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.

Pinche Tacos

Pinche Tacos, one of the early businesses in the vanguard of Denver's street-truck movement, turns out terrific Mexican street-food tacos bumped with everything from smashed potatoes and chorizo to carnitas, caramelized onions and beef tongue. Finer still are the vegetarian queso a la plancha tacos, good enough to compel carnivores to surrender to the green side. The tortillas — made locally — are slapped on the grill, surfaced with a lacy orb of salty cotija, griddled until golden, and topped with avocado and a lob of tart tomatillo salsa, with limes on the side. All of Pinche's tacos leave us wanting more, but these are the shock-and-awe version.

Rock Bottom Brewery
Cassandra Kotnik

The only thing better than beer is free beer, and on occasional Thursdays — usually once or twice a month — the Rock Bottom in downtown Denver gives away free pints from 6 to 6:30 p.m. to introduce its newest beer on tap. And brewmaster John McClure is always working on a new brew, whether it's a seasonal specialty, a twist on a classic or something completely different. The Colorado-founded Rock Bottom chain was rolled up into a much larger corporate entity last year, but maybe the suits won't notice these priceless free-pint nights. Next up: Snake Spit India black ale, which will be tapped on April 14.

Rioja
Scott Lentz

We try our very best not to fill up on bread before dinner comes, but that's no easy task at Rioja. The restaurant's given serious thought to its complimentary carbohydrate accompaniment, so it doesn't serve you stale chunks of ciabatta. Our mouths start watering as soon as we spot the employee charged with bread service, lugging a beautiful basket of crumbly goat-cheese biscuits and thick slices of baguette, full of fat olives that imbue the slices with just a hint of brine, all exquisite breads made by City Bakery. And since that bread basket keeps coming around, it's tough not to eat three or four rounds before the appetizers even hit the table.

Casa Blanca

The first basket of chips and salsa comes free at Casa Blanca, a Mexican restaurant tucked into an Arvada strip mall — and that first basket is so addictive, you'll find it hard to resist ordering more. The kitchen makes batches of firm, crisp corn chips, hot and thick and grease-free. They're served with a small bowl of tangy, piquant salsa, which has the bite of green and white onions, fresh cilantro and pungent oregano, all blended with tomatoes until smooth. The sauce incites a back-palate burn and leaves a sting of heat on the lips — the exact level of heat that entices you to keep taking bites in order to stave off the fire.

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