Columbine is less about the steaks and more about the scene -- one of the most interesting you'll find in this town. People from all walks of life pass through the forty-year-old joint, and some even order the steak. Which means that group, at least, will go away happy, because when the grill guy is in a good mood, the twenty-ounce porterhouse, which costs less than half of what it would at a big-name steakhouse, arrives juicy and tender, with a nicely charred edge and a big pile of twice-fried French fries on the side. When the grill guy's not in a good mood, order a beer and pick up a burger on your way home.
Need a shot of liquid courage before you check to see if that United flight is leaving anywhere near on time? Stop by Que Bueno!, which also happens to serve the best food you'll find at the airport -- big, fat burritos filled with your choice of commendable fillings and topped by salsas that range from mild to so fuerte that nothing will put out the fire. But the real surprise here is the sizable selection of tequilas tucked into a nook in the little eatery -- just the thing to jet-propel the rest of your trip.
Need a shot of liquid courage before you check to see if that United flight is leaving anywhere near on time? Stop by Que Bueno!, which also happens to serve the best food you'll find at the airport -- big, fat burritos filled with your choice of commendable fillings and topped by salsas that range from mild to so fuerte that nothing will put out the fire. But the real surprise here is the sizable selection of tequilas tucked into a nook in the little eatery -- just the thing to jet-propel the rest of your trip.
When most people in this town talk about great Mexican food, they're talking about the kind of burrito you find at El Ranchito. Don't bother telling them that the burrito was invented by Mexicans working in California, not Tijuana; and don't dare suggest that this style of burrito was designed to appeal to the lowest common denominator. In fact, since you can't beat them, you might as well join them in digging into an overstuffed, cheese-covered tortilla smothered with Denver's take on green chile. El Ranchito's burrito supreme is an exemplary version of this quasi-Mex mainstay, bursting with well-seasoned meats mixed with diced tomatoes, and topped by thick, heavy guacamole, lots of sour cream, a quilt of melted yellowish-orange cheese and a sweet, gravylike green.
When most people in this town talk about great Mexican food, they're talking about the kind of burrito you find at El Ranchito. Don't bother telling them that the burrito was invented by Mexicans working in California, not Tijuana; and don't dare suggest that this style of burrito was designed to appeal to the lowest common denominator. In fact, since you can't beat them, you might as well join them in digging into an overstuffed, cheese-covered tortilla smothered with Denver's take on green chile. El Ranchito's burrito supreme is an exemplary version of this quasi-Mex mainstay, bursting with well-seasoned meats mixed with diced tomatoes, and topped by thick, heavy guacamole, lots of sour cream, a quilt of melted yellowish-orange cheese and a sweet, gravylike green.
Get stuffed at Playo de Oro, a quiet, corner eatery that's half takeout, half eat-in -- and all about delicious, soft chiles rellenos. While many Denver diners are fans of the egg roll type of relleno, that's probably because they've eaten one too many disappointing soft versions, which too often go wrong in the cooking process. But Playa de Oro knows how to avoid all those grease pitfalls. It packs long, skinny poblanos with Monterey Jack, dunks them in a thick egg soufflé of a batter, and then fries them until just the thinnest, crispiest, golden-brown shell forms around the chile. That means no soggy goo that turns to lead in your stomach, and no fast-cooling cheese that turns to lead outside of your stomach. This relleno is the stuff of dreams, a crunchy beauty until the very last bite.
Get stuffed at Playo de Oro, a quiet, corner eatery that's half takeout, half eat-in -- and all about delicious, soft chiles rellenos. While many Denver diners are fans of the egg roll type of relleno, that's probably because they've eaten one too many disappointing soft versions, which too often go wrong in the cooking process. But Playa de Oro knows how to avoid all those grease pitfalls. It packs long, skinny poblanos with Monterey Jack, dunks them in a thick egg soufflé of a batter, and then fries them until just the thinnest, crispiest, golden-brown shell forms around the chile. That means no soggy goo that turns to lead in your stomach, and no fast-cooling cheese that turns to lead outside of your stomach. This relleno is the stuff of dreams, a crunchy beauty until the very last bite.
Citygrille
Courtesy CityGrille Facebook
It's noon. Do you know where your legislator is? Chances are she's wolfing down one of Denver's best burgers at CityGrille, the gathering place/watering hole for anyone who's anyone at the State Capitol -- not to mention anyone who lobbies anyone there or across the street at city hall. But CityGrille isn't just for the power elite; if these walls could talk, they'd have the scoop on everyone from contributors and aides to secretaries and janitors, all of whom take advantage both of this casual, divey eatery's proximity to the Capitol and of its fabulous green chile. The three-martini lunch is alive and well here, as is strict, power-lunch protocol: If you're talking in low, hushed tones, everyone looks away. For a minute, anyway.
It's noon. Do you know where your legislator is? Chances are she's wolfing down one of Denver's best burgers at CityGrille, the gathering place/watering hole for anyone who's anyone at the State Capitol -- not to mention anyone who lobbies anyone there or across the street at city hall. But CityGrille isn't just for the power elite; if these walls could talk, they'd have the scoop on everyone from contributors and aides to secretaries and janitors, all of whom take advantage both of this casual, divey eatery's proximity to the Capitol and of its fabulous green chile. The three-martini lunch is alive and well here, as is strict, power-lunch protocol: If you're talking in low, hushed tones, everyone looks away. For a minute, anyway.
Piper Inn
Samantha Morse
The Piper Inn isn't tough to spot: It's the small, low bar on Parker Road that's hiding behind that wall of gleaming Harleys. Inexplicably named after the venerable airplane line, the Piper Inn is smoky and noisy and can be a great place to watch two grown men fight over a gal wearing not much more than thigh-high boots and an American-flag bandanna. But the real draw here are the wings, available in mild, medium and hot, and done in the classic Buffalo style: crispy-skinned and saturated with Tabasco-spiked butter. Order them in multiples of five, and order twice as many as you think you'll need, because these wings fly off the plate. And if the crowd looks especially cranky, order them to go.

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