Root Down at DIA

This is how you know that Root Down is still the best restaurant at Denver International Airport: You're willing to 1) ride the train from wherever you are at the airport to Concourse C; 2) stand in line for a seat once you get there; and 3) resist rushing through your Thai carrot-curry soup or mole-drenched breakfast burrito, even if it means a mad dash back to your gate for boarding. An offshoot of Justin Cucci's acclaimed LoHi eatery of the same name, Root Down at DIA serves globally inspired soups, sandwiches and brunch items that go well beyond the norm. Burgers, for example, are made of "never, ever" beef (beef that's never, ever been treated with yucky stuff) on a pretzel bun; wraps come with edamame hummus, chicken and minty yogurt; and drinks range from Prosecco to local beers. Whether you snag a seat under the hanging globes or next to the window with dramatic views of the runway, you'll find yourself wishing for a text from your airline alerting you to a delay, just so you have time for dessert.

Readers' choice: Root Down

Root Down at DIA

There's a lot happening at Denver International Airport these days, but the most mouthwatering partnership is the one between Root Down and Vert Kitchen, which is now augmenting the premium sit-down menu with three daily grab-and-go salads — tuna power, sesame tofu and kale Caesar — for travelers in a hurry.

Orange Crunch

Filipino cuisine isn’t easy to locate in Denver, and most of what you’ll find is of the mobile variety. But that’s not a problem, especially if your search for empanadas, lumpia, chicken adobo and other Filipino specialties leads you to the Orange Crunch food truck, which specializes in rice-flour empanadas colored vivid orange with achiote seasoning and stuffed full of scrambled eggs, mung beans, shredded green papaya and a choice of meat — usually something mouthwatering like hickory-smoked bacon, chicken sausage or ground bison. Other specials come and go, so check the truck’s Twitter feed (@DenverOC) for the latest, which could be chicken skewers, smoked pork belly or kalbi short ribs. The only trick at this truck is waiting patiently for the delicious savory pies to cool enough so the molten fillings don’t burn your tongue, since each one is stuffed and fried to order.

Readers’ choice: Quiero Arepas

When searching for sustenance at 3 a.m., certain rules apply: The food should be cheap, fast and filling. After all, the party's over and last call has come and gone, but you're still out and about, looking to extend the night. The Tacos Rapidos on West Evans Avenue fulfills all requirements, serving cheap and decidedly downscale Mexican (by way of San Diego) fare with no fancy pretensions — or even a dining room. Sure, the guacamole comes from a gun and the corn tortillas are a little too thick and leathery to be double-layered, but the tacos are so fat with shredded-pork carnitas, spicy barbacoa or surprisingly tender lengua that you'll barely notice. Deep-fried rolled tacos (don't look for flautas on the menu), carne asada fries or similarly souped-up super nachos will satisfy the worst of late-night cravings. And if you're up early or late enough to yearn for breakfast, the breakfast burritos come stuffed with more bacon or chorizo than scrambled eggs.

Readers' choice: Pete's Kitchen

TAG Burger Bar
Mark Manger

Toasted Cheez-It and Goldfish mac and cheese, adult milkshakes, deep-fried Oreos with Nutella? Troy Guard might've had the munchies when he came up with TAG Burger Bar's playfully innovative menu, a gluttonous ode to our childhood. Take a toke and then take your healthy appetite to TAG, because the signature Andrew Jackson burger can't be devoured in one sitting...or can it? Tell us after you try the hot mess of shaved black truffles, house-cured pork belly, crispy chicken skin, sunnyside-up egg, Brie, avocado, confit tomato, chipotle aioli slaw and tomato-truffle oil.

Local 46

Whether you're looking for a patio where you can relax by a fire or one where you can work up a sweat throwing around bocce balls, Local 46's biergarten is the best place to play. The 2,900-square-foot patio, which this popular bar opened in 2013, is like going to visit that best friend who has the Cribs-style setup. It's cozy despite its size, and the gravel underfoot invokes a school playground or a huge campground. There are woody nooks where you can lounge by fire pits, a ping-pong table, cornhole games and, yes, a bocce-ball court. And you can order both food and drinks at the outdoor bar. If you're lucky enough to get a seat at the community picnic tables, order the Gutter Special: Your beers will be delivered to an ice-filled metal gutter splicing through the table.

Domo

Domo is more than just a restaurant. It's a museum, an experience in Japanese culture, built to look like a country house with a traditional Nippon Kan aikido dojo on the side and a garden out back. And what a garden: This is an ideal urban oasis, with wood-stump tables alongside a winding path beside overhanging trees, ponds and a little bridge. Walking to the back of the garden, you find shrines to Buddha and a fertility god. It's a perfect place to wait for your table and contemplate Domo owner Gaku Homma's altruistic efforts around the world: His nonprofit Aikido Humanitarian Active Network supports orphanages, medical facilities, schools and other programs in thirty countries, including the Denver Rescue Mission here at home. Domo, indeed.

Readers' choice: Linger

Ignite Kitchen + Cocktails
Courtesy Ignite

A great rooftop bar doesn't require a great view of the mountains. At Ignite, you do glimpse the mountains (until taller buildings go up in the Platte Valley) and see some of the city skyline, but the real draw is the space itself: It's half-enclosed, half open-air, ready for any season. In cold weather, the patio is open on weekends, and come Rockies opening day, it's back in action whenever Ignite is open, with fans and misters to keep patrons cool, plus a cover to prevent the sun from pounding on mimosa-soaked heads. And no matter the air's temperature, thoughts of Ignite's fiery food selections, including wood-fired pizza and thick slices of Man Candy sweet and spicy bacon, will keep you warm.

Readers' choice: Linger

Denver Beer Co.

You don't have to have a pup in tow to enjoy Denver Beer Co.'s pooch-friendly patio. No matter when you visit this Platte Street brewery, you'll find dogs lounging under picnic tables and bar stools, waiting for a stranger to give a good scratch. If you bring your own pup, you can supply him or her with treats from behind the bar: Brew Bones' Pale Tails, made from grains left over after Denver Beer Co. and other local craft breweries make their pale ales. Five treats will cost you $3 — and they're alcohol-free! If you don't have a dog but are jonesing for company, you're bound to find some puppy love at Denver Beer Co.

Readers' choice: Denver Beer Co.

Chop Shop Casual Urban Eatery

In a sector dominated by wraps, bowls and burritos, Chop Shop Casual Urban Eatery feels more fine-dining than fast-casual, with tables and booths crafted of wide-plank barn wood and reclaimed fences, batched cocktails and a globally inspired menu of entrees, salads and sandwiches. Drawing on years of high-end kitchen experience, chef-owner Clint Wangsnes is a master at menu design, putting out such tempting plates as pork tenderloin with yuzu-cherry chutney, sirloin with potato-pumpkin-mushroom hash, and 72-hour slow-cooked onion bliss, a French onion soup that deserves every drop of its name. If it weren't for the menu hung on a brightly lit board and the line you stand in to place your order, you might even forget you're in a fast-casual spot, since plates are delivered and cleared by staff.

Readers' choice: Illegal Pete's

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