Other parts of Denver — Ballpark neighborhood into RiNo, Broadway and points south — are becoming hot dining destinations. But the LoHi restaurant scene continues to be red-hot — with no sign of cooling down. At the end of 2012, the LoHi Merchant Group did a count of the restaurants, eateries, bars and coffee shops in this quadrant at the edge of Highland — from I-25 to Federal Boulevard, West 38th Avenue to Speer Boulevard — and the tally topped fifty, more than double what it was six years ago. And the restaurants keep coming. Every time a space opens up, eager restaurateurs pounce. And they're not bringing in pre-fabbed, fast-casual joints; the businesses that opened in LoHi last year — including Jezebel's, Central Bistro & Bar and Uncle — are some of the most exciting in the city, with Old Major already upping the ante for 2013.

Potager
Lindsey Bartlett

Given that this is a city saturated with sunshine, it's no wonder that al fresco dining is one of our most coveted leisurely pastimes, and the lovely back porch at Potager will transport you to the pastoral French countryside for a tranquil, delicious dinner. Strewn with weathered wooden tables and chairs, rimmed with pots and rustic whiskey barrels filled with fragrant fresh herbs, and surrounded by beds of berries and a variety of perfect vegetables, it's a magical patio that mirrors chef-owner Teri Rippeto's seasonally inspired cooking, much of it elevated by what she plants in her restaurant's bewitching back yard.

Linger
Mark Manger

A glass of bubbly and a cheese plate on the tiny balcony of your lower-level apartment just isn't enough to take your life to the next level. For a panorama that spans every which way, try the classy rooftop deck at Linger, where lounging is a lovely way of life. Gaggles of trendy twenty-something girlfriends, their legs as long as licorice ropes, hang out after work; smitten couples come to soak up the blue skies by day and the stars at night, their love illuminated by the patio's own twinkling amber lights. No matter who you are — or where you sit — you'll feel cool as a cucumber as you sip on cocktails and traverse Linger chef-owner Justin Cucci's globe-trotting menu.

Choppers Custom Salads

There are "chef's choice" salads at Choppers Custom Salads for those who might not be fully on board with the concept of customization — and they're delicious salads, made with fresh ingredients chopped up with rocking blades into bite-sized pieces that get tossed in dressing before landing in your bowl (and, eventually, your mouth). But for those who embrace the build-your-own notion, Choppers is one of the best options around. Pick your lettuce type and up to four ingredients from the extensive (but sensibly arranged) list. The dozen protein options include tofu, and all of the salad dressings are clearly labeled as gluten- and/or lactose-free. And, of course, the possibilities include all the vegetables you could possibly want to add to a salad, with a reasonable selection of fruit and nuts, too. Healthy, tasty and served up chop-chop!

El Trompito Taqueria
Cassandra Stiltner

The chicken mole, soft corn tacos filled with marinated meats, and a lamb shank the size of a small bulldozer are just a few of our favorite eats at El Trompito Taqueria. But before digging in, after we snatch our food off the counter, we make a beeline for the salsa bar, a freestanding contraption in the middle of the bright dining room. The contents are a romp through the mild and crazy-wild, although most of the salsas inspire a knee-jerking or tear-jerking reaction, thanks to the preponderance of chiles. But beneath the heat is also depths of flavor, and there are plenty of other items to counteract the flame: pickled carrots and onions, radishes, lime wedges and cilantro among them. The salsas are also available for purchase, and you'll want a vat of each one.

Vert Kitchen
Mark Antonation

When it comes to our daily bread — and everything tucked inside — Vert Kitchen, a diminutive sandwich shop in West Washington Park, is our culinary playground for sandwich supremacy. There are no crazy combinations here that require a Mensa IQ in order to figure out which sandwich or toppings you want. Instead, the tiny roster boasts just eight sandwiches that are sheer genius in their simplicity, with every ingredient, from the bacon to the Bibb lettuce, picked for its superb quality. Well-crafted sandwiches are in short supply in this city, but Vert has the verve and technique to elevate the lowly sandwich to the culinary level it deserves when done right.

Jax Fish House
Jax Fish House

There's now a trio of Jax Fish Houses — and a fourth opening soon in Glendale — but the newly remodeled LoDo location is the front-runner stunner. The nautically funky interior showcases whale-tail cutouts suspended from the ceiling, white subway tile, a gorgeous marble-finished bar that stretches from one end to the other, and an interactive raw bar, from which fresh oysters, clams, shrimp, mussels and crab legs are dispensed by a crew of seaworthy captains who can shuck, peel, scrub and debeard at high sailboat speeds. And the kitchen still sails just as smoothly as before, turning out unassailable dishes like sea scallops paired with fried pig's ears; miso-grilled salmon bolstered by smoked soba noodles; and Dungeness crab clusters bobbing in piquant panang curry.

The Kitchen

Thanks to extensive relationships with farmers and ranchers, The Kitchen Denver is always in sync with the seasons. So it might seem impossible to single out one dish that best captures a moment in time — tantamount to asking a parent which child he or she loves best. But late summer's burrata-and-peach bruschetta tells you otherwise, with crusty bread, creamy burrata and fat peach slices so juicy and sweet, you taste a string of warm days spent splashing in the pool and cool nights sipping mojitos and barbecuing with friends in every bite.

Patsy's

A river of red sauce once ran through northwest Denver, then known as the North Side and an enclave for Italian families that had emigrated to this country decades before. Many opened their own restaurants, specializing in the dishes of their home country — but those are disappearing fast these days. Pagliacci's closed last summer; Longo's Subway Tavern is gone; Carbone's doors are locked. But Patsy's is still going strong. In fact, this red-sauce joint that opened back in 1921 has returned to a member of the family that founded it, and you can taste that lineage in the city's best plate of spaghetti and meatball. (Yes, meatball.) The perfectly cooked pasta (gluten-free on request) is made in-house, the thick red sauce that blankets it is pungent with garlic and herbs, and that giant meatball? Fat, meaty and juicy. You're on a roll, Patsy's.

Silvi's Kitchen

Ballsy, brash, bold and flavor-bombed pizzas that rely on ultra-fresh ingredients are the specialties at this duo of Udi's locations, both of which toss superb pies that render us speechless — at least while our mouths are occupied. The deeply golden, wood-fired crusts, slightly blackened on the edges, are at once springy and crisp, their surfaces smeared with everything from béchamel to balsamic. Classics like pepperoni are folded into the mix, but the real scene-stealers are the pies topped with such ingredients as kale, Brussels sprouts, butternut squash and charred cauliflower. Prosciutto, house-made sausage, fresh herbs and wild mushrooms also make appearances, as do several cheeses, including fresh mozzarella, chèvre and Gouda. These are heavenly pizzas that turn diners into disciples.

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