The Hornet
Have it your way at the Hornet, one of Denver's favorite neighborhood eateries and a buzzing happy-hour spot. One of the tastiest ways to claim yours is the make-your-own soft tacos, a plate packed with all the items necessary to create the taco of your dreams. There are four main-component possibilities, including roasted veggies, Yucatan chicken and tender steak, but our favorite is the cochinita pibil, pork that's been marinated in South American spices (think jerk) and then shredded before getting wrapped in a banana leaf and steamed. The plate also comes with a mound of rice, a pile of cilantro-flecked black beans, plenty of shredded cheese and lettuce, a good guacamole, medium-hot salsa and sour cream, with plenty of warm flour tortillas to hold things together. Wash your taco down with a Madras margarita, a smooth blend of orange and cranberry juices with Cuervo and triple sec. That's a wrap.
Have it your way at the Hornet, one of Denver's favorite neighborhood eateries and a buzzing happy-hour spot. One of the tastiest ways to claim yours is the make-your-own soft tacos, a plate packed with all the items necessary to create the taco of your dreams. There are four main-component possibilities, including roasted veggies, Yucatan chicken and tender steak, but our favorite is the cochinita pibil, pork that's been marinated in South American spices (think jerk) and then shredded before getting wrapped in a banana leaf and steamed. The plate also comes with a mound of rice, a pile of cilantro-flecked black beans, plenty of shredded cheese and lettuce, a good guacamole, medium-hot salsa and sour cream, with plenty of warm flour tortillas to hold things together. Wash your taco down with a Madras margarita, a smooth blend of orange and cranberry juices with Cuervo and triple sec. That's a wrap.
There are some Mexican meals you'd never want to see in bright lights. But at Chez José, you can see clearly -- and everything's clearly good. Best is the gourmet fajita burrito, an appealing combination of charbroiled steak, cheese, guac and fresh salsa cruda. The beef is moist and tender, with a grill-bitten meaty flavor that mixes well with the salsa; in turn, that mildly spicy tomato-based sauce plays off the creamy guacamole. Add a few more of Chez José's made-fresh-daily salsas, such as the fiery tomatillo or the smoky red, to the mix, and you have one big, fat tasty burrito. Can we help it if it's one big, fat tasty burrito that's actually good for you, since Chez José uses heart-healthy canola oil and no lard?

Readers' choice: Chipotle

There are some Mexican meals you'd never want to see in bright lights. But at Chez José, you can see clearly -- and everything's clearly good. Best is the gourmet fajita burrito, an appealing combination of charbroiled steak, cheese, guac and fresh salsa cruda. The beef is moist and tender, with a grill-bitten meaty flavor that mixes well with the salsa; in turn, that mildly spicy tomato-based sauce plays off the creamy guacamole. Add a few more of Chez José's made-fresh-daily salsas, such as the fiery tomatillo or the smoky red, to the mix, and you have one big, fat tasty burrito. Can we help it if it's one big, fat tasty burrito that's actually good for you, since Chez José uses heart-healthy canola oil and no lard?

Readers' choice: Chipotle

If you can eat the whole thing at Piney Creek, a vaguely cantina-like eatery and bar, they'll take a Polaroid shot of you and stick it on their Wall of Fame. But be warned: Although nearly a thousand have tried, fewer than a hundred have been able to eat an entire Piney Creek Burrito Majestic. Two jumbo tortillas are required to hold this monster together, and even that's a losing battle, since the kitchen has stuffed them full -- very full -- of beef, chicken or beans (your choice), as well as the usual fixings. Ladled over all of this is Piney Creek's sweet green, a medium-thick concoction whose many chunks of pork add still more meat to the burrito. Although your burrito runs between $10 and $14, depending on the filling, if you're really hungry, it's money well spent. Uuurrrrp.

If you can eat the whole thing at Piney Creek, a vaguely cantina-like eatery and bar, they'll take a Polaroid shot of you and stick it on their Wall of Fame. But be warned: Although nearly a thousand have tried, fewer than a hundred have been able to eat an entire Piney Creek Burrito Majestic. Two jumbo tortillas are required to hold this monster together, and even that's a losing battle, since the kitchen has stuffed them full -- very full -- of beef, chicken or beans (your choice), as well as the usual fixings. Ladled over all of this is Piney Creek's sweet green, a medium-thick concoction whose many chunks of pork add still more meat to the burrito. Although your burrito runs between $10 and $14, depending on the filling, if you're really hungry, it's money well spent. Uuurrrrp.

Palettes Contemporary Cuisine
A haven for ladies who lunch, lawyers who linger (and drive up that billing) and bohemian types with lots of Daddy's money, Palettes makes a fine art of fancy food -- as well it should, since it's connected to the Denver Art Museum. But nothing on exhibit next door is more elaborate than Palette's desserts, each one a masterpiece featuring its own distinct palette of flavors. Both the light lemon-curd tart and the warm apple and marzipan tartlet with caramel ice cream pack plenty of fruit punch into their striking crusts. Then there's the peanut butter and chocolate terrine -- it beats Reese's to pieces -- with crème anglaise for added richness, and a bittersweet chocolate cupcake that makes life worth living. Our favorite Palette finale, though, is the pistachio profiteroles with hot chocolate sauce: creampuff balls made from choux pastry and filled with homemade pistachio ice cream. Color us stuffed.
A haven for ladies who lunch, lawyers who linger (and drive up that billing) and bohemian types with lots of Daddy's money, Palettes makes a fine art of fancy food -- as well it should, since it's connected to the Denver Art Museum. But nothing on exhibit next door is more elaborate than Palette's desserts, each one a masterpiece featuring its own distinct palette of flavors. Both the light lemon-curd tart and the warm apple and marzipan tartlet with caramel ice cream pack plenty of fruit punch into their striking crusts. Then there's the peanut butter and chocolate terrine -- it beats Reese's to pieces -- with crème anglaise for added richness, and a bittersweet chocolate cupcake that makes life worth living. Our favorite Palette finale, though, is the pistachio profiteroles with hot chocolate sauce: creampuff balls made from choux pastry and filled with homemade pistachio ice cream. Color us stuffed.
At most burrito places, the meat-filled versions are preferable because they keep the package from turning into a bean-and-rice blowout -- and you know what we mean. But Wahoo's keeps its vegetarian friends in mind, offering up the Banzai Fajita Burrito, a massive mound of food wrapped in a fresh tortilla. There's rice and beans in there, all right, but the rice is made with Peruvian Ahi salsa for extra flavor and a little kick, and the beans are black, soft and moist, made vegetarian-style, with no meat. And then there are the vegetables: grilled zucchini, carrots, onions and tomatoes, with their charred edges, a slightly oily grilled texture and lots of flavor. Add more salsa and some non-fat sour cream, and at just under five bucks, you've got yourself a meatless meal.

At most burrito places, the meat-filled versions are preferable because they keep the package from turning into a bean-and-rice blowout -- and you know what we mean. But Wahoo's keeps its vegetarian friends in mind, offering up the Banzai Fajita Burrito, a massive mound of food wrapped in a fresh tortilla. There's rice and beans in there, all right, but the rice is made with Peruvian Ahi salsa for extra flavor and a little kick, and the beans are black, soft and moist, made vegetarian-style, with no meat. And then there are the vegetables: grilled zucchini, carrots, onions and tomatoes, with their charred edges, a slightly oily grilled texture and lots of flavor. Add more salsa and some non-fat sour cream, and at just under five bucks, you've got yourself a meatless meal.

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