It's only fitting that one of the town's friendliest Mexican eateries also serves its most mellow chile. Fauso and Armida Corral own Armida's, a cute, unassuming spot with an upstairs for pool players, a dining room for diners and a patio for those who just want to enjoy the view and a few beers. No matter what you're there for, the Corrals zip around like ambassadors from Mazatlan, intent on seeing that you're treated right. And what treats you're treated to: everything from a zippy salsa to top-quality grilled sirloin. But we go on red alert for the red chile, gently spiced, made without meat but not lacking in flavor. A little smoky, with a hint of onion, a touch of garlic and lots of sweet tomato, the purée is as smooth as paint and only slightly thicker. Like everything else at Armida's, the red always tastes freshly made, and it's especially good on the fat, cheese-oozy enchiladas.

Best all-purpose chile, ristra and piñon stand

Hatch New Mexico Chile

When harvest season hits and you start craving roasted pine nuts, Hatch extra-hot chile and abuse from the vendors along Federal Boulevard, head straight for the tent of Roger Sanchez. From August through October, this prince of pods has one thing in mind: "Move it out." And move it he does. With daily price specials, free bottles of Mexican soda pop and the guarantee "If you don't like it, bring it back," Sanchez moves truckload after truckload of chile from his stand labeled "Hatch New Mexico Chile." And to prove you're getting the real thing, he provides packing slips straight from the Land of Enchantment. If it's Pueblo chile that lights your fire, he's got that, too, along with beans, red-chile ristras and kitchen supplies from south of the border. But once his roasters start rumbling, you'd better hurry. Some days the only chitchat the surly Sanchez has time for is: "Next!"

Best all-purpose chile, ristra and piñon stand

Hatch New Mexico Chile

When harvest season hits and you start craving roasted pine nuts, Hatch extra-hot chile and abuse from the vendors along Federal Boulevard, head straight for the tent of Roger Sanchez. From August through October, this prince of pods has one thing in mind: "Move it out." And move it he does. With daily price specials, free bottles of Mexican soda pop and the guarantee "If you don't like it, bring it back," Sanchez moves truckload after truckload of chile from his stand labeled "Hatch New Mexico Chile." And to prove you're getting the real thing, he provides packing slips straight from the Land of Enchantment. If it's Pueblo chile that lights your fire, he's got that, too, along with beans, red-chile ristras and kitchen supplies from south of the border. But once his roasters start rumbling, you'd better hurry. Some days the only chitchat the surly Sanchez has time for is: "Next!"
Table Mountain Inn Grill and Cantina
Courtesy Table Mountain Inn Facebook
The tastes of the Southwest have become such a caricature of themselves that it's hard to know what's really Southwestern anymore. But a stop at the Table Mountain Inn, a quaintly decorated getaway that's eye-catching without being kitschy, will quickly help clarify things. The restaurant is a casual spot that feels upscale but remains comfortable, filled with well-chosen art and appealing upholstery that evokes the Southwest without satirizing it. The food follows suit. The menu is a carefully chosen array of gourmet dishes and Old West favorites with a twist -- in the spirit of true Southwestern cuisine -- and the cooking is done with flair. Try the deep-fried tortilla shells filled with lobster and minced vegetables, or the heady wild-mushroom "tamales," or a house-cured, tequila-spiked trout that sports a nice citrus tang. Then head straight for the chiles rellenos, pepper-Jack-packed Anaheims covered with a crispy shell and smothered in a sweet green chile. Just be sure to leave room for the killer chocolate taco. Or simply decide to stay the night and start eating all over again at brunch, when all of the classic Southwestern ingredients -- chiles, avocado, cheese, onions, spicy meats -- often land in one dish.

The tastes of the Southwest have become such a caricature of themselves that it's hard to know what's really Southwestern anymore. But a stop at the Table Mountain Inn, a quaintly decorated getaway that's eye-catching without being kitschy, will quickly help clarify things. The restaurant is a casual spot that feels upscale but remains comfortable, filled with well-chosen art and appealing upholstery that evokes the Southwest without satirizing it. The food follows suit. The menu is a carefully chosen array of gourmet dishes and Old West favorites with a twist -- in the spirit of true Southwestern cuisine -- and the cooking is done with flair. Try the deep-fried tortilla shells filled with lobster and minced vegetables, or the heady wild-mushroom "tamales," or a house-cured, tequila-spiked trout that sports a nice citrus tang. Then head straight for the chiles rellenos, pepper-Jack-packed Anaheims covered with a crispy shell and smothered in a sweet green chile. Just be sure to leave room for the killer chocolate taco. Or simply decide to stay the night and start eating all over again at brunch, when all of the classic Southwestern ingredients -- chiles, avocado, cheese, onions, spicy meats -- often land in one dish.

Potager
Lindsey Bartlett
If any one place in town captures the essence of New American cooking, it's Potager. Chef/owner Teri Rippeto shops local farms, puts the ingredients together in interesting and often daring ways, and when they don't work, she moves on. If that isn't the American way, new or old, what is? Try her innovative cooking in the funky dining room that's at once chaotic and urban-smooth -- dining here is sometimes like being in the eye of a hurricane -- or head out to the delightful backyard patio filled with lush foliage (potager means "kitchen garden"). Rippeto's menu changes frequently, but you can always count on it matching up with both the weather and what's fresh that day. In the summer, expect cool salads, such as the arugula with hazelnuts and pecorino in a lemon vinaigrette, and light fish dishes; in the winter, it's cassoulet and hearty soups. No matter what time of year, go for the chocolate pudding, the most tummy-soothing, palate-pleasing chocolate dessert around.

If any one place in town captures the essence of New American cooking, it's Potager. Chef/owner Teri Rippeto shops local farms, puts the ingredients together in interesting and often daring ways, and when they don't work, she moves on. If that isn't the American way, new or old, what is? Try her innovative cooking in the funky dining room that's at once chaotic and urban-smooth -- dining here is sometimes like being in the eye of a hurricane -- or head out to the delightful backyard patio filled with lush foliage (potager means "kitchen garden"). Rippeto's menu changes frequently, but you can always count on it matching up with both the weather and what's fresh that day. In the summer, expect cool salads, such as the arugula with hazelnuts and pecorino in a lemon vinaigrette, and light fish dishes; in the winter, it's cassoulet and hearty soups. No matter what time of year, go for the chocolate pudding, the most tummy-soothing, palate-pleasing chocolate dessert around.

Sam's No. 3
Courtesy of Sam's No. 3
Sam's No. 3 is the American dream come true. Just ask Sam, Alex and Patrick Armatas, who own the place. The three brothers are the grandsons of Sam Armatas, who started the town's infamous -- and now long-gone -- Coney Island eateries in the 1920s; Sam's son, Spero, still runs the thirty-year-old Newbarry's. And now this next generation is carrying on the tradition at their friendly family-style diner, where they offer an ambitous mix of Greek, Mexican and American food. Not only does Sam's serve breakfast any time -- good breakfasts, too, like hefty omelettes and thick, fluffy pancakes -- but it also offers such Mexican favorites as smothered burritos and chicken enchiladas, as well as Greek specialties like gyros and souvlaki, and domestic dishes, including fried chicken and meatloaf. And then there are creations unique to the Armatas family, like the Haystack, a Coney Island tradition that involves chili, jalapeos, pinto beans and heaven knows what else poured over a bowl filled with Fritos and layered with cheese, lettuce and tomato. Wash that down -- if you can -- with one of Sam's thick, frothy milkshakes, and if you can still move, nail down a bowl of the best rice pudding on the planet. Sam's makes us proud to be American.

Sam's No. 3 is the American dream come true. Just ask Sam, Alex and Patrick Armatas, who own the place. The three brothers are the grandsons of Sam Armatas, who started the town's infamous -- and now long-gone -- Coney Island eateries in the 1920s; Sam's son, Spero, still runs the thirty-year-old Newbarry's. And now this next generation is carrying on the tradition at their friendly family-style diner, where they offer an ambitous mix of Greek, Mexican and American food. Not only does Sam's serve breakfast any time -- good breakfasts, too, like hefty omelettes and thick, fluffy pancakes -- but it also offers such Mexican favorites as smothered burritos and chicken enchiladas, as well as Greek specialties like gyros and souvlaki, and domestic dishes, including fried chicken and meatloaf. And then there are creations unique to the Armatas family, like the Haystack, a Coney Island tradition that involves chili, jalapeños, pinto beans and heaven knows what else poured over a bowl filled with Fritos and layered with cheese, lettuce and tomato. Wash that down -- if you can -- with one of Sam's thick, frothy milkshakes, and if you can still move, nail down a bowl of the best rice pudding on the planet. Sam's makes us proud to be American.

At his ultra-funky, relaxing bistro, chef/owner Hugh O'Neill has always been committed to locally grown produce and regionally raised meats. But in the last year, O'Neill has upped his efforts to secure all-organic ingredients from the major growers in the north Boulder area. He then takes those ingredients and treats them with respect, dousing the baby spinach with grapefruit vinaigrette and combining the season's first tomatoes with eggplant and onions in a well-melded ratatouille. The wine list makes sense, and the servers moving around the intoxicatingly colored dining areas know their stuff. This is New American meets Colorado, and it works.

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