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Best Place to Take Your New Girlfriend and Her Kids

Cherry Creek Grill

Last year, Cherry Creek Grill was Bandera, the best place to find divorced and single forty- and fifty-somethings who liked their liquor. Under a new name but the same ownership, it's now a family-friendly eatery that's the perfect spot to treat your date -- and her kids -- to dinner. The space is groovy enough to be impressive, and the food is good for all ages. The kids' menu features the usual grilled cheese, chicken sandwich and PB and honey, along with more serious dishes, including roasted chicken and prime rib; each kids' meal is $5 and includes a side, a drink and a Dove bar. The adult fare is just as tasty (roasted chicken is a sure bet for grownups, too), and the odd cabbage-laced mashed potatoes -- like the chicken, a holdover from the Bandera lineup -- are a must. In the end, everyone goes home happy -- as long as they go to their own homes.

At most restaurants, where there's smoke, there's ire. And even at Racines during the first six hours of the day, smokers can light up only in the welcoming bar area. But starting at 2 p.m. -- and all day on Sundays -- Racines gives smokers some room of their own by turning the comfortable back area of the restaurant, with its warm lighting and sink-into-them swivel chairs, into a smoking section where ciggy heads can light up, eat a great salad (filled with heart-healthy veggies) and enjoy one of the best margaritas in town.

Best Place to Recover From Smoking


In Japan, miso soup is known as "smoker's soup," because the soy and ginger in the restorative brew are thought to counteract the harmful effects of cigarettes. And nowhere in town is the miso soup more flavorful and restorative than at Taki's, where owner Hisashi Takimoto has been working on his own brand of miso -- now available in grocery stores and specialty food markets -- since 1990. Customers rave about its curative properties, calling it "flu shot soup." And with recent studies touting more healthful qualities of soy, some Taki's regulars are even downing the soup in the hopes of preventing gallstones and cancer, lowering cholesterol and relieving menopause symptoms. But even if you aren't ailing, this soup is good food.

Anyone who's had a restaurant meal ruined by clouds of secondary smoke coming from the next table (or one across the room), take note: With a little help, even you can safely inhale your food. GASP of Colorado (Group to Alleviate Smoking Pollution) and the Denver Alliance on Tobacco and Health have teamed up to compile the Denver Guide to Smoke-Free Dining, a handy booklet that could ensure you'll never again have to pay for food that hasn't been blackened on purpose (mistakes from the kitchen notwithstanding). Pick up a free copy at Denver Public Health, or order it online -- where you can also search a list of restaurants that have come clean.

"The only advanced, home-study cooking course designed to improve the grilling and smoke-cooking skills of the novice backyard BBQuer, the professional chef and the advanced competition cook," the Culinary Institute of Smoke-Cooking was founded in the mid-'80s by Missouri residents Ruthie Knote and her late husband, Charlie. But CISC has since become the grill next door, as a group of Denverites took over administering the "master's level program," an eight-lesson, totally online course that nonetheless offers "in the pit" training and promises to reveal to students such hot tidbits as How to Master the Meat Market Maze and How to Grill Steak, Hamburgers, Chicken and More to Perfection the First Time and Every Time. Participants who finish the eight courses within a year are awarded the CISC Master BBQ Cook Certificate. Although we haven't shelled out the $299 tuition yet, we plan to as soon as we can find the right apron: This sounds like a smokin' deal.
Smoking at high altitude means battling Arctic temperatures and a short supply of oxygen -- major threats to the low-and-slow technique. The Big Green Egg smoker overcomes those obstacles, though, thanks to its ceramic body and tunable top and bottom dampers. The egg-cellent Egg, available at the Outdoor Kitchen, lets 'cue hounds feed their smoking addiction year-round -- and makes ribs as divine as those you'll find at any local rib shack.

Although the smoked turkey is only available at Sam Taylor's Barbecue from Thanksgiving through New Year's, this bird is worth waiting for. The longtime Denver BBQ joint puts a whole turkey in a convection smoker with applewood and hickory, then smokes it for 24 hours. The surround-heat seals in the juices, so that when you cut through the skin, they ooze right out. The tender meat inside has a delectable smoky flavor. The turkeys, which come in all sizes, run $3.25 a pound, but be sure to order yours ahead of time: They fly right out the door.

Do you march to a different drumstick? Shake a leg over to the Rib Shack, where they grill up dozens of big, meaty turkey legs every day. On their own or wearing a sock of barbecue sauce, these gamey gams are worth every penny of their $5.35 price tag.

Our friend the pig has many worthy parts, from the feet that give kick to menudo to those juicy fat hams to that tasty underbelly. At Zona's Tamales, even the pig's ears go to a good cause -- cooked until tender (except for that crunchy cartilage) and slathered with mustard and onions, they fill a novel sandwich. Are you listening?

It can be costly enough feeding yourself, much less fueling up a whole family, which is why Tokyo Joe's was such a welcome addition to the Denver dining scene. This homegrown chain cooks up Japanese fare that's a clean, healthy alternative to grease-laden fast food. The tasty bowls, many of which are in the $4 range, feature marinated, grilled chicken and sirloin or steamed vegetables, draped in your choice of curry, Joe's sweet teriyaki, the trademarked hot Spicy-aki, or oyako sauce, a faintly oniony concoction. For another 60 cents, you can switch out the rice for noodles, Asian veggies or tofu. And the kids' meals will bowl you over: A serving of chicken teriyaki, noodles and cheese, or noodle teriyaki, complete with a cookie, costs just $2.70. Have it your way, the healthy way.

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