Top of the Town
The Perfect MealIf we could hop restaurants between courses, this would be our ultimate fantasy dinner.
Amuse Bouche: Opus
Whether it's a taste of roasted bison with smoky cheddar popcorn crisps or a nibble of pistachio-encrusted Gorgonzola cheesecake, chef Michael Long's amuses are artistic and bursting with flavorall in one tiny bite. 2575 W. Main St., Littleton, 303-703-6787
Appetizer: Restaurant Kevin Taylor
Restaurant Kevin Taylor's foie gras appetizer tastes of perfection: Seared foie gras takes the starring role, while caramelized cashews and a butterscotch gastrique harmonize on the sidelines. 1106 14th St., 303-820-2600
Soup: The Kitchen
The Kitchen's simple tomato soup combines San Marzano tomatoes with onion, sea salt, artisan butter, and cream. Add a drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil over the top and this is a dish you'll order every time. 1039 Pearl St., Boulder, 303-544-5973
It's rare we find a salad that needs neither salt nor pepper, but the Fruition saladwatercress, grilled asparagus, avocado, red onion, and crispy fried shallotsoffers spot-on tang, freshness, and richness in each forkful. 1313 E. Sixth Ave., 303-831-1962
Entrée: Frasca Food and Wine
Frasca elevates simple ravioli by stuffing it with house-made ricotta, goat cheese, and roasted red peppers and pairing it with Cure Farms spinach. It only gets better when chef Lachlan Mackinnon-Patterson adds fresh lobster meat. 1738 Pearl St., Boulder, 303-442-6966, www.frascafoodandwine.com
Pastry chef Yasmin Lozada-Hissom's chocolate torte arrives crowned with a balancing fleur de sel caramel ice cream. 2413 W. 32nd Ave., 303-477-4141
The Taco StrategistHere, we honor the city's best and most authentic taquerías.
El Trompito Taquería
The Draw Tacos are served up simply at this strip-mall jointwarm corn tortillas wrapped around tender cubes of grilled chicken, marinated pork, or juicy beef. Our favorite is the shredded chicken taco ($1.75 each). Tip Stop by the toppings bar and load up your tacos with crispy cabbage, lime wedges, spicy onions, and more. 1540 W. 70th Ave., 720-540-3483
The Draw Tender bits of steak, crisp pieces of bacon, and soft sautéed onions and peppers practically spill out of this restaurant's popular tacos de alambre ($8.75). Melted cheese, guacamole, and sour cream add the final touches. Tip The tacos are super-filling, so skip lunch on the day you plan to go. 4309 W. 38th Ave., 303-458-1437
The Draw When we want spicy, we head to this Highland staple and order the tacos albanil ($7.50), with slices of golden potatoes, sautéed onions, and juicy steak. Tip When you get a bite with jalapeño, don't panic. Sit tight until the potatoes and steak provide balance. 2616 W. 32nd Ave., 303-455-4389, www.taqpatz.com
The Draw A midday meal at this locale is straight out of Mexico. The house favorite is the taco al pastor ($1.50), whose slow-cooked pork filling comes topped with finely diced pineapple. Tip Order an icy rice and cinnamon horchata drink to sweeten the deal. 3757 Pecos St., 303-458-0880, www.loscarboncitos.com
Bargain BitesOur go-to spots (by neighborhood) for dining well on a shoestring budget.
Congress Park/City Park:
Sure, Encore's filet mignon tops out at $29, but most of the menu (which boasts high-end, beautifully crafted eats) comes in under $15. What to order: The burger ($9) is topped with Gruyère, bacon, blue cheese compote, and arugula, and served with fries and a mustard drizzling sauce. 2550 E. Colfax Ave., 303-355-1112, www.encoreoncolfax.com
Located on the north edge of Park Hill, the well-worn Satchel's Market serves up breakfast and lunch offerings for $10 or less. What to order: The voluptuous sammy ($8.50) with triple-cream cheese, prosciutto, and sautéed pears. Comes with a small, organic salad. 5021 E. 28th Ave., 303-355-2137, www.satchelsmarket.com
Biker Jim's Sausage Cart
At this downtown street-food hotspot, a five-spot buys you chips, a drink, and one of Biker Jim's piping-hot gourmet sausages. What to order: Peppery reindeer or Southwestern bison. Or stop by on Wednesdays and nab yourself a pheasant sausage. Be sure to try them topped with cream cheese and grilled onions. Corner of 16th and Arapahoe streets.
Tambien joins the ranks of the Cricket by bringing affordable and tasty eats to ever-expensive Cherry Creek. What to order: The mole rojo ($13) or the fajitas ($16). Portions are generous and can often feed two. 250 Steele St., 303-333-1763, www.tambien-restaurant.com
We love the Oven's wood-fired pizzas made with fresh, natural ingredients like house-made mozz and sausage from Marczyk Fine Foods. What to order: Pop in for the lunch special ($10.95) and snag a nine-inch signature pizza, field green salad, and drink. 7167 W. Alaska Drive, Lakewood, 303-934-7600, www.theovenpizzaevino.com