The Cup Espresso Cafe

The owners of the Cup Espresso Cafe are dead serious about their coffee; they get it from Boulder's Conscious Coffees, a roasting company that specializes in organic, fair-trade coffee and works directly with the small farming cooperatives that grow their product. On the Cup website, you'll find detailed descriptions not just of how to brew a perfect cup, but also of the regions where the coffee comes from and the conditions under which growers work. All of which means you can feel thoroughly virtuous while enjoying the warm, bright atmosphere, pulling apart a flaky croissant and sipping your delicious, artfully drawn brew.

Wynkoop Brewing Company
Wynkoop Brewing

Yes, it's the brewpub that helped define the LoDo neighborhood, but the Wynkoop Brewing Company is also the brewpub that continues to sustain that neighborhood. Well into its third decade and long past the days when co-founder John Hickenlooper would regularly hold forth at the bar, the Wynkoop found new relevance over the past year, expanding its beer list and adding events like the Parade of Darks and Kegs & Curds to such perennial favorites as the Denver Gorilla Run and the Beerdrinker of the Year contest. The brewpub also began canning its signature Railyard Ale last summer, but balanced out that newfangled development with a promise to start delivering beer to downtown customers the old-fashioned way, via horse and carriage. The Wynkoop just keeps pouring it on — and out.

Best Place to Get Smashed on Non-Local Beers for $10

Jackson's

Jackson's LoDo
Britt Chester

If you're looking for that so-drunk-you-have-to-hold-onto-the-curb-to-keep-from-falling-off-the-earth experience, Jackson's has the right mix for you. From 9 p.m. to midnight on Thursday and Friday nights, this bar across from Coors Field offers all-you-can-drink beers (Coors, Coors Light, Killian's, Molson) and house wells — all for $10. There's just one catch: Your designated driver will still have to pay the cover. So in that case, be prepared to drink for two — because there's no expensive tab stopping you.

India's Pearl

We won't avoid the obvious: India's Pearl isn't strictly vegetarian, what with venison, peasant, beef, quail and duck all making appearances on the voluminous menu, but considering that upwards of forty dishes are meat- and fish-free — more than what you'll find at most full-on herbivore huts — it's as vegetarian-sympathetic as any restaurant you'll find in a city that flocks to flesh like Tiger Woods tends toward other women's tits. The vegetarian choices are smart, delicious and varied, too, so that while you'll encounter the usual suspects — pakora, saag paneer and vegetable korma — you can also order curried mushrooms with cashews, spiced okra and tandoori-baked eggplant, all of which are worth their weight in earth.

Virgilio's Pizzeria

From his 1,400-square-foot eponymous pizzeria just west of Belmar, Virgilio Urbano churns out wonderfully satisfying, thin-crusted chewy pies. You can watch him at work in the exposed kitchen, whose brick-lined oven doubles as a stage for more magic, including addictive spinach pinwheels, olive-oil-brushed garlic knots, calzones, strombolis and oven-hot subs. The straight-up, old-fashioned pizzas slippery with a judiciously herby and sweet tomato sauce and topped with housemade mozzarella are simple pleasures that don't rely on flashy gimmicks or clever Californication approaches to hold your attention. You won't stumble upon chicory or lusty pork belly, fingerling potatoes or porcini dust on the list of pizza toppings. Instead, you'll find those classic, impeccably sourced ingredients that pizza purists hold sacred.

El Taco De Mexico
Courtesy El Taco de Mexico Facebook

The clean-kitchen-obsessed women with permanent frowns on their faces who bust their asses at El Taco de México? They understand a lot more English than you might think, and if you're stupid enough to malign their green chile — which we've heard a hell of a lot of bullying gringos do — then you deserve whatever bad karma creeps into your tortilla. El Taco's green chile is in a class by itself, an incredible food high that's full of invigorating spices, deposits of pork and a slew of hot chiles for maximum twang. It embodies everything that you expect from a killer green chile, and a whole lot more.

Tambien

The pupusas at Tambien started out as a simple staff snack, a way for prep cook Sonia Hernandez, who hails from El Salvador, to swell the bellies of the hungry kitchen line with the national street grub of her homeland. But because pupusas — those flattened orbs of masa, water and salt rolled into a dough, griddled on the flat top and oozing with molten Jack cheese — make your head go dizzy with yearning, Sean Yontz, Tambien's executive chef, made the very wise decision to roll them out for public consumption. Stuffed with everything from refried beans and fresh jalapeños to calabacitas (a mix of zucchini, corn, garlic and onions), they're served with a fiery cabbage slaw and a mild, delicious puréed salsa of tomatoes, green peppers, onions and jalapeños. These pupasas are deserving of superstar status.

Pho 95

We've eaten at our share of pho houses, skulking along Federal Boulevard for our fix every chance we get. And still, we haven't found a better bowl of pho than the one served at Pho 95. The enormous bowls of noodles, floating in brilliantly flavored broths stockpiled with raw and cooked meats, arrive with heaps of Asian greens, rings of jalapeño and lime wedges. The pho will bowl you over, as will the genuine congeniality of owner Aaron Le, who never forgets to profess his thanks for your patronage.

Phoenician Kabob

Phoenician Kabob is where you come for kabobs, tabbouleh and kibbeh, garlic dip and grape leaves, beef shawarma and lamb shanks, where you enjoy your Mideast feast in a dining room spackled the colors of sumac, cumin and turmeric. It's also where you station yourself on a Saturday night, when the restaurant becomes a sultry den in which to get your shimmy on while checking out the sexy belly dancer. At those times, when the dancer wiggles her hips and jiggles her assets, it's not exactly easy to concentrate on the menu — unless you get into the spirit of excess and order the Sultan Combo. This is a mounded platter of the best of everything the Middle East has to offer — flat-out fantastic foodstuffs (lemony hummus dusted with sumac, earthy baba ghanouj tasting of deep smoke, sour grape leaves, chewy falafel orbs brightened with the vivid green of herbs and gyro) that might very well kill you, but at least you'll keel over knowing that you ate royally well.

Squeaky Bean
Lori Midson

You've worshiped at the shrine to Farrah Fawcett that merits its own shelf above the bar; hoofed your way through the pig platter; contemplated holding chef Max Mackissock hostage because he refuses to part with his chicken-liver mousse recipe; and shimmied while unapologetically inhaling the shake-n-bake sweetbreads. But it's Mackissock's beef cheeks that are the silent sleeper on Squeaky Bean's bang-up board of seasonally inspired dishes: The meat, long-braised, cloaked in a deep and rich veal stock and crowned with fennel and chiffonade of spinach, collapses at the swipe of a fork; right beside is a roasted potato, hollowed out and puddled with a creamy fonduta bolstered by bacon and chives, which elevates the proletarian tuber to rock-spud status. All this goodness comes from a stubbornly diminutive kitchen that's roughly the size of a pig's snout. Just imagine what Mackissock could do with more room! But then, we could never imagine the restaurant leaving this wonderful corner of Highland, where it fits so seamlessly into the fabric of the neighborhood that it's almost a shock to remember that the Bean first squeaked just last May.

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