"It's the best macaroni and cheese you'll ever have," our server told us, and in his eye was the gleam of the fanatic. Eat out enough, and you'll hear that kind of thing a thousand times -- that blank is the best blank you'll ever have -- and it always comes from servers who are adamant in their convictions and usually wrong. But at Le Chantecler, our waiter was absolutely right. The kitchen's lumache pasta with hard Spanish mahón cow's-milk cheese is not just the best mac-n-cheese around, but better by leaps and bounds than its closest competitor. It's cheesy, gooey, warm and satisfying, perfectly colored, perfectly cooked. And Le Chantecler gets bonus points, because this mac-n-cheese isn't even a main course, but comes cuddled on the side of an excellent spread of roasted pork medallions in a ham-hock jus.
Forget your jumped-up truffled mashers, your milk-and-cookie menus, your comfort food in all its gummy incarnations. That fad is played out, and good riddance. What's replaced it is a focus on those uncomplicated culinary pleasures that -- when done well and treated with respect, rather than tongue-in-cheek smart-assitude -- can bring more actual comfort than a hundred gallons of gussied-up beans and weenies. The best among them? The grilled cheese sandwich. At Chedd's, owners Dirk and Wendy Bruley have made this modest sandwich an object of gustatory worship. Grilled cheese is all they do at Chedd's, in about 17 billion combinations. On the chalkboard behind the counter, they've listed twelve kinds of bread, over thirty kinds of cheese, eight meats, a dozen varieties of vegetables and spreads, and assorted condiments, which you can mix and match for the grilled cheese sandwich of your dreams.
There's so much to love about Parisi, beginning with the restaurant and ending with the deli, which is what dedicated foodies hope heaven will look like when they die -- from the frozen Muscovy ducks to all the homemade stocks for the home cook. But the best thing at the deli, and one of the reasons the food in the restaurant section is so good, is the big basket of baseball-sized rounds of handmade, fresh-milk mozzarella. Depending on when you arrive and how the kitchen is operating, you can have a taste of cheese made just moments before you walked in the door, and you're never going to get cheese more than a few hours old, because this stuff sells fast. Smooth, silky, milky and mild, Parisi's mozz is a cheese whiz.
It's such a simple thing, the burrito. Take some rice and beans, some meat, a little salsa, spread it on a soft tortilla, fold and go. It's the ultimate convenience food, was in the vanguard of the Mexican-cuisine invasion that changed the way our entire country eats, and still stands shoulder-to-shoulder with the dumpling, the cheeseburger, foie gras and cassoulet in the pantheon of mankind's great food innovations. Although the burrito is now served in wondrous variety at hundreds of restaurants across the city, Chipotle takes the prize for its constant improvement of what started life as the best burrito in town and now has become the best burrito on the planet. From free-range Niman Ranch meats to organic beans, fluffy rice that's perfect no matter what hour you arrive, chewy tortillas heated to order, three distinct salsas and great guac made fresh all day, this Denver creation born out of the newfangled ideas and dedication of hometown boy and former line cook Steve Ells does everything right. True, Chipotle is now a McDonald's brand. And yes, what began as a simple University of Denver-area taquería has been transformed into one of the fastest-growing, most pervasive chains in the country. But you know what? Sometimes success comes to those who actually deserve it.
"It's the best macaroni and cheese you'll ever have," our server told us, and in his eye was the gleam of the fanatic. Eat out enough, and you'll hear that kind of thing a thousand times -- that blank is the best blank you'll ever have -- and it always comes from servers who are adamant in their convictions and usually wrong. But at Le Chantecler, our waiter was absolutely right. The kitchen's lumache pasta with hard Spanish mahón cow's-milk cheese is not just the best mac-n-cheese around, but better by leaps and bounds than its closest competitor. It's cheesy, gooey, warm and satisfying, perfectly colored, perfectly cooked. And Le Chantecler gets bonus points, because this mac-n-cheese isn't even a main course, but comes cuddled on the side of an excellent spread of roasted pork medallions in a ham-hock jus.
A truly great breakfast burrito must be three things: It must be big, it must be messy, and it must be capable of curing anything from a simple hangover to Patagonian skull fever in just one serving. At Pete's, the kitchen makes a breakfast burrito that accomplishes all three admirably. First, this burrito is huge -- a big tortilla, liberally stuffed with potatoes and a simple omelet of meat (bacon, sausage or ham) and two eggs, large enough to fill an entire platter end to end. Second, it's plenty messy, because the cook takes this big-ass burrito, hits it with a fistful of traffic-cone-orange shredded cheese, then glops up the whole thing with pork-spiked and spicy Colorado verde. And third, you can forget your grandmother's chicken soup; there's no malady known to man that can stand up to one of Pete's massive burritos. So no matter what ails you, if you have the strength to stagger up to the counter to order one of these monsters, we guarantee you'll be feeling better by the time you leave.
Parisi Italian Market & Deli
There's so much to love about Parisi, beginning with the restaurant and ending with the deli, which is what dedicated foodies hope heaven will look like when they die -- from the frozen Muscovy ducks to all the homemade stocks for the home cook. But the best thing at the deli, and one of the reasons the food in the restaurant section is so good, is the big basket of baseball-sized rounds of handmade, fresh-milk mozzarella. Depending on when you arrive and how the kitchen is operating, you can have a taste of cheese made just moments before you walked in the door, and you're never going to get cheese more than a few hours old, because this stuff sells fast. Smooth, silky, milky and mild, Parisi's mozz is a cheese whiz.
Chipotle Mexican Grill
It's such a simple thing, the burrito. Take some rice and beans, some meat, a little salsa, spread it on a soft tortilla, fold and go. It's the ultimate convenience food, was in the vanguard of the Mexican-cuisine invasion that changed the way our entire country eats, and still stands shoulder-to-shoulder with the dumpling, the cheeseburger, foie gras and cassoulet in the pantheon of mankind's great food innovations. Although the burrito is now served in wondrous variety at hundreds of restaurants across the city, Chipotle takes the prize for its constant improvement of what started life as the best burrito in town and now has become the best burrito on the planet. From free-range Niman Ranch meats to organic beans, fluffy rice that's perfect no matter what hour you arrive, chewy tortillas heated to order, three distinct salsas and great guac made fresh all day, this Denver creation born out of the newfangled ideas and dedication of hometown boy and former line cook Steve Ells does everything right. True, Chipotle is now a McDonald's brand. And yes, what began as a simple University of Denver-area taquería has been transformed into one of the fastest-growing, most pervasive chains in the country. But you know what? Sometimes success comes to those who actually deserve it.
There are three things we love about the little, often-overlooked Jalapeño Mexican Grill that squats on Leetsdale amid all the paint stores and mechanics. We love the patio, which is the ugliest patio in the city, with the worst view in the state. We love the fish tacos, which are basic, pedestrian and the closest thing to the real Juarez article you'll find off Federal Boulevard. And we love the La Jolla fish burrito -- as thick as a grown man's forearm and stuffed full, a California take on coastal-Mexican cuisine but much more complex than the simple fillet-salsa-tortilla wraps served on those Mexican beaches devoid of tourists. The La Jolla features the same fish as Jalapeño's tacos -- a firm-fleshed, mild whitefish sealed inside its chewy armor, rich enough to leak grease over everything -- along with rice, beans and a sweet pico de gallo that's much better than Jalapeño's weak salsa. Go with black beans over pinto; they're slightly firm, never gooey, and have a clean, almost meaty taste that lends extra bulk and flavor.
Pete's Kitchen
Danielle Lirette
A truly great breakfast burrito must be three things: It must be big, it must be messy, and it must be capable of curing anything from a simple hangover to Patagonian skull fever in just one serving. At Pete's, the kitchen makes a breakfast burrito that accomplishes all three admirably. First, this burrito is huge -- a big tortilla, liberally stuffed with potatoes and a simple omelet of meat (bacon, sausage or ham) and two eggs, large enough to fill an entire platter end to end. Second, it's plenty messy, because the cook takes this big-ass burrito, hits it with a fistful of traffic-cone-orange shredded cheese, then glops up the whole thing with pork-spiked and spicy Colorado verde. And third, you can forget your grandmother's chicken soup; there's no malady known to man that can stand up to one of Pete's massive burritos. So no matter what ails you, if you have the strength to stagger up to the counter to order one of these monsters, we guarantee you'll be feeling better by the time you leave.

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