Choice
Multiple locations

Ethiopian

Megenagna Ethiopian Grocery and Restaurant
Editors’ Choice

Don’t let the unbecoming location in a derelict Aurora strip mall scare you off. No other restaurant around has created a more authentically Ethiopian experience than eight-year-old Megenagna. Warm aromas of onion, garlic, nutmeg, cumin, and cardamom set the mood—a vibe that’s only bolstered by the black lacquered chairs, African art, and customary mesob wicker tables. Grab a seat under one of the two traditional Ethiopian hutlike awnings and order the kitfo (minced beef with cottage cheese and herbal butter) and the veggie combo (spicy lentils, yellow peas, chickpeas, and cabbage). Both are sublimely spiced and perfectly cooked. Now all you have to do is remember the best technique for pinching each stewy bite into a piece of spongey injera bread. 306 S. Ironton St., Unit C-D, Aurora, 720-532-0266

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

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Spencer-White-Alex-Figura
Spencer White (left) and Alex Figura (right). Courtesy of Brianna Balducci

Chef(s)

Spencer White and Alex Figura 
Editors’ Choice

In the late fall of 2016, Denver diners were thrilled to learn that Spencer White and Alex Figura, who had shuttered their beloved Lower48 Kitchen a year earlier, were returning to the scene with a fast-casual pasta joint. Dio Mio didn’t disappoint. While Lower48 was elaborate and beautiful, at their new tiny space in RiNo, White and Figura concentrate on providing big flavors with less overhead: Patrons order at the counter and, if not drinking a cocktail or glass of vino, pour their own water. That leaves time for White and Figura to execute a thoughtful menu featuring nine vegetable-focused small plates, fresh pasta dishes, and a marvelous bread program (after tasting their fluffy sourdough and tender house bread, we’re certified addicts). Whether you order traditional dishes like cacio e pepe or innovative plates such as squid-ink spaghetti with kimchi and pork belly, you’re going to be just as happy as we are that White and Figura are back on the line.

Troy Guard
Readers’ Choice

Pizza

Racca’s Pizzeria Napoletana
Editors’ Choice

Americans have a way of turning other cultures’ cuisines into absurd monstrosities (Exhibit A: Taco Bell’s Doritos Cheesy Gordita Crunch). The Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana in Italy delivers pizza peace of mind by certifying only restaurants that adhere to rules of authenticity and quality, and the sole AVPN-approved eatery in Colorado is Racca’s (slated to return to its former name, Marco’s Coal-Fired Pizza, sometime this month). We’re betting the restaurant, which has four locations in the metro area­ (note: the Englewood shop is currently closed due to storm damage), aced the entrance exam, too, with its stripped-down margherita boasting luscious buffalo mozzarella, pecorino Romano, basil, and San Marzano sauce ($9 to $12). Feeling adventurous? The Sicilia is loaded with ricotta, mozzarella, Genoa salami, prosciutto cotto, artichokes, and mushrooms ($19). The only way you’re going to taste more bona fide Italian pizza is by buying a ticket to Naples. Multiple locations

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Mici Handcrafted Italian 
Readers’ Choice

Bear-Creek-Distillery
Bear Creek Distillery. Courtesy of Villani Photo

Distillery

Bear Creek Distillery
Editors’ Choice

Among the Overland neighborhood’s drinkeries (including Declaration Brewing Company and Nathaniel Rateliff’s the Overland), Bear Creek shines as a locals’ spot. Co-founders Jeffrey Dickinson and Jay Johnson met at Lakewood’s Bear Creek High School, and the two-year-old distillery tries to use local ingredients to make its rums, whiskeys, and vodkas. Last year, it won three American Craft Spirits Association awards, including a gold for its cask-strength rum, aged in barrels from nearby Laws Whiskey House. Our pick for sipping? The wheat whiskey, one of Argonaut liquor buyer Andrew Burton’s favorite local spirits to drink neat. 1879 S. Acoma St., 303-955-4638

Leopold Bros.
Readers’ Choice
5285 Joliet St., 303-307-1515

Chinese

Hop Alley
Editors’ Choice & Readers’ Choice 

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Gangster rap and meticulously crafted sour-leaning cocktails are your first clues that Hop Alley isn’t like other Chinese restaurants in town. Those affectations make Tommy Lee’s year-and-a-half-old sensation feel very now. The beautifully layered traditional flavors, though—especially in the dan dan mian, where perfectly chewy egg noodles, pickled mustard greens, and savory ground pork are enriched with a wobbly egg—are what ensure Hop Alley will be a Denver institution. You won’t miss the fortune cookies, we promise. 3500 Larimer St., 720-379-8340

Middle Eastern

Ariana Kabob Cafe
Editors’ Choice 

The Middle East encompasses hundreds of ethnic groups. So the cuisine many Americans associate with the region—hummus, falafel, shawarma—falls way short of representing the region’s diversity. Broaden your horizons with a trip to five-year-old Ariana Kabob. Here, Liza Whitcomb serves the citrusy fare of her native Afghanistan. Remarkable dishes such as “bolani” (pan-fried turnovers stuffed with mashed potatoes and chives) showcase traditional Afghan spices and techniques to create savory sustenance. No, the menu won’t be familiar—but it’ll be delicious. Shoppes at Parker, 2767 S. Parker Road, Aurora, 303-745-6262

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

Fried Chicken

White Fence Farm
Editors’ Choice 

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Lakewood’s White Fence Farm can feel overwhelming, thanks to its on-site gift shop, petting zoo, museum, and playground, plus enough seating to host an army. But you can escape all of that and still enjoy the amazing fried chicken if you pick your to-go order up at one of WFF’s four new quick-serve locations—in Belcaro, Capitol Hill, Arvada, and Westminster. (You can also find WFF inside the Pepsi Center and at Elitch Gardens.) The chicken is pressure cooked and then quickly flash-fried so the batter isn’t too thick, too greasy, or too easily ripped off in one big, fatty sheet. Plus, you can actually taste the meat, which is tender and juicy. Multiple locations

The Post Chicken & Beer
Readers’ Choice
1258 S. Hover Road, Longmont, 720-588-2883; 2200 S. Broadway, 720-466-5699

The Post Brewing Co.
Readers’ Choice
105 W. Emma St., Lafayette, 303-593-2066

Vietnamese

Pho Duy
Editors’ Choice 

Directions to the best local Vietnamese joints aren’t a secret. Just head south—to South Federal Boulevard in Denver or South Havana Street in Aurora, that is. Among the seemingly countless options in those strips, we keep returning to Pho Duy, which has been serving soulful fare for more than two decades. The service is speedy and friendly despite full tables almost every night of the week, but it’s the giant servings of flavorful pho that keep us coming back. When we crave variety, Pho Duy’s well-crafted bun bowl with rice vermicelli noodles and grilled pork, shrimp, chicken, beef, or fried egg rolls (or all of the above), dressed with properly tangy-funky nuoc cham, makes us forget about pho—at least for a little while. 925 S. Federal Blvd., 303-937-1609

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

RollingPin
The Rolling Pin Bakery. Courtesy of Andrew Kowalyshyn

Bakery

The Rolling Pin Bakeshop
Editors’ Choice 

The impressive traditional desserts—such as towering red velvet cakes and lemon tarts—on display inside eight-month-old Rolling Pin’s (pictured) pastry cases alone would earn this bakery a nod as one of the city’s best. It’s the quality of co-owners Jay Thomas and Michael Martinez’s French pastries, however, that makes this sweet shop a shoo-in for top treat honors. Don’t tell our significant others about our almost inappropriate cravings for the flaky-on-the-outside, soft-on-the-inside croissants, especially the bacon, cheddar, and green chile variety. If your teeth skew sweet, try the opera cake (espresso-soaked almond sponge layers interspersed with coffee buttercream and chocolate ganache). It’s more than worth the inevitable sugar crash. 2716 Welton St., 720-708-3026

Detour Bakery
Readers’ Choice 
1479 S. Holly St., 303-756-2020

Burger

The Thunderbird Imperial Lounge 
Editors’ Choice 

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While we love the reboot burgers have experienced—housemade rolls! bacon pickles! put an egg on it!—we hate paying nearly $20 for the suddenly gourmet fare. That’s why we are digging this seven-month-old Highland bar, the latest project from restaurateur Jesse Morreale (of Mezcal and El Diablo fame). Here, you have the option to upgrade. All-natural six-ounce, juicy beef patties are served on egg buns with lettuce, tomato, pickle, and onion for just $7.50. If you’re in the mood for extravagance, you can pay extra to add up to 14 toppings. Whatever course you choose, grab a patio booth, order a Left Hand Brewing Company Polestar Pilsner, and marvel at the delightful amount of grease dripping down your chin. 3759 Lipan St., 720-255-2485

Park Burger
Readers’ Choice
Multiple locations

El-Camino
El Camino Community Tavern. Courtesy of Sarah Boyum

Tacos

El Camino Community Tavern
Editors’ Choice 

When your weekday night out with friends falls on taco Tuesday, we suggest heading to nine-year-old El Camino, where you can binge on $1 street treats from open to close. This isn’t just about the value, though: The offerings are consistently tasty. The al pastor, stuffed with citrus- and achiote-marinated pork, grilled pineapple, pickled red onion, and cilantro, is a standout. That explains why you’ll almost always find a wait at the West Highland hangout. Don’t be discouraged. It’s worth it—especially during happy hour (3 to 6:30 p.m. and 10 p.m. to close), when you can wash down those heavenly tacos with $4 margaritas. 3628 W. 32nd Ave., 720-889-7946

Tacos Tequila Whiskey (Pinche Tacos)
Readers’ Choice 
1514 York St., 720-475-1337; 3300 W. 32nd Ave., 720-502-4608

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Dessert

Devil’s Food Bakery
Editors’ Choice

Scoring a seat in this South Gaylord Street hot spot on a Saturday morning used to be nearly impossible. But in February, the coffee-and-pastries half of the business moved four doors to the north, providing more space for even more patrons to experience the shop’s family-recipe-inspired confections. The chocolate sandwich refrigerator cookie—filled with mint mascarpone—will make you forswear Oreos, especially when you pair them with a pour-over from Denver’s Middle State Coffee Roasters. Still, dining in isn’t always the best way to enjoy Devil’s Food’s desserts. The colorful fruit tarts (the blackberry almond are awash in Bavarian cream) or confetti cookies (a kids’ favorite), for example, will be the centers of attention at any party. 1004 S. Gaylord St., 303-777-9555

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

Greek

Yanni’s Greek Restaurant 
Editors’ Choice

This longtime pillar of the local dining scene might not bathe itself in clichéd blue and white, but co-owner Yanni Stavropoulos’ eatery remains a haven of authentic Greek food and drink. We advise trying the “pazaria” (beets with puréed potato skordalia), “taramasalata” (a creamy dip made with carp roe), and “loukaniko” (spicy Greek sausage) small plates because you won’t find these particular recipes anywhere else—all are based on treasured Stavropoulos family secrets. Then again, don’t skip Yanni’s traditional fare either: The tender lamb tastes as good as it smells. 5425 Landmark Place, Greenwood Village, 303-692-0404

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

Vegan/Vegetarian

Vital Root
Editors’ Choice

If you pride yourself on your health-conscious, locavore tendencies (and what self-respecting vegetarian doesn’t?), there are few Denver dining options better than this new veggie-centric restaurant in Berkeley. Vital Root uses organic oils, gluten-free flours, and unrefined sugars to craft a wide-ranging menu that includes everything from an Indian-inspired coconut dosa to a stacked cobb salad (you can request a vegan version—an option for most dishes here—that comes without the egg). No matter what you order at the fast-causal spot, you’ll know its provenance. Ask an employee about your meal, and he can list the organic and non-GMO ingredients and tell you how far away from its Berkeley location they were grown. Tip: Order the pickled vegetable banh mi tacos and the mileage will be close to zero—Vital Root grows a bevy of herbs on its back patio that go straight into the dish. 3915 Tennyson St., 303-474-4131

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

Bottle Shop

Bottle Shop 33
Editors’ Choice

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To best explore the prodigious list of beer, wine, and liquor made in the Centennial State these days, you need a bottle shop with great selection and service. That’s why we’ve done our investigating lately at Wash Park’s Bottle Shop 33. The options are varied but not daunting, and the staff is helpful without being snooty. On a recent visit, we shared our predilection for whiskey and Old World vino and were steered toward a tasty sub-$20 wine from France and Vail-made 10th Mountain Whiskey & Spirit Company bourbon. Don’t be scared off by traffic on South Gaylord Street. With valet parking at nearby Wash Park Grill, exploring has never been so effortless. 1080 S.​ Gaylord St., 303-722-2129

Pearl Wine Company
Readers’ Choice
1886 S. Pearl St., 303-282-5103

Kid-Friendly Restaurant

Avanti Food & Beverage 
Editors’ Choice 

Avanti isn’t a restaurant per se—which is part of the space’s charm for families trying to feed hungry (and picky) kids. The two-year-old self-described “collective eatery” hosts seven restaurant concepts at a time, so there’s always a satisfying range of culinary styles—at least one is sure to meet the demands of difficult-to-please palates. (Try the Regional’s menu of specialties from across the country, like Southern shrimp and grits and the Memphis barbecue pork sandwich, first.) Plus, Avanti’s buzzy atmosphere means children prone to mid-meal meltdowns won’t disturb your fellow diners and embarrass you. Just one word of advice: Go early (say, 5 p.m.) to avoid the barlike scene that sets in later—unless you really want to explain millennial mating rituals to your children. 3200 Pecos St., 720-269-4778

Mici Handcrafted Italian
Readers’ Choice

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Thai

Busaba
Editors’ Choice 

Despite being 30 minutes from Denver, Busaba’s sleek, minimalist digs in Louisville are almost always crowded. Throngs of loyal patrons return again and again to Busaba for co-owner Suthinee Phairatphiboon’s beautifully presented, boldly flavored recipes, which balance sour, salty, bitter, and spicy. While familiar favorites such as pad thai and chicken satay delight, the kitchen also turns out some original creations—such as the dry seafood “tom yum,” a stir-fry (tom yum is typically a soup) of scallops, shrimp, and squid—as well as lesser-known Thai dishes like “goong ob woonsen,” a tangle of slippery, soy-dressed bean-thread noodles studded with garlic, ginger, shrimp, and bacon. So, sure, Busaba might require a bit of a drive and wait, but it’s still a heck of a lot quicker—not to mention cheaper—than flying to Bangkok. 133 McCaslin Blvd., Unit H, Louisville, 303-665-0330

US Thai Cafe
Readers’ Choice 
5228 W. 25th Ave., 303-233-3345


Coulda Been a Contender

At least 20 restaurants are on the verge of opening in Denver, and we can’t wait to dig our forks into them. Here are a few that just might make the Top of the Town list next year.

Italian  

What do you get when you take the cooking cred of Boulder’s award-winning Frasca Food and Wine, move it to Denver’s Union Station area, and broaden its culinary reach to embrace a range of classic Italian dishes—not just Friulian cuisine from the northeastern part of the boot? Answer: Tavernetta by Frasca. 1889 16th St.

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Wood-Fire Cooking

Try to count the local restaurants cooking over a wood fire these days and you’ll quickly run out of fingers (and toes). We tally four more, as of press time, opening in 2017: Hickory & Ash from the Kevin Taylor Restaurant Group; FNG, Troy Guard’s 10th concept; Hedge Row from the Kitchen Group; and Citizen Rail, a Kimpton restaurant in the lobby of Hotel Born, next to Tavernetta. We’ll let you know who the best is in, say, 364 days. Hickory & Ash, 8001 Arista Place, Broomfield; FNG, 3940 W. 32nd Ave.; Hedge Row, 100 Steele St.; Citizen Rail, 1899 16th St.

Spanish

Denver’s culinary map doesn’t contain much Spanish (or Portuguese) cuisine—yet. That will change with two newcomers: Ultreia, from Jennifer Jasinski’s Crafted Concepts, will focus on traditional tapas and pintxos plates, while Corrida, led by Bryan Dayton and Amos Watts, will home in on Basque cuisine. Ultreia, Union Station, 1701 Wynkoop St.; Corrida, 1023 Walnut St., Suite 400, Boulder

Death-&-Co
Come next year you may see the New York bar, Death & Co. on this list. Courtesy of Death & Co.

Cocktail Menu

New York City’s celebrated speakeasy Death & Co. has chosen our fair town for its second location. If bar director Tyson Buhler brings the same style, thoughtful spirit curation, and trend-setting cocktails to the new digs—located in RiNo, of course—there’s a good chance Death & Co. will rise to the top of the Denver scene. (It’s already won World’s Best Cocktail Menu at Tales of the Cocktail’s Spirited Awards.) The Ramble Hotel, 2450 Larimer St.

Japanese

It’s hard not to get excited about the impending arrival of Tyson Cole and his Austin sushi concept, Uchi. Sure, lines will be long. Yes, there are other wonderful, locally owned sushi joints in Denver that deserve recognition. But when a James Beard Foundation Award winner comes to town toting exceptional modern Japanese fare, well, you pay attention. 2501 Lawrence St.

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