Big Hoss Bar-B-Q
It has been said, often and loudly, that Denver has no great barbecue restaurants. And while this is true to a point, it's a point beyond which all arguments fall apart. Denver may not have the kind of historic barbecue joints that most folks think of when they think of great barbecue. But what we do have are many places that do one or two things very well, along with one place that does nearly everything better than anyone else — and that place is Big Hoss. At this new joint in northwest Denver, barbecue has been deconstructed to its socio-political roots and rebuilt, like Steve Austin, to be better than it was before. The pork shoulder is excellent, especially when dosed with a little of the vinegar sauce from the barbecued shrimp; the barbecued chicken smells like an Alabama house fire; and the ribs have just the right texture. And while most barbecue joints offer a half-dozen sauces, Big Hoss has only one, a fusion of the best elements of all the other sauces that — true to owner Hoss Orwat's claim — goes perfectly with just about everything on the menu.
Elway's Cherry Creek
Elway's is a beautiful restaurant. The service rides the perfect edge between businesslike decorum and occasionally goofy informality — and so does the menu, which offers both innovative dishes (a handmade spread of s'mores) and more standard steakhouse fare. But there's nothing standard about Elway's massive, 22-ounce, USDA Prime bone-in rib-eye, cut so as to preserve the most fat, the best marble and the bone, which lends both moisture during the cooking process and a sense of seriousness on the plate. This is a gorgeous steak, indescribably tender, juicy and delicious, yet humble — merely sitting in its place on the board among all the other steaks, waiting for those of large appetite and discriminating palate to discover for themselves the best item on Elway's menu.
The Colorado Rockies may have bombed in the World Series last fall, but a block away from Coors Field, Falling Rock Tap House continues to boast a world-class beer list that's simply unbeatable. This casual, comfortable bar has more than sixty beers on tap and many, many more kinds in bottles, from cities across the country and countries around the globe. Take a swing, and you're sure to hit something great.
Centro Mexican Kitchen
Mark Antonation
Centro Latin Kitchen & Refreshment Palace may have a funny name, but it takes its booze very, very seriously. From day one, the staff has been exhorted to think of the bar as an extension of the kitchen — a place where only the best ingredients and most rigorous prep will be accepted. The results are some seriously powerful and seriously delicious classic cocktails which, once you've knocked back a few, require something equally good and very filling from the kitchen. Which is where the bellies come in — pork bellies, in this case, used to make the incomparable cheesy pork-belly masa cake. On its own, this dish would be reason to drive to Boulder, but it's just one entry on a menu chock-full of the varied flavors of Central and South America.
West End Tavern
Courtesy West End Tavern Facebook
When owner Dave Query set out to remake the West End, a longtime Boulder institution, a few years ago, he made a decision to lay in the area's biggest stock of bourbons. Today, the bar offers everything from the once-bum-juice/now-cool Bulleit Bourbon and old friends like Wild Turkey and George Dickel to Sazerac rye and the $45-a-shot Jim Beam Distiller's Masterpiece. So fans of this classic American should head directly to the West End. With their wallets, because one drink won't be enough.
Man could live by bread alone, if it were made at Bluepoint Bakery. This is a huge production bakery with an enormous book for everything from breads to desserts to pastries, but the breads are the real star: at least a dozen kinds of French bread, twice the number of dinner and sandwich rolls, eight pan breads and a half-dozen deli loaves — including the best marbled rye this side of Manhattan's Lower East Side. And while a mere mortal can't just drop by for a nice loaf (unless, of course, said mortal wants to buy a whole lot of loaves), Bluepoint's product isn't hard to find: The bakery supplies breads, pastries and desserts for clients from Colorado Springs to Fort Collins, doing the baking grunt work for hotels, coffee shops, airport concessionaires and, most important, owner Mary Clark's new restaurant, Fisher Clark Urban Delicatessen.
Senor Burritos
Señor Burrito has the breakfast-burrito category all wrapped up. For starters, it serves breakfast burritos whenever it's open — a big consideration for those of us who keep strange hours. And no matter what time you get a breakfast burrito here, it's always well-made — big but not too big, with just the right blend of blandness and spice, and filled with cubed potatoes as opposed to sliced, as opposed to all manner of hash browns and home fries. This might seem like a small detail, but it makes a big difference in the texture of the final product. Señor Burrito's breakfast burritos are served either wet or dry; go with wet if you have time to eat at a table and enjoy the atmosphere as well as your breakfast, or dry — with the chile inside — for the ultimate portable meal. Either way, they're the perfect way to start, or end, a day.
Mercury Cafe
Marilyn Megenity has been working to save the world with food for more than three decades, and at the Mercury Cafe, it looks like she's winning. From wind-driven electrics and a fryer-oil-to-biodiesel recycling plan to a local, sustainable, green but not exclusively vegetarian weekend brunch menu featuring organic egg omelets with quinoa and whole-grain hotcakes, breakfast here is something even the most committed environmentalist can get behind. And true anarchists can enjoy making hard-core sprout enthusiasts squirm by ordering a bloody rare elk steak and eggs, which are also on offer. But the best thing about a meal at the Merc is that while this institution takes its tree-hugging seriously, it approaches cooking with just as much dedication.
City, O' City
Hunter Stevens
At City, O' City — the all-things-to-all-people coffeehouse/restaurant/hangout that Dan and Michelle Landes opened in the former home of their original WaterCourse Foods — everything is laptops and nose rings, hummus, leg hair, Lou Reed on the stereo and twig-and-berry ascetics swooning over fig pizzas and falafel. At night, the place draws big crowds. But we like it best in the morning, when the bulk of the square community is at work and the cool kids start coming in to salve their wounds with earth-friendly breakfast burritos and tempeh bacon. At these times, City, O' City is quiet, uncrowded and — provided the kitchen crew hasn't been too damaged by their own night's rigors — the perfect place to cool out and get right with your karma.
When hunger strikes on the 16th Street Mall, the mighty Waffle Brothers, John Power and Rod Dupen, are at your service. Starting with a warm, Liège-style Belgian waffle — caramelized around the edges thanks to the inclusion of imported nib sugar in the batter — as a base, the bros then pile on the toppings you request, everything from the basic cinnamon or powdered sugar and whipped cream to fresh fruit, cranberry compote and creamy marshmallow cream cheese. Don't waffle! It's what to eat when you're on the street.

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