All three of the eponymously named joints owned variously by partners Lee Goodfriend, David Racine and Dixon Staples serve marvelous margs, elixirs that make it worth holding out until the end of the day. You'll start enjoying the night as you nip into a margarita, twelve ounces of a well-melded drink served in a martini glass with a shaker of the leftovers standing ready. Choose from the classics, such as the house, made from Sauza Gold blue agave tequila that's been hand-shaken with lime and triple sec, or the 1800 Grand, Cuervo 1800 with lime and Grand Marnier. But the unusual versions are worth checking out, too, because they're not the typical cutesy overkill. The jalapeño jelly version has a bite, and the ol' greyhound has its bark, too, courtesy of grapefruit juice. The drinks are ideal for pairing with Dixons savvy Southwestern fare, and at Goodfriends and Racines, there's no better way to pass some time at the bar than to sip a marg with a few friends.

Readers' choice: Rio Grande

The innovative, jauntily decorated La Fabula has many things going for it, first and foremost a basket of warm, freshly fried, tri-color corn tortilla chips that comes with a trio of salsas, each interesting and addictive in its own right. There's the crunchy, cilantro-speckled salsa fresca, which starts out light but gets more appealing with each bite; the salsa roja, a potent, well-puréed blend of roasted tomatoes and peppers; and finally, the salsa verde, a tomatillo-based brew that contains a variety of chiles, including one that adds a nice touch of smoke without overpowering. This is the ideal starter to whet your appetite for some ambitious La Fabula dishes, so ideal that we'd gladly pay for it. But in a town where you're increasingly nickled and dimed for stale chips, what's truly remarkable about La Fabula's chips and salsa offering is that it's on the house. Yes, many of the best things in life are still free.

Readers' choice: Benny's

The innovative, jauntily decorated La Fabula has many things going for it, first and foremost a basket of warm, freshly fried, tri-color corn tortilla chips that comes with a trio of salsas, each interesting and addictive in its own right. There's the crunchy, cilantro-speckled salsa fresca, which starts out light but gets more appealing with each bite; the salsa roja, a potent, well-puréed blend of roasted tomatoes and peppers; and finally, the salsa verde, a tomatillo-based brew that contains a variety of chiles, including one that adds a nice touch of smoke without overpowering. This is the ideal starter to whet your appetite for some ambitious La Fabula dishes, so ideal that we'd gladly pay for it. But in a town where you're increasingly nickled and dimed for stale chips, what's truly remarkable about La Fabula's chips and salsa offering is that it's on the house. Yes, many of the best things in life are still free.

Readers' choice: Benny's

In the cold, gray light of dawn, when it seems nothing could make the cruel world look better, remember your friends. The Amigos Cafe cooks up wonderful breakfast burritos that are guaranteed to make you rise and shine. Well, rise and get the hell out of the house, anyway. Owners Laura and Santiago Cardenas came to Denver from Chihuahua, Mexico, and that country's loss is our gain. Santiago does the cooking in this cheerful little sidewalk space, making everything from scratch -- from the fiery salsa to the gorgeous green, a pork-studded gravy rife with jalapeos and tomatoes. That green is perfect for smothering a breakfast burrito, the best version of which includes a housemade chorizo, soft-scrambled eggs and skillfully hashed potatoes, chopped on the grill first to crisp up the edges. This is your wake-up call.
In the cold, gray light of dawn, when it seems nothing could make the cruel world look better, remember your friends. The Amigos Cafe cooks up wonderful breakfast burritos that are guaranteed to make you rise and shine. Well, rise and get the hell out of the house, anyway. Owners Laura and Santiago Cardenas came to Denver from Chihuahua, Mexico, and that country's loss is our gain. Santiago does the cooking in this cheerful little sidewalk space, making everything from scratch -- from the fiery salsa to the gorgeous green, a pork-studded gravy rife with jalapeños and tomatoes. That green is perfect for smothering a breakfast burrito, the best version of which includes a housemade chorizo, soft-scrambled eggs and skillfully hashed potatoes, chopped on the grill first to crisp up the edges. This is your wake-up call.
El Senor Sol
Felipe Duran, who moved to Denver from Chihuahua when he was thirteen, brought the secret to great tacos along with him: It's the meat of the matter. At his three restaurants -- two Seor Sols and one Villa Del Sol -- the tacos all feature top-quality cuts of meat. Instead of fatty steak or dry pork, you'll find tacos al carbon stuffed with chopped ribeye grilled with tomatoes and onions, and tacos de carne adobada filled with tender shreds of pork that have been marinated in a chile-fired sauce. Even the crunchy tacos, with their spicy, seasoned ground beef, and the fish tacos, bearing a boatload of lightly floured and golden-fried halibut, are made special by their fillings. Each order comes with three soft corn tortillas and enough fixings -- fresh lettuce, tomatoes, sliced avocado, cilantro and a sharp, fresh pico de gallo -- to make some pretty big toppings. Shine on, Sol.

Readers' choice: Taco Bell

Felipe Duran, who moved to Denver from Chihuahua when he was thirteen, brought the secret to great tacos along with him: It's the meat of the matter. At his three restaurants -- two Señor Sols and one Villa Del Sol -- the tacos all feature top-quality cuts of meat. Instead of fatty steak or dry pork, you'll find tacos al carbon stuffed with chopped ribeye grilled with tomatoes and onions, and tacos de carne adobada filled with tender shreds of pork that have been marinated in a chile-fired sauce. Even the crunchy tacos, with their spicy, seasoned ground beef, and the fish tacos, bearing a boatload of lightly floured and golden-fried halibut, are made special by their fillings. Each order comes with three soft corn tortillas and enough fixings -- fresh lettuce, tomatoes, sliced avocado, cilantro and a sharp, fresh pico de gallo -- to make some pretty big toppings. Shine on, Sol.

Readers' choice: Taco Bell

It's 3 a.m., and you have enough beer sloshing around inside you to throw a kegger out of your belly. You need food, and not just any old diner food, but something greasy and filling, preferably cheap. Taco Express to the rescue! Swing by this little drive-thru spot -- you can eat in, too, but why bother? -- and yell in your request for a couple of adobada tacos. In minutes, your order is shoved out the window and you're on your way home, trying to keep the well-marinated meats from spilling all over your nightclubbing clothes. Taco Express offers eight folded tacos and two rolled, as well as tostadas, enchiladas, burritos and tortas, all good and available fast. But take the time to check out the specials, which often include such deals as five rolled tacos and a garlicky guacamole for $2.75.
It's 3 a.m., and you have enough beer sloshing around inside you to throw a kegger out of your belly. You need food, and not just any old diner food, but something greasy and filling, preferably cheap. Taco Express to the rescue! Swing by this little drive-thru spot -- you can eat in, too, but why bother? -- and yell in your request for a couple of adobada tacos. In minutes, your order is shoved out the window and you're on your way home, trying to keep the well-marinated meats from spilling all over your nightclubbing clothes. Taco Express offers eight folded tacos and two rolled, as well as tostadas, enchiladas, burritos and tortas, all good and available fast. But take the time to check out the specials, which often include such deals as five rolled tacos and a garlicky guacamole for $2.75.
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.

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