Parallel Seventeen
Parallel 17 isn't all nouvelle; in fact, most of the menu is a very traditional and almost historic presentation of small plates that date back to the imperial cuisine of Hue. But it's the modernist touches that set Parallel 17 apart from the vast panoply of authentic Vietnamese restaurants in this city. It's the updated sauces, the modern plating and lounge-y vibe that truly define this place, and give the spark of contemporary buzz.
Phil's Place is one of the neighborhood's last classic dive bars.
Mark Antonation
Phil's Place is one of the neighborhood's last classic dive bars.
The bar might be Phil's, but his mother, Junie Garcia, is in charge in the kitchen. Six days a week, she cooks up a roster of far-from-standard Mexican standards: breakfast burritos, steak tacos, cheese enchiladas and a hot, hot green chile she made famous at the Bamboo Hut. But Junie's best creation may be her tamales, which stuff spicy shredded pork inside light, flavorful masa. The tamales aren't normally on the menu, so when Junie decides to make a batch, run — don't walk — to Phil's Place.
Toast
Mark Antonation
Bananas Foster pancakes. Strawberry-banana cheesecake pancakes crusted with crushed graham crackers and topped with a strawberry cream-cheese sauce. Lemon-blueberry pancakes spiked with gingersnap and lemon curd, and Oreo cookie pancakes with marshmallow fluff and hot fudge. You'll flip for the flapjacks at Toast, a charming breakfast spot that's reason to rise and shine.
In Vietnam, pho is breakfast, lunch, dinner and midnight snack, both a morning pick-me-up and a comfort at the end of a long day. And at Pho 79's Aurora branch (there are two other locations), regulars have gotten the message that soup is good food. Here, the beef noodle soup — likely the single-most defining flavor of Vietnamese cuisine — gets the full attention of the kitchen, and as a result, it gets the full attention of the customers who flock here morning, noon and night for a fix of the best pho in Denver.
Sam's No. 3
Danielle Lirette
Blueberry, peach, apple and cherry — with a revolving menu of pies made fresh daily, Sam's No. 3 is great spot to grab a slice after a night at the nearby Denver Performing Arts Complex. The only thing flakier than the delicious crust might be the crowd surrounding you — an eclectic bunch that's apt to include hipsters, workers getting off their late shift and opera lovers. And if your snack leaves you hungering for more, you can take home an entire Sam's pie for $7.75.
The Oven Pizza E Vino
Here's the secret of the Oven's success: Everyone from owner Mark Tarbell to the cooks in the kitchen to the servers on the floor understand that they're cooking for friends. And when you're cooking for friends, you want to take care of them. Which the Oven does, turning a simple pizza dinner into an event, full of friends and good times, drinks from the bar and raised, happy voices. And great pizza, of course: artisanal, homemade and rustic, topped with such quality ingredients as housemade mozzarella and smoked ricotta.
D Note
The D Note is many things to many people. Its space is full of art and live music, its newsletters full of poetry, and its menu full of pizzas tagged with musical references, both obscure and not so. Are you a fan of They Might Be Giants? Check out the Particle Man, a combination of pepperoni, black olives, spinach, red peppers and mushrooms over a smear of basil pesto. The Pixies more your speed? Then go for the Debaser, a sausage, portabella and artichoke pie smothered with Italian cheese. And if you opt for the Ballad of a Thin Man, we guarantee you'll get the best high-stacked, Bob Dylan-esque jalapeño, garlic, onion, tomato and BBQ sauce pizza available anywhere.
Los Carboncitos
Courtesy Los Carboncitos Highlands Facebook
Los Carboncitos is a temple to all things piggish, where the humble swine has been elevated to a position of vaunted honor — its loin, its chops, its belly and fat used in marvelous excess. Not everything on the menu is made of pork, but there's nothing on the menu that doesn't have a pork-heavy option. And in many cases, you can have two or three kinds of pork on a single plate: chopped pork covered with bacon, pork rib meat over chops. Sure, there's other stuff available here; there might even be plates coming from the kitchen with no pig on them at all. But if there are, we don't wanna know about them.
Famous Pizza
Mark Antonation
It's late. You're feeling peckish, but you have neither the patience for a full sit-down meal nor the intestinal fortitude for a dirty-water hot dog or street-corner tamale. Head directly for this Famous Pizza outlet, where there's absolutely nothing to recommend about the service, decor or crowds — but the slices are incredible. They're always hot and always fresh (provided you're willing to take what's available behind the glass at the counter). Better yet, they come fast: You step up, state your preference, throw down a couple bucks and walk away with a big, foldable slice of excellent, New York-style pizza, just the thing to fuel you for a long night back on the street.

Best Place to Pick Up a Taste of Colorado

Karl's Farm Dairy

Those tourist shops at Denver International Airport and on the 16th Street Mall get their Colorado-branded souvenir knickknacks from somewhere — but it sure ain't Colorado. That Estes Park shot glass your father-in-law bought last year was more likely crafted on the shores of the Yangtze than the Cache La Poudre. Still, there's a great spot to find true Colorado mementos, a Colorado classic in its own right: Karl's Farm Dairy, sixty acres of rural anachronism surrounded by Northglenn sprawl. Here, visitors can memorialize their trip with honest-to-God Centennial State salsas, peanut brittle, jams, hot sauces, hot chocolate mix and — for the plane ride home — several varieties of jerky. The Colorado barbecue sauces would go great with the cuts of all-natural Colorado beef and elk, too. Who needs another shot glass, anyway?

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