Pink Tank

While other food trucks hustle burgers, pizza and ice cream — not that there's anything wrong with those — Pink Tank, which is indeed the hue of a ballerina's tutu, is where you go for the F-Bomb, a hefty hot dog weighted with thick strips of bacon, scrambled eggs and cheddar mounted on French toast fairy-dusted with powdered sugar and glossed with maple syrup infused with caramel. The truck is an unapologetic shrine to swine, with bacon appearing here, there and everywhere — including on its own, in a mountainous heap of glory. Just get that and a glass of lemonade (pink, obviously), and you'll be in hog heaven.

Zocalo Restaurant & Bar
Hunter Stevens

Zócalo, which got its start just off Broadway in Capitol Hill, added a sibling on South Broadway last year — which means there are now two places where you can get Denver's best free chips and salsa. The basket of fresh, salty chips arrives at your table a second after you sit down — accompanied by an incredible salsa that tastes almost meaty, thanks to the roasted tomatoes and chiles that form its base. It's thick, deeply flavored and delicious. You could make a meal of the chips and salsa, but don't make that mistake: There are many other things to try at Zócalo, including great grilled meats and the most decadent chile-cheese fries imaginable — topped with jalapeño slices and bacon.

The Centennial Tavern at Jonesy's

French-fry fans are unwavering in their preferences: Some like them matchstick-skinny, others covet the pencil-thin version, while still others prefer pudgy. And then there's the issue of whether the french fry is intended to stand on its own, licked with nothing more than salt, or dipped in duck fat and blanketed with everything but the kitchen sink. The fresh-cut fries at Jonesy's EatBar are thin — pencil-thin — deep-fried spuds of crisp golden crack, and they don't require (God forbid) ketchup or anything else to make them perfectly palatable. Nonetheless, the kitchen here realizes that there are those who prefer their fries loaded up with more substance, so you can also order a version topped with bacon and cheese. Some regulars make this their daily meal.

Bistro Vendome
Bistro Vendome

Classic Francophilia gets a flirtatious modern update at this bewitching, ooh-la-la bistro tucked behind the bustle of Larimer Square. The location is the perfect setting for the inspiring cooking of Dana Rodriguez, a spirited, gifted chef who romances her guests with lovely, unfussy dishes: butter-misted escargot primped with fresh herbs; sublime steak frites; and a phenomenal cassoulet with rabbit sausage, duck leg confit, pork belly, white beans and glossy pearl onions. A fetching wine list, sophisticated cocktails and disarming service that never slacks — not to mention that sensational courtyard patio — just add to the joie de vivre.

While the dish's origins are solidly steeped in the South, cooks far and wide have embraced the indisputable truth: There are few things as delicious as a juicy plate of fried chicken. And Tom's Home Cookin', an iconic soul-food shack in Five Points, is the incontestable bastion of the bird. Plunged in oil until the batter and skin meld into a crunchy, golden exterior that adheres to the tender meat, then punctuated with salt and pepper, the fried chicken here deserves its cultish legion of dedicated diehards, all of whom will stand in line for however long it takes to feed their soul. Just be forewarned: Tom's shutters when the food runs out, and the fried chicken is almost always first to fly the coop.

TAG Burger Bar
Mark Manger

There's something about fried pickles — sometimes called "frickles" — that turns a sour mouth into a Cheshire-cat grin. TAG Burger Bar, which also pounds out bodacious burgers and adult milkshakes that make you quake, had perfected the fried pickle in a way that makes you want to pounce. The thick-cut cucumbers, pickled with coriander seeds, black peppercorns, garlic, sugar, salt, dill and white vinegar, are dredged in flour and breadcrumbs, then take a nose-dive in canola oil, and the results are fried pickle prestige. Pucker-proper on the inside with a crunchy and tawny exterior, they're served in glass jars and paired with a ranch dipping sauce that packs a pinch of heat.

Benihana

Benihana is the Barnum & Bailey Circus of Japanese food, an unabashedly corny and often embarrassing centerfold of eye-rolling wisecracks, theatrics and occasional mishaps from the knife-wielding teppenyaki chefs who elevate (some would say disintegrate) food into an entertainment form. But guess what? The food here is nothing to sneer at, and the fried rice — allegedly a "top secret" recipe — is a dish that deserves a command performance. It's a medley (as best we can tell) of fried eggs, soy sauce, garlic butter, sesame seeds and vegetables, and it arrives at the table long before the chefs toss your beef, chicken or shrimp on the plate — a ploy, we think, to ensure that you order another round. Most people do.

Rooster & Moon Coffee Pub

You won't get cold coffee or the cold shoulder at Rooster & Moon. The staff at this coffee shop/bar will offer a single customer multiple greetings before he even reaches the counter. These baristas know the importance of politeness, and they'll never make you wait to order while they commiserate with each other — or spill a story to you. Instead, they'll listen courteously as you ask which Allegro coffee beverage to try or which sandwich is the best — we recommend the $5 Four Cheese Grilled Cheese — and then give informed, honest recommendations.

Bittersweet
Mark Manger

Olav Peterson, the brilliantly talented chef/grower/gardener/owner of Bittersweet, draws a crowd at his lovely West Washington Park restaurant, an urban oasis hedged with a stunning 600-square-foot organic garden (it doubles as a patio), from which Peterson plucks seasonal foodstuffs. Sure, locavorism started long ago, and sourcing locally is nothing new, but Peterson is his own pioneer, steadfastly dedicated to growing as many of his own ingredients as he possibly can — and the intimate relationship he has with those fruits, herbs and vegetables allows him to change his menu to accommodate the best of the season.

Karl's Deli

Red plastic cafeteria trays and vinyl tablecloths in the colors of the Bavarian flag won't distract from the simple heartland daily specials at Karl's: golden-fried schnitzel and belly-warming goulash sided with creamy potato salad, wine-braised cabbage and maybe a malty German beer or two. Karl's will fill you with alpine goodness to brace you against the worst that Denver winters can muster. Choose from a variety of wursts bursting with juices and flavor; on warmer days, Karl's will build deli sandwiches with familiar Black Forest ham and funkier options like braunschweiger or tongue and blood sausage. No matter what you order for your main course, save room for flaky, butter-rich strudel baked fresh each morning. It's German: You didn't come here to mess around with greens and low-fat salad dressing, so leave the guilt at the door and just enjoy getting stuffed.

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