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Best Outdoor Shmoozing
The Market
Larimer Square

In a town where pedestrians are the exception rather than the rule, it follows that there aren't many places offering casual sidewalk seating. The break in tradition continues to be the Market, in Larimer Square, which offers the urbane opportunity to see and be seen in an egalitarian setting. The Market's funky denizens vary from nose-ringed students to camera-toting tourists to chicly dressed store help--all there together on the pavement, watching shoppers, sightseers and the rest of the world pass by. Pull up a chair--you'll be entertained for hours.

Best Place to Watch Teen Vampires
Muddy's Java Cafe
2200 Champa St.

Teen angst is served alongside the coffee at Jack Kerouac's former hangout. It's a hoppin' spot for those who are old enough for caffeine but too young for bourbon. Slummers should wear black clothes, pale makeup and bring a heavy case of the Peter Pan syndrome.

Best Place to Play Chess With Teenagers
Cafe Euphrates
1618 E. 17th Ave.

Cafe Euphrates is too bright to be a nightclub, but it's smoky enough to qualify as a true coffeehouse. Each weekend the under-21 crowd gathers here (early, in order to secure a decent table) to play chess, write existential prose, sip cappuccino, discuss fashion and occasionally check out a live band or two. The food and service are always above par, the mingling is often inspirational, and sometimes the music is even good. At least we don't have to worry about where the young ones are at ten o'clock.

Best Place to Watch Teen Runaways at 2 a.m.
Sun Cafe
601 E. Colfax Ave.

The only thing more disturbing than watching an ad hoc family of scruffy preteens trying to make a go of it on Colfax is imagining the kind of family life that would drive kids to run away and spend their time at the Sun Cafe. Nevertheless, aspiring novelists with strong stomachs are guaranteed seedy material for the price of a cup of coffee.

Best Clearinghouse for Budding Artists
Dot's Diner
799 Pearl St., Boulder

Dot's is renowned as a legendary Boulder breakfast spot, serving heaping plates of tofu rancheros and fluffy German pancakes to hungry Boulderites, but its real draw--literally--is the help. Almost everyone who works here does something else in real life. They make films, paint, act, write poetry or strum the guitar. Tip big (they deserve it, anyway) and consider yourself a patron of the arts.

Best Performance
Art by Fast-Food Cooks
Wok to You Chinese Kitchen
284 S. Logan St.
4101 E. Evans Ave.

Caution: Man wokking! Place your order at either of these serviceable quickie joints, then watch as your food is prepared. Wok to You's cooks are the hardest-working menu-handlers in show business. They'll twirl that wok and make it sing. It doesn't matter that "panache" isn't listed on the menu. It's right in front of your eyes.

Best Metaphysical Readings in a Pizza Place
Wazee Supper Club
1600 15th St.

If Herb Widom doesn't know all, he'll sure give it a shot. Every Friday night he sets up shop at the Wazee Supper Club, LoDo's popular--and original--watering hole. Using your palm, special computer programs and his own psychic abilities (readings run from $5 to $20), Herb will look deep into your past, present and future. Just one last question, Herb: How long until our pizza is ready?

Best Freebie From a Waitress
2598 S. Broadway

Marion Schroedl has waitressed at Gennaro's, a neighborhood bar and pizza joint, since 1988--which is when she started buying candy, with her own money, for her customers. And not penny candy, mind you, but candy bars and licorice and packages of Gummi bears. Schroedl brings a whole selection out in a big bowl at the end of your meal, and she won't slap your hand if you take two.

Best Children's Menu
Paul's Place
Three metro locations

Sixteen choices, from hot dogs to PB&J to pizza, as well as a vegetarian Sloppy Joe, chicken wings, fish sticks and macaroni and cheese--the little buggers can't say there's nothing to eat when you take them to Paul's Place. Except for the two-ounce lobster tail, which goes for seven bucks, none of the children's entrees runs more than $4, and each comes with a choice of five side dishes, a small drink, an ice cream cone and a particularly welcome appetizer: Any kid who walks in the door gets to pick something--for keeps--from Paul's basket of toys.

Readers' choice: McDonald's

Best Place to Play With Your Food
Caldonia's Roadside BBQ
2252 S. Parker Rd., Aurora

With more bare thighs than a chicken-packing plant, Caldonia's is the place for food, folks and fun. At any given time, juiced-up weekend warriors are playing volleyball, softball and snare-the-opposite-sex on the restaurant's man-made beach. The massive deck provides spectator space for those on the disabled list (or pretending to be), and a casual, barefoot atmosphere prevails.

Best Place to Bone Up
Shorty's Pit Restaurant
1133 Florida, Longmont

Each plateful of Shorty's delightfully sloppy ribs, barbecued pork or other down-home vittles is served atop a healthy serving of Colorado trivia. The place mats all feature fun facts about our fair state borrowed from Colorado Place Names, a book packed with entertaining minutiae about Colorado history.

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