Feature

Top of the Town

BIFF! BAM! POW! HERE WE COME TO SAVE THE DAY! OUR INTREPID TEAM OF WRITERS AND EDITORS HAVE SLEUTHED OUT THE BEST OF THE BEST IN DENVER TO CREATE 5280'S MUST-HAVE GUIDE TO THE MILE-HIGH CITY.
By
July 2007
Shop! | Play! | Kids! | Primp! | Pets! | People! | Eat!

EAT

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

Mexican

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

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

Authentic Italian

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

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

Caribbean

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

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

Chinese

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

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

Thai

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

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

Sushi

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

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

Waitstaff

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

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

Indian

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

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

Seafood

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

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

Tacos

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

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

Steak House

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

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

Vegetarian Restaurant

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

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

Diner

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

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

Comfort Food

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

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

Tapas

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

Sunday Brunch

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

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

Barbecue

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

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

Chips and Salsa

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

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

Burgers or Bust

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

The High End
Elway's White Cheddar and Bacon Burger
2500 E. First Ave., 303-399-5353, www.elways.com
"The crème de la crème. From the succulent beef, to the crispy bacon, to the tangy Cheddar, to the lightly toasted, soft pinwheel Kaiser roll, to the delicately crispy homemade chips that accompany it, this burger is made with love."

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

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

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

Pizza

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

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

French Fries

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

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

Bagels

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

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

Deli

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

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

Happy Hour Menu

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

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

Patio Dining

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

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

New Coffee Shop

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

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

Bargain Meal

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

Ambience in a Restaurant

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

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

Wine List

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

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

Dessert Menu

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

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

Ice Cream

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

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

Cupcake

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

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

Street Vendor

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

Stadium Snack

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

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

Meat Market

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

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

Wine Shop

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

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

Bakery for Sweets 

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

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

Bakery for Bread

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

Pages