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
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.
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.

Best Place to Pick Up Sandwich Fixin's

The Truffle

Since Rob and Karin Lawler took over the Truffle last year, we've been impressed by both their stock and their skill in getting the word out about said stock. And for Denver's sandwich fanatics, there's no better place to while away an hour or an afternoon, tasting a little of this and buying a whole lot of that. The Truffle offers some killer Salumeria Biellese pork products, excellent cheeses, prepared anchovies and more varieties of salt than anyone could possibly need. Not only that, but everyone at the Truffle is eager to pass on whatever knowledge they have to the legions of super-artisan ingredient freaks who wander in and out all day long.
Is the line to eat at Cherry Crest too long? Check this out: The market part of the restaurant offers a takeout-only, New England-style steamer special of two one-and-a-half pound lobsters, the catch of the day, clams, mussels, corn on the cob and potatoes, laid down with seaweed in a steamer bucket and ready to go for just $70. That's a real deal for a seafood fanatic, displaced East Coaster or anyone who wants to re-create one of those high-summer J. Crew photo spreads in their own back yard.
We've only eaten in Thai Pepper II's dining room once. That's because we can't sit still when we start thinking about this Thai food. So when we have a craving, we call in an order to Thai Pepper, which quickly bags up a brilliant take-away order of curry, rice, rice-paper shrimp and noodles. The menu is just long enough to feel comprehensive, with great versions of authentic Thai specialties — all of which seem to taste even better when eaten at home, on the couch or just standing in front of the refrigerator at two in the morning.

Best Place to Pick Up the Sushi Habit

Japon

Less formal and intimidating than other sushi joints, Japon is a great place to go if you're just starting to get into sushi. Here the stakes are a little lower and the pace a little slower, a benefit of Japon's Old South Gaylord neighborhood setting. But the fish is undeniably excellent and the crew behind the bar approachable and helpful. At Japon, you get the sense that eating sushi doesn't have to be serious; it can simply be fun.

Best Place to Pick Up the Tab — Dinner

Wazee Supper Club

You finally did it: You beat all the competition and nailed down that contract for the National Widget Manufacturing Summit. You're feeling good, your staff is feeling good, and you want to take everyone out to celebrate. But not at a steakhouse — the NWMS was a nice payday, but not that nice. Still, you don't want to go too cheap, either. You want to show your guys a guaranteed good time — and the Wazee Supper Club is just the place. It's got a great bar, a cool staff, a passable jukebox and — most important in your case — an excellent menu filled with pizzas, stromboli, burgers, salads and sandwiches that are all priced to move. Plus, the Wazee is prepared to handle large parties at nearly all hours with a second-floor dining area and a kitchen that serves on most nights until one in the morning.

Best Place to Pick Up the Tab — Lunch

Capital Grille

Dinners at the Capital Grille can be murderously expensive. That dry-aged and hand-sculpted 24-ounce porterhouse, with sides, will run as high as your monthly car payment, and some of the bottles on the "Captain's List" could bankrupt a small Third World nation. But if you need to pick up a tab at a place that makes an impression, take our advice: Hit the Capital Grille for lunch. You'll get the same stellar service you get at dinner, see the same bluebloods and captains of industry who'll be back that evening — but you'll wind up holding a much smaller tab than you would at dinner. And if you order right, you'll have leftovers that you can enjoy at home that night, sitting on your couch in your underwear.

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