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Annette | Aurora
Kolaches. Biscuits. Epic burgers and fried chicken. Ice cream and hand-cranked sausages and berry hand pies sent in hand-woven picnic baskets. Caroline Glover and her tiny but mighty team at Annette in Stanley Marketplace threw everything they had at the past several months, cooking any delicious thing they could to keep customers coming back for takeout or patio dining. Glover and partner-spouse Nelson Harvey were eloquent, too, penning arguments for federal restaurant aid and sharing raw emotions on social media, all while donating food and time to charitable causes, testing Annette’s staff for COVID-19 every two weeks, and, well, working like mad to safely serve us that which comforts us most.
Best Sushi Fix
Sushi Den | Platt Park
What is it about being stuck in the house that makes landlocked Coloradans hanker for sushi so badly? Crave not: Denver’s original sushi masters, Toshi and Yasu Kizaki, are here to help. They’ll fix you up right with Sushi Den’s immaculate nigiri and maki, presented as a colorful array of piscine jewels, each piece and roll carefully nestled into takeout containers. (Add an order of their sleeper hit three-day broth-to-bowl ramen, too. You won’t regret it.)
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Work & Class | RiNo
Since early in the pandemic, Dana Rodriguez and Tony Macaig’s casual Latin-Southern spot has delivered—not literally, but certainly when it comes to flavors, textures, and packaging. Work & Class nails the cooking—from cornmeal-fried catfish to the fan-fave tempura broccoli Massive Attack salad to lemon-butter grilled chicken—and does a bang-up job of storing its to-go orders without the food suffering one bit. All will arrive at your home table as it should: fish flaky, fried broccoli hot and crispy, fresh greens lively, and chicken plump and juicy. Rodriguez and her team are pros, and it shows.
Best Meal Kit
At Home With | Boulder & Denver
Whoever said that the pandemic has no upsides doesn’t yet know the pleasure of cooking an upscale dinner from a Frasca Hospitality Group meal kit (starting at $90 for two), which always comes with a bottle of wine. It’s a little like bringing the chefs, sommeliers, and producers who work with Frasca Food and Wine, Tavernetta, and Sunday Vinyl into the kitchen with you. The experience includes the special touches you’d expect from such lauded restaurants: varying themes, from the Italian Riviera to Korean barbecue; step-by-step written instructions with equipment requirements, ingredient details, and an accompanying video; wine tasting notes and a video discussion; and food prepared so thoughtfully, even a home cook can turn out a Frasca-worthy meal with ease.
Best Cheesy, Buttery, Beery Goodness
Goed Zuur | Five Points
The first taproom in the world dedicated to sour and wild beers, Goed Zuur also happens to be one of the most underrated restaurants in Denver. Not a sour fan? That’s OK; there are trendy wines and Bierstadt lagers in addition to exceptional sours from Westbound & Down, Casey Blending & Brewing, and more. Skeptical of ramen on a taproom menu? Order it anyway; chef and co-owner Anthony Lopiccolo uses charcuterie scraps from his opulent meat boards to make the rich broth. Still hungry? Don’t miss the flight of six artisanal butters with house-baked baguette or the gooey raclette-potato “lasagna” that will put you into a dairy-carb coma in the most delightful way.
Best Special Occasion
Beckon | RiNo
High-end, 18-seat, chefs’-counter, tasting-menu-only Beckon has pivoted to takeout with grace and skill, which is how the team behind that restaurant does everything. Fifty dollars per person is an almost criminally low price to pay for five courses of chef Duncan Holmes’ seasonal, locally sourced cooking; the first course alone comes with as many as three snacks! This summer, tender fried squash blossoms stuffed with rich blue corn polenta miraculously made it across town with no loss in delicate crispness, and short ribs were so tender, they yielded to a fork even at room temperature. Elegant branded stickers indicating each course adorned the compostable to-go boxes, and notations on ingredient provenance were as considerate as this new iteration of Beckon.
Hop Alley | RiNo
As if ordering takeout from Tommy Lee and Geoff Cox’s roster of modern, regional Chinese classics isn’t fun enough—scallion pancake-wrapped duck rolls and mapo rice cakes and Sichuan-style fried chicken with whole dried red chiles say it all—their rotating daily specials will have you checking back often to see what other tasty dishes you can score. When the likes of sticky koji chicken wings with plum hot sauce, tender har gow (steamed shrimp dumplings), and Taiwan-style shaved ice desserts are calling, you’d better pick up. (See what we did there?)