Jimmy's Urban Bar & Grill

Jimmy's has the kind of menu that makes you think either "hell, yes" or "hot mess." A little too ambitious for straight-up bar-food fans and with an international streak that could spell disaster, Jimmy's somehow manages to keep it all together and put out clever yet satisfying twists on drinking fare. Chicago is a big influence here, which is readily apparent in the name and ingredients of the Ditka burger. An eight-ounce slab of properly fat-laced and fresh ground chuck comes topped with Jimmy's own Italian beef, adding meaty succulence to the already juicy burger. Pungent provolone and your choice of sweet peppers or hot giardiniera (we recommend the latter) add tang and spice. Despite the meat-on-meat combo, the Ditka burger is not a towering monstrosity but rather an exercise in (relative) restraint. The sandwich comes with a steak knife to make handling easier, and things can get a little drippy, but the bun maintains its integrity for bite after satisfying bite.

Readers' choice: Cherry Cricket

Watercourse Foods
Danielle Lirette

WaterCourse Foods bills itself as "eating the path of least resistance since 1998," but that doesn't mean it takes the easy way out. In fact, last year, owner Dan Landes renewed his commitment to providing good food that's good for you, taking WaterCourse all vegan. But you don't have to sacrifice flavor when you stand up for principles: WaterCourse's burger tastes damn close to meat — not repackaged sawdust, like so many other veggie burgers — and isn't that why you're eating a burger anyway? The kitchen makes its own "sirloin" out of seitan, then puts it on a smooshy bun (gluten-free bread is available, of course) and tops it with classic burger fixin's, including tofu bacon, if you're so inclined. Pleased to not meat you!

Readers' choice: Park Burger

Uncle
Mark Manger

When a few carrot sticks just won't cut it, head to Uncle for the vegetarian ramen. The savory, veggie-based broth is chock-full of a wide assortment of vegetables and comes topped with a soft-cooked egg (optional); it will fill you up while also fulfilling your daily vegetable intake. Uncle was one of the first local establishments to get on board the ramen train that everyone seems to be riding these days, and it remains one of the best. The space isn't big, but a new patio has cut down on the long waits.

Best Vegetarian Dish in a Non-Vegetarian Restaurant

The Plimoth

The Plimoth
Danielle Lirette

Technically, the Plimoth's cauliflower turnip gratinée is a side — so you'll want to order several and make a night of it, because this vegetarian dish is as delicious as any of the meatier entrees on the menu at this charming neighborhood spot. Served in a cast-iron skillet and topped with mushrooms, the cauliflower/turnip mix is creamy with cheese and incredibly delicious — and definitely contributes to the wonderful smell always hanging in the air at Plimoth.

Readers' choice: Rioja

Best Vegan Dish in a Non-Vegan Restaurant

Zeal

When you walk into Zeal, you enter a fresh, clean space whose vibe is immediately rejuvenating. The motto here is "Food for Enthusiasts," and we're quite enthusiastic about the vegetable rainbow curry. This vegan dish is a flavorful blend of seasonal roasted vegetables, sesame seeds, lentil sprouts and coconut curry on a bed of perfectly cooked rice. It's a substantial plate, packed with veggies and just the right level of spice for curry. Complement your meal with one of Zeal's uber-healthy cold-pressed juices to round out the nutritious dining experience.

Readers' choice: Vine Street Pub

City, O' City
Hunter Stevens

City, O' City isn't just a restaurant, it's a community. There are classes and programs upstairs, gatherings in the bar and out on the patio, entertaining reading in the bathrooms. You'll see everyone from adventurous suburban teens to hipsters covered in tattoos to seniors just getting out of their yoga classes passing through. And they often stop to eat the delicious food — because all of the activity isn't just in the front of the house at City, O' City; since the restaurants expansion two years ago, the kitchen has worked hard on its all-vegetarian menu, and the choices can be overwhelming. You can't go wrong with the Buffalo seitan wings, the udon-noodle bowl or the Breakfast All Day sandwich.

Readers' choice: City, O' City

Olive & Finch Eatery & Bakery
Danielle Lirette

While Mary Nguyen is primarily known for her Asian and French fusions at P17 and Olive & Finch, one of her menu standouts is not a dish, but a sauce. At Olive & Finch, the chimichurri that comes on the D.F. (a beautiful mess of eggs, pulled pork, green chile and cheese) and the Nico sandwich, her version of a Spanish cheesesteak, features the perfect blend of graininess and heat, and is so good we could put it on just about anything. Made in-house from parsley, red-pepper flakes, garlic, lemon juice, red-wine vinegar and neutral-flavored oil, it sounds like a simple recipe — but the result is anything but. Quite possibly what Dr. Seuss was preaching about in Green Eggs and Ham, this magical sauce spruces up everything it comes into contact with, from proteins to potatoes.

Wayne's Smoke Shack
Courtesy Wayne's Smoke Shack - True Texas BBQ Facebook

Texas doesn't get much love from Coloradans, but the barbecue at Wayne's Smoke Shack in Superior could change that. Owner and pit master Wayne Shelnutt brings the flavors and techniques of Texas Hill Country — the post-oak-and-brisket holy land with Austin at its center — to Denver's north suburbs, where Lone Star State expats and Front Range natives alike line up for a taste of juicy beef with the coffee-black bark and deep, smoky flavor that can only come from time, patience and love. Pork lovers have plenty to be thankful for, too; Wayne's ribs and pork shoulder sing with the same slow-cooked and savory alchemy that arises when fat and dry rub combine with smoke to coax magic from meat. Lunch is your best bet; by dinner, the best might already be gone.

Readers' choice: Moe's Original Bar-B-Que

Acorn
Mark Antonation

The best meatball in town doesn't come on top of spaghetti, all covered with cheese. Rather, it comes in a cast-iron skillet, which is delivered by the servers at Acorn with the warning to be careful, this is hot. What they should warn you about instead is how you'll want to eat your weight in these suckers. Tender as butter, they're served over rich, coarse-ground grits with melted burrata and just enough tomato sauce to hold each bite together. If you were at any other restaurant, we'd encourage you to throw caution to the wind and eat course after course of the stuff. But this is Acorn, owned by powerhouse duo Bryan Dayton and Steven Redzikowski, with Amos Watts manning the day-to-day kitchen operations — so there's plenty more deliciousness to come.

Beast + Bottle

Beast is in the name of this bright and lively eatery, and beast is what you'll get — in almost every form but beef. Chef/co-owner Paul Reilly has earned a reputation for whole-animal butchery and top-caliber dishes based on pork, lamb, poultry and seafood, but you won't see any steaks on the menu. That's because while Reilly is dedicated to bringing in whole animals, a side of beef is simply too big to fit in the tiny kitchen. Instead, look for lamb and pork roasts and braises on the big-plates menu, with more difficult cuts of the same animals transformed into charcuterie — terrines, sausages and cured cuts — on the small-plates side. Seasonal fish and fowl are also lovingly handled, so you'll find crudos, clams, guinea hens or sturgeon, depending on the time of year and what strikes the kitchen's fancy. And for plant-based diners, there's plenty to choose from, too, with all-veggie creations in both appetizer and entree sizes. With so much variety packed into such a small menu, even the most die-hard beef lovers will barely notice the missing moo.

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