Best Dive Bar 2012 | PS Lounge | Best of Denver® | Best Restaurants, Bars, Clubs, Music and Stores in Denver | Westword
Kristin Pazulski

Like most dive bars in this town, the PS Lounge is a place we'd never want to see in the daylight; we're guessing the old sports paraphernalia and playbills lining the walls would look a lot more grimy and a lot less charming. But at night, the Lounge commands a special place in our dive-loving hearts. The place has its quirks: the cash-only establishment won't let you keep a running tab, for instance, and you'll have to walk down the street if you need an ATM. But Pete, the bar's owner, will also send you a round (or two) of Alabama Slammers, a sweet, Day-Glo-orange concoction made of sloe gin, SoCo and orange juice that tastes more like Tang, just to show his appreciation for your patronage, and he'll give the ladies in your group each a red rose. And if those gestures aren't enough to win you over, the down-home atmosphere that draws hipsters and Colfax creatures alike is sure the seal the deal. Dive, he said.

Readers' Choice: Don's Club Tavern

We're big fans of the grimy ambience at the Park Tavern, a dark, sprawling dive with a couple of pool tables and weekly trivia nights. When we want to relax after work at a neighborhood bar, there's no better place. In fact, when we want to relax at almost any hour, there's no better spot. That's because during happy hour, the Park Tavern offers two-for-one deals on wines, wells and drafts — and those happy-hour deals are offered at least twice daily. On Monday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, they're offered thrice — and on Tuesday, you can get $2.50 you-call-its from 4 p.m. until close. So chances are good that no matter when you drink at the Park Tavern, you're going to be drinking cheaply.

These days beer lovers in Denver have a lot of choices when it comes to bars, restaurants and tap rooms where they can find great craft brews. But when the besotted masses are looking for the most choices all in one place, they still turn to Falling Rock Tap House, where the 75-plus handles stretch the length of the long bar and have included, at one time or another, just about every big, bold, rare or highly sought-after beer that has come through town. Bring your beer knowledge and your thirst.

Readers' Choice: Falling Rock Tap House

You know the eggs Benedict that litter the breakfast menus of just about every cafe and diner in Denver? These are not those eggs Benedict, with hollandaise from a pre-mixed pouch. No, at DJ's Berkeley Cafe, eggs Benedict are held in higher esteem than your overall happiness; they're more sacred than marriage, more royal than Kate and Wills. Our favorite is the New Mexican Benedict, a bluff of fragile poached eggs and fire-roasted poblano chiles straddling two intensely spiced chorizo sausages resting on a smear of cheddar polenta. This is a magnificent dish that tastes of early-morning sunshine — and the scratch-made hollandaise, singing with lemon, is good enough to drink.

Mark Manger

Denver has a large Ethiopian population, and as a result, we have a wealth of Ethiopian restaurants. The one we keep returning to again and again, though, is Queen of Sheba, a sparsely decorated spot on East Colfax. Owner Zewditu (Zodi) Aboye does all of the cooking here, and she doesn't rush, so service can be unbelievably slow. But the wait is always worth it: The platter that finally hits your table comes with folds of injera and transcendental stews of lamb, lentils, chickpeas and chicken, plus shish kabob-like tibs. Washed down with an Ethiopian beer, it's always a feast fit for a Queen.

Readers' Choice: Arada Restaurant

Mark Payler

Jazz-loving jivesters know that Dazzle has an extensive menu of happy-hour snacks and discounted drinks, including martinis that are shaken, not stirred, tableside. But our favorite item on the current menu is the Louisiana-style hot link sandwich, a delightfully messy, spicy, salty sausage, dressed with bacon-laced collard greens and served up in a bun that can hardly stand the heat — with fries, no less. Nibble at it with a cold and substantial beverage close at hand; your pain receptors will thank you.

Sushi Sasa/Instagram

There are many places in town that disprove the notion that you have to be on one of the coasts to enjoy good sushi — and Wayne Conwell's stylish spot makes the most convincing argument of all. This restaurant between LoDo and LoHi doesn't just serve raw fish, though; it features Conwell's inventive take on the new-style Japanese cooking he learned under Iron Chef Morimoto. His dishes also show the influences of Italy and France, and his imaginative omakase menus regularly serve up some of the city's best Japanese cuisine. Conwell is spot-on in his execution of everything from tenderloin to toro, and his restaurant raises the bar for sushi bars as well as international cuisines. But it also raises the bar for how high a restaurant tab can go. A dinner at Sushi Sasa is sure to impress associates with impeccable food, gracious service and a hefty check best picked up with the company Amex.

Readers' Choice: Fruition

Denver's seen a boom in burger joints over the past few years, with some stripping the burger down to basics and others loading it up so that it's no longer recognizable. Highland Tap & Burger falls squarely in the middle, rethinking this iconic American dish while also celebrating what makes it remarkable. The chimi burger tops a fat medium-rare patty with white cheddar and garlicky chimichurri. The Shroomluva's comes on a bun smeared with truffle aioli, along with a pile of sautéed mushrooms and a slab of Emmentaler cheese. Our favorite, though, is the Tap burger, accessorized with a layer of root beer-marinated pulled pork in smoky, caramelly sauce, a crispy onion ring and both cheddar and American cheeses. If this is the next step in the evolution of the burger, we're there.

Few cultures are more romantic than the French, and À Côté Bar à Absinthe channels that spirit flawlessly. This cozy sliver of a spot can become whatever you want it to on a first amorous rendezvous — whether that's an intimate dinner location, a low-key happy-hour spot or a place to seal the deal with a nightcap. The restaurant has a menu built for sharing, and it features all sorts of sexy foods, from silky charcuterie and decadent imported cheeses to open-face sandwiches and seasonal small plates to ethereal desserts. Everything pairs to a good wine list and solid cocktails, and nibbles are served beneath walls lined with art and a gorgeous chandelier made of colored glass. It's also much less formal than its sibling restaurant, Z Cuisine, making it much easier to duck out after one drink if that's what you need to do.

Readers' Choice: Vesta Dipping Grill

Molly Martin

Hot dog carts continue to monopolize Denver's food-cart movement, but for a doggone good wiener that sizzles and drizzles with juices, Biker Jim's is the alpha Great Dane. The original cart, usually parked on the corner of 16th and Arapahoe streets, has been hustling franks from Continental Sausage for years. And clearly, practice makes perfect — because every day the stainless-steel mobile has junkies lined up to sink their incisors into a salty, meaty elk sausage or reindeer dog bulked up with onions caramelized in Coca-Cola and a surge of cream cheese ejected from a caulking gun. No wonder it's our favorite sidewalk snack.

Readers' Choice: Biker Jim's

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