Best "Always Get Lucky on the Third Date" Dinner Destination

Cuba Cuba

Cuba Cuba Cafe & Bar
Molly Martin
Cuba Cuba has the power to move you. No matter how gray the day or unpromising the night, the big Havana vibe at this little tropical oasis will transport you to more laid-back latitudes the minute you step through the door. The food is fun -- from Cuban picadillo and rum-painted snapper to plantain chips and cigar selections with dessert -- and the shoulder-to-shoulder weekend crowds of smart Denver diners out for a sophisticated mini-spring break give the whole place a humid, sexy edge that's sure to break anyone's ice. And hey, if the lively crowds, spicy Latin music and expertly casual floor staff orchestrated by Kristy Socarras Bigelow don't loosen things up, have the bar mix up a few of its killer mojitos. After a couple of these, luck will have nothing to do with getting lucky.
Greg Moore, a former managing editor with the Boston Globe who was cherry-picked by owner Dean Singleton for the position of Denver Post editor, has been on the job for less than a year, but he's already done what many observers thought would be impossible: He's got people talking about a paper previously regarded as stodgy and deadly dull. The Post isn't yet the great American newspaper that Moore and Singleton envision; there's still a long way to go. But Moore's energy and drive have helped make this goal seem like an actual possibility rather than the haziest of pipe dreams. The rest is up to him.

Best Addition to the Rocky Mountain News

The Stump

We'll admit it: At first the Rocky Mountain News's new design hurt our eyes, and we couldn't imagine how the paper would continue to fill its "channels" -- those left-hand columns earmarked for chatty tidbits, quotes and "by the numbers" trivia. But the News adjusted some type, we adjusted our expectations -- and the channels just kept getting better and better. The most successful of all: The Stump, with notes, odd news and observations from the campaign trail.
God-Shaped Hole, Tiffanie Debartolo's tale of star-crossed love - born in the classified ads, played out beneath the artificial glow of Los Angeles life -- has all of the elements of pure romantic noir: The lead character, Trixie, has a love affair with the dreamy and intense Jacob, a writer for an alternative weekly newspaper, that is burning, tumultuous and, ultimately, tragic. (Let's just say someone drowns in the Pacific, leaving the other for the great wave in the sky.) But the debut novel from DeBartolo, who also penned the screenplay for the Jennifer Aniston/Ione Sky vehicle Dreams of an Insomniac, is funny, bold, quasi-philosophical and a hell of a lot smarter than your standard grocery-store paperback fare. Currently splitting time between Boulder and the Big Apple, DeBartolo is reportedly at work on her second book; we can only hope it's as divine as her first.


Best Capitol Education While Noshing Wolfe¹s Barbeque

Wolfe's Barbeque

Wolfe's Barbeque, a jewel-box-sized restaurant on Colfax, feels like a Southern lunch place. But head cook and bottle washer Louis Wolfe is a Kansan by birth and a Denverite by choice. So much so that his walls are lined with collectible postcards of area buildings that date back to the 1900s -- and he can tell the story of each one. The Section 8 housing at Colfax and Grant used to be the Grand Argonaut Hotel, for example, and Temple Emmanuel was stunning in its early glory. As Wolfe gives his colorful and entertaining history lesson -- served up with a slice of great pecan pie -- you can stick your head out the door and still see the remains of what he's describing.

Best Correction in the Denver Post

Two days after the new leaders of the Colorado General Assembly were sworn in this session, a correction appeared in the Denver Post: "Because of a reporter's error, Diane Carman's column on the Denver and the West cover Thursday incorrectly stated that Colorado House Speaker Lola Spradley's mother was among the family members at the Capitol on Wednesday to witness her swearing in. Spradley's mother is deceased." Easy mistake, though: In her speech, Spradley had referred to her mother, who passed away three decades earlier, looking "down from above." Guess Carman thought she wound up in the cheap seats.

Best Correction in the Rocky Mountain News

In January, the Rocky Mountain News ran this correction on page two: "The cover photo of today's Spotlight section shows a snowshoer rather than a cross-country skier." Bet they know the difference now.

Best Dance Club for Dancing ­ Before the Roof Fell In

Vinyl

Club Vinyl
Yeah, we know Vinyl is no more: The great blizzard of 2003 tore the roof off the place, literally, while completely demolishing Floyd's Barbershop next door. But owner Regas Christou has vowed to rebuild, and we hope he hops to. Although Vinyl lacked the flash of the high-profile Church right around the corner, among music aficionados and the die-hard dance set, it ranked a notch higher on the cool scale. The ambience was fresher, the DJs were hipper, and the crowd was usually down for something more adventurous than the latest J.Lo remix. Internationally known spinners as well as local residents took to the tables in the multi-room space. And if you were looking to update your encyclopedia of dance moves, Vinyl's patrons had your booty covered. A word to the reconstructionists: We think the place would look great with, say, a pitched ceiling.

Best Freak-Show, Acid-Trip, "I Certainly Didn't Come Here for the Food" Mexican

Casa Bonita

Casa Bonita
Hunter Thompson once said of Circus Circus in Las Vegas, "This is what the whole hep world would be doing on a Saturday night if the Nazis had won the war." Well, that was then -- and today, Casa Bonita is the place to see what would really become of the world if the radical fun police ever had their way. Sure, we all know the food is, er, questionable. But that can be said of a lot of places where there aren't strolling mariachi bands and teenage cliff divers, so everyone just give Casa Bonita a break, okay? Will anyone who's ever been there soon forget the smell of the swampy, chlorinated backsplash that could grace your gooey tacos if you're lucky enough to get a seat behind the waterfall? For sheer "I can't believe this place is real" thrills, nothing beats Casa Bonita -- the closest thing in Denver to a Terry Gilliam film come to life. And hey, any place where you can buy Coronas by the bucket can't be all bad.
So you're at a bar, and a certain creepy someone is refusing to leave you alone unless you give him or her your phone number. What to do? Tell the heavy breather in question to call you at 303-575-1696 -- digits that just happen to dial up Denver's Rejection Hotline, a local service of the Web site www.rejectionhotline.com. Although the Hotline's recorded voice is briefly understanding ("I know this sucks, but don't be too devastated"), it's anything but in the long run, hinting that the person being dissed may be "short, fat, ugly, dumb," suffer from "bad breath" or "body odor," give off a "stalker vibe," or is about as much fun as "playing leapfrog with a unicorn." There's no better way to tell that certain unwanted someone to take a hike.

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