Sure, sometimes it seems like it might be easier to drive to Philadelphia, home of the cheese-steak, than to negotiate the weird setup at Heritage Hills. But even back in Pennsylvania, you might not find a cheesesteak as good as the one made at Santoro's Brick Oven Pizzeria. This tidy joint, decorated with hand-painted murals and not-too-cutesy Italian knickknacks, makes an honest-to-goodness -- man, is it good! -- cheesesteak. It starts with a half-pound of thinly sliced sirloin, imported from Philly, that's chopped up on the grill with onions and then topped with plenty of provolone; the delicious mess is piled into Santoro's nine-inch, home-baked Italian roll, a thin, spongy loaf that holds the juices and the sandwich together.
Citygrille
Courtesy CityGrille Facebook
CityGrille, a newly remodeled Capitol Hill hot spot, just keeps getting hotter -- and its burger just keeps getting better. To make its take on the American classic, the kitchen grills up 80 percent lean ground sirloin, then slaps it on a yielding, juice-soaking Bluepoint Bakery bun. The burgers are fine plain, but they're also good gussied up; one particularly successful combo sports an inch-thick blanket of melted Swiss, crisp bacon and a great Caesar dressing. Although the bar's a great place for taking your time over a burger and a few beers, the people-watching is prime in the dining room.
1515 Restaurant
Owner Gene Tang has made many changes at 1515 over the years, not the least of which was shaving the restaurant's name down to a number. But he's added on everywhere else, from an expanded wine list that recently earned a coveted "Award of Excellence" from Wine Spectator to a host of dishes created by chef Olav Peterson that roam the world for inspiration. One item remains unchanged, though, and deliciously so: 1515's signature burger, a half a pound of charbroiled ground beef covered with melted Gorgonzola, grill-sautéed mushrooms and smoked bacon. This heart-stopping, palate-pleasing upgrade of an old standby comes with a crispy, creamy mound of potato salad that's been fried, believe it or not. Talk about over the top!
Citygrille
Courtesy CityGrille Facebook
Handy, isn't it, for a restaurant that makes the town's best burger to also make its best French fries? Ronald McDonald, eat your heart out: These strips are the real deal, skinny and salty, with flavor that comes from a quick dip in hot oil rather than a trip to a flavor factory. The fries are delivered to your table so hot that grabbing one (and you will) could singe your fingers, but these crispy critters hold up even after a cooling-off period. This spud's for you, babe.
Olive and learn at Decisions, where the most intriguing appetizer is an order of deep-fried olives. The kitchen starts with black ones, stuffs them with Asiago cheese, covers them in seasoned breadcrumbs, fries them up and then serves them in a martini glass with a housemade ranch dressing on the side. They're weird, wild and wonderful.
Bastien's Restaurant
Mark Antonation
At Bastien's, a retro supper club, it sometimes seems like time has stopped -- back in the days when a steak had to be marbled with fat and no one said a discouraging word about cholesterol. And as if a plain old piece of cheesecake weren't a heart attack waiting to happen, Bastien's wraps the thing in a regular-sized tortilla and then deep-fries it so that the cheese gets all soft and smooshy and the tortilla turns golden brown and crispy. A ball of ice cream -- sometimes it's vanilla, sometimes it's caramel pecan -- comes on the side; the ambulance costs extra.
If you're from Wisconsin, cheese curds need no explanation. For those of you who didn't start out in the Dairy State, curds are the form that cheese takes before it's been aged for sale. These baubles look a little like styrofoam packing peanuts and have a texture that makes them squeak when you bite into one. Tony's starts with cheddar-cheese curds, coats them in batter and deep fries them into a snack fit for the gods -- especially when paired with a side of ranch dressing and some of the kitchen's homemade hot sauce. This quintessential joint, run by some true sons of Wisconsin, takes over where the Flying Dog left off, so you'll find good microbrews on tap. But don't let that deter you from trying another specialty, the Friday-night fish and Schlitz combo. Cheeseheads, unite!
All of those trendy chain doughnut places may get the press, but that's not the hole story. For a doughnut to really touch the spot, it has to come with a history. Carol Lee Donut Shop has been serving up fried treats for over two decades. The doughnuts make great dunkers, the raspberry roll goes cinnamon one better, and the apple fritter will fry you to the moon. Wake up and smell the coffee -- at Carol Lee's.
Aw, shucks. Long before other seafood restaurants realized that Denverites had the raw courage to slurp down oysters, McCormick's was offering a wide selection of the fresh suckers every day. Even fried, these oysters are pearls: tender, tasty flesh encased in a light cornmeal crust. If the kitchen isn't too busy -- and fat chance of that, since the corner bar is one of the town's popular hangouts -- the cook might even blacken 'em on request.
Baseball fans and LoDo regulars alike make tracks to this train-themed brewpub a baseball's throw from Coors Field. As a result, the Denver ChopHouse sports some of the town's best people-watching -- but once we've settled into a cozy, private back booth, we find it tough to take our eyes off our order of calamari. The squid comes coated in sesame seeds, which makes for crunchier, lighter eating than the standard fried rubber rings you find in so many spots around town; the dipping sauce of ginger-spiced apricot goo is another welcome departure from the usual marinara. Here's lookin' at eating you, squid.

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