Denver has an abundance of dives -- some murky, some dark, some that smell funny, some that are just plain dangerous. There are joints, holes-in-the-wall and hellholes of every description in this town, but Tom's takes the prize, because depending on what day of the week and what hour of the day you arrive, Tom's can be any (or all) of these things. Squatting colorfully on one of the worst corners in the city, crime-wise, by day Tom's is a great place for watching the world go by while eating some decent diner grub. At night the menu compresses, and most of those street creatures come inside for coffee and a place to rest their legs, so the people-watching gets up-close and personal. There are holes in the windows that may (or may not) be from stray bullets, locks on the bathroom doors, great servers, better corned beef hash, bottomless cups of coffee, and more entertainment packed into one place than you could find in a twelve-hour marathon of Cops.


You've just eaten one of the great meals of your life at Vega. You've been charmed by the beautiful surroundings, coddled by the staff, well fed from the kitchen's upscale but approachable nuevo-Latino menu, and left with a tiny plate of amuse geules -- sweet bites like handmade chocolate-truffle and fruit gelées brought out gratis. But you've still got a little room left between larynx and trachea that hasn't yet been stuffed full of good eats. So it's a good thing that in defiance of all the pomp and swank of the dinner menu and dining room, Vega offers a guilty-pleasure dessert: hand-spun cotton candy made in-house and served like smoke rising from the charred, crackly top of a true crme brlée. Go ahead and order it -- you know you want to. And don't worry about what that table full of stuffed shirts behind you will think when they see you licking spun sugar off your fingers. Because soon enough, they'll be doing it, too.
People-watching is an important part of the diner experience. Second to coffee-drinking, it might be the most important part. And if people-watching were a sport, Breakfast King is where future Olympic hopefuls would come to train. The King attracts all sorts, from old farts to young fellas, from truckers to slummers to parents dragging their squalling toddlers behind. Everyone is ably tended to by waitresses (not servers, not waitrons, but old-fashioned waitresses who are good at their jobs and happy doing them) working off a menu that was already old when the King was new -- a time-capsule version of American cuisine, circa 1970, that's full of cheeseburgers and fries, Coney Island hot dogs, chiliette, biscuits and gravy, and ham with pineapple rings. The coffee is strong, the company easy, and no matter what hour you wander in, one thing is certain: It's good to be the King.


There's only one way to improve on dessert, and that's to find a way to sneak some alcohol into it. Sure, this tactic has left us with a world full of rum balls, rum cakes and rum tarts, but don't blame Mel's. Here, ptissire Robert McCarthy has come up with the coolest, most boozerific dessert we've found: the Cosmopolitan. Served in a sugared martini glass, this beauty combines apricot sorbet, dried lime and tiny, clear cubes of vodka gelée. Put a spoonful in your mouth, and the melting sorbet immediately alters the liquid balance of the gelée, causing it to melt across your tongue like a high-end Jell-O shot. Cool.
Americans now live in a 24-hour world. There's no more 9-to-5, no more forty-hour weeks, and the dinner hour has become a fluid concept as people try to balance B-shifts and night shifts and all the responsibilities of days over-full of everything. But some good has come out of all this hurry and stress: Restaurant hours keep extending later and later into the evening. For a very delicious example, Brasserie Rouge now offers a full dinner menu until 11 p.m. on weekdays and until midnight on Friday and Saturday nights. Whether you're a long-shift worker, a late-night eater or just another one of the young and restless out on the town, Brasserie Rouge will serve you duck confit, steak frites and charcuterie plates long into the night, and do so in a great, crowded, noisy, smoky bar that, if not an actual slice of Parisian nightlife, is certainly the next best thing.


Denver has an abundance of dives -- some murky, some dark, some that smell funny, some that are just plain dangerous. There are joints, holes-in-the-wall and hellholes of every description in this town, but Tom's takes the prize, because depending on what day of the week and what hour of the day you arrive, Tom's can be any (or all) of these things. Squatting colorfully on one of the worst corners in the city, crime-wise, by day Tom's is a great place for watching the world go by while eating some decent diner grub. At night the menu compresses, and most of those street creatures come inside for coffee and a place to rest their legs, so the people-watching gets up-close and personal. There are holes in the windows that may (or may not) be from stray bullets, locks on the bathroom doors, great servers, better corned beef hash, bottomless cups of coffee, and more entertainment packed into one place than you could find in a twelve-hour marathon of Cops.
If you sometimes find yourself wandering the city's grayer quarters at odd hours, looking for a place to come down, sober up or just think those kinds of thoughts that come best in the middle of the night, then head straight for Pete's Kitchen. This year, everyone's favorite breakfast spot made the jump from being a weekend-only all-night destination to a 24/7 outpost for Denver's party boys, vampires and insomniacs. Which means you can now get a strong cup of bottomless coffee, a fix of avgolemono (Greek lemon, chicken and rice soup), a few slices off the meat stick or just a piece of homemade cherry pie whenever you want it. Add to this the warm glow that comes from spending the wee hours with the city's most motley crew of nightcrawlers, and we think you'll agree: Pete's is where it's at.


Breakfast King
Mark Antonation
People-watching is an important part of the diner experience. Second to coffee-drinking, it might be the most important part. And if people-watching were a sport, Breakfast King is where future Olympic hopefuls would come to train. The King attracts all sorts, from old farts to young fellas, from truckers to slummers to parents dragging their squalling toddlers behind. Everyone is ably tended to by waitresses (not servers, not waitrons, but old-fashioned waitresses who are good at their jobs and happy doing them) working off a menu that was already old when the King was new -- a time-capsule version of American cuisine, circa 1970, that's full of cheeseburgers and fries, Coney Island hot dogs, chiliette, biscuits and gravy, and ham with pineapple rings. The coffee is strong, the company easy, and no matter what hour you wander in, one thing is certain: It's good to be the King.
Americans now live in a 24-hour world. There's no more 9-to-5, no more forty-hour weeks, and the dinner hour has become a fluid concept as people try to balance B-shifts and night shifts and all the responsibilities of days over-full of everything. But some good has come out of all this hurry and stress: Restaurant hours keep extending later and later into the evening. For a very delicious example, Brasserie Rouge now offers a full dinner menu until 11 p.m. on weekdays and until midnight on Friday and Saturday nights. Whether you're a long-shift worker, a late-night eater or just another one of the young and restless out on the town, Brasserie Rouge will serve you duck confit, steak frites and charcuterie plates long into the night, and do so in a great, crowded, noisy, smoky bar that, if not an actual slice of Parisian nightlife, is certainly the next best thing.
The crowd outside Zona's is a telltale sign that last call has been called. Shortly after 2 a.m., patrons line up -- rain, sleet or snow -- for a taste of the down-home cookin' that's served hot and fresh until 3 a.m. And what Zona's lacks in amenities -- there's no seating, for example, unless you park yourself on the hood of your car -- it more than makes up for in expansiveness. The late-night menu is the same as the daytime menu: fried chicken, smothered pork chops, pig's-ear sandwiches, steak, killer yams and turnip greens and, of course, tamales. A stop at Zona's sure beats another slice.


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