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.

Lola Coastal Mexican
Courtesy of Lola Coastal Mexican

Come happy hour, Lola's covered patio fills up fast — and with good reason. The kitchen serves up an impressive board of bar bites — including tacos, ceviche and nachos smothered in goat-cheese queso and barbecued pork — paired with a beverage list whose components range from margaritas to Mexican beer and shots of tequila, all at discounted prices. And while our very favorite entry on the happy-hour offerings may be The Deal — two chicken tacos and a can of Top Rope, a Mexican-style beer brewed expressly for the Big Red F restaurants, including Lola, for just $5 — there's enough on the board to build a full dinner without putting a dent in your wallet. As a bonus, there are few places in town better for mingling with eligible bachelors and bachelorettes.

Readers' Choice: Stoney's

Row 14 Bistro & Wine Bar
Mark Manger

Late-night revelry? Yes, please! Welcome to the mother of all late-night happy hours, which runs from 10 p.m. to midnight and attracts a rowdy crew of industry folks, theater-goers and the rest of us who can't stomach another cardboard-crusted pizza delivered by a stoner in a stained shirt. Row 14 understands the rules associated with feeding and lubricating night-crawlers: Offer $5 cocktails, $4 craft beers, $2 PBRs in a can and complement the discounted liquids with food that's fit for a famished autocrat. Chef Jensen Cummings and his crew turn out everything from duck confit tacos and salmon sashimi to shrimp and foie gras rangoons, along with specials. And then there's the super-funky, super-secret late-night menu.

Readers' Choice: The Spot

Acapulco Tacos y Pupusas
Danielle Lirette

Whether you're on a budget or not, you can't go wrong by making a lunch of the pupusas at Tacos Acapulco, a tiny shack way out on East Colfax. The griddled corn rounds, crispy around the edges and fat with juicy pork, cheese, beans or herbaceous liroco, come with slaw and salsa. Two are enough to make a meal, and will only set you back a total of $4. But if you have a little more cash, this half-Mexican/half-Salvadorean spot has a number of other cheap and delicious options — including awesome tacos al pastor carved right off the spit.

Readers' Choice: Comfort Cafe

Hops & Pie
Mark Manger

While most people who head to the newly expanded Hops & Pie are looking for craft beer and pizza, we'd hop over to this friendly spot for the mac and cheese alone. An order brings a mound of elbow macaroni glazed in a sharp cheddar sauce mixed with pudgy peas and strands of smoky braised ham hock, then spackled with breadcrumbs. But lifting this dish above all others is the deep bite introduced by adding India pale ale to the pot: It lightens the heaviness of the cream and leaves a seductive tartness lingering on the tongue. The mac and cheese is served in a ceramic bowl delivered on a Sicilian pie pan to catch stragglers — good idea, since you don't want to let a single bite escape.

Readers' Choice: Steuben's

Boba & Crepes

After you order your bubble tea at Boba and Crepes, a strip-mall spot tucked off Colorado Boulevard, head over to the shelf between the aquarium and the loveseat, where you'll find issue after issue of Slam Dunk, the sports-themed manga series about a high-school basketball team in Japan. There are more issues of Slam Dunk than you can read over a cup, more than you can read over the course of a day. The collection is a welcome, personal touch — the kind that's lost on Boba and Crepes' corporate-minded competitors.

Green Russell
Joni Schrantz

The speakeasy-style, subterranean Green Russell features an inventive cocktail list and a massive library of spirits, which makes it tempting to sample something new instead of sticking with a classic. But that would be a mistake. Order a Manhattan at Green Russell, and you'll get a question in response: "Bourbon or rye?" That's how you know you're in very good drink-mixing hands. We recommend the rye, both because the original Manhattan recipes call for it and because it imparts a nice spice to the drink. The bar here mixes Leopold's rye with Cocchi di Torino sweet vermouth and two dashes of housemade orange bitters, then stirs it with block ice before fine-mesh straining it into an up glass. And that cherry on top? A tart, juicy globe of booze-marinated fruit that the bar also makes in-house.

Readers' Choice: Green Russell

Linger
Mark Manger

Linger has an excellent beverage program, with an impressive list of wine, beer and cocktails. But we're particularly awed by how well the bartenders here understand the classics — well enough that they can play with them without bastardizing the purpose of the drink. Consider this martini, for example: a 50/50 gin and Dolin white vermouth split, dashed with orange bitters and served with a flamed orange twist, which gives the depth of caramelized citrus to the first sip. Ask for just a plain, old-school martini, though, and you'll get a drink that's the classic two parts gin to one part vermouth, stirred over ice, served up — and far from plain. It's the epitome of refined refreshment and will make a believer out of even the staunchest anti-martini drinker.

Readers' Choice: Cruise Room

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