Bud's Cafe & Bar
Lori Midson
Bud's Bar is a survivor. It survived a change in ownership and the smoking ban, and it still came out on top. We've eaten burger after burger across the metro area, but we always return to Bud's. Bud's not only serves the best burger in Denver, but it serves the best burger in Colorado, one of the best burgers in America. We can think of maybe two burgers in the whole of the United States better than the double with cheese at Bud's, and Bud's might edge out one of those simply on the strength of the joint itself: an uncompromising roadhouse full of surly waitresses and bikers, where demanding fries (which Bud's doesn't serve) might get you punched in the mouth, and complaining about the wait (which there almost always is, even though it's now open on Sundays, too) will get your ass deservedly 86'd into the parking lot. Bud's ain't pretty and it ain't nice, and it ain't precisely welcoming to strangers. But its burger is perfect.

Best Burger in the Last Place You'd Expect It

Jax Fish House

Jax Fish House
Jax Fish House
Colorado beef grilled up a perfect mid-rare, topped with white cheddar, on a soft, grilled brioche roll and sided by hand-cut fries. A great seafood restaurant has no business making such a great burger. It seems wrong, almost greedy. But there it is: Chef Sheila Lucero and her crew at Jax make a burger that can stand proudly among the best in town.

Best Burger With a Side of Classical Music

My Brother's Bar

My Brother's Bar
Westword
My Brother's Bar has a million things going for it — from a building that's held a bar since the 1880s to the classical music piped through the place to the friendly crowd of regulars to the eclectic menu cooked up out of the tiny chuckwagon kitchen — but the most important thing is the burger. My Brother's not only makes one wicked, huge, messy and (by request) multiply-topped burger, but it serves said champion burger in a unique conveyance: a plastic, burger-specific condiment tray that contains everything a man could need for prepping a burger to his satisfaction. Both the burger and the bar itself are classics.
Biker Jim's Gourmet Dogs
Danielle Lirette
"Biker Jim knows his wieners." That's what it says on what has to be one of the only websites in America run for and by a hot dog cart guy. But then, Biker Jim doesn't exactly run a normal hot dog cart. While you can get a simple all-beef with mustard, Biker Jim also has Alaskan reindeer sausage, German white veal brats, jalapeño-cheddar elk brats and boar sausage. His dog toppings are well thought out, too, and include not just the standard mustard, relish and ketchup, but sriracha hot sauce and cream cheese (for the Louisiana red hots) pumped out of an industrial-sized caulking gun. Biker Jim peddles all of this to regulars and tourists alike who flock to this part of Skyline Park at lunch, and he does it with style: always talking, always working, always keeping the crowds entertained like a sideshow huckster while he works the grill on his cart.

Best Central/South American Restaurant

Los Cabos II

Los Cabos II
Eric Gruneisen
Peruvian food is some of the strangest, most delicious stuff in the world: a mishmash of centuries of cultural influences thrown together onto one plate. Spanish conquistadors, Arabs and Moors, explorers bringing spices from India, Italian cartographers, historic Creoles, African slaves and Asian immigrants — they've all added to the rich history of Peruvian cookery. And at Los Cabos, you can taste all of that (or most of it, anyway) every time you walk through the door. The house does a little of everything, from Spanish paellas and urban/peasant bistec a la pobre to the delicious papas a la huancaina, ceviche and parihuela, a very nearly French bouillabaisse with all kinds of seafood in a smooth, fragrant broth. Added bonus: Los Cabos also has a stuffed llama in the bar, giving it a lock on the award for Best Bar in Denver to Get Thrown Out of for Trying to Ride the Llama.
Rosie's Diner
Hunter Stevens
There are plenty of spots around town where a man of little means can get himself a hot breakfast. But there's no better spot for the archetypal cheap American breakfast than Rosie's. This custom-built '50s-style diner full of gleaming chrome and sock-hop decor seemingly stalled its pricing strategy a couple of decades back and offers massive plates of everything that's great about the first meal of the day for the kind of money you might find in your couch cushions. Seriously, two eggs, hash browns, a plate of pancakes and a mound of corned beef hash, all for around five bucks? It doesn't get any better than that. And if you're feeling flush, you can get a fine steak with three eggs, cakes and sides, plus a cup of coffee or a chocolate milkshake, for close to a ten-spot.
Patzcuaro's
Summer Powell
Nothing on Taquería Patzcuaro's menu costs more than eleven bucks, and almost everything is worth twice what you'll pay for it. Carnitas Michoacán or carne adovada for nine bucks? Four tacos albañil for $7.50? Those are bargain prices, particularly since these are some of the top carnitas, carne adovada and tacos albañil in the city. And the ambience in this three-decade-old restaurant is priceless. You can come in, settle down in a booth, watch Mexican talk shows or even the occasional bullfight on TV, knock back a couple of cold beers and eat a bunch of tacos under the frozen gazes of the Mexican revolutionaries and cowboys pictured on the walls, then get out for less than fifteen bucks. In these trying economic times, Patzcuaro is looking more vital than ever.
Ba Le Sandwich
Mark Antonation
Ba Le is a hole-in-the-wall in a neighborhood full of a million other holes in a million other walls. But Ba Le is also a real hole in one: a spot frequented not just by members of Denver's Vietnamese community, but by hordes of Denver diners on the lookout for something new, something delicious and something definitely cheap. Ba Le is basically a sandwich shop, but it makes only the Vietnamese banh mi sandwich — a beautiful mix of unusual meats (various pâtés and pork and chicken and pork) and mounds of vegetables (cilantro, shredded carrot, cucumber and more) all smushed together between two halves of a French/Vietnamese baguette. The bread itself is worth the trip, the smeared-on pâtés like a bonus French kick. And the clincher? Each sandwich comes in at less than three bucks.
Frank Bonanno envisioned Mizuna a neighborhood fine-dining restaurant before that trend became de rigueur in every neighborhood in town. Then came Luca d'Italia, a great little Italian restaurant that hit before this city got overrun with great little Italian restaurants, back in the day (not so long ago) when the city really was a red-sauce wasteland. There were a couple of missteps along the way (Milagro, Harry's), but Bonanno came back strong with Osteria Marco in Larimer Square, a beautiful, honest and low-to-the-ground osteria offering (more or less) pig, pig, pig and wine. And now he has Bones — the noodle bar that's not really a noodle bar, the Asian restaurant that ain't Asian. There are a lot of people on the restaurant scene who don't love Bonanno, who are annoyed by his pride, his ego and the fact that he doesn't keep his mouth shut when he sees something being done wrong. Thing is, those are exactly the reasons that we like the guy. Because he reminds us of a chef — a loud-mouthed, occasionally crazy, always commanding sonofabitch who can back up every quirk and tirade because not only does he already operate three of the best restaurants in the city, but now, officially, the Best New Restaurant in Denver for 2009.
The Corner Office
Cassandra Kotnik
The chicken and waffles at the Corner Office may well be the city's only chicken and waffles — but even if there were dozens of competitors, this plate would still be the best. It's dinner and dessert in one — a beautiful mix of crisp and salty fried chicken mounted atop a lovely waffle, dusted with powdered sugar and served with a little syrup on the side, all sweet and savory and greasy and delicious. While Denver might not yet be a chicken-and-waffles kind of town, as long as the Corner Office keeps serving this dish, it will be our kind of town.

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