La Villa Real
Mark Manger

Before gourmet trucks and new-style taquerias started fancying up tacos, old-school food trucks were turning out inexpensive, authentic street tacos. Many of these loncheras are still displaying their street smarts, including the pair of trucks that comprise the La Villa Real enterprise. This truck, usually parked at West Alameda at Raritan, attracts a constant crowd of patrons, some of whom stop by twice a day for the gorditas, burritos, tortas and, in particular, the tacos. Fresh, hot tortillas are loaded with spicy carne asada, velvety cheek meat or spongey tripe, sprinkled with cilantro and onions, then served with several salsas on the side. They're simple, delicious — and really from the street.

Readers' Choice: Pinche Tacos

Land of Sushi

Land of Sushi opened in a strip mall across from what was then Southglenn Mall — now the Streets at SouthGlenn — a dozen years ago, and quickly made a splash. Over the years, this spot has just gotten better. The restaurant itself doesn't look like much, but the bare-bones ambience just means there's nothing to distract your attention from the food — and the food definitely deserves all your attention. Owner Steve Lin gets shipments of fish every day, and he regularly posts specials like live scallops and uber-fresh uni. But even if you're ordering the usual suspects, like salmon, tuna and yellowtail, you're assured some of the freshest fish around, excellently cut and beautifully displayed.

Readers' Choice: Sushi Den

Fuel Cafe

Fuel Cafe chef-owner Bob Blair is fervent on the topic of sustainability, and discussions about the importance of organic sourcing, local ingredients and where food comes from are frequent topics of conversation at his eclectic restaurant in the Taxi project. But Blair also practices what he preaches, turning out a menu of creative, seasonal and delicious fare that comes from purveyors he has carefully contemplated. If you're concerned about the same issues, you can rest easy at Fuel knowing your pork comes from happy pigs, your beef from happy cows and your greens from happy gardens that are good for you — and good for the earth, too.

Chef Liu's Authentic Chinese Cuisine

Chef Liu's, a strip-mall joint deep in Aurora, has a "secret" menu, and it features specialties from all over China, including Beijing-style pork with bean paste, fried pork livers and dan dan noodles. But Chef Liu's true specialties are the Szechuan dishes. Our favorites include mouth-numbing beef, twice-cooked pork, cumin-rubbed lamb and real Szechuan chicken. The best way to approach dinner here, though, might be to have your server order you a feast of interesting items, because that way you're sure to score something delicious you would otherwise have missed.

Tamales Moreno
Mark Manger

The building that houses Tamales Moreno is so small that there's no indoor seating; instead, every square inch of available surface area is covered with Ziploc bags full of tamales. Eager diners come in and grab their order — and many make it no farther than the picnic tables outside before they eagerly unwrap a tamale. Inside each corn husk is silky white masa so smooth that it tastes as if the corn has been mixed with lard; the sweet masa surrounds hunks of succulent red pork and bits of earthy green chiles that soon send racy heat running up the back of the palate. You can also order your tamales smothered in a river of green chile that has the color and consistency of split-pea soup, a sour tang and a pleasant, prickly heat. If you're a glutton for punishment, the kitchen will gladly make that chile hot enough to melt your intestines.

Taking a trip to the Tasty Weasel Tap Room is like journeying straight to the center of Colorado's craft-beer-pumping heart. You'll find a festive atmosphere powered by rollicking tunes and an unconventional attitude, the same one that Oskar Blues — now Colorado's second-largest brewery — was founded on. Play Skee-Ball on the tournament-style Skee-Ball lanes, take a tour of the barely concealed brewery behind the tap room, get some grub from the brewery's own food truck, the Oskar Blues Bonewagon, or just chill out at one of the whiskey-barrel-made bar tables. But mostly, try the beers. Because they taste the way the Tasty Weasel feels: hopped up and full of flavor.

Readers' Choice: Falling Rock Tap House

Great Divide Brewing Co.
Eric Gruneisen

Tap rooms and food trucks were made for one another. The former needs to offer something for its buzzing customers to put into their stomachs; the latter needs a reliable spot for hungry people — and a parking space. Great Divide figured this out early and has welcomed Denver's food trucks since they first hit the streets. Now you can find one outside the tap room every afternoon, whether it's a regular like Basic Kneads Pizza and Chef Driven or occasional drive-bys like Mestizos and Bambu. Get on board.

Dry Dock Brewery

Aurora has developed an unexpected taste for craft-beer culture, and nowhere is that more apparent than during the occasional 50 Cent Wing Night at Dry Dock Brewing. That's when the crew from the Wing Hut (motto: Hot Craft Wings, Cold Craft Beer) brings its spicy signature dish to the kitchen-less but newly expanded tap room and serves the wings for fifty cents a pop between 5:30 and 6:30 p.m. But the Wing Hut (which serves a nice lineup of craft beers itself) will deliver wings to Dry Dock anytime at its standard prices — and you'll need a couple of cold beers to wash them down, especially the spicy peanut or the habanero.

El Trompito Taqueria
Cassandra Stiltner

El Trompito Taqueria is a smashing wonderland of Mexican street food dominated by the thud of cleavers in the open kitchen, where workers assemble tacos, huaraches, alambres, skyscraping tortas and aguas frescas made with fresh fruit. But the taqueria's essential dish is the mixiote de borrego, an overnight-braised lamb shank. The shards and slivers of meat, at once crunchy and soft, are heavy with a pungent, in-your-throat musk; they're swathed in a chile-slapped adobo sauce studded with prickly-pear cactus leaves. The lamb arrives with a heap of corn tortillas, Mexican rice and refritos dotted with crumbles of queso fresco; you can accessorize your meal from the salsa bar that squats in the middle of the festive, lively dining room.

Jax Fish House
Jax Fish House

Many bars in this town turn out balanced drinks, but the team of bartenders at Denver's Jax Fish House exhibits a different kind of equilibrium. The restaurant employs a complementary cadre of professionals with varying skills. Some lend deep, geeky spirits knowledge to the list, contributing housemade sodas, knowledge of the classics and inventive mixology wizardry. Others have perfected the true art of tending bar; they're expert conversationalists and endlessly entertaining — and they remember every drinker's name. The mix makes Jax a special place to go for a drink; it's both your friendly neighborhood watering hole and a worthy stop if you're after a killer cocktail.

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