When you're tired of the same old, same old, escape to Denver's Budapest Bistro for rich chicken paprika with earthy Hungarian spices. Pair an after-dinner glass of Tokay dessert wine with the sweet crêpe-like palacsinta. Tuck into the booths next to the antique mirror collection and ask if chef Anna Helvig can tell you stories about her homeland. 1585 S. Pearl St., 303-744-2520
Elway's Colorado Steak House is a place to see and be seen, so why not order a dish that will have all eyes turning in your direction? The generous shrimp cocktail arrives with three jumbo prawns perched on the edge of a crystal goblet set with dry ice. Wave away the fog and dip into garlic aïoli, mustard-mayo, horseradish, or cocktail sauce. Sit at the bar when John Miller is tending and he'll pour you a spicy Bloody Mary. 2500 E. First Ave., 303-399-5353
The Flagstaff House's award-winning wine list is the pride and joy of Colorado. Reserve the table tucked between north and east windows for an incredible view, and splurge on a special-occasion vintage (such as Domaine Romanee-Conti Grant Cru Burgundy) from the 20,000-bottle collection. 1138 Flagstaff Road, Boulder, 303-442-4640
Avoid the Dushanbe Teahouse on Saturdays and Wednesdays, when the Boulder Farmers' market is going strong right outside the doors. Instead, try a quiet Thursday and call ahead to reserve a cushiony seat on the floor pillows at one of the two corner low-rise tables. Don't miss the house tea gingerbreadit was recently featured on the Food Network. 1770 13th St., Boulder, 303-442-4993
Even if there are plenty of linen-draped tables available, ask the host at Panzano if you can sit at the bar near the kitchen. You can peruse the entire open kitchen, watch your pesce alla griglia (grilled fish in a Tuscan stew) or vitallo val d'aosta (scallopine of veal) cook in the pan, and chat up executive chef Elise Wiggins, who may even give you a taste of whatever else she has on the stove. 909 17th St., 303-296-3525
We love carry out at eateries like Steuben's and Pei Wei that offer designated take-away areas and well-designed containers.
We loathe when our favorite spots get too big for their britchesas seen in a rise in snootiness or a decline in food quality. (One certain newish Highland coffee shop shall remain unnamed.)
We love how local restaurants such as Restaurant 4580 and Rioja have integrated harissaa spicy Tunisian paste made of chiles, garlic, cumin, coriander, caraway, and olive oilinto rubs and marinades.