Barolo Grill
Mark Antonation

Although Barolo Grill has always been synonymous with owner and front-of-house face Blair Taylor, even he would admit that the talent behind the sublime food at this elegantly rustic sanctum of northern Italian cuisine is sous-turned-superhero chef Darrel Truett. Despite his low profile, Truett is the high priest of high standards, turning out powerhouse, passionately composed and impeccably prepared dishes, offered à la carte and on an inventive chef's tasting menu ($85). He treats the fastidiously sourced ingredients with the same appreciative respect he does his kitchen staff, and it shows. Savvy Denver diners have always embraced Barolo Grill, and you can taste the mutual crush in every bite of Truett's infallible food.

Candela Latin Kitchen

Matt Selby has always been a brilliant chef, and by chef, we mean a guy whose fervent passion for cooking is all-consuming. He is, first and foremost, a cook, knocking his tattooed knuckles against scalding pots and pans, shrugging at the long-lasting scars. He's happiest on the line, touching ingredients and creating adventurous flavor combinations. After leaving his long-tenured post at Vesta Dipping Grill for an aborted relationship with Corner House, he's now hit his super-hot stride at Central Bistro & Bar, turning out vibrant, bright, top-notch dishes. (His spring lamb with fresh chickpeas and robiola fondue will make you bleat with rhapsody.) Welcome back.

Rioja
Scott Lentz

Chef Jennifer Jasinski has had a stellar year, with a starring role on Top Chef Masters and winning a James Beard Award. But long before seats at the chef's counter of the now nearly ten-year-old Rioja became the most coveted spots in town, Jasinski and her staff were ready for prime time, showing their confidence and culinary mastery in front of inquisitive diners eager to witness flames shooting up from burners, steam rising from pasta pots, and the cook-speak banter that enlivens a kitchen. And while Jasinski doesn't spend as much time in her open galley as she used to, space at the counter is still booked days in advance by foodniks eager for an entertaining, and far more intimate, alternative to a traditional table — and a front-row seat at the best show in town.

Chef Liu's Authentic Chinese Cuisine

The good news: Chinese restaurants far outnumber McDonald's in this country. The bad: most of those Chinese joints suck wontons. So discovering a real Chinese kitchen — one that specializes in authentic, intriguing, fearless (and fearsomely hot) dishes — is like unwrapping a fortune cookie with a strip of winning lottery numbers. And with Chef Liu's Chinese Restaurant, you'll hit the jackpot with stunning Szechuan dishes. The Szechuan beef, for example, arrives in a huge basin stained a deep crimson by the oil from too many chiles to count and studded with dozens of peppercorns, enough to numb all moving mouth parts. And yet this soup, bobbing with thin shards of beef and a forest of cilantro leaves, mysteriously releases a magnificent, multi-layered flavor combustion that you feel all the way to your toes. That's just one of the delights at Chef Liu's, where everything from the cumin-crusted lamb to the sesame pockets packaged with chicken and leeks is punctuated by a fortune of bold flavors.

Churchill Bar

Join the club. For a classic cocktail experience, head to a true classic: The Brown Palace, a hotel that isn't much younger than the concept of the cocktail itself. At Churchill Bar, you can drink in the elegant Victorian ambience while drinking up a perfect Rob Roy, a dry martini or a Manhattan made with one of the bar's long list of small-batch bourbons. To round out the experience, the customized humidor has more than sixty cigars — and Churchill Bar has the license that lets you smoke them on site. Enjoy your cocktail and stogie at the bar, or sit in one of those overstuffed club chairs and experience how the other 1 percent lives.

Weathervane Cafe
Kristin Pazulski

Stepping into the Weathervane Cafe is like walking into a quiet living room — with a coffee bar in it, and a vintage clothing store operating out of the upstairs bedrooms. The coffee shop is small but charming, with antique knickknacks and paintings placed just so, and what sounds like an AM radio rumbling faintly in the background. On Sundays there are special deliveries of doughnuts from Glazed and Confused, but the rest of the week there's plenty to savor, from vegan scones and made-from-scratch soups to seasonal specialty coffee and tea delights. And if your cup of joe gives you the shopping jones, the Weathervane just welcomed Beehive Vintage — which specializes in men's and women's attire from the '40s, '50s and '60s — into a recently vacated upstairs spot.

What's old is new again at Williams & Graham, the sexy, stylish speakeasy that Todd Colehour and Sean Kenyon opened in late 2011 in a circa-1906 building in LoHi. This was our Best New Bar two years ago, and since then, it's only gotten better — and the lines longer. Step across a threshold concealed by a miniature bookstore and you're in a 1920s-themed world filled with plush leather, dark woods and quirky artifacts from the age of Prohibition. But the best accessory is Kenyon's comprehensive cocktail and spirits list, which includes inventive, contemporary twists on the classics as well as completely new concoctions. Cheers.

Devil's Food Cookery
Cassandra Kotnik

Nothing beats a hot crepe slathered in Nutella — unless it's a crepe slathered in Nutella at Devil's Food, the Washington Park eatery that feels like a home away from home. But with graters on the wall and '60s-style appliances in the dining room, the home it feels like is your great-grandmother's, not yours — though your great-grandma never made crepes like these. Chef de cuisine Brian Crow uses the pancake-like shells as symbols of the season. In summer, he fills them with brandied peaches, marcona almonds and white-chocolate sauce. In winter he showcases citrus, bringing a pop of brightness to cold, snowy mornings with blood-orange segments, mascarpone and semi-sweet-chocolate sauce. With only one variety on the breakfast menu, you don't have the choice you'll find at more traditional creperies — but choice is overrated when the crepes are this good.

Chef Jorel Pierce is a guy who thinks -- and cooks -- way outside the box, so the dan-dan noodles at Euclid Hall are predictably unpredictable. This version focuses on largesse from a suckling Yorkshire pig, which Pierce breaks down in the basement kitchen of his culinary domain. The result is crumbles of pork, char siu edged with an arch of seasoned fat, and pork loin, all floating in a salty, musky, pork-intensive broth swamped with udon noodles and fragrant with the scent of Szechuan peppers and housemade oyster sauce. To this Pierce adds a fistful of scallions and peanuts, pairing the dish with a little bowl of housemade hot sauce that gives it a shock of heat. The swine shines.
Patxi's Pizza

No matter how you toss it, smear it, top it, slice it or spin it, pizza is like religion: The arguments about which style is the most blessed are a world without end. But when it comes to deep-dish pizza, the gospel of Patxi's rings loud and clear. The San Francisco-rooted piehole palace, which came to Denver in late 2012 and now has three metro locations — in Englewood, Cherry Creek and Uptown — cooks up real deep-dish, Chicago-inspired "stuffed" pizzas topped with everything from spinach to Denver's own Polidori sausage, as well as a generous mantle of whole-milk mozzarella and a second sheet of dough paved with an herb-studded sauce. The hefty, hunky pizzas require a knife, a fork and a pile of napkins, but you'll be singing their praises until your next "I'm a bona fide glutton" confession.

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