Martha Stewart, eat your heart out. The Highlands Garden Cafe is not only a wonder of a restaurant, but its garden comes close to heaven on earth. When owners Pat and Chuck Perry expanded their eatery into the Victorian house next door, they added to their outside patio as well as their inside dining area. And when Pat wasn't in the kitchen (Chuck runs the front of the house), she was out in the yard, filling the exterior space with as many flowers and plants as it would hold. The result is miraculous: a calming, serene setting that looks like something out of a frou-frou gardening magazine and serves as the perfect place to truly enjoy the fruits of Pat's labors. Soak up the scented air while gazing at wildflowers and tasting the fresh herbs in the seasonally influenced fare before you. Pat's talents with food are as impressive as her way with plants; what she does with animals such as salmon and chicken, all awash in delectable cream sauces, will give you glimpses of a whole new luxurious way of eating. What a way to grow!
Falling Rock Tap House
There's a reason that beer geeks from around the globe fall into Falling Rock when they come to town. More than seventy reasons, to be precise. Falling Rock Tap House has over six dozen taps that pour some of the world's best beers (and no supermarket swill) -- everything from local draft gems and national craft treasures to rare imports, some of them available nowhere else in the country. And an equally expansive list of bottled beers guarantees that an evening spent here will be a beer-soaked descent into bliss.

There's a reason that beer geeks from around the globe fall into Falling Rock when they come to town. More than seventy reasons, to be precise. Falling Rock Tap House has over six dozen taps that pour some of the world's best beers (and no supermarket swill) -- everything from local draft gems and national craft treasures to rare imports, some of them available nowhere else in the country. And an equally expansive list of bottled beers guarantees that an evening spent here will be a beer-soaked descent into bliss.

Le Central
Tante Louise has been around for forty years, but everyone's favorite relative is as spry as ever. For classic French fare with a contemporary twist, for gracious service, for Old World elegance and an unbeatable wine list, Aunt Louise is the lady.
Tante Louise has been around for forty years, but everyone's favorite relative is as spry as ever. For classic French fare with a contemporary twist, for gracious service, for Old World elegance and an unbeatable wine list, Aunt Louise is the lady.

Best Resurrection of a Restaurant

Bang!

When owners Cissy Yin and Jeff and Chris Oakley closed the original Bang! last fall, their faithful customers hardly knew what to do with themselves. Fortunately, the popular Highland eatery reopened less than a month later in a space across the street, this time with a liquor license, table service and a bit more space. Now serving dinner only, the charming eatery -- yeah, it's a little strange going down the alley and in through the back door, but you'll get used to it -- has expanded its menu to offer even more wonderful down-home cooking. The spicy peppered shrimp with mango habanero salsa is a must, but so is the celebrated meatloaf; the wine list is short but sweet (and well-priced). All in all, Bang! is one of Denver's best -- by a long shot.

Best Resurrection of a Restaurant

Bang!

When owners Cissy Yin and Jeff and Chris Oakley closed the original Bang! last fall, their faithful customers hardly knew what to do with themselves. Fortunately, the popular Highland eatery reopened less than a month later in a space across the street, this time with a liquor license, table service and a bit more space. Now serving dinner only, the charming eatery -- yeah, it's a little strange going down the alley and in through the back door, but you'll get used to it -- has expanded its menu to offer even more wonderful down-home cooking. The spicy peppered shrimp with mango habanero salsa is a must, but so is the celebrated meatloaf; the wine list is short but sweet (and well-priced). All in all, Bang! is one of Denver's best -- by a long shot.

Best Vegetarian Dish in a Non-Vegetarian Restaurant

Chinook Tavern

When we eschew meat, we like to sink our teeth into the sun-dried-tomato polenta at Chinook Tavern. Sharply flavored tomatoes fill the creamy-centered, crunchy-crusted polenta; a garlic-packed pesto and velvety housemade mozzarella add depth; and roasted red bell peppers and sautéed mushrooms bring sweetness and earthiness into the mix. The dish is so big, it's almost enough for two very healthy meals; it's so tasty, you won't even miss the meat.

Best Vegetarian Dish in a Non-Vegetarian Restaurant

Chinook Tavern

When we eschew meat, we like to sink our teeth into the sun-dried-tomato polenta at Chinook Tavern. Sharply flavored tomatoes fill the creamy-centered, crunchy-crusted polenta; a garlic-packed pesto and velvety housemade mozzarella add depth; and roasted red bell peppers and sautéed mushrooms bring sweetness and earthiness into the mix. The dish is so big, it's almost enough for two very healthy meals; it's so tasty, you won't even miss the meat.

At too many sports bars, the chef is a former high school quarterback who thinks he should be in the kitchen because of his great touchdown pass of '76 -- a glorious moment he re-creates every time he turns out another imitation pigskin burger. But Lazy Dog Sports Bar and Grill has a real star in front of the stove: Bill Clifford, a Culinary Institute of America graduate who turns out winning fare that's long on flavor and short on price. Clifford scores with appetizers ranging from crispy, cheese-gooey potato skins to warm, sweet crabcakes with homemade tartar sauce; he scores with entrees that include meat-dripping baby-back ribs and crackly crusted pizza; and he scores again in the end zone with housemade apple crisp and banana cream pie. Lazy Dog isn't just a one-man show, however: All of the staffers here go the extra distance to make sure diners get a great meal.

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