Queen of Sheba Ethiopian Restaurant
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

Dazzle

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
Linnea Covington

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

Highland Tap & Burger

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.

Z Cuisine and A Cote Bar a Absinthe

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

Biker Jim's Gourmet Dogs
Summer Powell

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

Manna From Heaven Gourmet Food Truck

Talk about a movable feast! Manna from Heaven lives up to its name, turning out celestial Vietnamese street chow, including an amazing banh mi that's built with pork, cilantro and fresh vegetables, quality ingredients all heaped on a first-rate baguette streaked with a spicy sauce of sriracha and mayonnaise. But the congenial crew — it's a family affair — stakes its reputation on more than just this dish: You'll find other traditional pleasures such as fresh spring rolls, Vietnamese noodle soups and fruit smoothies best sucked up with an oversized straw.

Readers' Choice: Steuben's

Tacos Jalisco Mexican Food
Courtesy Tacos Jalisco

Sit down at Tacos Jalisco — an old, awkwardly partitioned joint at the edge of the Berkeley neighborhood — and your meal will start with free chips, straight from the fryer, and not just one delicious salsa, but a quartet of sips. One version pairs tomato with jalapeño and onion; another matches sweet mango to habanero heat; a third features tangy tomatillos; the fourth highlights creamy avocado with a fresh bite of cilantro. They all play so well off each other, it won't be long until you've scraped your way to the bottom of each bowl. And that's fine, because your server will keep offering free refills of both chips and salsas. Just remember to save some room for the rest of your meal.

Readers' Choice: Benny's

Elway's Cherry Creek

There are several strict rules of thumb when it comes to making french fries: First, the tubers — blanched, of course — must be hand-cut, with the skins left on for texture. Second, the potatoes shouldn't be cut too thin or, God forbid, too thick. Third, if the resulting fries aren't crisp, golden and hotter than a sidewalk sale in the heart of a Palm Springs summer, then the kitchen deserves a cold night in hell. And finally, they had better be liberally dusted with salt. The fries at the original Elway's, which arrive heaped into a large cone, adhere to every one of these rules. They're simultaneously fluffy and crisp, properly salted (and peppered, too), and they taste the way french fries should. And they don't require any damn condiments, most notably that horrible thing known as ketchup.

Readers' Choice: Jonesy's EatBar

Bistro Vendome
Bistro Vendome

Tucked in an out-of-the-way corner of Larimer Square, Bistro Vendôme has none of the stuffiness and over-the-top pomp and circumstance that marks some French restaurants — but it has everything a Francophile could ask for. This is a gracious, romantic arbiter of French food, with a kitchen overseen by chef de cuisine Dana Rodriguez. You'll swoon over her steak tartare haloed with a fried quail egg; fall madly, deeply in lust with the foie gras; propose marriage, if only you could, to Rodriguez's duck confit. Bistro Vendôme is a thoroughly charming restaurant with a deeply committed, confident chef and a pervasive Parisian-neighborhood spirit that never goes out of vogue.

Readers' Choice: Le Central

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