Feature

Top of the Town 2009

A peek at our must-read annual round-up of who's who and what's what in the Mile-High City.

By
July 2009

Dining

Top Cookie
Editors' Choice

The Cookie Company
This Southlands Shopping Center gem bakes oh-so-tasty goodies—everything from peanut butter-chocolate chip to frosted gingersnaps, sugar cookies, and seasonal specialties—that are so big, chewy, and uniformly full of addictive, mouthwatering sweetness that we skipped lunch (twice!) just so we could take a bite of all of them. 6150 S. Main St., Suite I-108, Aurora, 303-928-7592

Readers' Choice

Paradise Bakery and Café
It's tough to argue with this local standby's gooey chocolate chip, snappy peanut butter, and perfectly doughy ginger molasses and sugar cookies. Yes, it's a chain, but that means they do it the same way every time—fantastically. Multiple locations

Top Patio Dining
Editors' Choice

Solera Restaurant and Wine Bar
On the corner of Colfax Avenue and Grape Street, across from a paint shop and adjacent to an auto parts store, it's hard to imagine that Solera could have an inviting patio, let alone the best one in the city. But chef-owner Goose Sorensen's Mediterranean-influenced restaurant opens onto a quiet, green garden, lined with colorful pots of flowers and herbs. As diners linger under big umbrellas and twinkling strands of lights, evenings feel long and leisurely. Plus, tables are placed just so around a crackling fire, making intimate conversation easy. 5410 E. Colfax Ave., 303-388-8429

Readers' Choice

Lola
Lola's patio is one of the few city spots where you can sip a cocktail outside almost any month of the year. In the spring, hop on a stool and enjoy a mint-honeysuckle fizz next to the open bar. In the summer, when the narrow space is packed with thirtysomething Highland hipsters, order a stiff lime margarita. And come fall, cozy under the heaters with a cider house margarita—there, the autumn chill is barely noticeable. 1575 Boulder St., 720-570-8686

Top Cheesesteak
Editors' and Readers' Choice

Pat's Downtown Bar and Grill
We've gone through many a frequent-buyer card at Pat's LoDo location, where the cheesesteaks are such a foregone conclusion we don't even need to look at the menu anymore. Pat's secret? It's the rolls—not the frozen, shipped, and thawed Amoroso bread so many Philly shops hang their authenticity on, but the fresh baguettes whipped up daily by Denver-based City Bakery. Combined with a steak-and-cheese blend that's consistent, lightly spiced, and not—like so many other cheese-steaks—overly gooey and drippy, Pat's delivers a winning sammy every time. Read more about Pat's in "Classically Denver." Multiple locations

Top Street Vendor
Editors' Choice

Boney's Smokehouse
The choo-choo-train smoker is almost as big as the adjacent Fotomat-size booth where these barbecue artists work their magic. For $7.50 you get a tender pulled-pork sandwich (don't forget the pickles), a side of tangy beans or creamy slaw, and a soda. Even out-of-towners like Vice President Joe Biden, who stopped by during the 2008 DNC, know this is hog heaven. 16th Street Mall and Lawrence Street

Readers' Choice

Biker Jim's Gourmet Dogs
The only drawback to the Denver sausage king's stand at 16th and Arapahoe streets is the long lines, especially on balmy days. But for his consistent, cheap variety of savory and unusual links—try the Alaska reindeer or wild boar sausage with cream cheese and onions—Biker Jim's is worth the wait. 16th Street Mall and Arapahoe Street

Top Happy Hour Menu
Editors' Choice

Parallel Seventeen
The happy hour menu (3 to 7 p.m.) at this mod Vietnamese joint reads like a choose-your-own-adventure book. Separated into three columns ($3, $4, or $5), the list of munchies and drinks lets you mix and match as the night goes on. Our picks? The ahi tuna tacos, pommes frites, and blueberry-infused rum—all for $11. Bonus: On Mondays, the happy hour menu is offered all night long, meaning you can keep those kaffir lime vodka concoctions coming. 1600 E. 17th Ave., 303-399-0988

Readers' Choice

 McCormick's Fish House and Bar
You'll want to cut out of the office early for this after-work menu—it only runs from 3 to 6 p.m.—because the happy hour food here is cheap, yummy, and ever-changing. Buying one frosty-cold beverage gives you entrée to the menu of eats, where prices start at $1.95 for offerings like seafood cakes with a creamy Sriracha sauce or fried zucchini. Take a cue from one of our fellow bar mates: Order two of the $2.95 cheeseburgers and create your own double-decker sandwich. Now that's cheap ingenuity. 1659 Wazee St., 303-825-1107

Top Sushi
Editors' Choice

Izakaya Den
Stashed in an unassuming building along Old South Pearl Street, Izakaya Den's food is anything but ordinary. Gorgeous hamachi, maguro, and unagi chill out alongside creative treats like the Rocky Mountain roll (smoked trout) and the Red Dragon roll (an upscale take on the spicy tuna classic). The super-fresh fish melts in your mouth—and, for a quick minute, makes you think you're munching seaside. 1518 S. Pearl St., 303-777-0691

Readers' Choice

Sushi Den
More than 1,000 miles from the nearest ocean, Coloradans too often suffer from seafood deprivation. And in those moments of severe omega-3 withdrawal, this 23-year-old sushi mecca is where we turn. To learn more about this sushi success story, visit "Classically Denver.". 1487 S. Pearl St., 303-777-0826

Top Cocktails
Editors' Choice

Steuben's Food Service
We scoured the city to track down the best libations—it's a tough gig, really—but we kept coming back to the same place time and again. If bar manager and third-generation bartender Sean Kenyon is mixing it, we're drinking it. From the complex Sazerac that improves as it warms to the subtle layering of lavender and juniper flavors in the sky-blue Aviation, these drinks are more than cocktails—they're culinary achievements. 523 E. 17th Ave., 303-830-1001

Readers' Choice

The Cruise Room at the Oxford Hotel
In a town renowned for its beer, sometimes you want to tip back something a little more refined. And that's what the black-tie-bedecked bartenders serve in this Art Deco drinking hole. Read more about this spot in "Classically Denver" . 1600 17th St., 303-825-1107

Top Soup
Editors' Choice

Da Kind Soups
When we first learned that this one-year-old Evergreen soup joint was located in a converted 7-Eleven, we were skeptical. But Da Kind's space works, with big, sunny windows, soup-ladle decorations, and an exposed brick wall. All of which we barely noticed as we spooned down a bowl of spicy clam. Da Kind whips up 10 varieties of soup daily (the pork green chile is super-savory), but our favorite option is to enjoy those flavors at home courtesy of Da Kind's boil-in-bag soups. Pick up a few on your way home from the hills. 27883 Meadow Drive, Evergreen, 303-674-7687

Readers' Choice

Panera Bread
Served with freshly baked bread or in a generous bread bowl, the daily selections at Panera are a carb- and soup-lover's dream. A cup of the baked potato is an absolute must-slurp. Multiple locations

Top Indian
Editors' Choice

Masalaa
The moment the piping-hot dishes land on the buffet at this Aurora eatery, people crowd around it for nibbles (OK, heaping plates) of bhindi masala or gajjar halwa. The crêpelike dosas—a must-try—are more than a foot long, to boot. Go for a late brunch any day of the week and savor these veggie dishes that could convert even the biggest meat-lover. 3140 S. Parker Road, Aurora, 303-755-6272

Readers' Choice

Little India Restaurant
Known for its hearty buffet, the downtown location of this mini-empire of Indian eateries is packed for lunch on weekdays. If you ignore your grumbling tummy and go late, the buffet might be picked over, so go early and ask for a seat at the bar. You'll be that much closer to the buffet for quick refills—and the service is speedier. Read more about this spot in "Classically Denver." Multiple locations

Top Chinese
Editors' Choice

King's Land Seafood Chinese Restaurant
Let's be clear: King's Land is not big on ambience. But it is big on taste, the likes of which you'd typically find only in eateries in Shanghai or Hong Kong. The cavernous dining room dressed with the requisite black chairs and white tablecloths can feel empty on a weekday evening—but the moment your food arrives you'll forget you don't have many neighbors. With a flourish of activity and the accompanying sounds of sizzling cuisine, a small army of servers doles out your spread. The hot and sour soup sings with a creamy, tangy broth and chunks of tofu and pork. The succulent Peking duck (order the half for a shared appetizer, the full to split for dinner) served with onions and buns will have you dreaming of your next visit. And the shredded pork in garlic sauce hits all the right taste buds with just a hint of heat. Yes, folks, this is the real thing. Eat up. 2200 W. Alameda Ave., Suite 44, 303-975-2399

Readers' Choice

Little Ollie's Asian Cafe
You can count on Little Ollie's for so many things—a quick business lunch, a casual first date, a girls' night out, or a chilly evening where all you want is Chinese take-out and a blanket. Denverites have been flocking to this Cherry Creek staple for the Yushan beef and Thai basil chicken for 13 years—and who can blame them? 2364 E. Third Ave., 303-316-8888

Top Burger
Editors' Choice

Encore Restaurant
The trendy burger fad continues to sweep across the city, but we have to admit that when it comes to choosing a burger we like it done the conventional way: grilled up juicy with savory condiments and a just-right bun. The Encore burger's mixture of Gruyère, bacon, and blue cheese compote rests underneath a thick slab of juicy beef, and it's all topped off with a perfectly crispy bun. And, yes, you'll want the side of fries with the hot mustard drizzle, too. 2550 E. Colfax Ave., 303-355-1112

Readers' Choice

The Cherry Cricket
Settled down into that quintessential red basket, the Cricket burger simply tastes the way a great bar burger should: a little bit greasy with a stellar meat-to-bun ratio and tasty toppings like smoked cheddar and grilled onions. Want to know more about why Denver loves the Cherry Cricket? Read in "Classically Denver." 2641 E. Second Ave., 303-322-7666

Top Meatball Sandwich
Editors' Choice

Marco's Coal-Fired Pizzeria
Tangy San Marzano tomato sauce? Fresh, crusty bread? Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese? Perfectly textured meatballs? Yes, please! Although we also give the pies at this downtown pizzeria the Editors' Choice for Top Pizza, take a night off from the 'za and order up the ooey-gooey New York sandwich sliders for a worthy, downright delish substitute. 2129 Larimer St., 303-296-7000

Readers' Choice

Carbone's Italian Market and Deli
There's no denying the air of authenticity at Carbone's. This hole-in-the-wall deli off 38th Avenue in Highland feels like a spot you'd step into in Rome. Dry salami, sharp provolone cheeses, marinated peppers, and freshly cased sausages fight for your attention in the deli case as you contemplate mild or hot peppers on your meatball sandwich (you want hot, by the way). The sandwich, which is high on meat and lower on the marinara sauce, squishes down perfectly, allowing the provolone to squeeze out every which way. Buon appetito! 1221 W. 38th Ave., 303-455-2893

Top Bloody Mary
Editors' Choice

Bloody Maria, Billy's Inn
It's not that we object to vodka (what a silly thought!), but we found this tequila-based twist on the traditional Bloody Mary a welcome alternative. Mixed with a shot of Sauza and served up with fat Queen olives and a celery-salt rim, this spicy concoction tastes breezy like a Sunday morning—which is, in fact, the day when Billy's Inn serves these ladies up for $3.50 a pop from 10 a.m. till last call. 4403 Lowell Blvd., 303-455-9733

Readers' Choice

Lucile's Creole Cafe
Monday through Saturday, we Denverites adhere to our healthful breakfast rotation of granola, fresh fruit, and yogurt, but come Sunday morning we get up the gumption to order something that'll put a little meat on our bones and add a little kick to our day. Along with its killer red beans and rice with poached eggs, Lucile's serves the best Bloody Mary this side of the Big Easy. Done up with a tall stalk of celery, okra, and an olive, and just the right balance of spice, this beverage goes down smooth. Visit "Classically Denver" to learn more about this breakfast staple. Multiple locations

Top Dim Sum
Editors' and Readers' Choice

Super Star Asian Cuisine
The waits at Super Star Asian on Alameda Avenue can easily stretch to more than an hour on the weekends, but once seated, your patience is rewarded with cart after cart piled with steamed shrimp dumplings, sweet sesame balls, savory pork buns, starchy turnip cakes, and deep-fried taro balls. For the more adventurous, there are declawed chicken feet—along with dozens more eats that change by the day. 2200 W. Alameda Ave., Unit 5-A, 303-727-9889

Top Deli
Editors' Choice

Masterpiece Delicatessen
If you ate here every day, you'd have to transfer extra funds into your checking account (lunch runs about $10). But you get what you pay for at Masterpiece: truly beautiful sandwiches. Take the Cubano: Slow-roasted pork, Black Forest ham, sharp Swiss cheese, dill pickles, mustard, and aïoli meld in an artistic blend of flavor. To be honest, passing these babies off as simple deli sandwiches might be doing them a disservice. Like the name implies, this food is a work of art. 1575 Central St., 303-561-3354

Readers' Choice

Heidi's Brooklyn Deli
You don't need a fancy-schmancy sandwich. Nope, you're into a good, old-fashioned, workmanlike deli creation. There's no fluff here, just a hearty meal with layers upon layers of meat and cheese or a perfect mound of egg salad. Read more about this citadel of sandwiches in "Classically Denver." Multiple locations

Top Mexican Food
Editors' Choice

Tacos y Salsas
Ask 10 people in the metro area for their favorite Mexican food spot, and you'll likely get 10 different answers. But for money and taste, it's tough to beat Tacos y Salsas. First off, it oozes authenticity—this isn't your Americanized Mexican-food joint. And the most basic meal—tacos—is a fiesta of flavor, and the cooks don't skimp: The tortillas are corn, not flour, and the chicken is pull-apart tender and just spicy enough. Get at least three (they're about seven inches across) and keep it basic: Add some corn salsa, some fresh lettuce, and wash it down with a Coke served in a glass bottle. If you're a Mexican-food fan, you'll crave this staple una y otra vez. Multiple locations

Readers' Choice

Benny's Restaurant y Tequila Bar
Maybe it's the million-page menu or the deep fryer working overtime in the kitchen, but Benny's tasty cuisine comes out on top once again. Located just off Seventh Avenue and Grant Street, this eatery is one of those rare establishments that can cure a hung-over twentysomething and quiet a whining kindergartner. From the overstuffed burritos to the Bavarian cream-filled churros, we dare you to find something that doesn't keep you coming back. Learn more about Benny's in "Classically Denver." 301 E. Seventh Ave., 303-894-0788

Top Fine Dining
Editors' Choice

Luca D'Italia
Very few Denver chefs receive a nod from the lofty James Beard Foundation, but chef-owner Frank Bonanno has been named a semifinalist for the annual awards (the Oscars of the food world) five times. Experience what all the hoopla is about in Luca's technically perfect Italian cuisine and its waitstaff's unmatched service. No meal here would be complete without the house-made burrata cheese and an order of the Maine lobster ravioli bathed in mascarpone Alfredo. 711 Grant St., 303-832-6600

Readers' Choice

Fruition
What we appreciate most about Fruition is the restaurant's ability to merge spectacular, inventive dishes with reasonable prices. Dinner here feels like a special occasion—due in part to ingredients such as house-cured duck prosciutto and the attentive-but-not-too-fussy service—but the bill at the end of the meal doesn't require it to be anything more extraordinary than a Wednesday night. 1313 E. Sixth Ave., 303-831-1992

Top Hot Dog
Editors' and Readers' Choice

Steve's Snappin' Dogs
We've been all over the metro area to see if anyone can unseat this purveyor of hot dogs, but let's face it, there's no better dog in the city. Order it Chicago-style (spicy mustard, green relish, red onions, sliced tomato, celery salt, dill pickle spear, peppers), do it up like Dallas (with chili con carne and cheddar-jack cheese), or eat it with nothing more than ketchup. And, now there's double the pleasure with a Steve's location at Infinity Park. 3525 E. Colfax Ave., or during events at 950 S. Birch St., Glendale, 303-333-7627

Top Italian
Editors' Choice

Firenze a Tavola
Parisi, a Highland-area, fast-Italian staple, has found its answer to fine dining in Firenze a Tavola. Downstairs from Parisi's main dining area, this tucked-away wine cellar turned dining room is only open Wednesday through Saturday nights. Owner Simone Parisi (who grew up in Florence, Italy) changes the menu regularly, but the show-stopping cartoccio di coccoli—an appetizer of lightly fried pizza dough served with prosciutto crudo and Stracchino cheese—is always available. Other dishes to look for: wood-fired artichoke halves and the traditional pappardelle pasta with wild boar. 4401 Tennyson St., 303-561-0234

Readers' Choice

Maggiano's Little Italy
With family-style portions, red sauce like Mamma used to make, and favorites such as the rigatoni "D" (herb-roasted chicken, mushrooms, and onions in Marsala cream sauce), Maggiano's always rises to the top. 500 16th St., 303-260-7707, and 7401 S. Clinton St., Englewood, 303-858-1405

Top Wine List
Editors' Choice

Caveau Wine Bar
With just 75 wines for the tasting, Caveau's list has a boutique, selected-just-for-you feel. Many of the offerings—Jax Y3 Sauvignon Blanc and Fiddlehead Fiddlestix Pinot Noir—are lesser known, yet all of them sate even the most refined palate. But what we love most about Caveau is the happy hour (4 to 7 p.m. daily), where glasses of wine normally $12 and under ring in at $5, and glasses typically priced $13 and higher are half off. 450 E. 17th Ave., 303-861-3747

Readers' Choice

Crú
With more than 250 wines on its constantly changing list, Crú is sure to offer your favorite flavor. Not sure exactly what that is? Try one of the dozen or so flights—our pick to date is the Pinot Noir Perfection. 1442 Larimer St., 303-893-9463, and 8433 Park Meadows Drive, Suite D-155, Lone Tree, 303-708-8023

Top Steak
Editors' Choice

The Capital Grille
We usually make it a point to frequent local and independently owned spots, but when it comes to steak we head directly to the Capital Grille. The glamorous spot always serves up unparalleled service, a deep wine list, and—of course—exquisite steaks. We're partial to the Delmonico, a bone-in rib-eye that can be ordered as is or seasoned with a porcini mushroom rub and drizzled with 12-year-old balsamic. Either way, we take our steak in the bar, where the people-watching is just as rich as the meal itself. 1450 Larimer St., 303-539-2500

Readers' Choice

Del Frisco's Double Eagle Steak House
Never short of star power, Del Frisco's is the place to go for a perfect porterhouse (24 ounces!), an ice-cold martini, and a sense that you're living the high life—if only for the evening. 8100 E. Orchard Road, Greenwood Village, 303-796-0100

Top Tacos
Editors' Choice

Taquería Los Tres Reyes
This eight-year-old restaurant specializes in Mexican—and specifically Yucatán—cuisine, and the tacos are righteous. Chopped pork, chicken, or beef is folded into fresh corn tortillas and garnished with diced onion and slices of cucumber and radish. With a squeeze of lime and a drizzle of both the red and green salsas, each bite is as tasty as it is authentic. 1500 W. Littleton Blvd., Littleton, 303-794-9106

Readers' Choice

El Taco de Mexico
At this longtime Santa Fe Drive favorite, the best seats are at the counter. From that vantage point you can watch the señoras grilling, chopping, and flipping your taco fillings. Dine here for the stellar basics or for more adventurous items like beef tongue tacos. Cash only. 714 Santa Fe Drive, 303-623-3926

Top Cupcakes
Editors' Choice

Big Fat Cupcake
The newest specialty bakery to hit the Denver scene serves cupcakes that are indeed big and fat. Browse the glass case and find 20 flavors (baked daily), many of which hearken back to childhood: Twinkie, Sno-Ball, and Boston cream pie. Most important, the cakes remain light and moist (not an easy feat when baking en masse), and the buttercream frosting tastes perfectly creamy. Don't miss the dreamy Creamsicle or the decadent coconut. 129 Adams St., 303-322-2253

Readers' Choice

Happy Cakes Bake Shop
Happy Cakes wins readers over with a rotating assortment of amusing flavors—think Jack-and-Coke, Snickerdoodle, and French toast—plus all the classics. A Friday favorite is the Pom Poms, a cupcake with vanilla buttercream rolled in Trix cereal or Cocoa Puffs. 3815 W. 32nd Ave., 303-477-3556

Top Brunch
Editors' Choice

Buchi Cafe Cubano
Already our go-to spot for stacked Cubano sandwiches and rich cups of cafe con leche, Buchi also serves the city's best brunch. From 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Sundays, sit down to a traditional spread that includes picadillo (ground beef with cinnamon, olives, and raisins), arroz con pollo, Cuban roasted pork, black beans, plantanos, flan, and bottomless drip coffee and OJ. Quick tip: If you want to avoid the crowds, get there before 11 a.m. 2651 W. 38th Ave., 303-458-1328

Readers' Choice

Snooze
Tables at this retro-cool breakfast spot are always at a premium—especially on the weekends. That's because the stacks of hotcakes (don't miss the pineapple upside-down-pancakes), yellow mugs of hot coffee, and platters of eggs and hash browns are just what you need to clear the cobwebs. 2262 Larimer St., 303-297-0700

Top Barbecue
Editors' Choice

Moe's Original Bar-B-Que
We first discovered these smoky eats in Vail, but now Moe's has a Denver outpost—and it dishes up the same fresh-from-the-pit food. Our favorites are the smoked chicken with tangy white sauce, marinated slaw, and griddled cornbread, and the savory pulled-pork sandwich with sides of JoJos (fried sweet-potato wedges) and creamy banana pudding. 3295 S. Broadway, Englewood, 303-781-0414, ext. 3

Readers' Choice

Famous Dave's
With a menu that includes St. Louis-style ribs, Texas-style beef brisket, Georgia chopped pork, and country-roasted chicken, Famous Dave's does 'cue right. Have hungry kids? Children 12 and under eat free every Tuesday. 7557 E. 36th Ave., 303-399-3100, and 16539 N. Washington St., Thornton, 303-280-6227

Top Thai
Editors' Choice

Khow Thai
This unassuming Boulder staple, halfway between Pearl Street and the university campus, serves up the best spring rolls we've tasted—extra-thin rice paper with refreshing mint sprigs for zing—hands down. Time and again we hit the comfy cafe for a heaping plate of noodles or rich bowl of curry, knowing the tofu, an ingredient that arrives disturbingly sodden at other eateries, is cooked to a perfectly firm texture here. Washed down with a dense and refreshing Thai iced tea, the Khow pad basil is a must if you're looking for some kick. 1600 Broadway, Boulder, 303-447-0273

Readers' Choice

Thai Basil
With huge portions of Thai comfort food like Thai fried rice with pineapple and big, juicy shrimp, this Asian-fusion gem is the place to go for your Far East fix. Enjoy a cozy atmosphere lit with hanging lanterns, and order the spicy scallops in red curry—a dish somehow meaty and delicate in the same bite. Multiple locations

Top Chips and Salsa
Editors' Choice

Tacos Jalisco
When the server brings you a heaping basket of yellow corn chips and six types of salsa (the first basket is free), all you feel is gratitude. After dabbling in the red and green tomatillo salsas, the authentic chile verde, the perfectly balanced pico de gallo, and the incendiary chipotle salsa, you'll feel your mouth searing with spicy pleasure. Then you'll discover the cool, creamy avocado, and the cycle will start all over again. 4309 W. 38th Ave., 303-458-1437

Readers' Choice

Lime
The people have spoken—with their mouths full of Lime's house chips and salsa. These thick, golden layers of flaky goodness manage to retain their crispiness even after a dunk in the racy red salsa. If you haven't chowed down yet, drop by one of Lime's four Colorado locations (we like the one on Sixth Avenue) for a happy hour margarita ($3) and a basket of crunch. Multiple locations

Top Bargain Bite
Editors' Choice

Steuben's Food Service
After 10 p.m., Steuben's offers up the best deal in town: a full-size cheeseburger, salty, delicious fries served in a can, and a cold, refreshing PBR. You get all of this—plus a cool late-night vibe—for only five bucks. 523 E. 17th Ave., 303-830-1001

Readers' Choice

Chipotle
Across the board, Chipotle owns every other fast-food joint with its reasonably priced fare of ginormous burritos, tortilla-less bowls, lower-cal salads, and to-die-for guacamole. And now you can order online for a quick pickup. Multiple locations

Top Tapas
Editors' Choice

Forest Room 5
Inside the confines of this LoHi hipster mecca is a menu exploding with 40 creative tapa options. The prosciutto-wrapped scallops over crostini are well-balanced in texture and divinely flavored with a zesty salsa; the portobello and mozzarella plate tastes fresh and original; and the butternut squash and eggplant risotto arrives as a rich, creamy bowl of deliciousness. Noteworthy: While not traditional tapas fare, the herbed, truffled fries are enough to make the staunchest "can-I-have-salad-instead-of-fries?" diner devour an entire plate. 2532 15th St., 303-433-7001

Readers' Choice

The 9th Door
With an ambience reminiscent of sexy nights in Barcelona, paired with an intoxicating wine list, this LoDo hotspot knows its tapas and serves them up with flair. Choose from cold plates like the flavorful pear, arugula, and Idiazábal cheese salad or hot plates such as the crispy calamari with three dipping sauces. Don't miss the calabacitas—roasted spaghetti squash with fresh basil, grilled asparagus, and mozzarella. 1808 Blake St., 303-292-2229

Top Gelato
Editors' Choice

Gelazzi
We're not going to lie—we may have been swayed by the Guinness floats (yes, really) this swanky Larimer Square gelato cafe was doling out on St. Patty's Day. But then again, who can resist any of the 32 flavors of fresh-churned gelato Gelazzi serves every day? Alcohol-laden gelato aside, the creamy confections here rival the treats from Italy's tastiest gelaterias (we've sampled extensively). From our go-tos like coconut and tiramisù—try them together—to more exotic fruity creations like grapefruit and rose, Gelazzi does gelato right. 1411 Larimer St., 303-534-5056

Readers' Choice

Red Trolley
Is it wrong to eat gelato at 9 a.m.? Not if you're at Red Trolley, the year-old Highland coffee-and-cones cafe. Lured by irresistible flavors like banana-chocolate-peanut butter and honey lavender as we ordered our lattes one morning, we guiltily spooned up to find some of the tangiest, truest flavor combos this side of Rome. 2639 W. 32nd Ave., 303-433-7200

Top Chocolate Dessert
Editors' Choice

Opus Restaurant
Fine dining, brilliant wine, yadda yadda yadda. We head to Opus for the chocolate chip-cookie spring rolls. The perfectly wrapped golden pastries ooze with exquisite five-spice chocolate mousse and sliced bananas, all warmed to gooey perfection and served alongside a scoop of vanilla bean ice cream. Hardcore chocoholic? Try the melting chocolate soup. As in, a great big bowl—bowl—of warm, rich, melted chocolate draped like liquid velvet over a fresh berry-chocolate torte. 2575 W. Main St., Littleton, 303-703-6787

Readers' Choice

D Bar Desserts
Three words: cake and shake. If you haven't indulged in this menu item, drop this magazine and get thee to D Bar immediately. A sinfully hefty slice of rich chocolate cake with manjari frosting is complemented by a vanilla milkshake, complete with chocolate malt-crunchies floating on top. We're embarrassed to report we consistently finish the whole thing. Huge thanks to husband-and-wife owners Lisa Bailey and Keegan Gerhard (psst: host of the Food Network Challenge) for ruining our diets. 1475 E. 17th Ave., 303-861-4710

Top Pizza
Editors' Choice

Marco's Coal Fired Pizzeria
Truthfully, there's a lot of good high-end pizza to be had in Denver these days. Osteria Marco, Proto's, and Parisi do bang-up jobs. But, for our money, we head to north downtown for a Toscana pie done up right with fresh mozzarella, San Marzano tomato sauce, arugula, grape tomatoes, prosciutto di Parma, and extra-virgin olive oil. It's like the best salad you've ever had plopped down on a chewy yet crispy-enough crust. And, paired with a small order of coal-fired chicken wings, this 'za is enough for two. 2129 Larimer St., 303-296-7000

Readers' Choice

Anthony's Pizza and Pasta
You want a good pie? Fuhgettaboutit. You won't find a better slice in the Mile-High City than the triangles at Anthony's. A foldable crust plays host to tangy sauce, greasy cheese, and fresh toppings. Learn more about this pizza mainstay in "Classically Denver." Multiple locations

Great Eggspectations

By Patrick Doyle

Last year, we grumbled about the dearth of decent breakfast sandwiches in the city. Our readers responded with a slew of suggestions, which we faithfully checked out. Here, the best of the bunch.

The Classic
Deli Zone
Deli Zone does the egg sandwich right—a freshly fried egg, crispy bacon, and a slice of melting cheese slapped on a kaiser roll. Greasy, fast, and delicious. Every homesick New Yorker will rejoice. Multiple locations

The Fancy Pants
Adagio Baking Company
We'll admit we were skeptical. Challah? Sure, it makes great French toast, but egg sandwiches typically call for less highbrow ingredients. We were wrong. The sweet, flaky bread provides the perfect counterpoint to the savory sausage, fried egg, and cheddar cheese. 4628 E. 23rd Ave., 303-388-0904

The Dark Horse
Duffeyroll Cafe
A spot known mostly for its cinnamon rolls, Duffeyroll also dishes up an excellent early-morning sandwich. We recommend the Rising Sun—scrambled eggs, bacon, cheddar cheese, and lightly spiced chipotle mayo on a rosemary roll. Bonus: You also get a mini Duffeyroll for dessert. Multiple locations

The Crowd Pleaser
Garden Spot Café
More than a handful of our readers sent e-mails incredulous that we missed the breakfast sandwich at the Garden Spot, and for that we apologize. Head over to RiNo and dig into the heavenly scrambled eggs with bacon and melted Swiss, all stacked high on buttered sourdough. 3163 Larimer St., 303-295-2440

I Scream, You Scream

By Kazia Jankowski

The foodies at Gourmet magazine kicked off 2009 proclaiming that this year ice cream would supplant the cupcake as the nation's dessert du jour. Denver, in true Western spirit, has only half-heeded Gourmet's directive. Yes, ice cream is big here (four new shops opened last year alone), and those trendy savory flavors are becoming more common, but Denver's true ice cream obsession reflects a love of the traditional paired with the occasional exotic twist. Here, our recommendations for a cone of something a little different.

Campfire S'mores
Red Trolley
2639 W. 32nd Ave., 303-433-7200
The ingredients Homemade marshmallows, chocolate ganache, graham cracker crumb, and malted vanilla ice cream
The inspiration "Everything I make is inspired by a childhood memory. In the summers, my family used to camp out by a lake. We would make s'mores, and I remember the smell of the grass, burning fire, and melted chocolate." —Deanna Parker, executive chef

Peanut Butter and Jelly
Pajama Baking Company
1595 S. Pearl St., 303-733-3627
The ingredients Peanut butter and raspberry jam folded into Madagascar vanilla bean ice cream
The inspiration "I tend to put more peanut butter than jelly on my sandwiches, and this ice cream has slightly more peanut butter. The sweetness of the jam rings throughout." —Russ Tearney, owner

Mexican Chocolate
Little Man Ice Cream
2620 16th St., 303-455-3811
The ingredients Creamy dark chocolate ice cream with Savory Spice's Saigon Cassia cinnamon
The inspiration "I was originally going to make the Mexican chocolate with black pepper, cayenne, and cinnamon. I got the idea from a cookie I ate called Mexican chocolate chip. At the time, though, I didn't have black pepper or cayenne, so I tried the ice cream with cinnamon alone. It was perfect." —Kristen Maldeis, ice cream maker and general manager

Baklava
Sweet Action Ice Cream
52 Broadway, 303-282-4645
The ingredients Honey ice cream swirled with pieces of flaky baklava
The inspiration "My mother's family is from Greece, and I spent a lot of time in the kitchen with my grandmother cooking all sorts of dishes, from spanakopita to baklava. When we were experimenting with honey ice cream, Chia [co-owner] and I both thought that something sweet and chewy would make a nice addition, so we threw in some baklava." —Sam Kopicko, owner

Slice that Spud

By Amanda M. Faison

Just how many ways can you fry a potato? Lots, and all quite deliciously.

The Traditional: Thick-cut and salted just so, the basic fry at Mustard's Last Stand is served up beautifully. 2081 S. University Blvd., 303-722-7936

The Smothered: We've got to hand it to Jonesy's Eat Bar for piling pipin' hot shoestrings with cheese and bacon, truffle oil, or Frank's hot sauce and blue cheese crumbles. Pick two styles for $9. 400 E. 20th Ave., 303-863-7473

The Deluxe: Larkburger's delicately truffled frites come with just-grated Parmesan and freshly snipped parsley. 2525 Arapahoe Road, Boulder, 303-444-1487

The Sweet: Usually sweet potato fries are too, well, sweet. Not Root Down's, which are fried in an earthy rice bran oil, sprinkled with medium-crystal sea salt, and served with curry-lime aïoli for dunking. 1600 W. 33rd Ave., 303-993-4200

The Alternative: City, O' City turns the french fry concept on its ear by serving fried cornichons, mushrooms, and other veggies with an assortment of dipping sauces. 206 E. 13th Ave., 303-831-6443

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