Troy Guard's TAG, which he launched last May in Larimer Square, swaggers one of Denver's brashest border-crossing kitchens — a kitchen that slants toward the other F-word. So what? Guard is a master of multiculturalism, and his menu, which is full of playfully modern dishes that usually erupt into something wondrous, is smart, hip and approachable. He sets off his flash-seared hiramama with pricks of jalapeños and Pop Rocks in a basin of white soy and yuzu; creates his own interpretation of French onion soup, which results in irresistible "soup" dumplings that explode with juice; and plates his duo of meaty lamb chops, studded and glazed with all things Asian, in a pool of no fewer than four sauces. In the hands of a less confident chef, all this might spell disaster — but in Guard's grasp, fusion turns out food that's nothing short of miraculous.

Pico De Gallo

Starting at 6 a.m., squadrons of disciples elbow their way through the doors of Pico de Gallo, a comradely strip-mall Mexican joint that pushes a freaking awesome breakfast burrito, among other South-of-the-border beauties. Stuffed like a sumo wrestler before his next throwdown, and more or less the length of a telephone pole and weight of the Titanic, the griddled tortilla is tightly bundled with soft scrambled eggs, crumbles of housemade chorizo that drip with just the right amount of hot grease, and face-slapping roasted jalapeños. And because that's not enough bulk, the kitchen further amps it up with cheese, soft cubed potatoes and a liberal ladleful of spicy green chile, which is also poured on top. It's everything you require from a breakfast burrito. And more.

Comedy Works South
Eric Gruneisen

There's nothing funny about the Gospel Brunch offered at Comedy Works South. This is a serious brunch, and, appropriately enough for this second outpost of the famed comedy club, the spread is all Southern food, a groan-inducing board of carb-heavy and flavor-rich fare that's stunning on its own, but absolutely heavenly when set off by a serving of R&B gospel music. This could be our regular place to worship — but sadly, the Gospel Brunch isn't offered every week. Check with the club for scheduling.

Steuben's Uptown
Cassandra Kotnik

There are so many reasons to heart Steuben's: the classic cocktail list that never feels old, even though most of the drinks were in vogue around the same time as shag carpet; the righteous soundtrack that begs for a dance floor (or at least a small corner dedicated to disco); tatted servers whose ink inspires you to get your own; nifty T-shirts that pimp pork; and a groovy menu that doesn't see darkness until the clock strikes eleven during the week and midnight on the weekends. And we're not talking about a bar menu or an abbreviated menu, but a full board of favorite American foodstuffs to satisfy the already well-lubricated, as well as those just getting started. Among the standouts: spaghetti and meatballs, deviled eggs, fried chicken, and an incredible green chile cheeseburger.

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.

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