Vesta
Mark Antonation

The Denver Restaurant Week deal lives on at Vesta Dipping Grill, one of the sexiest, best-dressed feedlots in the city. While many restaurants shutter on Mondays, Vesta, the Goddess of the Hearth, flaunts her prowess by offering a three-course meal — which changes every month, and often features past Vesta favorites — at the DRW price of $52.80 for two. And Vesta isn't serving any rubber chickens: A recent Monday menu featured duck leg confit with tomato jam; skewered scallops with fingerling potatoes, fennel and bacon aioli; and a Riesling-poached pear dolled up with caramel and cinnamon ice cream. That's a cheap date that delivers.

Pho Duy
Mark Antonation

Tucked into a dilapidated shopping area on Federal and flanked by an impossible-to-maneuver parking lot, Pho Duy has somehow managed to keep slinging pho for nearly two decades. Every seat in the sparse dining room is almost always filled, as staffers scurry through the crowd to take orders, unceremoniously deliver dishes and then clear away the remnants just in time to seat the next group of diners coming in. Save for a few appetizers and specials, this shop simply hawks pho, which starts with dark and pungent beef broth, with depth added by slices of onions cooked soft, their flavor infused into the liquid. The boiling broth is poured over a nest of rice noodles and your choice of peppery, tender flank steak, chewy chunks of tendon, textured strips of tripe and other meaty combinations; the diner tosses in fresh basil, bean sprouts, lime and spicy sriracha to taste. So pho, so good.

The Kentucky Inn reopened in December 2017, after a five-month remodel.
Mark Antonation
The Kentucky Inn reopened in December 2017, after a five-month remodel.

Dive right in! An utterly unceremonious spot that we'd never want to see in the light of day, the Kentucky Inn is a classic dive that's never been anything but. A jukebox serves up drinker's picks, which range from Eminem to Miles Davis to Metallica, depending on who's in control. A pool table occasionally plays host to a group of Wash Park neighbors who wander in for drinks. But most regulars just cozy up to the bar, where amiable bartender Red pours all sorts of alcohol (including PBR, cider and fernet), engages everyone in conversation, and keeps us coming back when we've got nothing but time on our hands.

Falling Rock Tap House

It's hard to argue with an entire wall of taps representing some of the best breweries in Colorado, the country and the world — unless you're drunk. Which you might be, since many of the rare and hard-to-find beers here have a nice, hefty alcohol level. For years, the tap list made Falling Rock Tap House the only place for beer geeks — local or visiting — to gather in Denver for a pint, before a Rockies game, during the Great American Beer Festival or for a special event. Thanks to Denver's burgeoning beer culture, Falling Rock is no longer the only place. But with 75 brews on tap, some of which are nearly impossible to find elsewhere in Colorado, the beer list still makes it your happy place.

Devil's Food Cookery
Cassandra Kotnik

How do you make really excellent eggs Benedict? Perfect each element and then combine for peak perfection. Devil's Food starts with a base of slightly sweet, lightly toasted, spongy challah bread, topping it with thick cuts of ham and a couple of quivering poached eggs, the yolks simultaneously runny and thick. All of that is smothered in the tangy, housemade, paprika-specked hollandaise, a sauce so bright, hearty and savory that we could eat it with a spoon. On the Benedict, though, it mixes with the yolk, creating a decadently rich and creamy combination — and you'll want to use every morsel of bread you can spare to sop it up.

Queen of Sheba Ethiopian Restaurant
Mark Manger

Save for a few maps of Ethiopia, the decor at Queen of Sheba, an East Colfax storefront, is modest. But the food? As owner Zewditu (Zodi) Aboye's daughter puts it, "Some people just have a gift for cooking, you know?" From a partially visible kitchen, Aboye turns out stellar renditions of her home country's cuisine: stews of earthy lentils, gamey yebeg wott thick with chunks of lamb, and tender legs of juicy, roasted chicken, all infused with the piquant smoke of berbere, the spice that's ubiquitous in this type of fare. Those stews come on a platter, hemmed in with tart, spongy injera (like a flat sourdough) used for scooping everything up between fingers. To wash it all down, Aboye pours Ethiopian honey wine and Harar beer, of course. Denver is lucky to have many Ethiopian restaurants, but Queen of Sheba rules.

Fruition
Mark Manger

When cost is no object, there's one restaurant in Denver that will consistently deliver on your expectations, no matter how high, and that's Fruition. Chef Alex Seidel turns out flawlessly executed dishes, course after course, from the crisp, tender duck confit to the fat-laced pork belly and egg-topped housemade cavatelli to a soft, flaky cut of bass; a carefully constructed wine list offers the perfect wine for every plate. The staff is incredibly efficient and solicitous, catering to your every need in the tiny, cozy dining room. All told, Fruition is the ideal place to whip out the company credit card and impress the boss — or to use your per diem to do something nice for yourself after a very hard day.

Fruition
Mark Manger

If you're going to bill yourself as a farm-to-table restaurant, then you'd better make damn sure you're following in the footsteps of Alex Seidel, whose enlightening little restaurant walks the walk and talks the talk. A couple of years ago, Seidel bought himself a ten-acre farm just outside Larkspur, where he raises Nebraska-bred sheep along with chickens that pop out beautiful eggs. He also cultivates herbs, harvests vegetables and makes his own small-batch cheeses, including a sensational ricotta, then trots his bounty to Fruition, seducing diners with plate after plate of New American comfort food straight off the farm — and straight from the earth.

The Village Cork

Village Cork has an ultra-feminine appeal. With its exposed brick walls, antique glass lamps, mismatched floral-patterned plates and sound system playing the sultry voices of 1930s and 1940s jazz vocalists, a woman can easily envision herself here, charming the pants off a suitor while flipping her hair in good light. And that makes this just the spot for a first date, where the twosome can clink wine glasses and nibble elegantly from shared small plates in a private nook, telling each other their pertinent stats while stealing charged glances during pauses. Even after dessert has come and gone, it's an easy place to linger and stretch the night as long as possible — until maybe, just maybe, she invites him home for one last drink.

The Porker

Swine sultan Chad Clevenger's humble stainless-steel cart, perched on a downtown corner, unleashes a snort of pig-centric street food in all guises: pork belly, pork cheeks, pulled pork slathered with barbecue sauce and heaped with slaw, grilled macaroni and cheese hog-wild with pig, and, on occasion, a simply incredible posole. It's an unduplicated, indelible bowl of New Mexican warmth, tinted a ruddy complexion from the fiery red chile, laden with hominy, aromatic with onions, Mexican oregano, garlic and a whisper of orange, and generously packed with stewed pork. Even without the requisite garnishes — lime wedges, ribbons of radish and verdant cilantro leaves — it's stupendous, as is everything Clevenger hustles. Go ahead, make a pig of yourself.

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