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.
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.

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