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

Domo

Step into Domo and you feel like you're stepping into another world. The dining room resembles a dark, enchanted cottage in the forest, with its tables made from stone slabs and seats cut from tree stumps. And even if you score a seat in the sunny back yard, you're likely to be sitting on a stump in the midst of some industrial grit. But wherever you sit, you'll feast on real Japanese country cooking: eggy tojimono, donburi bowls topped with raw fish, nabemono hot pots and an incredible list of noodles, including soba, udon and some of the best spicy miso ramen we've had this side of the Pacific. Entrees come with sides of pickled vegetables, yams and fermented soybeans. Make sure you budget plenty of time for your meal, because the pace is peaceful — to say the least — but that just gives you more time to soak up the wonderful ambience.

Readers' Choice: Domo

A one-mile strip of Havana offers a quick tour of Korean food, but Han Kang should be your ultimate destination. Although almost everything on the menu is good and comes with an impressive number of sides to mix and match until you create a perfectly balanced meal, the barbecue is the real draw. Request a table on the tented platform, where your party can gather around a sizzling grill and cook your chosen chunks of meat — marinated with kick of ginger, a hit of garlic, the ambrosial characteristic of honey and the satisfying saltiness of soy sauce. Sometimes working for your dinner pays off.

Readers' Choice: Seoul BBQ

Tres Jolie Tea & Champagne Lounge
Mark Manger

"I didn't know what I wanted it to be, so this is what I ended up with," owner Holly Smith says of her boutique/sandwicheria/teahouse. She'd always wanted to cook, but she also had a thing for France, for pretty things and for loose-leaf teas, so she combined all of her loves into Tres Jolie, a spot in downtown Littleton that looks like an even girlier Anthropologie, where she sells soap, cookbooks and throw pillows — and also serves lunch and tea. Like the trinkets for sale, the sandwiches are also very pretty: grilled cheese with tomato and arugula, goat cheese with roasted red peppers, turkey with white-truffle vinaigrette and tapenade. And a pretty pastry case is filled with delightful, freshly baked goods, including scones, tarts and cookies, which are also available for an afternoon tea.

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