US Thai Cafe
Mark Antonation

"Medium" isn't a server's suggestion at US Thai Cafe when a new guest innocently asks for Thai hot -- it's an order. Because US Thai's "medium" is what most places peg as "hot," a sweat-inducing smattering of fiery red chiles mixed through any dish on the menu, used with just enough restraint to allow an eater to actually taste the rest of the flavors in the excellent food. But for those thrill-seekers who crave insane levels of heat, the kitchen will punch up everything from the green papaya salad to the curry with angry-looking peppers that are probably hot enough for some sort of eating contest, guaranteed to blister your esophagus and make your adrenaline flow.

Maybe it's the altitude. Maybe it's the outdoor life. Whatever it is, Colorado has some of the loveliest cheerleaders in the country, and they can all be found at Rocky Mountain Spirit, a blog billing itself as "home to the news of all the exciting professional cheer and dance teams in the state of Colorado." News? Yes. But also pics and video — lots of video! But, hey, don't be creepy. These ladies know their stuff when it comes to dancing, whether it's the squads from the Broncos, the Nuggets, the Outlaws or the Eagles, and you can bet your pompoms they've got all the right moves.

The Rockaway Tavern
Hunter Stevens

After a long run, the 15th Street Tavern closed in 2007, leaving a big hole in the downtown punk scene. And almost immediately, the Tavern's Myke Martinez started looking for a place where he could resurrect that beloved venue. It took a few years of hunting, but Martinez and Kris Sieger, another former 15th Street owner, finally found what they were looking for in the spot previously occupied by the Triangle. The two teamed with 3 Kings Tavern owner Jim Norris to overhaul the space, adding a stage and putting a tiki bar in back. While the Rockaway isn't an entirely authentic resurrection of 15th Street, it borrows elements from both that venue and 3 Kings to add something entirely new, and much needed, to the scene.

Late-night munchies often call for a hit of greasy Mexican food, and that's when it's time to cruise over to one of the two drive-thru Tacos Rapidos outposts. Under their red roofs, these kitchens turn out fat burritos full of creamy beans, melted orange cheddar, juicy carnitas and French fries (yes, French fries); tacos exploding with tongue, pork and beef; breakfast burritos stuffed with eggs and sausage (and available all day); French fries smothered with carne asada, guacamole and sour cream. Each dish hits the sweet spot of whatever you might be craving — which makes it particularly noteworthy that both Tacos Rapidos sling their gut-busting food 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Gary is determined to make his fortune by catching a home-run ball. In Ian Merrill Peakes's committed, intelligent performance in the premiere of The Catch at the Denver Center Theatre Company, we saw all the character's complexity, his brilliance in calculating the odds, his grandiosity and delusion — and also his very human attempts to connect with his estranged wife and emotionally pinched father.

Avenue Theater

Nick Sugar was born to play the raucous, all-stops-out part of Hedwig in Hedwig and the Angry Inch. In this Avenue Theater production, he got to strut, cross-dress, belt out numbers both sexy and forlorn, boast, whine, mock and beg — and all while he held the audience spellbound. And then he went further, reaching deep into his own soul to find a redemptive dignity amid the squalor.

In Reckless, Rachel is a crazy, farcical character, given to euphoria attacks and blindly ecstatic babble (only briefly interrupted by her husband's revelation that he's taken out a contract on her life). In the role, Julia Motyka sometimes bounded around the stage with an energy so manic you wanted to help those contract killers strangle her yourself. But at other times she was thoughtful and smart, and by the play's end, she'd deepened into someone you genuinely wanted to know. Motyka's smart performance in the Denver Center Theatre Company's production was anything but reckless.

In Mouse in a Jar, Ma is the ultimate female victim: a Polish immigrant married to a faceless man who regularly abuses her and stands symbolically for the brute power of dictatorship and oppression everywhere. Ma cooks. She awaits the nightly return of her oppressor. She does little to protect her two daughters, and when one of them attempts to protect her, the attempt itself is brutal. Yet Ma also possesses a twisted, burned-in-the-flame toughness and humor. Trina Magness gave a memorable, haunted performance as Ma in LIDA's production of Mouse in a Jar.

Despite the faux spunkiness with which the Disney Corporation endows its heroines, every Belle we've ever seen has been utterly insipid — and Jenna Bainbridge had precisely the sweet soprano and delicate, pretty features required for Beauty and the Beast's Belle. But in this Phamaly production, she also packed a grit and determination that made her easily a match for Leonard Barrett's powerful beast.

Some actors win audience attention effortlessly; most have to work for it. Allison Pistorius is in the former group. When she comes on stage, you want to watch her. When she leaves, you feel a moment's regret. This quality stood her in good stead in the role of the jilted Helena in A Midsummer Night's Dream, a part that's too often cartoony or forgettable. In this Denver Center Theatre Company production, Pistorius got in a bunch of lively slapstick: furious struggles with her perceived rival, Hermia, enraged encounters with the two men who alternately pursued and rejected her, a memorable soaking. But despite all this, she made the character warmly human.

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