Best Powerful Breakfast 2002 | Sam's No. 3 | Best of Denver® | Best Restaurants, Bars, Clubs, Music and Stores in Denver | Westword
At Sam's No. 3, a wonderfully kitschy diner, the Kitchen Sink Skillet will either kill you or keep you fueled for an entire day. Two eggs, done your way, are placed on top of a skilletful of grill-crisped home fries that have been mixed with melted cheddar, grilled onions, bell peppers, diced tomatoes, sliced mushrooms and pieces of ham, bacon, sausage and gyros meat; Sam's then smothers the whole damn pan with its "kickin' green chili," a medium-spicy, tomatoey, pork-packed green chile. With a side of toast to sponge up every crumb, this is a powerful way to start -- or end -- your day.

Power to the businesspeople who cram into this authoritatively noisy spot for lunch, eager to see who else is there and ciao down on innovative, new-wave Italian fare. The bright, bustling Campo de Fiori is so noisy that no one can eavesdrop on your conversation, and the menu alone will give you plenty to talk about -- from bold gnocchi al funghi for middle- management types who're strong enough to be seen eating dumplings to a buffalo mozzarella salad that says, "I haven't lost everything to the stock market yet." Liquid- lunchers who have lost a bundle sit at the bar downing limoncellos like Jolly Ranchers. Control your intake, though, because you can't risk a restroom stop: You might miss something.

Those who frequent the Monaco outpost of the multi-site Colorado Athletic Club have an extra incentive to get a good workout: an in-house cafe that serves up better chicken wings and savvier Caesar salads than you'll find in most regular restaurants. Set up behind the check-in desk at this large workout facility, Café Monaco boasts a dozen wooden tables and a view of the indoor tennis courts (which can sometimes be inspirational in a different way). The kitchen specializes in healthy items, including a veggie sandwich, salads, homemade soups and a "Body for Life" salad, described as "the right mix of protein, vegetable and carbohydrates." Not everything here is good for you: For starters, there's that cheese-packed quesadilla and the deep-fried popcorn shrimp served over French fries. But you've earned it, right?

Don't you know we're riding high on the Marrakesh express, an all-you-can eat buffet lunch featuring the best this restaurant has to offer? For $5.95, a diner can sample four Middle Eastern entrees, including a heavenly chicken dish, in addition to sides, salads and gooey sticky buns so sweet they'd make the gods weep. Although the meal itself is a real deal, you also get to enjoy it in sumptuous surroundings, complete with silky patterned fabrics hanging from the ceiling and chairs you can sink into for a restful midday retreat.

Sidle up to the bar at Tamayo between 5 and 7 p.m. weekdays and prepare to get happy. Very happy. The jazzy, snazzy atmosphere at this upscale Mexican restaurant is enough to make you feel upbeat, but the happy-hour deal is guaranteed to elevate your attitude. During Hora Feliz, what is already one of the best margaritas in town comes with an extra half-shot of tequila, as well as botanas -- free little tidbits that go down just as smoothly. The offerings change daily; we've supped our way through little bowls of poblano-packed soup, dipped tortilla chips into a zesty black bean dip, munched on chicken-filled tamales and tucked into authentic ceviche. ¡Salud!

Fishing for an inexpensive way to unwind after work? Cast your lot with the rest of the downtowners who head to Del Mar Crab House, an inviting, below-street-level eatery in Larimer Square. There's no bait-and-switch here: Look for the $2 appetizers offered Monday through Thursday, and you could net a cup of soup, mussels, peel-and-eat shrimp, crabcakes or steamed clams (oysters are 75 cents each). And on Fridays, the snacks are on the house: The happy-hour buffet includes shrimp, hot wings, chips and salsa, jalapeño poppers and quesadillas. With well drinks, beer and wine all priced at $3.50, you can raise your glass to reeling in a real catch.
The Park Meadows outlet of the Rock Bottom Brewery features a friendly deal on select Thursday evenings: Between 6 and 6:30 p.m., you can stop in and enjoy a free beer whenever a new brew is tapped. And since this offer is only one per customer, please, let us suggest a glass of Catcher in the Rye ale, the specialty of this location and a Great American Beer Festival bronze award winner. Sip and savor the flavor; you'll still have time to get home and warm up the TV for Friends.

Just looking at the appetizer menu at Restaurant Kevin Taylor, restaurateur Kevin Taylor's namesake that recently earned Mobil four-star status, is enough to overdraw our bank account. But when price is no object, serious foodies and folks with expansive expense accounts head straight for this elegant room, where the food is enough to make your eyeballs roll toward the heavens. There's homemade ravioli filled with black truffles and roasted garlic, tuna ceviche awash in coconut milk and served in a tuille made from chiles and coriander, and ravioli stuffed with Maine lobster and crab. A four-course meal here will set a person back sixty bucks -- and that's without tax and tip, much less wine -- but who cares when someone else is paying? And if that someone desperately wants you as a client, go ahead and order that ounce of "000" Beluga caviar ($85), which doesn't really go with a bottle of 1959 Château Margaux, but what the heck -- it's only $2,400, and worth every penny. And so are you.

Best Restaurant for You and Sixty of Your Closest Friends

Highland's Garden Cafe

Last year, the popular Highland's Garden Cafe changed course: Instead of acting like a regular restaurant, it's now a mecca for folks looking to get together with anywhere from six to sixty for private meals in the comfort of these two joined Victorian homes. While the gorgeous spaces are still open to the public a few times a month, the rest of the time the charming rooms -- many decorated with trompe l'oeil walls and overlooking lush gardens and a stunning back patio -- hold groups of businesspeople, wedding rehearsals, family reunions and old friends, all of whom get to take advantage of chef/owner Pat Perry's striking dishes paired with wines from the extensive cellar. Party on.

Best Place to Tell Your Mother You're Gay

BJ's Carousel

Okay, maybe the name should be her first clue, but if that doesn't do it, a walk through the bar, filled with drag queens and male strippers, might be all she needs. But sometimes Mom just doesn't get it, and that's when you can sit down in the colorful dining room at BJ's Carousel and, over very good, all-you-can-eat spaghetti for $2.50, drop the bomb. If she runs out screaming, you won't have blown too much cash, and any change you have left over will snag a bag of popcorn from the old-fashioned machine in front. Then you can sit back and watch the floor show.

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