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?

Best Place to Pick Up an Off-Duty Chef

Izakaya Den

Izakaya Den
Izakaya Den
Some people like cops, some go for doctors, others are only interested in bikers, punks or nerds. And there's also a distinct subset of the singles scene interested in food-service employees — specifically cooks and chefs. For those whose tastes run a bit higher in the brigade than the Jäger-drunk commis or sullen, strung-out grillardin, Izakaya Den is a must-stop late on a Friday night. Izakaya regularly hosts a wide swath of Denver's exec-level talent — loud fellows with wrecked hands and balletic grace who crowd up close to the bar or settle into the corner booths for sake, cold beers and late-night snacks from Izakaya's incomparable kitchen.

Best Place to Pick Up an Off-Duty Line Cook

Dixons

Another thing Denver doesn't have enough of? Dedicated food-service bars — places where the line dogs can go after their shift, knock back a few cocktails, have a snack and behave badly among their own kind. There are a few such charmed and charming joints in town, but the best is Dixons. With its central downtown location, liberal pours, long hours and staff accustomed to giving guys in checked pants a certain broad latitude regarding proper bar etiquette, Dixons is just the spot to see Denver's best at their arguable worst.
Jim 'n Nick's Bar-B-Q
Hunter Stevens
Jim 'n Nick's might be a chain, but it's a chain backed by real guys: Jim and Nick Pihakis, a father-and-son team who ran the business together until Jim died not long ago. Now Nick is overseeing the expansion of the brand into barbecue-loving parts of America, including Colorado, which should bid Jim 'n Nick's a warm welcome. Because not only does it cook up pork ribs and pork shoulder and cheese biscuits and giant baked potatoes covered in pulled pork, but it has a drive-thru, where those in a rush can get a box (or seven) of really good barbecue to go without having to leave the comfort of their cars.

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