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.

The breakfast burrito could be Colorado's official food. Just about every breakfast joint in Denver offers one, even if the only authentically Mexican thing about the place is the dishwasher. Vendors peddle breakfast burritos door-to-door at office buildings in the morning and sell them in LoDo at let-out. And you can find a good breakfast burrito on just about every block in the city — especially the 2500 block of Federal Boulevard. In this corner, at 2505 Federal, an outpost of Santiago's, the homegrown chain that's found many fans for its hot green chile and tidy, foil-wrapped breakfast burritos that go for $2 with cheese, $1.75 without (720-855-8109). Across the street, at 2524 Federal, Jack-n-Grill, Jack Martinez's shrine to New Mexican food, offers a very respectable Colorado breakfast burrito to-go for $2 (303-964-9544). And around the corner, at 2900 East 26th Avenue, Araujo (303-455-3866) wins the price game, burrito-filled hands down: Its breakfast burrito is just 99 cents. (Come back during the day for four tacos for $5.)

Lucky Strike Lanes
Ariel Fried

Here's a deal that's right up our alley. Lucky Strike Lanes in the Denver Pavilions is known as a hip nighttime hangout, but it also rewards those who get up early with Brunch and Bowl. From 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. every Sunday, Lucky Strike puts out an impressive brunch buffet spread for $12.95 (wash down your meal with $2 mimosas) — and if you fork over another five bucks, you can work off that meal with two hours of bowling. Strike!

Great Scotts Eatery
Cassandra Stiltner

Yes, the '50s shtick can seem a little glaring at 4 a.m., when all you need is a big burger or a plate of steak and eggs to start — or end — your day. But even though Great Scotts hasn't been around since the '50s, it's been around long enough to serve a generation of fans authentically good roadside fare. While the second location, in Broomfield, isn't open 24/7, you can count on the original just off the highway to have the welcome sign out day or night.

Boulder Dushanbe Teahouse

Perhaps you've heard about the years-long political struggle to get the City of Boulder to accept the Dushanbe Teahouse after it had already been sent there in boxes — eight years during which the mayor of Dushanbe died without seeing his dream of an exchange fulfilled. Perhaps you know that over the years, the food at Dushanbe has been variable — sometimes terrific, sometimes so-so. But you absolutely can't argue with the amazing list of teas it serves, teas with names like White Jasmine Moon and Paradise Green, good-for-you teas like Tender Tummy and Feel Better Brew, concoctions that your waitperson will serve with such warmhearted concern that you know she deeply and personally cares about your well-being. Sit on the patio, listen to the snowmelt-swollen creek rush by, sip and meditate on international understanding.

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