Best Of 2007 | Denver | Denver Westword | The Leading Independent News Source in Denver, Colorado
Mark Antonation
You might recognize the name "Tacos D.F." It was painted on the side of a great lonchera that once prowled the streets of Denver. Now all the pleaures of that taco truck can be found in the same spot night after night, in a little joint in the middle of a strip mall along Parker Road. The space is warm and comfortable, with one wall covered floor to ceiling with black-marker graffiti scrawled by legions of satisfied customers. Service is exceptionally quick, incredibly friendly and eager to please. There are specials written out longhand on construction paper -- but anything from the regular offerings of pork and asada tacos, tacos cabeza, sopes de bistec and a short list of tortas is bound to be good. It helps to speak a little Spanish here, but you can usually get by with some phonetics, a little mime and a lot of pointing at the menu hung above the window where orders are taken, paid for and delivered.
Ross-Cherry Creek Branch Library

305 Milwaukee St.

303-331-4016 Going to the library has never felt so naughty. Walk into the Ross-Cherry Creek Branch Library and you'll be greeted at the door by DVDs -- rows and rows of them. The bookshelves here are a mere backdrop; the establishment has long since embraced that which draws in its patrons. And the movie selection -- oh, the selection. New releases like Prairie Home Companion. Season after full season of Six Feet Under. B-movies with no hint of literary value, such as American Pie: Band Camp. Grab two, grab four -- hell, grab seven, the maximum you're allowed (the librarians get that all the time). And when you check out, the only plastic you'll need to flash is your library card. This being a library, everything is gloriously, scandalously free. Melvil Dewey may be turning in his grave, but we movie buffs wouldn't have it any other way.

Matthew Morris Salon

277 Broadway

303-715-4673 First Friday is one of Denver's most reliable monthly happenings. Thanks to Matthew Morris Salon, a chic beauty spot on South Broadway, culture-consuming Denverites can look their best while scoping the city's hot spots for high and low art. During Friday Night Blow Outs, held the first Friday of every month, Matthew Morris offers free polish changes and blow dries in a chatty setting filled with beautiful people. Cocktails are always on the menu, as are a wide array of services and sensual spa treatments -- for a price. And though their work is not the stuff of ARTForum, Morris's talented staff can certainly count themselves among the city's creative class. Just ask anyone who's ever popped in for an updo.

401 17th St.

303-296-0400 Situated across Tremont Street from the legendary (and extremely expensive) Brown Palace Hotel, the Comfort Inn Downtown affords many of the same luxuries at a fraction of the price. Towering over the Brown at 24 floors, the Inn is less polished than its five-star counterpart, but the art-deco style standard corner rooms feature comfy beds, floor-to-ceiling windows and spectacular panoramic views of the city. Suites are also available. Because the Comfort Inn is affiliated with the Brown, guests have access to the latter's 24-hour room service and spa, as well as other amenities. The difference is that after soaking up the ambience of the Brown's beautiful atrium lobby or Ship Tavern, Comfort guests can sneak back across the street to their humble digs, with an extra $200 of unspent cash in their wallets.

Many metro locations Those who enter the Dollar Tree to slum for 99-cent chatchkes and crappy closeout merchandise might be surprised when they emerge from one of the chain's five metro-area outlets with a cart full of things they actually need. Dish towels, extension cords, Tupperware, lightbulbs, work gloves, fabric softener, plastic dinnerware, beef food. All the same stuff you'd buy at the supermarket, but for a buck. Sure, the generic children's conditioner smells kinda weird -- but it's only a dollar! Same with the fancy wrapping paper, picture frames and jugs of jalapeños. Dollar Tree stores are, for the most part, spacious, well-organized and absent of the peculiar scent of many under-a-buck retailers, which means you'll have plenty of peace while examining the wide assortment of ceramic puppy-dog figurines.

W. Colfax Ave. and Pierce St., Lakewood JCRS is best known as the home of Denver's venerable tourist trap, Casa Bonita, but that's only the beginning of the low-rent excitement. Where else in town can you find a Save-A-Lot grocery store, Dollar Tree and Family Dollar discount stores and an ARC Thrift Store -- not to mention a post office and a place hawking discount video games? Imagine all the essentials of life in one place: food, clothing, cotton swabs, stamps, waterfall divers, Donkey Kong. It's the kind of one-stop paradise Colfax was meant to be.

7490 W. Colfax Ave., Lakewood

303-232-6345 Mag chloride still stuck to your car? Dog slobber on the windows and fur on the seats? Maybe a spilled Big Gulp left sticky spots on the console. For just $6.99, Octopus Car Wash will have you in, washed, waxed and on your way. For the more deluxe treatment -- which you'll want for that pet hair -- you'll still get out for less than $20. Just be sure to tip.

Leechpit Colorado Springs has way too few activists, but Adam Leech, who owns Leechpit, a punk-inspired vintage music and clothing store, is one of the strong. He made his message clear last December by setting loose a small army of store regulars with signs and fliers declaring "Corporate Gifts Suck! Please Buy Local!" In a blog posted shortly thereafter, Leech noted that his infantrymen suffered two death threats at Wal-Mart, were asked to leave the Chapel Hills Mall by four security guards and lasted only six minutes at the Citadel before getting booted. But Leech is upbeat about the whole thing: "We had ten people a day calling about it, and for a shop like us, that's priceless."

230 E. 13th Ave.

303-866-0165 Finding time to give back to the community is hard, especially when you're a hipster. Between kickball games, fixing your scooter and hating on local bands getting press, there's hardly enough time in the day to perform punk-rock karaoke, let alone give back to the less fortunate. And even if you do find the time, it's not like you have the money. (Do they have any idea how much a pack of Parliaments runs?) Buffalo Exchange, purveyor of fine hipster wares, solves this dilemma with its Tokens for Bags program. Purchase an item, and the clerk will ask if you want it bagged. Say no, and you'll be rewarded with a five-cent token that you can donate to one of three charities. The company has raised $240,000 since it implemented the program in stores across the nation in 1994. So forgo the plastic, hipsters, then go back to your condescension feeling proud.

175 S. Federal Blvd. A Statue of Liberty has carried a torch for Federal Boulevard since the early '80s. Bob Ramsour, the late owner of Federal Heating, loved building metal figures, and over the years, a collection of his creations, including an Uncle Sam and a skiing tin man, have adorned the neighborhood. But Lady Liberty, constructed using 250 pounds of galvanized sheet metal, remains his masterpiece. She's survived a beheading and the ravages of weather far better than even Ramsour might have hoped. May she continue to watch over Federal commuters for many years to come.

2936 E. Colfax Ave.

720-327-4845 A dancing portrait of Bob Marley stares down from the Caribbean Marketplace, marking the spot where the streets of Jamaica meet the streets of Denver. Bob's smiling face and swinging dreadlocks welcome visitors to the tiny shop. Colfax is a concrete jungle, but it's nice to have a little Rasta watching over the strip. In Hawaii, flower leis are used to celebrate everything from pre-school graduations to parole-board hearings. But while islanders can buy leis from the local Wal-Mart, here at 5,280 feet the fragrant tropical necklaces are hard to come by. So praise Pele for Little Grass Shack, which sells everything from fresh, single-strand leis and kakui-nut wristbands to Maile vine braids and the Christina Lei, composed of 1,000 tightly woven orchid petals. Maile Inagaki runs the company out of her home but can deliver all over the metro area. Just say "Aloha!"

116 S. Broadway Heaven Sent Me is the de rigueur destination for Pride weekend, but it's also open year-round for all your LBGT paraphernalia needs. Owner George Blackert has assembled scads of multi-hued cards, gifts, magazines, bumperstickers, flags, clothing, jewelry and boy toys, all of which burst forth from every corner of the store. But be sure to stop shopping long enough to pet George's sweet store puppies, Sasha and Talia. And if you live too far to take the yellow-brick road to South Broadway (or you're just a big pillow queen), Heaven Sent Me offers convenient online shopping at

15055 S. Golden Rd., Golden

303-278-0624 Trooper groupies will love this place -- if they can find it, tucked inside the state patrol's training academy. The shop offers CSP-branded T-shirts, polos, fleeces, mugs, golf tees, stuffed bears -- even a miniature patrol car for Junior. Our personal favorite: the CSP dashboard notepad, suitable for writing down excuses while waiting for the officer to check your registration and write that speeding ticket.

445 S. Saulsbury St., Lakewood At A++ Boutique de Force, six local fashion- and design-forward businesses join forces to present a powerhouse showroom on Belmar's artsy Block 7. Collectible sneakers rub shoelaces with vinyl toys, costume jewelry and mod tees while fine art and prints create a backdrop for trying on the best that Denver clothing designers have to offer. Give thanks to Gimme Gimme Pillow Toast, the Fabric Lab, Kundenkarte, Plastic Chapel and the 400 for bringing urban cool to the suburbs. A++!

1600 Glenarm Pl., Ste. 120

303-893-2277 When cute cooking couple Edward and Kristi Janos and their meat-cutting partner, Bill Roehl, moved their specialty grocery shop, Cook's Fresh, to the city, downtown denizens rejoiced. Loft-dwellers no longer had to satisfy themselves with visiting the website,, or face trekking out to the Tech Center to enjoy the market's gourmet groceries and condiments, rich-and-flaky baked goods, made-to-order sandwiches or delicious soups and prepared dishes. For those foodies and newbies more skilled at takeout, the Janoses even offer classes to on how to prepare such a plethora of goodness. Welcome home, Cook's Fresh Market.

Denver Pavilions

303-892-1200 Cali & Mo and Lilly Partain simply can't be mentioned separately. The sister stores, on the second level of the Pavilions, are the brainchildren of boutique entrepreneurs/friends Allison Leyn and Vicki Raichart, and both express a love of vintage -- but in different and equally charming ways. If Cali & Mo is a street girl, wrapped in her faintly upscale flea-market finds -- enameled tin sets, refurbished blazers, slinky new clothing, antiqued side tables, retro greeting cards and costume jewelry galore -- Lilly Partain is her Parisian cousin, flounced out in silky ruffles and flashing rhinestones and scented with hand-milled soaps. Old, new -- it's all mixed up between the two to create one wholly wonderful store.

Cherry Creek Shopping Center

303-333-8555 When shoppers first began comparing Foley's apples to Macy's stars after Federated Department Stores rebranded its stores, there didn't seem to be much difference -- just new signs replacing old. But the slavering few who'd shopped a Macy's elsewhere knew to be patient. Their wait paid off: Macy's is better. It's trendier and less cluttered, blending in well with the existing stores and able to satisfy the middle-of-the-road Jones New York crowd as well as those looking for something a little more chic. Now, that's star power.

1 S. Broadway

303-733-3855 From the moment partners Matthew Brown and Jaime Jennings opened Fancy Tiger, its blend of DIY mentality and hipster fashions meshed perfectly with the neighborhood and adjacent social centers hi-dive and Sputnik. And like a good bar, it has something for girls and guys alike: hip make-your-own kits, unisex saddle bags, jeans and street wear, knitting supplies, old buttons, open craft nights, sewing classes for men, deejaying classes for everyone and plenty of other busy-bee activities to keep the corner humming day and night. Plus, the blog at keeps a record of it all. Fancy Tiger, how did we ever live without you?

1018 S. Gaylord St.

303-722-2900 Pome has a little bit of everything and anything, all arranged to keep you oohing and aahing from the door to the back counter. There are even goodies to keep the kiddos looking and wishing while their moms are shopping. In fact, some of Kate Feinsod's best customers can't even see over the counter when they slap down a quarter for their penny candy. You'll find a great variety here, from an Italian accordion in a leather suitcase to an Hermès 3000 cursive typewriter, or appliquéd vinyl messenger bags by Queen Bee, beautiful necklaces hung with unique vintage findings by local jeweler Phyllis Quinn, a rainbow of ribbon sold by the yard, sweet tin toys and, in the summertime, even fresh fruit. Sweet. @choice:Readers' choice:

3180 Meade St.

303-777-1813 A delightful shop commanded by adorable owner Joy Barrett, Studio Bead is not like any other place on the block -- or anywhere else. One month, it's all vintage bags with freshly beaded and charm-hung handles; the next it's a Frida tribute show. But always there's a well-culled selection of beads, from inside-painted orbs from China to whimsical glass lampwork kitties. Drop by, sign up for a class and let Barrett's infectious verve inspire you.

2650 W. Main St., Littleton

720-283-2232 Mike and Janet Johnson's new Savory Spice on Littleton's Main Street is as engaging as first location at 15th and Platte streets downtown. And, as with the old store, you can smell it coming -- which is downright divine. Once you enter, choose from smoked paprika, granulated garlic, pungent meat rubs, barbecue blends, ground chilies, dozens of peppers (whole and cracked), variously colored sea salts and exotic curry mixtures. Don't miss the Madagascar vanilla-infused sugar or the Saigon cassia cinnamon. Bon appétit!

1200 Pearl St., Boulder

303-413-3060 Tim Burton's Charlie and the Chocolate Factory wasn't bad, as remakes go, but it can't hold a lollipop to Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, the first cinematic adaptation of Roald Dahl's sweet-and-sour novel -- and Powell's Sweet Shoppe's decision to construct a shrine to the latter, complete with autographed photos of cast members and the flick itself screening on a continuous loop, says a lot about its sensibilities. In addition to tasty ice cream and lots of current treats, the jam-packed store also showcases a jaw-dropping selection of old favorites, ranging from Big Hunks to candy cigarettes. There's nothing like the originals.

1643 Pearl St., Boulder

303-443-0355 If shopping is your Bliss, you'll find it here. Just a short stroll down Pearl Street from the mall proper leads you to this rambling store filled with scented Illume candles, a huge selection of stationery and cards, adorable embroidered tea towels and aprons, elegant Cavallini stamping kits, sweet stickers, a collection of shabby-chic cast-iron hooks and rectangular vases printed with birds and flora. Jewelry, hair ornaments and whimsical chatchkes round out the overloaded displays. Shop slowly and carry a big bag.

2920 E. Colfax Ave.

303-355-2585 Chandra Moseley's reimagined vintage store rose last fall in the same Colfax spot where her grandmother kept an antique shop for years. Among the pink-and-white-striped walls, she sells handpicked used clothing, glassware, costume jewelry and whatever else strikes her fancy. But vintage bags are Moseley's true passion. Her extensive collection seems to have dropped through the years from her grandmother's era to land on Moseley's freshly painted counters. Made of summer straw or dressy patent leather, hand-beaded or simply stylishly retro, they're both forward-looking and reminiscent of a time when things were a little more lovely.

2508 E. Colfax Ave.

303-722-1943 Sooner rather than later, most record stores are likely to vanish from the commercial landscape -- but rather than passively waiting for this sad day, Paul and Jill Epstein are raging against the dying of the light. The sprawling new Twist & Shout, relocated last year from its former home on Alameda to the Lowenstein Center on East Colfax, brings together CDs, DVDs, vinyl, books and rock-era paraphernalia of every description in an enormous yet wonderfully warm space that consumers won't want to leave. It's as fine a place to shop for music as any in America, not to mention a terrific venue to hear special shows by touring performers. If this is the end of the record store as we know it, we feel fine.

2526 E. Colfax Ave.

303-322-7727 Some longtime Tattered Cover fanatics still miss the old Cherry Creek location, which was a bit roomier than the store's new digs in the Lowenstein Center on East Colfax. Still, today's TC is plenty praiseworthy: The design, which incorporates elements from the theater that once operated on the site, is fresh and fun, and if there aren't quite as many tomes as there once were, the supply remains impressive -- and the service provided by the legendarily helpful and knowledgeable staff couldn't be better. The store may not have earned classic status quite yet, but it's well on its way.

1112 Santa Fe Dr.

303-572-2260 Nan Wigington named Miss Prothero's for the character in Dylan Thomas's "A Child's Christmas in Wales" who descends the stairs to ask, "Would you like anything to read?" There's more than enough here: Wigington keeps her orderly, pleasant shop stocked with hardback editions of titles with literary merit, as well as a number of other interesting choices. She's also experimenting with a weekly yoga class and unusual book clubs, including a "whodunit" club where participants meet to try to guess the outcome of a partly read mystery. With its great ambience and comfy sitting area, Miss Prothero's is well worth spending some time exploring.

Fourteen metro locations Tired of paying high prices and library late fees for your favorite novels? Goodwill Industries is the place to go. In between the secondhand clothes and the well-worn furniture, you'll find the used-book section, where paperbacks are 99 cents and hard covers run $1.99. A patient and diligent search is sure to yield some gems, but the classics are plentiful, as are last season's bestsellers, chick lit and Stephen King. Happy hunting.

2340 W. Main St., Littleton

303-730-2105 Alas, it's spring. And where in Mugglesville will you pick up your new Quidditch gear? Unexpectedly, you can buy it all -- Quidditch goggles, a fine broom, a flighty golden snitch, a Hogwarts banner and officially licensed house robes, scarves and ties -- in the back of this Littleton metaphysical shop. Then slap on a Mad-Eye Moody eyeball patch and gulp down a handful of Bertie Bott's Every Flavor Beans or a Chocolate Frog while perusing the beautiful Alivan wands, character buttons and key chains, sorting hats, posters and collectible figures. And you won't need a bank full of Gringotts Galleons to do it.

Last year marked Colorado's 130th year of statehood, and what better way for the Colorado Department of Agriculture to celebrate than to dream up an imaginary feast, with the menu planned by residents? The Department put a call out for recipes made with Colorado-based ingredients, culled them and then published the best in 130 Years and 130 Dishes. Inside you'll find fava beans, steak roulade, noodle pudding, corn-and-poblano soup and much more. There's your taste of Colorado.

29th Ave. and Spruce St. Sweet William Market popped up last spring like its floral namesake, all pure and perky and lacking pretension. Owners (and Stapleton residents) Kim Kouba and Lizzie Kienast stitched together their open-air flea market by choosing a ripe collection of vendors offering lots of quality retro, refurbished, nostalgic and trendy merchandise in a relaxed atmosphere. They're coming back for a second season in May, but until then, you can find them at The picking promises to be good.

If you love farmers' markets and you work downtown, you've gotta love this one, a weekly foodie fiesta in one of Denver's most secretly lovely parks. Civic Center's often spectacular summer gardens provide a bucolic backdrop for strolling among vendors of fresh, home-grown organic produce and specialty items, including garlic butters, organic beef, homemade root beer, sweet wildflower honey and more. Or you might choose to munch on al fresco fare from such restaurants as Steve's Snappin' Dogs and Big Kahuna BBQ. Whichever you choose, you can't beat the people-watching. Dana Cain is so hip it hurts. She has that knack for knowing which old stuff is especially new again, and has used it to build an empire of totally entertaining collectibles expos. First, she's the entrepreneurial brain behind the Collector's Supershow toy extravaganza, which recently joined forces with the Majesticon comics show to provide a double whammy of happy pop-culture hunting under one roof. Last summer she launched the enormously popular Denver Modernism Show, an unbelievable mid-century blowout that will quadruple in size when it returns this August at a larger venue. And her newest take on collectibles-hawking was the recent Vintage Voltage Expo, an electronics-centric show that included everything from vinyl records to guitar amps to old-school audio gear. There's a packrat in each and every one of us, so go, Dana, go!

2590 Walnut St.

303-291-1005 Design-forward couple Paul and Pifuka Hardt took a leap when they opened P Design Gallery in the RiNo arts district last summer. With the flip of a light switch over the showroom floor, Denver entered a brave, new modernist world that stretches from Brooklyn's burgeoning design enclave to European shores. There's Jason Miller's tongue-in-chic antler chandeliers and chairs patched with leather "duct-tape," Tobias Wong's rubber-dipped lighting and infamous coke-spoon replica, Denyse Schmidt's edgy quilts, Takashi Murakami pop-art pillows, Tord Boontje's detailed etched-metal and feathered polyester lamps, and DoubleButter's witty locally made furniture. This is the modern world. The Magnet Mafia not only has a cool name -- who wouldn't want to join that family? -- but it's also serious about underground art. Dead serious. The Mafiosi create art on -- wait for it -- magnets, then stick them up around town. Find one, take it home and throw it up on the fridge. Plus, the mobsters will teach you to make your own moveable art. How inspired.

606 E. 13th St.

303-831-5944 Remember when wearing skulls was a sign of rebellion, back before you could find them at Wal-Mart? Jen McMillan does, and her new gallery, Idle Hands Boutique and Gallery, showcases a wide range of all things counterculture. McMillan's hope is to bring back the meaning behind the symbols that have been cut up, refinished, polished and recycled into the mainstream. It's hard-core. It's country-and-Western. It's riding a Harley. It's riding rails. It's creative. It's impulsive. It's a helluva lot of fun.

2037 13th St., Boulder

303-449-1967 Stocked with vinyl art toys like custom MUNNY dolls, designer T-shirts, top-of-the-line spray paints and original artwork by such up-and-coming locals as Ray Young Chu, Jason Thielke and Scot Lefavor, Joy Engine feels like it should be on Colfax Avenue or Santa Fe Drive rather than off the Pearl Street Mall. But this retail boutique/art gallery also has an enlightened vibe that fits right into the People's Republic. Owner Todd Berger and his crew are branding and connecting local artists with companies like Trek and Timberland in their back-room design studio, Cypher13, and spreading the word about art happenings in Denver and Boulder on their obsessively updated blog. Who knew Boulder could be so hip? Box-cutters were the beginning of Original Hip Hop Chocolates. Marcus, the artist and creative genius behind the concept, was pondering their significance after 9/11, contemplating how something so commonplace could be a weapon. So he made box-cutter chocolates in an attempt to face and conquer the new, frightening connotations of the item. He's since expanded his reflections to include a communion of hip-hop, with his company selling shell-toed shoes, boomboxes, turntables and brass knuckles all made from chocolate. Eat something sweet, consider the meaning behind the medium, and consume a way of life. It's esoteric, it's philosophical, and above all, it's tasty.

1200 Acoma St.

720-496-4146 NOVO Coffee doesn't actually brew your cup of joe in giant iPods, but their stylized metallic coffee machines, called Clovers, resemble them. They have the same modish aura, as if they, too, promise to change the way we do things. You can find NOVO's Clovers in action at the Denver Art Museum's Hamilton Building and the residential complex next door. NOVO's methodology is to treat coffee like wine, serving it by varietals and preparing one cup at a time, never letting their elixirs spoil in a carafe. The operation is so cool you'll want a Clover for yourself, but considering that the machine costs more than a small car, you may want to stick with the $3 coffee. Denver's wired caffeine addicts rejoice over the Mile High Buzz blog. The site features a growing rundown of local coffee shops, describing the decor, menu and perks like WiFi. Plus there's a handy interactive map for finding the closest latte and a somber graveyard that lists beloved cafes like Monkey Bean that have gone the way of day-old grounds. The best stuff on the site, however, can often be found in the "comments" section, which sometimes devolves into battles royale between spastic coffee geeks over the best java drinks in the city (we've spotted a few coffee-shop owners in there, hawking their own concoctions). It's hot, steamy and energizing -- just like a great cup of joe.

2370 W. Main St., Littleton

303-797-2081 Frenchman Stephan Poullier's charming store is buoyant with all things Provençal, including the Mediterranean region's distinctive sun-washed pottery, oilcloth and table linens, as well as fine French soaps and stunning glass pieces. But don't miss the candles, which are both fun and functional. Poullier not only stocks an entire spectrum of reasonably priced colored tapers and scented oil candles, but he's also got an amusing surplus of novelty candles, from sprightly floating poppies and delicious-looking petit fours to cute peas. Ambiance Provence really knows how to light your fire.

3867 Tennyson St.

303-455-9663 This swell little Tennyson Street boutique is piled high with lots of cozy T-shirts, jeans and designer-wear for grownups, plus adorable gifts for babes (the little kind), from teensy tees printed with jeweled-navel Buddhas and pirate ships to ultra-snuggly animal-hooded towels and Käthe Kruse puppet theaters. But the standout find is catstudio's Geography Collection: nostalgic retro tea towels, tumblers and throw pillows emblazoned or embroidered with tourist attractions from pretty much every state in the union. Picking your favorite is the hardest part of making a purchase, so be prepared to relive your travel memories while thoughtfully fingering the merchandise. Route 66 is back.

3512 E. 12th Ave.

303-322-2223 Knitters are a unique bunch, and they stick together like a herd of, well, sheep. LambShoppe is a smartly appointed meadow where those noble knitters can network, learn and replenish supplies from the handsome rows of rich, dark floor-to-ceiling wood shelves. Whether you're ready for a good long stitch-and-bitch, need help crocheting some bunny slippers, want to pick up an armload of skeins or just need to fuel up on a quick latte from the Latte Baa coffee bar, LambShoppe is the place.

457 Wadsworth Blvd., Lakewood

303-426-4411 Since its move from way-north Broadway to Lakewood, this gem of a store has become a prime gathering place for bead artists, metalsmiths, rock hounds and others interested in designing their own necklaces, earrings and whatnots. From clasps to cabochons to an astonishing variety of beads, all the jewelry-making fixings are here -- along with classes, books, a helpful staff, kitschy stone carvings, selenite wands and more. Learn the peyote stitch and go to town.

5671 S. Nevada St., Littleton

303-730-8521 Helen Rice's Willow is one of those hidden finds, a showcase for local artisans. Small and friendly, it's pleasantly filled with bright Fimo clay makeup brushes and quilted fish mobiles, handpainted furniture and pottery plates etched with leafy fossil patterns, not to mention a candy-colored army of glass wind chimes and sun-catchers. Fall head over heels for Nina Sampsel's collection of knit and boiled-wool Sweet Cakes chapeaus, heart pillows, bags and pins, as well as the exquisite beaded jewelry of Jane Albright, whose rustic woven-sunflower necklace will break your heart with its beauty. GlowFur garments are the ultimate nightlife accessory, thanks to their internal battery-powered light system that can be switched on and off like a lamp. Designed by Colorado Springs entrepreneur David Lee, the illuminated faux-fur coats, boleros, handbags, scarves, leggings and bikini separates come in eight rave-ready lighting colors that glow in the dark like a Flokati rug on fire. Baby, it's hot in here.

613 E. 13th Ave.

303-832-2909 Long before that corporate punk invaded Denver, there was FashioNation, which celebrates its twentieth anniversary this year. The homegrown boutique took its name from an episode of the 1960s Batman TV series in which the vixenish villainess Catwoman plotted to steal clothing from a fashion show sponsored by "FashioNation Magazine." A few years back, the shop moved its groovie-ghoulie digs into the space formerly occupied by Wax Trax vinyl, which gave owner Paul Italiano room to expand his awesome inventory of Docs, goth garb and punk paraphernalia -- and to pump up the volume to eleven. Oy!

303-937-7321 Clothes make the woman -- and Susan Matthews creates some stunners. In addition to doing basic alterations, she restyles clothing for the transgendered community, helping them to fill out fabulous frocks or power-pack their pants. She's also developing a series of interactive workshops to enable her clients to better recognize and select styles that will flatter their figures and give them curves in all the right places. And who couldn't use that?

Expression Beauty Salon

5115 Federal Blvd.

303-458-6500 Jaider Sanchez knows a thing or two about turning a girl into a woman -- or a man into a woman, for that matter. This drag queen/stylist is the one many Denver padres turn to when their daughters turn fifteen and it's time for their quinceañera celebrations. They know that Sanchez will make their girls beautiful and prepare them for their first step into womanhood. Cha cha cha.

300 Fillmore St.

303-355-2730 Here's the skinny on too many women's boutiques: The clothes they sell fit only willowy sylphs, teens and anorexics. But the rest of us -- and that means most of us -- want to look good without having to fit into one of those narrow, clingy, nipple-loving things that hang on countless clothing-store racks. A friend to local and small-run designers, Harriet Gibson champions garments stitched from good-looking natural fabrics in saucy colors that complement your shape. How novel.

42 Broadway

303-860-8783 Sarah Lilly-Ray has raised the cheap shoe to stiletto-heel heights at her Broadway footwear emporium, where the prices rarely climb above fifty bucks a pair. And what pairs! Lilly-Ray's shelves are proficiently stocked with nearly 100 styles of inexpensive shoes, from ballet flats to knockoff wedges, made predominantly from vegan-friendly materials and oozing with personality. Walk on!

3877 Tennyson St.

303-477-3361 Tiptoe into Elyse Burja's posh shoe palace, breathe in the sexy aroma of butter-soft leather and keenly crafted stacked heels, and you'll know how shoes become a fetish. Swoon over the black Bronx peep-toe pumps with front-buttoned straps or a pair of teetery, strappy Kaju wedges. Never have shoes looked so cute or irresistible as they do sitting in this sleek, modern shop.

1409 Ogden St.

303-861-4623 Bruise carries what must be the premier selection of pre-owned sneakers, including Adidas, Puma, Nike, Reebok, Converse and other favorites of the city's fleet-footed. Owner Dennis Bodley claims to personally scrub, oil, polish and waterproof every pair he puts on the shelves, so what's old can be new again. And stink-free.

3640 W. 32nd Ave.

303-477-3378 The relationship between a woman and her handbag is a little something like Kismet. Some people search for years for the right purse, carrying some ratty old thing while they look. One bag's not big enough, another's too heavy; the black bag doesn't go with your new brown shoes, but the brown one lacks that secret little spot where you can stash your lipgloss. Shana Colbin's year-old Highlands Square shop is a good place to start looking. With classic bags in soft leathers and luscious colors, Kismet promises that some day your purse will come.

4321 Tennyson St.

303-458-1561 There's only one place for a cowgirl to stash her keys and cash: in a classic tooled-leather saddlebag slung freely over her shoulder. Zelda's stocks the archetypal Western-wear purses in several shapes and sizes, plus plush cowboy-boot slippers, bejeweled belts, sterling silver and turquoise jewelry, fur-trimmed jean jackets and willow bentwood furniture. Annie, get your fun!

Three metro locations Finally, Sephora made it to the Mile High City. No more trips to New York and San Francisco to indulge in its plethora of tubes, pots and compacts. A veritable playground of choices, Sephora lets you peruse on your own or with the help of a skilled cosmetologist, picking and choosing from just about any skin-care, fragrance, makeup, bath and body or hair-care product under the sun. It's better than Prozac!

1215 E.13th Ave.

303-830-0216 There's so much to love about Rare Bird Vintage Clothing, from the artful, ever-changing window displays to the great prices on cute couture from every decade. Owner Ian Nelson pairs old clothes with new ideas, which makes this Capitol Hill closet an ideal dress-up destination. The fun isn't just for grownups, though. In the back of the store, hidden behind mounds of retro dresses, kooky shoes and original pieces by local designers is a display of tiny treasures for tykes, from full cowboy outfits to onesies from the '50s, '60s and beyond. Jaw-droppingly adorable, these itty-bitty clothes are just the thing to get a future hipster through the early years in style.

1238 S. Broadway

303-665-8161 Last summer, Brigitte Dornbirer moved her savvy upscale kids' boutique from a southwest Denver warehouse to a more visible commercial space on South Broadway, and we've fallen in love all over again. Gone are the haphazard hours and obscure location, replaced by an adorable cornucopia of gently used clothes for kids at bargain prices, including such to-die-for brands as Oilily, April Cornell, Baby Lulu, Zutano and more. A sprouting success.

Every first Sunday at the Mercury Cafe, Denise Barnes hosts meetings for people who want to pray an alternative way. "Many religions today have kind of lost their passion," she explains. "Part of the idea is just to wake things up a little bit; God must be really bored, too. And one of the rules is 'Do not bore God.' So we're just doing our best to upgrade the spiritual software that probably expired about 500 years ago." Barnes and her Altar Egos take turns leading the meetings; you might meet Tina Tomasichio and her "Orgasms for Peace" plan, or try out the cleavage mudra for the Goddess. Give Peace Prayer a chance.

560 S. Holly St.

303-322-7345 Did you ever wonder where Orthodox Jews get those black fedoras? Around these parts, they get them from Aharon's, and they aren't just any hats, they're Borsalino hats, handmade of pure Belgian lapin-fur felt. That makes them some of the finest chapeaus in the universe -- as Boy George can attest. Aharon also carries beautiful woven kippot (skullcaps) imported from Israel and Russia, Judaic baseball caps for the trendy and an endless supply of ritual items, including prayer shawls, mezuzahs, Kiddush cups, candlesticks and even Hebrew wristwatches. Go forth.

124 W. 5th Ave.

303-777-5795 Did you really want a wrestling match between Devil Girl and Captain America to forever ripple across your pecs? Getting rid of the mistake is a little easier since Ink-B-Gone opened its doors near Sixth and Broadway last year, offering state-of-the-art, scar-resistant laser removal services at fair prices. You'll thank them for saving your skin.

Modern men don't want their kissers to taste like a mango. It's supposed to be the women walking around half-naked smelling like a fruit bowl, like those Polynesian ladies in a Gauguin painting, right? But beer flavored? Now that's a different thing entirely. Lyons brewer Oskar Blues offers the Old Chub Stick, a manly lip quencher with natural ingredients flavored by the company's own Scottish malt concoction. Pucker up and say "Slàinte mhor!"

Cherry Creek Shopping Center

303-321-6371 Face it: After years of scraping the hair off your mug with laser-sharpened Gillette Mach 3s, your skin is left with all the

sensitivity of wallet leather. Daddy may have taught you how to shave, but unless he was a metrosexual daddy, he probably wasn't very

versant in product. Supplement his training with a trip to Melt, where the staff will guide you through product and regimen with loving firmness.

Keep in mind that this is a Denver-based manufacturer of cruelty-free skin-care products -- so the Smooth Obsession Skin Care Prep and Smooth Operator Shea-ving Butter will moisturize your face as it greases the local economy's gears. Maintaining a career and balancing it with a personal life is a challenge for modern women. When you throw in the desire to look fabulous all the time, suddenly there aren't nearly enough hours in the day to research new beauty products or fashion and still fit in the all-important pedicures, manicures and massages. That's where CRAVE Parties come in: A smorgasbord of fashion shows, cocktails, live music, snacks, spa services and more, these soirees are a one-stop shop for the busy professional. Come find what you crave. A grip-and-grin with Pam Grier. Valentine's night just for the girls. When it comes to putting together the hottest ladies-only parties in town, Hip Chicks Out is unrivaled. Get on the website's mailing list to find out what saucy events are coming up, then dress to impress and hit the town. You'll never even miss the boys.

Robin Lohre's Miss Talulah's and Talulah Jones boutiques are wildly popular, thanks to their ever-changing merchandise. And now the same cool stuff is available without ever leaving the comfort of your own home. Log on to and shop for embellished satin handbags, embroidered cuff bracelets, eyeleted baby frocks, wooden pull toys, knitted smiling-lion pillows and more. And all without changing out of your pajamas.

1521 15th St.

303-325-7365 Pets. We love them, but we don't love their detritus. The clumps and snowstorms of freshly shed hair, the naptime drool, the secret spraying spots. Luckily, the furniture in Amy McCawley's Livable Home Store makes the mess less permanent. Everything comes with stain-, soil- and odor-resistant upholstery that looks at home in any decor. Good, dog.

Best Friends Care

1-888-770-0991 Best Friends has the perfect solution to bored Rover's lack of a backyard view. The PetPeek is a hard plastic dome that, with a little basic woodcraft, fits into a privacy fence and allows your mutt a safe, enclosed-bubble glimpse of the world beyond. Demand has been so strong that the company, a local mail-order operation, is now taking orders at months in advance.

1038 E. 6th Ave.

303-733-2226 When Firehouse Animal Health Center opened in the old Firehouse Car Wash, it brought high-end veterinary service to an area with money to burn and dogs to pamper. Head vets Jed Rodgers and Beth Spencer drew in customers with high-tech equipment, warm bedside manners, mod furniture in the waiting room, original art on the walls, a client rewards program, charitable donations, fresh coffee and the motto "You wish your health care was this good." And last year, Rogers started building an empire around his concept, buying Colfax Avenue mainstays All Creatures Animal Hospital and Colfax East Animal Hospital, as well as a facility in Ken Caryl; he's planning a new practice in Park Hill. Here's to world domination.

350 Kalamath St.

303-733-2728 Tender Touch Animal Hospital is known for its routine well care, but the staff also excels at easing the pain of loss. The hospital's private "comfort room" is furnished with a sofa, chair and rugs in soothing shades of eggplant and sage, candles, a water cooler and tissues for terminal-patient visits and euthanasia. Grief support and counseling referrals are also available, as well as cremation, urn selection and complimentary commemorative paw-print castings and angel ornaments to honor your dearly departed four-legged friends.

1540 S. Broadway

303-722-2535 You can get your compost and beefsteak tomato plants at any of the big-box stores, but when it comes to quality tools, trellises, decorations and fountains -- the kind of thing that transforms an amateur's backyard plot to a horticulturalist's refuge -- Birdsall has the goods. Decorative pottery, fancy rakes and snips, lanterns and statuary, the right mix of greenery and more can be found in the showroom and throughout the adjoining grounds, much of it arranged to inspire visitors to get cracking as soon as winter's glaciers recede.

University of Denver

2211 S. Josephine St.

303-871-3090 If you were too busy raiding panties and packing phone booths to pay attention to that tweedy professor half a century ago, here's your second chance. DU's VIVA (Vibrant Intellectually Vigorous Adults) program is for true seniors -- those 55 and older who want to keep using their noggin rather than hit the shuffleboard courts. A reasonable registration fee gains access to as many classes as a student can handle, on subjects ranging from Hemingway's stories, opera and the cinema of the McCarthy era to the legacy of 9/11 and African genocide -- meaty stuff, not the gruel served up by the usual adult-ed classes. Let's hear it for mens sana in corpore sano, even if the joints are beginning to creak a bit.

7610 W. 42nd Ave., Wheat Ridge

303-424-1600 Soon after the zombie hordes of mailbox- and trash-can-pilfering meth addicts descended on our city, everyone had to rush out and buy a paper shredder. Sadly, the sheer volume of credit-card offers alone was enough to burn out the motor of the cheapest model. Tossing a

dead shredder into the garbage is not an option. That little machine saved you from thousand of dollars and many tearful days of having to repair your credit report; it deserves better. It deserves the recycling services of Action Recycling. In addition to accepting the usual recyclables, the full-scale center also accepts metal, computers, electronics and batteries. Trust their dedication in proper handling, and feel good about doing your part to make the world a better place. As college administrators around the country struggle to combat binge drinking, one student group at the University of Colorado at Boulder has a brilliant idea: Keep students from killing themselves by providing trained EMTs at parties. "I just thought it would be great if college kids could party the way they wanted to, but if something happened there would be someone there to deal with it," says Anthony Rossi, a former CU student who developed Student Emergency Medical Services in 2004. SEMS now has about fifty members, staffs all of CU's sorority parties, is making progress with secretive, reclusive frat brothers and has even branched out to other schools. A sensible approach to college drinking that realizes it's going to happen and then deals with it proactively? Imagine that.


Going to the library has never felt so naughty. Walk into the Ross-Cherry Creek Branch Library and you'll be greeted at the door by DVDs -- rows and rows of them. The bookshelves here are a mere backdrop; the establishment has long since embraced that which draws in its patrons. And the movie selection -- oh, the selection. New releases like Borat. Season after full season of Six Feet Under. B-movies with no hint of literary value, such as American Pie: Band Camp. Grab two, grab four -- hell, grab seven, the maximum you're allowed (the librarians get that all the time). And when you check out, the only plastic you'll need to flash is your library card. This being a library, everything is gloriously, scandalously free. Melvil Dewey may be turning in his grave, but we movie buffs wouldn't have it any other way.
If Miles, that weird horse-head guy who trots the field during Broncos games, was sent to the glue factory, and Dinger, the Rockies' pathetic faux Barney, sank into a tar pit, many sports lovers in these parts would cheer. But were Rocky, the Nuggets' coolest cat, to head for the hills, all of Denver would go into mourning, and rightfully so. For years, Rocky was pretty much the only reason to attend a Nuggets game, thanks to his athletic stunts, crowd-rousing antics and wicked sense of humor -- and even though the team has been playing better recently, on a night-in, night-out basis, Rocky's performance is still more consistent than that of the hottest players. When he shoots, he scores -- even if the ball doesn't go through the hoop.
Rockbar could inspire a confirmed teetotaler to do a swan dive off the wagon within ten minutes of walking through the door. Conjuring the bygone decadence left behind by Perry's -- as the joint was known during the last days of disco -- Rockbar is the ideal place to relive your wasted youth. The decor in this late-'70s time-capsule remains pristinely intact, with exposed rock walls, patterned carpet, foil wallpaper and vintage lighting fixtures. There's also a notable kitsch factor about the place -- the trashy menu, the lowbrow drink selection (Mad Dog and brands of beer you swore you'd never drink again), the neon band-logo signage and the retro tuneage -- that has prompted some detractors to grumble that the brashness is a little too calculated. These people are completely missing the point. For those about to Rock, we salute you.

The day started at the Buffalo Bill Museum and Grave, site of this year's Best Souvenirs by a Gravesite, where the view is so spectacular you can easily believe the story that world traveler William Cody pronounced it precisely the spot where he'd like to be laid to rest for all eternity.

Fourteen hours later, the day ended with another spectacular view from the patios of two more award winners, Vita and Lola, restaurants that didn't even exist at this time last year but are now such a part of the Denver dining scene that it's hard to imagine the town without them. They also happen to be located in the old Olinger Mortuary, where Buffalo Bill's body was stored — on the rocks, as it were — for a few months in the winter of 1917, until the ground on top of Lookout Mountain had thawed enough to dig a grave.

Synchronicity. It's everywhere in this city. But at the same time links to the past are tugging at the present, you can see the future of Denver around the next corner, over the next hill, up in the next block.

The city is changing, changing rapidly, which means there are always discoveries to be made, old standbys to say goodbye to, new superlatives to be lavished, more Best of Denver awards to be given. And after months of snacking and shopping, drinking and dialing, our top-secret Best of Denver 2007 team produced the paper now in your hands, our 24th annual celebration of the city. We all love Denver for different reasons — from the town's buffalo herd to its buffalo chicken wings — and there are more than 500 of them in this issue.


Best Slogan for the 2008 Democratic National Convention in Denver

"Rocky Mountain High"

If it's good enough for Colorado's second official state song, "Rocky Mountain High" should work just fine as a slogan for the 2008 Democratic National Convention. Not only is it inclusive of the entire region -- and planners are touting this as a convention not just in Denver, not just in newly blue Colorado, but in the pivotal Rocky Mountain West, where the next presidential election could well be decided -- but it would remind people both inside and outside of the convention to relax, mellow out and recall that the Democratic Party is the party of inclusivity. And drugs.
Tonti's is an enigma. It's a tiny strip-mall joint, almost always empty except for a couple of employees hanging disconsolately around the counter. And while about half the time what we get off the short, predictable menu (pizzas, calzones, stromboli, meatball sandwiches) is completely forgettable, the other half it's
fantastic beyond any rational explanation. At its best, Tonti's makes the kind of stromboli you just can't stop eating, the kind of New York-style pizzas that wake you up in the middle of the night -- calling you from inside the refrigerator, demanding that you eat a leftover slice cold, standing there in your socks and boxers. So, yes, sometimes Tonti's makes the best strip-mall Italian food in the city and sometimes it doesn't. Just ask yourself one question before you go in: Do you feel lucky?
If you wanted to give people a true taste of Denver, where would you send them? For us, Elway's -- Big John's eponymous temple of meat -- comes out on top every time. For the scene, the service, the staff and the sly humor implicit in the menu's design, Elway's is that single restaurant that defines what it is to eat in Denver today. There's money here, but there are also plenty of people in blue jeans. Although the restaurant is in Cherry Creek, it could be picked up whole and successfully transplanted to almost any other neighborhood in the city (as proven by the recently announced expansion into the new downtown Ritz-Carlton). And while chef Tyler Wiard and everyone in Elway's kitchen certainly know how to handle a piece of meat, the little flourishes and big hospitality are what set this place apart. Oh, yes, and then there's that connection to a certain quarterback...

Thousands of readers sent in their answers to our Best of Denver 2007 Readers' Poll -- via the web, through the U.S. Postal Service and on scrawled napkin notes shoved under the door of the Westword office. No matter what delivery system they used, though, readers displayed an incredible affection for this town -- if not strong geography or spelling skills.

According to our readers, Jake Cutler is the third-best Bronco, behind Champ Bailey and Joe Sakic (or is it Sackic?). George Carl coaches the Nuggets, whose mascot is Allen Iverson and whose best player is anyone not in jail. The Rapids, the Rockies, the Mammoth and the Crush should be consolidated into one team and renamed the Colorado Nobody Cares About Us But We Have Great Asses.

The best free entertainment in Denver is "Tara drunk," according to Becky, or "Becky drunk," according to Tara. The best skatepark is that one by Coors Field, and the best pool hall is Washing Park. The best ski deal is the 5 Nut Puss Baby! I think you can get it at Colorado Ski and Sport, or Colorado Golf and Ski, or whatever that place is called.

That exhibit at that one place, you know, Body something or other, Bodyworks maybe, or Bodyworld. Yeah, that left a real impression on people.

Andrew Romanoff could be Colorado's only legislator, veteran or not, and the best local newscaster is anyone except The Hair at 9News. Readers can never remember newscasters' last names, but that's not really important -- they're on a first-name basis. Alan. Heidi. Kathy. And Molly, oh, that Molly. She's a crazy one, and she's got fabulous hair, but certainly not the best hair on a local TV personality. No, that award belongs to Denver's own Angelina Jolie, as do most of our hearts.

If Kathy Sabine ran for the U.S. Senate, she'd win in a walk. Republicans should be dialing her at 9News right now. And if she held her campaign kickoff at the incredibly reader-friendly Steuben's? She could be president.

Besides Steuben's, readers think the four best steakhouses in town are Del Frisco, Del Fresco, Del Frescos, and Del Friscos. And the best ingredient in everyone's two favorite foods -- barbecue and pizza -- is alliteration. Just ask Big Hoss Grill, Breckenridge Brewery, Brothers BBQ, Brown Sugar Burgers and Bones, Parisi, Pasquini's, Pasta's, Pizza Hut, Proto's and Pudge Brothers.

Qudoba makes a great burrito, but not great enough to truly rank among the best local chains like Chili's, Red Lobster, Quizno's and the Cheesecake Factory. Those chain operations have Denver written all over their incredibly localized dishes.

And for the 24th year running, McDonald's is the readers' pick for Best French Fries. Readers, we love you -- but democracy makes for a dull Best of Denver.

Ballot-stuffing does not, however. And without the owners and fans of health spas, doggie daycares, custom guitar shops, Indian restaurants, Italian restaurants, auto-body repair shops, coffee shops and nail salons across this fine city, tallying the Best of Denver 2007 Readers' Poll would have been a very dull process that might have knocked me out of a job.

But I guess I could take some snaps for the Broncos now that Jay Plummer is retiring.

-- Rick White, Best of Denver Election Commissioner

Best Of Denver®