Pierre Michel Organic French Bakery Cafe

Let's get one thing straight: If you snooze, you lose — literally. Forget what hours are actually listed on the website or the door: Pierre Michel Organic French Bakery Cafe, which is shoehorned into a tight space in a sprawling strip mall, often shuts an hour — sometimes two — before the posted closing times, thanks to the breadheads who hurry to snatch up the French bakery's magnificent fruit pastries, butter croissants, quiches and French baguettes long before you've hit the snooze button. The bakery is a community center in Highlands Ranch, drawing regulars who crave everything that comes from the kitchen — particularly the Croque Madame, thick-sliced ham and melty Swiss stacked between butter-slicked slices of house-baked brioche and crowned with two eggs. Just make sure you arrive early to partake in the bakery's bliss; otherwise, you risk being apologetically turned away at the door.

Readers' Choice: Lovely Confections

Steuben's Uptown
Cassandra Kotnik

We've noticed barrel-aged cocktails popping up on a handful of lists, making this a true trend in drink-obsessed Denver. Our favorite comes courtesy of Randy and Ryan Layman, who whip up barrel-aged martinis at Steuben's. The brother bartenders make a fifteen-liter batch of Martinez cocktail and then put it in a Peach Street Distillers barrel for five to seven weeks, tasting it on a weekly or bi-weekly basis; when it hits the optimal point, they strain and rebottle the cocktail. The result is a silky drink that incorporates all of our favorite characteristics of a martini but has a rounder, sweeter and more caramelly note from its time on oak.

Colt & Gray

Colt & Gray has a clever drink list, a catalogue of classics, twists on classics, private jokes and new inventions, every one of which is testament to the talent of the bar staff, who have some of the deepest spirits knowledge in town. But the way to really experience what this bar can do is to plop down and order a bartender's choice. After sussing out what you like about a drink — whether that's a flavor profile or a particular liquor — a bartender will present you with a drink that will likely be exactly what you wanted, yet expand your horizons at the same time.

Country Time BBQ
Mark Manger

Jennifer and Lawrence Barkers, the owners of Country Time BBQ, aren't proponents of any one of the country's particular barbecue regions. Instead, they're true to just one style: their own. After Lawrence perfected his smoking technique — using two secret kinds of wood — he started a mobile business that grew into a restaurant. Or sort of a restaurant. The shack off Hampden Avenue that houses their operation doesn't have a seating area, so you'll have to take your meal to go. But the hot links, brisket, ribs and half chickens that come off the pit are so infused with throat-stinging smoke and so velvety on the tongue, it's hard to resist tearing into the meat as soon as you get to your car. The peach cobbler, too, is not to be missed.

Readers' Choice: Moe's Original BBQ

Buffets appeal to all-you-can-eat gluttons, but while most brunch buffets excel at quantity, rarely do they achieve the same quality as a sit-down brunch. But the extravagant Sunday champagne and mimosa brunch at the Garden Terrace, located in the Inverness Hotel, masters both quality and quantity with seemingly endless indulgences of made-to-order omelets, eggs Benedict, carved meats (including prime rib), cheeses that span the globe, salads and pastas, terrines and pâtés, enough desserts to send Willy Wonka into sugar shock, and the crown jewel: a lovely seafood display that's anchored with oysters on the half-shell, shrimp and crab legs. The elegant dining room is fancy enough for adults but informal enough for rugrats, and the live piano melodies are the perfect backdrop for a leisurely morning.

Readers' Choice: Dazzle Restaurant & Lounge

Cheeky Monk

Just because you can't pronounce it doesn't mean you can't drink it, and the Cheeky Monk Belgian Beer Cafe gives you 150 reasons why. The restaurant, which carved out a new niche when it opened on Colfax Avenue in 2007, has always had a stellar lineup of Belgian and American craft beers, both on tap and in bottles. But earlier this year, the original Monk (there are now two more in the metro area) answered a lot of people's prayers by adding a dozen new handles and doubling its bottle list from around 75 selections to 150. Whether you want a Koningshoeven Quadrupel, a strong blonde from La Chouffe or a Monk's Cafe Flanders Red Ale, you'll find it at the Cheeky Monk.

Readers' Choice: Falling Rock/Old Chicago (tie)

Los Trompitos

The biggest difference between these breakfast burritos and all the others has everything to do with ratio: Priced at a bargain-basement $1.95 each, the pudgy, foil-wrapped marvels are stuffed with equal amounts of soft-scrambled eggs, melty cheese, crisp-edged potatoes, salty meat — bacon, sausage or chorizo — and searing green chile, which means that whether you're on your first bite or your last, you'll get a combustion of flavors with every chew. It's a terrific breakfast burrito, superseded only by the irresistible salsas, which pack a rigorous amount of heat.

Readers' Choice: Santiago's

Big Mama's Burritos

Seven days a week, this campy chuckwagon pit stop and drive-thru crowned with a cherry-red roof turns out hefty gut grenades to satiate your morning lust or lingering hangover. Two bucks and tax rewards the hunger pangs (or thumping headache) with a hefty potato, egg and chile-blasted burrito, while the daily specials, all of which include cheese, sausage, shredded beef, bacon, ham or chorizo, ring in at a mere $3. They're large enough to get you through to lunch, and no one gives a damn if you dribble grease down your chin while sharing a picnic table with other like-minded gluttons.

Readers' Choice: Santiago's

Araujo's Restaurant

Rise and shine! Araujo's, a colorful storefront spot in the Federal Boulevard breakfast-burrito triangle that also includes a Santiago's and Jack-n-Grill, opens at 6 a.m. weekdays (7 a.m. Saturday, 8 a.m. Sunday) and starts handing out the city's best cheap breakfast just minutes later. Every day of the week, Araujo's offers a special breakfast burrito from opening until 11 a.m. for just $1.50, the tortilla packed with scrambled eggs, cubes of potato, bits of green chiles and the chef's choice of meat (bacon one day, sausage the next), with cheese and green chile filling all the cracks. It's a hefty package that you can enjoy in the restaurant or take to go, and if you need help waking up, be sure to order that green chile hot.

Readers' Choice: Santiago's

Copper Kettle Brewing

You won't find a brewery with a more dedicated clientele than the Copper Kettle, and you won't find a brewery that caters more to its regulars than this spot owned by Jeremy Gobien and Kristen Kozik. Stuck in a hidden business park between Denver and Aurora, the Copper Kettle has had to expand three times in less than a year of operation, in part because of regulars grateful for a craft-beer outpost on their side of town (a gold medal at the Great American Beer Festival didn't hurt, either). This core group also makes up the brewery's fifty-member Brew Club, a beer-loving bunch of folks who were the first to buy the equivalent of fifty beers after Copper Kettle opened. Every member gets their own stein, along with special beer rates and opportunities to hang with the owners. "A lot of them, we see three or four times a week, and we know them intimately," Kozik says. "They have promoted us more than anyone else."

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