Axios Estiatorio

Telly Topakas is a veteran restaurateur who also owns a Greek spot in Colorado Springs. But he wanted to give Denver a more upscale Greek restaurant, and he did just that when he opened Axios Estiatorio last fall. It occupies a prime address in the Berkeley neighborhood and channels the Mediterranean in its decor; the space is comfortable and seductive. Topakas hired a novice to Greek cuisine to man the burners, and as a result, the Axios menu captures the joy of Greek culture in dishes such as dolmades, calamari and good feta with olives without strictly adhering to tradition. The food, like the space itself, is fresh, interesting and incredibly satisfying. Opa!

Tia Maria Mexican Restaurant

If you were born and raised in Denver, you are, by rights, a green-chile geek. And if you popped out elsewhere (New Mexico notwithstanding) and simply don't get why we're so besotted with suffocating our burritos, enchiladas, rellenos and french fries with verde, we can only assume you have yet to try the green stuff at Tia Maria. The affable owner treats his customers like royalty, which is reason enough to plop your butt down in a cushy booth and spend the afternoon slumped over shots, which he doles out in frequent doses. The tequila syllabus is impressive — and so are the tasting notes that accompany it — and the shots pair perfectly with the restaurant's green chile. It's a stinging, savory swamp of garlic, tomatoes, cubed pork and ambrosial chiles that weep with heat. This verde puddles plates heaped with all the usual suspects, and it also swathes a rotund, pink-fleshed ham hock that may be the best dish on the menu.

Readers' Choice: Santiago's

Best Green Chile After a Night on the Town

Chubby's

Chubby's
Danielle Lirette

When she bought the old Chubby Burger Drive-In on West 38th Avenue back in the late '60s, Stella Cordova fueled it with her original chile recipe. Today the thick, porky stew is a Denver icon, spicy enough that the only real way to put the fire out is to keep eating it. While many restaurants in town — run by Cordova's descendants — claim to make her chile, none of them are quite the same as the real thing. So on nights when you've been out drinking, it's worth forking over plenty of cash to a cabbie to make a stop at this takeout-only, flier-plastered establishment. The foil-wrapped green-chile-stuffed grilled cheese may be the best drunken munchie food we've ever found, but the chile is just as good coating a burrito or smothering a pile of fries. And Chubby's is also open until 3 a.m. on weekends — so it'll be ready and waiting for you no matter what time the party ends.

Westerkamps Steakhouse and Meat Market
Mark Manger

The walls of Westerkamps feature an excellent collection of kitsch: Besides proclamations of love for the Lord, there are photos of '50s Western stars, tools that might have been used on the prairie, old skis hung in an X shape, and hubcaps from classic American cars. The place is part Norman Rockwell museum, part small-town butcher store and part shrine to Jesus. And it also happens to make an insanely good green chile. The sauce itself is thin, but it's filled with chunks of tomato, pork and jalapeño that give it heft as well as a tangy earthiness — plus an all-encompassing, slow-burning heat that spreads across the palate subtly until every part of your mouth, including your lips, gums and even teeth, tingles. It works beautifully with the steak-and-potatoes fare that are the less surprising offerings at Westerkamps.

Lou's Food Bar
Brian Defoe

We fell in love at first slurp with Bones, Frank Bonanno's homage to the noodle bar. The menu is small and well-edited, with French technique influencing a list of mostly Japanese specialties, which can be paired with a smart list of sake and well-chosen wines. But the noodles are the real reason we keep coming back, particularly the lobster ramen — curly noodles bathed in a sweet broth thickened luxuriously with butter and swimming with fat edamame and rosy chunks of perfectly poached shellfish — and the pork udon, a hearty soup filled with fat chewy noodles and chunks of tender braised pork shoulder, with a yolky poached egg floating on the surface of the dish. The best place to enjoy all this is at the bar itself, where you can watch the chefs in action.

Steve's Snappin' Dogs
Cassandra Kotnik

The first thing you'll notice as you browse the menu at Steve's Snappin' Dogs is that Steve is not a traditionalist. You won't find a proper Chicago dog here, for instance, nor will you find a Coney Island dog. Rather, Steve's reinvents the idea of what a hot dog can be, serving up Thumann's franks in creative ways — including tucked into a burrito, deep-fried, smothered in green chile and topped with bacon. If you can get past your poppyseed-bun snobbery, you'll find that all of the dogs at this East Colfax spot are delicious, especially when paired with sweet-potato tots and a fresh-squeezed lemonade.

Readers' Choice: Biker Jim's

Glacier Ice Cream

This Boulder-based outfit makes celestial ice cream, churning cream and sugar into sweet, silky confections, some of them studded with tiny bits of cake or candy. You can find more popular flavors packaged up at several retail shops around town — or offered on many restaurant dessert lists — but it's worth heading straight to the source. The Glacier Homemade Ice Cream shop scoops a variety of frequently rotated creations into cups or cones; our favorites include the caramel Oreo, spicy chai, Junior Mint and dulce de leche. Glacier also partners with other purveyors — including local brewers, cake-makers and restaurants — to turn out special seasonal one-offs. The frequent collaborations with Kim & Jake's Cakes, a Boulder bakery, are particularly dreamy.

India's Restaurant
Courtesy India's Restaurant Facebook

Every Indian restaurant in the galaxy seems to feature a lunch buffet, which boasts curry-splattered hotel pans glutted with lukewarm leftovers from last night's dinner service. But at India's, the well-organized midday buffet is always clean and replenished before you can blink, shining brightly with more than a dozen dishes that cater to both carnivores and herbivores. For $8.95, you can choose from an embarrassment of riches: cashew-thickened vegetable korma; crimson-flushed tandoori chicken; lamb and chicken curries; peppery papadums; pliant naan fresh from the tandoori oven; and a medley of chutneys and garnishes.

Readers' Choice: Little India

Jai Ho Indian Kitchen, Bar & Lounge
Mark Manger

Before they opened Jai Ho in the spring of 2010, Sathya and Sujatha Narayan had never owned a restaurant. But they noticed a gap in this city's Indian offerings and decided to fill it — triumphantly. Jai Ho features a massive, mind-addling list of dishes rooted in the southern portion of the subcontinent, with specialties from Kerala, Hyderabad and Tamil Nadu that highlight such ingredients as coconut, pickled gongura (a native sorrel leaf) and mango, all stewed and combined with lentils, chicken, mutton or fish and packed with enough heat to make you break into a sweat. Those are supplemented by a handful of northern Indian preparations — paneers, samosas and tandoori chicken — as well as a few Indochinese offerings. One of those, the chili gobi, a fiery dish made with cauliflower florets, could be our very favorite food from any country.

Readers' Choice: Little India

Panzano
Linnea Covington

From the beautifully baked breads that scent the dining room to the textbook-perfect gnocchi with rabbit confit to the twitchy egg that crowns the tagliatelle carbonara specked with house-cured pancetta, Panzano's kitchen just keeps out turning stunning fare. For that, you can thank chef Elise Wiggins, who interprets the cuisine of northern Italy with ingredients from Colorado farms and ranches — everything from impeccable Hazel Dell mushrooms to organic, locally raised chicken, lamb and beef. But Wiggins also knows how to command a kitchen, and her seasonal, contemporary dishes, which pair to a superb wine program, are the result of a tight-knit crew exuding the same commitment and passion as their queen.

Readers' Choice: Luca d'Italia

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