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.
Sam Taylor's Bar-B-Que
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?
Tokyo Joe's
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.
All signs point to the Zodiac Lounge. During the week, this Mediterranean club serves dinner until 10 p.m. But on Fridays and Saturdays, the kitchen stays open until 1 a.m., and the late-night hours prove the perfect time to experience this sensory-overload "entertainment experience." Munch on delectable fried calamari, duck quesadillas, grilled tenderloin kabob and buttery shrimp scampi in the "Water Room," with its holograph-lined copper bar and twelve-foot waterfall, while sneaking a peek at the partyers dancing the night away in the nearby Club Cosmo.
After a night of boozing, a slice of New York-style pizza dripping with cheese is just the one-two punch you need to make it home. The conveniently located Two-Fisted Mario's is open until 2 a.m. during the week and 3 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays, which gives you plenty of time to regroup after the bars close by putting a sugary soda and a slice into your system. Better yet, order a large pie and take the rest home with you: There's nothing like cold pizza for a hangover.
Finally, a place that knows how to do tapas right. These little Spanish-style starters aren't supposed to be full-fledged plates, nor are they supposed to be priced like them. Nicois recognizes this and offers more than a dozen ways to sample delightful combinations of full-flavored Mediterranean ingredients, including squid stuffed with roasted shrimp, seared foie gras, serrano ham with manchego cheese, and crispy-fried salt-cod fritters. The price is particularly appealing: Each taste treat is $3.50, which means you can snack on one or two as a starter, or put together a half-dozen and make a meal out them. Spring for a cava, Spain's answer to Champagne, while you're at it. Nice.
So many restaurants are hell-bent on putting all those newfangled, exciting ingredients on their appetizer lists that they forget all about the old-school classics, such as escargots bourguignonne and jumbo shrimp cocktail. Vasil's Euro-Grille, however, remembers to pay homage to the past even as it celebrates the new. The shrimp, for example, comes with that traditional cocktail sauce -- here a tangy homemade version -- as well as a salsa of pickled asparagus, endives and apples that's a savvy, zesty counterpoint to the sweet shrimp meat. And while the standby of oysters Rockefeller gets the usual treatment of creamy spinach and a splash of Pernod, the dish also features tomato-pumped hollandaise and shaved Asiago for a nutty twist. But wait, there's more: honey-baked goat cheese with roasted tomatoes, kalamatas and balsamic; seared foie gras on a slice of "crème brûlée" French toast with a raspberry reduction; and wild-mushroom risotto finished with white-truffle oil. If Vasil's wants to start something, we're ready.
We're sweet on Micole's pastry chef, Steven Fling, who continues to makes some of the most interesting, appealing desserts around. His eight-item roster includes such wonders as smoked golden pineapple in a coconut mousse with Myers's rum ice cream; a white-chocolate timbale surrounded by a basil-strewn apricot salad and apricot soup; and a "study" of three pears (pear tart, port-poached pear and pear sorbet). But the real icing on the cake is the creamy-textured apple-and-cheddar "crème brûlée" in a calvados syrup that's like nothing you've tasted before. Thanks to Fling, Micole finishes in first place.

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