Gaetano's Restaurant
Cassandra Kotnik

The sign on the outside of Gaetano's promises the "Biggest Bloody Mary Bar in Town," and we have yet to find one bigger. Or better. The longtime north Denver Italian eatery — once owned by a famous Mob family, then by the Wynkoop group and now an independent — puts out a Bloody Mary spread with so many options that you could make your drink a meal in itself for just $6 a glass. Bartender Caitlyn Smith is responsible for the selection, and she can be found early every Sunday slicing cheese into sticks to add to the vast array of veggies — including an extensive selection of pickled ones — as well as such ideal add-ons as olives, bacon and beef jerky. Three different tomato blends are offered for the base — a house mix that's heavy with Italian seasonings, a Clamato version, and one made using V8 — all of which can be spiced up even further with any of 75 hot sauces in a variety of strengths, and eight seasoning mixes. Be sure to try the homemade infused vodka with pickled cucumber and garlic for an extra kick.

Readers' choice: Lou's Food Bar
Table 6
Cassandra Kotnik

What's a restaurant to do when it's without a full liquor license but still wants to appease the thirsty brunch crowd? Fake it. Table 6 uses sake as a substitute for vodka in the house Bloody, resulting in a tasty morning pick-me-up that would have even the most seasoned imbiber fooled. An eclectic twist on the classic morning cocktail, the drink goes perfectly with the venue's fresh and unconventional aesthetic.

City Donuts
Linnea Covington

Specialty doughnuts, the kind that cost five bucks apiece and are as stylized as plated desserts, have taken the city by storm. We get the appeal; we're doughnut fans. But whether you're with your kid on a Sunday morning or taking a few dozen to work, sometimes you just want the classics. And when you do, look no farther than City Donuts, which got its start in Aurora and conveniently opened a second location on East Colfax this fall. These are doughnuts that will take you back to your childhood, with scores of cake, raised and so-called fancy offerings (think bear claws and cream-filled bars) to please everyone. Don't miss the old-fashioned or the chocolate with chocolate frosting.

Readers' choice: Voodoo Doughnut
Beet Box

We hesitate to share this winner, for fear that Beet Box Bakery & Cafe will sell out of our favorite doughnuts before we get there. But this vegan bakery's goodies are simply too good to keep to ourselves. And by ourselves, we don't mean folks who eschew the milk and eggs that typically go into these breakfast treats. We mean everyone with a soft spot for morning dessert. Baked, not fried, with coconut milk and applesauce for extra moistness, Beet Box's doughnuts are healthier than average. But trust us, you won't be thinking about what is and isn't in your doughnut when you order a dozen vanilla, chocolate, pumpkin and apple-cake creations, frosted and modestly topped with nuts or coconut. As a bonus, the bakery offers a solid selection of gluten-free options, too.

Brider
Danielle Lirette

Ah, the apple fritter. What a glorious creation, full of plump, sugary nubs concealing sweet nuggets of America's favorite fruit. But too many versions aren't worth ordering — so pale and soft you wish you'd just ordered a regular doughnut. At Brider, though, the fritters are always light and crisp, thanks to an extra-long stint in the fryer. Pastry chef Michael Conti finishes them off with an apple-cider glaze that drips over very whorl and ridge, making them mandatory a.m. eating. Move over, apple pie: There's a new kid in town.

Dos Santos Taqueria de Mexico
Danielle Lirette

Filled doughnuts are a thing of beauty. But Dos Santos's filled churros? Talk about a flash of brilliance. This Uptown taqueria gussies up the classic Mexican treats, dusting them with cinnamon and sugar, plumping them with rich chocolate ganache, and sprinkling them with spicy, honey-glazed bacon. If they sound a little too hedonistic for brunch, maybe this will seal the deal: They come with fresh fruit. That makes them sort of healthy, right?

Osaka Ramen
Katie Knoch

These sweet, deep-fried nuggets at Osaka Ramen have broken a lot of stereotypes. First, they've convinced us that doughnuts aren't just for breakfast anymore. They've also taught us to push back our bowls of lush tonkotsu and spicy miso ramen long before we normally would, if only to save room for the mochi-filled doughnut holes to come. A cross between doughnuts and candy, these addictive fried dough balls boast chewy centers, thanks to the glutinous rice cakes known as mochi tucked inside. And did we mention the over-the-top salted-butter smear? Apparently, culinary director/owner Jeff Osaka's wife has a thing for both mochi and doughnuts (hence the name). And after an order of My Wife's Donuts, so will you.

Amore Gelato

The gelato at the modest but colorful and cheerful Amore is made fresh daily and tastes as close to the Italian original as you can get — and on the 16th Street Mall, no less. Made with half the air of American ice creams and whole milk rather than heavy cream, Amore's gelato is dense but still creamy, and while its dairy products are local, many other ingredients are brought in from Italy. The offerings change daily, but our favorite is sea-salt Oreo; we're also smitten with the addictively spicy white chocolate-habanero. And the stracciatella — inspired by the soup of the same name, a broth studded with egg and cheese — is a not-too-sweet but rich vanilla rife with bits of high-quality imported chocolate. For those who crave the gelato experience but are lactose-intolerant, Amore features several dairy-free options each day. Love it!

Readers' choice: Sweet Action
The Inventing Room Dessert Shop

Sure, brain freeze can be had by quickly indulging in ice cream or a smoothie — or even a 7-Eleven Slurpee — but why go for lowbrow sweets when you can achieve cranium frostbite with the ultimate in frozen desserts? We're talking about the crazy concoctions coming out of the Inventing Room, chef Ian Kleinman's new brick-and-mortar version of the catering company he runs. Start with a simple s'mores ice cream sandwich, and as the cold starts to seep in, move on to one of Kleinman's wilder creations, like the frozen cherry-vanilla mousse with chocolate cotton candy. This dessert shop also whips out one of the city's most intense sundaes, a treat guests can design and get topped with homemade caramel pop rocks and exploding whipped cream. While all of these delights prove worth the trip themselves, part of the fun is visiting the Ballpark neighborhood shop and watching the magic the staff works with liquid nitrogen, sugar and cream.

Best Food Cart on the 16th Street Mall

WikiPita

Wikipita
Chris Utterback

The edible offerings of the 16th Street Mall are a blur when merely glimpsed from the MallRide. Step off and take a sniff, and the reward will be a fleet of fantastic Mediterranean street-food purveyors, from Saffron Grill to Shondiz. But WikiPita, in the shadow of the Daniels & Fisher clock tower, stands out. The operation recently expanded from a mobile cart to a kiosk, bringing more Mideast goodness to the concrete jungle. Run by Leah Gal and her Israeli-born husband, Itay, WikiPita serves handheld Mediterranean fare, with gyros, falafel, chicken skewers and more, all stuffed into warm, fluffy bread pockets imported from the motherland. For a small fee, WikiPita will even stuff fries into your sandwich, which might be all you need to hear, but there's more: Open at 9:15 a.m. Monday through Saturday, WikiPita also offers Mediterranean-style breakfast pitas and platters with hot sauce and Israeli spices, to help burn away anything you might have done on this very same street last night.

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