How do we love Lola? Let us count the ways. We love the history of the building it resides in, an old mortuary that served as the almost-final resting place of Buffalo Bill (he couldn't be buried on Lookout Mountain until after the ground thawed). We love looking out over the city from its deck, heated so that you can enjoy the view year-round. We love the brunch, with the inventive specials that change every weekend. We love the happy-hour deals, when you can grab a great taco for $3. We love the music on Sunday afternoons, and the special-occasion dinners, and the accidental dinners, when you come for a quick snack and wind up swimming in a whole fish. And above all, we love the margaritas. Lola stocks more than 150 tequilas, and mixologist Jimmy Zanon is always using them in new ways — but our favorite remains the house marg, perfectly mixed, very strong, and pure love in a glass.

You go to the Edgewater Inn for the pizza and the atmosphere — "Howdy, paisano!" — but you won't be able to leave without ordering a schooner. Perhaps the most festively shaped drinking vessel known to man, schooners are like giant, rounded margarita glasses perfectly suited to toasting. And you'll have reason to toast, because during happy hour, the Edgewater fills its schooners with domestic drafts for just $3 (they're $3.75 at other times). It's eighteen ounces of liquid joy.

Olivea
Cassandra Kotnik

Not only is John Broening, Olivea's incredibly talented chef/co-owner, crafting authentic charcuterie in the small confines of his culinary workroom, but he's also making his own headcheese, the tour de force of all offal. There's just something so maniacally pleasurable about seeing all the scraps from the meatiest parts of the pig's head — Broening uses the tongue, too — turned into a gorgeous terrine of fine swine, fat and spices. If you're in the house and Broening is offering it as an off-menu special, you'd be crazy not to order it. And that's the offal truth.

Nothing more profoundly scents a room than the char of smoke-impregnated animal flesh — especially when that flesh has been smoked low and slow over hickory, which is the wood of choice at Boney's Smokehouse, Lamont and Trina Lynch's downtown, down-home temple of barbecue. From long before noon to long into the afternoon, pit worshipers pile in to stuff themselves with deliciously fatty, black-crusted brisket that pulls apart easily; potently spicy sausage links; beautifully seasoned ribs that are quickly stripped clean; and pulled pork, usually slapped between a soft bun and served Carolina style. And such side dishes as the baked beans and the creamy potato salad are solid sidekicks.

Sexy Pizza
Mark Antonation

Do bagels turn you on? Do you get just as hot and bothered over thick, sesame-seed-encrusted buns as you do over the meat between them? Carb lover, let us introduce you to your next meal: Sexy Pizza's Baked Ziti Pie. Picture it: ziti on top of cheese on top of sauce on top of bread. Eating a slice is like going to a church-basement spaghetti dinner and an all-you-can-eat pizza buffet at the same time. In other words, it's like going to heaven – and then realizing that in heaven, all the carbs you can eat cost just $13.99 for a twelve-inch pie.

El Camaron Loco

There are very few dishes on the menu of El Camaron Loco that don't include shrimp. But if you look around the dining room of this Mexican seafood shack on Federal (our favorite of the three metro locations), almost everyone is tucking into a huge goblet of shrimp cocktail. Swamped with a land mine of shellfish bobbing in a soupy tomato broth livened with cilantro leaves and onions, it comes to your table crowned with half-crescents of avocado and additional accoutrements like lime wedges, ketchup and more than a half-dozen bottled hot sauces that you can dribble in to amplify the flavor. The server also delivers a bag of saltines and tostada chips, which you can use as rafts to float the little suckers.

Sushi Den
Sushi Den

Denver, we're often reminded by those who can't help themselves, is a landlocked city — which, according to those same clever people who think they know everything, undercuts our ability to serve anything that swims in the ocean. But those people don't know their Starkist from their salmon collar. At the very least, they obviously haven't ever been to Sushi Den, the city's shrine to raw glory. Even after 25 years, Sushi Den remains immaculately fresh, flying in fish daily from Japanese markets and serving it up immaculately, with elegant style. The sushi at the Den is beyond reproach. And as an added benefit, this restaurant offers some of the best beautiful-people watching in town. Get in the swim.

China Jade
Mark Manger

With all due respect to the rest of the Chinese restaurants in town, China Jade whups your sorry wooden chopsticks. This joint is that glorious rarity whose food makes you moan and groan and sigh and hoot and holler, sometimes all at once. It's the type of place that stops you dead in your stilettos, if only to remind you that you're only as good as your next Chinese meal — which, in this case, will be something from the laminated "secret" Chinese menu. The other menu is inked on yellow paper, and unless you're completely gutless, ignore it. Focus solely on the Chinese menu and take the advice of the servers who will likely steer you toward the cuminum cyminum beef or maybe the twice-cooked pork. Ultimately, it won't matter what you order, because whatever ends up under your nose will be so disarmingly delicious that you'll choke up with gratitude.

Second Home Kitchen and Bar
Hunter Stevens

For those who can't decide between a T-bone and a twice-baked potato, chicken and waffles, lobster pot pie or a green-chile-smothered pork chop partnered with scalloped potatoes, we have good news for you: All of those dishes grace the menu of Second Home, the restaurant at the JW Marriott. The wide-ranging menu reads like a love letter extolling your mom's home cooking, and it's so full of rib-sticking, retro nostalgia that it's only a matter of time before the TV in the bar starts airing Mickey Mouse Club reruns.

Sure, plenty of places serve fashionable, frou-frou martinis, featuring chocolate or pineapple or organic juniper berries. And the affable bartenders at the Avenue Grill are willing to make a martini just about any way a customer asks for it. Over the years, this go-to spot has made other changes, too, including recently adding a Saturday brunch. But when we're ordering a martini, we like to cling to tradition, and our favorite remains the classic that they've been pouring for more than two decades: big, icy and guaranteed to leave you shaken, if not stirred.

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