When Schlomo Ravid opened the first Falafel King on Boulder's Pearl Street Mall in 1981, he couldn't have known that subsequent owners Avner and Amon Gilady would turn it into a food-court staple across town. Now Falafel King offers four ways to get good food fast: at the original Boulder site, in the Tabor Center and Republic Plaza on the 16th Street Mall, and in a strip mall on Colorado Boulevard. The food-court outlets are particularly welcome: In a land of Sbarros and Chik-Fil-A, Falafel King looks like a desert oasis. Not only is falafel's primary component, the garbanzo bean, healthy -- it's high in protein, low in fat and cholesterol-free -- but it's also tasty when fried in little balls and jammed inside a fresh pita along with tomatoes and cucumber. One of those basic beauties runs about $3.50, and you can side it with one of the $1.50 options: tabbouli, baba ghanouj or a small salad. Every ingredient is absolutely fresh, and the whole package comes out faster than you can say "half-hour for lunch." Among food court vendors, Falafel King reigns supreme.

Readers' choice: Falafel King

At the foot of the Boulder Flatirons sits a restaurant with a lot of room and a view. The Chautauqua Dining Hall occupies a historic 1898 building that once was open only in the summer but now serves breakfast, lunch and dinner year-round. And in the kitchen of that building is Bradford Heap, a James Beard Foundation nominee as one of America's best chefs in the Southwest region (he's owned Boulder's Full Moon Grill with partner Richard Stein since 1995). Heap added Chautauqua to his roster more than a year ago, and the results are stunning. He cooks New American dishes with flair, using lots of local produce; the best place to sample that fare is on the gorgeous wraparound porch that offers a drop-dead view of the Flatirons, especially at sunset.

At the foot of the Boulder Flatirons sits a restaurant with a lot of room and a view. The Chautauqua Dining Hall occupies a historic 1898 building that once was open only in the summer but now serves breakfast, lunch and dinner year-round. And in the kitchen of that building is Bradford Heap, a James Beard Foundation nominee as one of America's best chefs in the Southwest region (he's owned Boulder's Full Moon Grill with partner Richard Stein since 1995). Heap added Chautauqua to his roster more than a year ago, and the results are stunning. He cooks New American dishes with flair, using lots of local produce; the best place to sample that fare is on the gorgeous wraparound porch that offers a drop-dead view of the Flatirons, especially at sunset.

Avid gardeners will tell you that the average garden requires at least three years to take hold, and even more if the plan is elaborate. Well, it's been about five years since Pat and Chuck Perry planted a garden outside their lovely Highlands Garden Cafe, and in that time, their restaurant has not only taken hold as one of Denver's best places to eat, but also one of its most beautiful. In the garden around the side and back of the Victorian structure, rosebushes and ivy grow in abundance, filling the air with their sweet fragrance and fluttering song when the wind blows; it makes for some enchanting evening when you're dining on the cafe's extended decks. At night it's an ideal -- and romantic -- setting for Pat's amazing food, an ever-changing roster of New American dishes based on what's fresh at the market that day and what she has growing in her own backyard (including most of the herbs she uses in her kitchen). How does this garden grow? Deliciously.

Avid gardeners will tell you that the average garden requires at least three years to take hold, and even more if the plan is elaborate. Well, it's been about five years since Pat and Chuck Perry planted a garden outside their lovely Highlands Garden Cafe, and in that time, their restaurant has not only taken hold as one of Denver's best places to eat, but also one of its most beautiful. In the garden around the side and back of the Victorian structure, rosebushes and ivy grow in abundance, filling the air with their sweet fragrance and fluttering song when the wind blows; it makes for some enchanting evening when you're dining on the cafe's extended decks. At night it's an ideal -- and romantic -- setting for Pat's amazing food, an ever-changing roster of New American dishes based on what's fresh at the market that day and what she has growing in her own backyard (including most of the herbs she uses in her kitchen). How does this garden grow? Deliciously.

Best food at Six Flags Elitch Gardens

Pizza Alley

If you left it up to your children, their entire college savings plan would fund a dozen outings to Elitch's. And once inside, they'd feel no remorse about begging -- no, demanding -- that you devote your retirement nest egg to purchasing an endless parade of toxic snacks. Don't despair: A thriftier but still fun alternative does exist. Pizza Alley, of Highland Square fame, delivers family-sized pies right up to the amusement park's gate. The picnic area adjoining the park along the South Platte River may not be as nice as the old grounds at the original Elitch's, but it's still a good spot to take a break on your whip-and-spin outing, down some decent pizza, watch the kids cavort and dream of ways to spend your retirement -- and that retirement money.

Best food at Six Flags Elitch Gardens

Pizza Alley

If you left it up to your children, their entire college savings plan would fund a dozen outings to Elitch's. And once inside, they'd feel no remorse about begging -- no, demanding -- that you devote your retirement nest egg to purchasing an endless parade of toxic snacks. Don't despair: A thriftier but still fun alternative does exist. Pizza Alley, of Highland Square fame, delivers family-sized pies right up to the amusement park's gate. The picnic area adjoining the park along the South Platte River may not be as nice as the old grounds at the original Elitch's, but it's still a good spot to take a break on your whip-and-spin outing, down some decent pizza, watch the kids cavort and dream of ways to spend your retirement -- and that retirement money.

Tom Unterwagner strives to make food that tastes just as good as Mom's used to -- and since these days Mom is as likely to be turning on the computer as she is the stove, that's a laudable goal. And Tom's Home Cookin' delivers (although not in the strict sense of the word, since you have to pick up the food yourself). This fare is as close to down-home as the gourmet takeout business gets, with well-executed dishes that the average family will enjoy. Unterwagner cooks up meatball stroganoff, roast turkey, meaty spaghetti and chicken pot pies, and he does so for a price so low that you can visit his establishment quite often. Every day, just $5.95 nets one entree and two sides, plus a piece of cheese bread or cornbread. The side dishes are as varied as the main courses -- candied yams, red beans and rice, creamed corn, Brussels sprouts in butter -- and just as delicious. For a few more bucks, you can throw in a couple of Tom's terrific desserts; we highly recommend the Coca-Cola cake and the sweet-potato pie. Just think: One day your kids will long for food like Tom used to make.

Tom Unterwagner strives to make food that tastes just as good as Mom's used to -- and since these days Mom is as likely to be turning on the computer as she is the stove, that's a laudable goal. And Tom's Home Cookin' delivers (although not in the strict sense of the word, since you have to pick up the food yourself). This fare is as close to down-home as the gourmet takeout business gets, with well-executed dishes that the average family will enjoy. Unterwagner cooks up meatball stroganoff, roast turkey, meaty spaghetti and chicken pot pies, and he does so for a price so low that you can visit his establishment quite often. Every day, just $5.95 nets one entree and two sides, plus a piece of cheese bread or cornbread. The side dishes are as varied as the main courses -- candied yams, red beans and rice, creamed corn, Brussels sprouts in butter -- and just as delicious. For a few more bucks, you can throw in a couple of Tom's terrific desserts; we highly recommend the Coca-Cola cake and the sweet-potato pie. Just think: One day your kids will long for food like Tom used to make.

Yes, with a name like California Pizza Kitchen, the pizza is one good reason to go to this popular new eatery in Cherry Creek. But there are so many more things to love than just the unique barbecued-chicken 'za. There's the fast service (which makes up for the long wait). And then there's the Oriental chicken salad: Fresh, ice-cold shredded lettuce is tossed with crispy angel hair, carrots, scallions, fresh basil and cilantro, and beautifully charred grilled chicken, and then everything's lightly coated in a sesame dressing that's sweet, sour and nutty all at once. The balance of both sweet and sour tastes and crunchy and soft textures is what makes this salad so special; a mix this competent and courageous is what makes salad-eating fun. You can get the Oriental chicken salad as an entree or a half-size, but since the flavors only get better with time, we recommend going for the big one and then stretching your salad days into tomorrow.

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