Old Major

Being a great bartender is about far more than mixing magic — although that element is certainly important. But a bartender's role behind the stick is also about spending time with those bellied up to the bar, whether they're high rollers or gravediggers. And Courtney Wilson, now a bartender at the very new Old Major after her most recent stint at Williams & Graham, deserves heroine worship for the way she straddles the line between professional and perky. She's engaging and exuberant and nearly religious when waxing poetic about the city's cocktail landscape, and she's clearly moved by spirits, as evidenced by her ingenuity when crafting cocktails — whether they're on the syllabus or one of her clever one-offs. Wilson comes off as genuine and knowledgeable but never snooty, and she doesn't overthink what she pours in your drink. Like the pro that she is, she just gets it.

Colt & Gray

Waffling about the perfect cocktail is hardly sexy, but indecision is often the result when you're confronted with a menu full of clever names and obscure ingredients. You know what you want, but nothing looks quite right. Not to worry: The bartenders at Colt & Gray have you covered. Not only is their bar stocked with every spirit known, but they also have an array of house-made bitters and other mixers at their disposal — and they know the exact flavor profile of every liquid behind that bar. So don't bother trying to remember the name of that perfect drink you once had on vacation in Italy. Just describe some flavors that turn you on, or tell them about a cocktail you dreamed about, or maybe just name your favorite band and movie. A moment's pause and they get to work. A shake or a stir later, and you'll be sitting there with a great drink in your hand, so you can get back to being sexy.

Boney's Smokehouse BBQ
Ariel Fried

Here's a meaty subject: Why is Denver so shy of good barbecue spots? There's no easy answer for that — but there's an easy answer for the best BBQ joint in town. And the best just got better this year when Boney's Smokehouse, Lamont and Trina Lynch's downtown, down-home restaurant, moved into a much bigger space next door that not only allowed for an expansion of hours, but an expansion of the menu, as well. Lamont, a native of Florida, has spent years giving a Southern tweak to a repertoire of family recipes imported from the Bahamas; as a result, the barbecue here defies categorization. It's simply Lamont style, and that's very good, indeed. He relies on a dry rub and smokes the meat — brisket, pulled pork, hot links, chicken and ribs — over low heat for a long time. He and Trina make their own sauces; the house version is thick and tomato-based, both tangy and peppery, though not too spicy — and there's a jalapeño-infused version, too.

The Corner Office
Cassandra Kotnik

You won't want to stop till the glittery balls of light stop spinning at the Corner Office, which hosts a disco-themed brunch every Sunday, complete with "I Will Survive" bottomless Bloody Marys. At $15, they're not a cheap date, but the pour starts with a generous plop of Sobieski vodka — and then the rest is up to you. While most bars issue a cease-and-desist order after the tomato juice, shakes of salt and pepper and a stalk of celery, the Bloody Mary bar here features a knock-out smorgasbord of customary — and crazy — garnish blasts: marinated olives, haricots verts, watermelon radishes, shoestring potatoes, bacon, various hot sauces and spices, pickled eggplant...and pork belly. The combinations are endless, and with so many add-ons, it's breakfast in a glass. Bring a thirsty appetite and, if you plan to drink endlessly, a designated chauffeur.

Cheeky Monk

One hundred bottles of beer on the wall, one hundred bottles of beer. Take one down and pass it around, 99 bottles of beer on the wall. Unless you're at the Cheeky Monk Belgian Beer Cafe, which has more like 150 different bottles in its cellar, including rare Belgian and American specialties that you may not be able to find anywhere else. Open since 2007, the Cheeky Monk is the place to go when you're looking for something different.

Jalapenos Mexican Food

Denverites take their breakfast burritos as seriously as they do their bicycle laps around Washington Park, and given the hundreds of burrito trucks, burrito carts and burrito shacks sprinkled throughout the city, it's not easy to choose just one as that marvelous eye-opener. But morning, noon and night, Jalapeños delivers in spades — and spice. Soft-scrambled eggs, melted cheddar, fried cubes of potatoes — enough to alert you to the fact that they're there, but not so many that they overtake everything else — and a fevered, fierce and fiery green chile studded with habanero chiles are tucked into a griddled flour tortilla that sells for a mere $1.99. Bacon, ham, chorizo and even Soyrizo — the vegetarian equivalent of swine — can be added for a small price, and it's available Jalapeños style, too, with grilled onions, tomatoes and jalapeños. No matter which one you order, it's a wrap.

Araujo's Restaurant

Araujo's, a colorful storefront spot in the Federal Boulevard breakfast-burrito triangle that also includes a Santiago's and a Jack-n-Grill, opens at 6 a.m. weekdays (7 a.m. Saturday, 8 a.m. Sunday) and starts handing out the city's best breakfast burritos to go just minutes later. Every day of the week, Araujo's offers a special breakfast burrito from opening until 11 a.m. for just $1.50: a tortilla packed with scrambled eggs, cubes of potato, bits of green chiles and the chef's choice of meat (bacon one day, sausage the next), with cheese and green chile filling all the cracks.

Punch Bowl Social

"Baby, it's not you, it's me." If that's the conversation coming up, then Punch Bowl — Social is the place to walk the talk. This spot has all the bases covered: There's the parlor room with cushy sofas and chairs and dim lighting, so that you can hide your tears and bury your busted ego in one of the water-resistant leather armrests. The always-occupied bathrooms are an ideal refuge where you can seek solace from other jilted lovers. There are ping-pong tables — with paddles, on the off-chance that you want to want to engage in a spanking war — as well as a bowling alley with heavy balls, if you feel like accidentally dropping one on a toe. And don't miss the photo booth, where you can take one last picture of your relationship at the bitter end — then put the resulting photo on the dart board and proceed to deface it. Best of all, Punch Bowl is open late — so as you hang around the bar, drowning your sorrows in punch after punch, you may very well meet someone else.

Renegade Brewing

Located just off the main drag, in the heart of the Art District on Santa Fe, Renegade Brewing has attracted a satisfying mix of regulars and new visitors since it opened in 2011. With its high ceilings, massive windows, garage doors, exposed brick and gorgeous wooden bar, the tap room is welcoming and cozy, but also large enough to host your after-work happy hour on a moment's notice. Open seven days a week, Renegade typically features a food truck out front and a wide variety of beers on tap, from low-alcohol session ales for more timid drinkers to giant malt or hop bombs for adventurous types. Altogether, it makes for an excellent ambassador for Denver's beer culture.

Crooked Stave Barrel Cellar

Crooked Stave brews what is perhaps the most challenging style of beer — not just for the palates of the general public, but for craft-beer lovers, as well. Sour and wild ales are fermented, usually in wooden barrels, with specific kinds of yeast and bacteria that add funky, occasionally off-putting and potentially addictive flavors to beer. It's not a new fad; the Belgians have been making this style of beer for hundreds of years. But almost no one in the country, let alone Colorado, does it as well as Crooked Stave owner Chad Yakobson, who has built up such a fierce following that his skills are borrowed by other brewers across the country and his ales are talked about by beer geeks around the world. You'll always find a couple of them on tap in the Barrel Cellar (along with interesting people from unexpected places). Crooked Stave will triple its production this year, from 450 to 2,000 barrels, which still makes it one of the smallest breweries in Colorado, but one with an enormous footprint.

Best Of Denver®

Best Of