When a divorced parent decides to dine out with the kids, it's important to do so in an atmosphere as comfortable for the little ones as it is for Mom or Dad. At Govnr's Park, a longtime central Denver hangout, the scene is relaxed and casual (unless, that is, you met your future ex- over a big margarita here a decade or so ago), often studded with single-parent families taking advantage of the comfortable setting and good kids' menu. While your children chow down on pasta, a burrito, grilled cheese, a quesadilla or sliders (each $3.25), you get to gnaw away those divorce-budget blues on a well-priced basket of wings, drowned with a beer or two. And if you're looking for love, Brady Brunch-style, here's the story: Slide that table over next to the single-parent family next to you, and let the kids fight for the fries while you talk 401K plans.
When a divorced parent decides to dine out with the kids, it's important to do so in an atmosphere as comfortable for the little ones as it is for Mom or Dad. At Govnr's Park, a longtime central Denver hangout, the scene is relaxed and casual (unless, that is, you met your future ex- over a big margarita here a decade or so ago), often studded with single-parent families taking advantage of the comfortable setting and good kids' menu. While your children chow down on pasta, a burrito, grilled cheese, a quesadilla or sliders (each $3.25), you get to gnaw away those divorce-budget blues on a well-priced basket of wings, drowned with a beer or two. And if you're looking for love, Brady Brunch-style, here's the story: Slide that table over next to the single-parent family next to you, and let the kids fight for the fries while you talk 401K plans.
Although its sandwiches top any others in town, the TreeHouse Cafe -- a repeat winner in this category -- remains one of Denver's best-kept secrets. Less than seven bucks buys you a sandwich big enough for two, a massive, jam-packed meal made of top-notch meats, cheeses and other fixin's, all piled into your choice of focaccia or baguette, marble rye or wheat. You can assemble your sandwich from a lengthy list of ingredients, or go with one of the TreeHouse's suggested combinations, such as the Cubano: organic eggs scrambled gently and layered with sweet slices of ham, turkey and provolone, with the result looking for all the world like an exploded suitcase. The pizza sandwich is as close as you'll get to a four-inch-thick slice; the Vaggio's Veloute, its breaded chicken topped by Danish ham and Swiss, all smothered in the mother of white gravies, makes the average diner-style open-faced turkey sandwich look like an hors d'oeuvre. Wash your sandwich down with a great milkshake or smoothie. Bonus: These babies are available until midnight every night, which makes the TreeHouse not only an ideal spot for late-night munchies, but also for some entertaining people-watching.

Although its sandwiches top any others in town, the TreeHouse Cafe -- a repeat winner in this category -- remains one of Denver's best-kept secrets. Less than seven bucks buys you a sandwich big enough for two, a massive, jam-packed meal made of top-notch meats, cheeses and other fixin's, all piled into your choice of focaccia or baguette, marble rye or wheat. You can assemble your sandwich from a lengthy list of ingredients, or go with one of the TreeHouse's suggested combinations, such as the Cubano: organic eggs scrambled gently and layered with sweet slices of ham, turkey and provolone, with the result looking for all the world like an exploded suitcase. The pizza sandwich is as close as you'll get to a four-inch-thick slice; the Vaggio's Veloute, its breaded chicken topped by Danish ham and Swiss, all smothered in the mother of white gravies, makes the average diner-style open-faced turkey sandwich look like an hors d'oeuvre. Wash your sandwich down with a great milkshake or smoothie. Bonus: These babies are available until midnight every night, which makes the TreeHouse not only an ideal spot for late-night munchies, but also for some entertaining people-watching.

Although every sandwich shop and cafe thinks it wants to offer panini, what they usually cook up is a far cry from the way these grilled Italian sandwiches are supposed to turn out. For panini done right, head to Panini Grill, a teeny Italian bistro that not only grills a mean panini, but boasts a welcoming attitude and makes good pastas, too. You can create your own panini combo from the list of ten meats, eight cheeses, three pesto spreads and ten other possible ingredients, ordering everything on traditional focaccia or rosemary focaccia (you can also get a non-grilled sandwich on a French roll -- but why would you?). Once your sandwich is assembled, it gets a real grilling in the special panini maker, keeping the fillings moist and the bread chewy. If you're not feeling particularly creative, you can't go wrong with one of the house panini -- the sliced meatballs with Mamma's homemade sauce and provolone is the ultimate meatball sandwich -- paired with a bowl of veggie-packed minestrone. Eat your meal inside, or at one of the tables on the sidewalk; either way, this is the grill of your dreams.

Although every sandwich shop and cafe thinks it wants to offer panini, what they usually cook up is a far cry from the way these grilled Italian sandwiches are supposed to turn out. For panini done right, head to Panini Grill, a teeny Italian bistro that not only grills a mean panini, but boasts a welcoming attitude and makes good pastas, too. You can create your own panini combo from the list of ten meats, eight cheeses, three pesto spreads and ten other possible ingredients, ordering everything on traditional focaccia or rosemary focaccia (you can also get a non-grilled sandwich on a French roll -- but why would you?). Once your sandwich is assembled, it gets a real grilling in the special panini maker, keeping the fillings moist and the bread chewy. If you're not feeling particularly creative, you can't go wrong with one of the house panini -- the sliced meatballs with Mamma's homemade sauce and provolone is the ultimate meatball sandwich -- paired with a bowl of veggie-packed minestrone. Eat your meal inside, or at one of the tables on the sidewalk; either way, this is the grill of your dreams.

Comfort food never tasted this haute cuisine. The lowly tuna melt goes upscale at Ambrosia Cafe, the eatery created last year in the old Firefly Space by chef Mark Gordon and his partner, John Barocas. They've created a simple yet trendy neighborhood spot complete with landscaped patio and parking outside and Asian-influenced dishes inside. Gordon is reaching high here, and with the ahi tuna salad melt, he displays a particularly good grasp on which ingredients work together -- and how. Ahi chunks mixed with celery and a homemade mayo come piled on a fluffy-centered, crackly-crusted kaiser roll, blanketed with slices of a creamy, nutty Swiss cheese; the cooking has been timed perfectly so that the ahi, which steams a little under the molten cheese, arrives dead-on medium-rare. The sandwich comes with your choice of Ambrosia's fabulous fries or a side of steamed vegetables. Either way, your meal should go swimmingly.

Comfort food never tasted this haute cuisine. The lowly tuna melt goes upscale at Ambrosia Cafe, the eatery created last year in the old Firefly Space by chef Mark Gordon and his partner, John Barocas. They've created a simple yet trendy neighborhood spot complete with landscaped patio and parking outside and Asian-influenced dishes inside. Gordon is reaching high here, and with the ahi tuna salad melt, he displays a particularly good grasp on which ingredients work together -- and how. Ahi chunks mixed with celery and a homemade mayo come piled on a fluffy-centered, crackly-crusted kaiser roll, blanketed with slices of a creamy, nutty Swiss cheese; the cooking has been timed perfectly so that the ahi, which steams a little under the molten cheese, arrives dead-on medium-rare. The sandwich comes with your choice of Ambrosia's fabulous fries or a side of steamed vegetables. Either way, your meal should go swimmingly.

What's in a name? For starters, this little spot just off the 16th Street Mall looks better than your average soup kitchen, although it's not exactly the Taj Mahal: Little bits of information are handwritten on scraps of paper and stuck to the display cases, pots and pans; baker's pallets are stacked everywhere; and the decor consists of dozens of bottles of hot sauce and other flavorings stacked like little soldiers on the makeshift counter along the front window. Even soup-maker/owner Richard Gamsen, a transplanted New Yorker, is usually wearing a grimy T-shirt and baseball cap. But don't let appearances fool you, because inside those covered vats in front of Gamsen are some of the town's most elaborate and tasty concoctions, including a chicken noodle whose broth is so chickeny, it's like gnawing on a thigh. Gamsen uses the untraditional fettuccine as his noodle, but the thick strips are cooked until perfectly soggy so that they soak up the intense stock that's been augmented with tender chicken chunks and soft pieces of carrot and celery. This is the soup that Gamsen runs out of most often, and we're not surprised.

What's in a name? For starters, this little spot just off the 16th Street Mall looks better than your average soup kitchen, although it's not exactly the Taj Mahal: Little bits of information are handwritten on scraps of paper and stuck to the display cases, pots and pans; baker's pallets are stacked everywhere; and the decor consists of dozens of bottles of hot sauce and other flavorings stacked like little soldiers on the makeshift counter along the front window. Even soup-maker/owner Richard Gamsen, a transplanted New Yorker, is usually wearing a grimy T-shirt and baseball cap. But don't let appearances fool you, because inside those covered vats in front of Gamsen are some of the town's most elaborate and tasty concoctions, including a chicken noodle whose broth is so chickeny, it's like gnawing on a thigh. Gamsen uses the untraditional fettuccine as his noodle, but the thick strips are cooked until perfectly soggy so that they soak up the intense stock that's been augmented with tender chicken chunks and soft pieces of carrot and celery. This is the soup that Gamsen runs out of most often, and we're not surprised.

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