Best Chicken Wings 2016 | Cho77 | Best of Denver® | Best Restaurants, Bars, Clubs, Music and Stores in Denver | Westword

The humble chicken wing, once a castoff from the kitchen or, at most, a paltry poultry scrap destined for the stock pot, now commands attention on nearly every starter menu in town. Standard flappers doused in Buffalo sauce predominate, but you can also anoint your chin in barbecue, teriyaki, chipotle or any number of other sauces from tame to terrifying. But one bite of Cho77's grilled wings in Vietnamese caramel sauce will convince you that the other contenders are just playing chicken. Pungent fish sauce, Asian spices, burnt sugar and just a touch of heat come together in a sticky sauce lacquered on thickly over juicy, chewy wings. There's no polite way to polish these off, so just go for it — not that you'll be able to slow yourself down — and worry about cleanup later.

Readers' choice: Fire on the Mountain
Oh Hey Creative

Tucked into a 640-square-foot shipping container, Cart-Driver's space may be small, but the flavors it delivers are anything but. If you're a fan of pâtés and terrines, the chicken liver is a must. A sensuous spread as smooth as peanut butter and just as rich, the nutty, spreadable side — listed under the "etc." portion of the pizza-based menu — is good to the last drop (and leaves us jonesing for more). Creamy and decadent, it's an ideal way to treat yourself.

It's listed under "Everyday Plates" at the casual CoraFaye's Cafe, but the Southern-style fried chicken is anything but routine. The chicken parts that come out of the tiny kitchen are prepared simply, with a light dusting of flour and a hefty dose of black pepper, then fried until the crispy skin — not greasy, but tasting faintly of the frying oil — holds in remarkably moist and tender white or dark meat. You can have it your way here: one piece, three pieces, wing, leg or thigh, or add a few bucks to get a miraculously juicy breast. Have the chicken on its own or paired with the daily sides — maybe the long-cooked collard greens or the dense, cheese-laden mac and cheese. Wash it all down with Kool-Aid from a big metal pitcher — sweet tea is an obvious option, too — and give thanks for owner Priscilla Smith's mom, Cora, who handed down the recipe.

Readers' choice: White Fence Farm

God gave the pig fifteen of 'em, but sometimes you only want one. Russell's Smokehouse is the classiest barbecue pit in town, with craft cocktails, grilled naan and bone marrow alongside smoked pulled pork. But it's also the kind of place that will gladly serve you a single rib at happy hour, your choice of baby back ($1), pork or beef ($2 each). No mother of humanity will spring from these ribs, but Russell's treats each one with care, smoked strong with a crispy, spicy rub. Nabbing just a few also lets you experiment with Russell's sauces, from a safety-orange mustard/vinegar barnburner to the thick Kansas City standard. Grab your fraction of a rack from 3 to 6 p.m. Monday to Friday, but don't come begging for a handful of soda.

Danielle Lirette

Last year was a big one for barbecue in Denver, with a whole new crew of pit masters smoking up ribs, shoulder and brisket in nearly every Southern style. Roaming Buffalo was an early addition to the 2015 smokehouse scene, opening last January near the University of Denver and holding our attention with what can only be called Colorado-style barbecue, featuring lamb shoulder or shank and bison short ribs in addition to housemade jalapeño-cheddar sausage. You'll also find the usual suspects — beef brisket, chicken wings and pork ribs — seasoned lightly and smoked gently so that the meaty flavors come to the forefront. Sides are worth celebrating, too, with kicked-up versions of classics, like honey-lime slaw and poblano mac and cheese. And a feast wouldn't be complete without a cup of the kitchen's luscious caramelized banana pudding. It's all enough to trigger a stampede.

Readers' choice: Moe's Original BBQ
Molly Martin

Technically a New American restaurant (and an excellent one, at that), Blackbelly Market nonetheless features one of the most thorough in-house, whole-animal butchery programs around, and that makes it the best steakhouse, too. In addition to generating fresh, hormone- and antibiotic-free sausages, salumi and charcuterie from a variety of livestock from Colorado-owned farms, the comfortable and rustic-chic east Boulder eatery also carves up beautiful steaks, with cuts that vary from night to night. You can buy the steaks from the display case in the internal market to cook up at home or — and this is the hot ticket — ask for anything in the case to be prepared to your specs right then and there. That means that the kitchen, helmed by chef/owner Hosea Rosenberg, will send out an impeccably seared, flavor-packed slab of meat at the temperature you requested. The list of sides goes well beyond the typical steakhouse's boring butter bombs, too, instead offering grilled broccoli drizzled with anchovy vinaigrette, roasted cauliflower with romesco and toasted almonds, and confit fingerling potatoes sprinkled with shallots and garlic. You can't go wrong with the fork-tender Angus flatiron on the regular menu, either, and the fact that you can add foie gras butter to anything for $4 makes us want to meat there right now.

Readers' choice: Guard and Grace

Chef Bradford Heap has always been a stickler for details, a quality that comes in handy when dealing with the fragile and persnickety nature of seafood. At Heap's latest venture, Wild Standard — which sits next door to Salt, one of the other eateries that Heap runs with his wife, Carol Vilate — the big things that make a seafood restaurant shine are as nailed down as dock cleats at a yacht club: a varied selection of super-fresh fish, lobsters, crabs and mussels, all paired with intriguing ingredients. But it's the little things that make the difference here: Starting with the raw bar, where oysters are helpfully described according to their brininess and finish, the menu at Wild Standard playfully bobs back and forth between traditional seafood fare — including a sweet, creamy new England clam chowder and a simple but spectacular pan-seared grouper — and innovative creations, such as seared-mussel sliders and panko-crusted Colorado trout with bacon and Hollandaise.

Readers' choice: Jax Fish House

Best Non-Vegetarian Restaurant for Vegetarians


Justin Cucci has done it again. When Ophelia's opened last spring, it was somewhat of a surprise to find a brothel-themed restaurant coming from the owner of Root Down and Linger — and yet it was no surprise at all. The menu, which caters to all eaters, is a delight for vegetarians, who have far more than the typical two sides to choose from. Don't miss the arepas — Venezuelan maize patties that have been grilled and stuffed with queso fresco — the roasted-beet salad or the mushroom-and-truffle flatbread.

Readers' choice: Root Down

Best Non-Vegan Restaurant for Vegans


Courtesy Ace Eat Serve

It's easy enough to find places that cater to vegetarians in Denver, but a little harder to find a full-service restaurant that can accommodate true vegans, as well. Happily, Ace's menu has a number of satisfying — and delicious — options. The Asian-oriented roster includes a number of items that are free of both meat and dairy, including the veggie bibimbap, one of the best versions in town. And the mushroom bao buns and spicy bean sprouts with crispy tofu are must-tries for everyone. A little secret: Ace has a separate veggie-based menu, provided on request.

Readers choice: Root Down
Hunter Stevens

City, O' City has become synonymous with "vegetarian restaurant" in Denver, so popular is its appeal among herbivores and omnivores alike, who lust for the eatery's seitan wings, top-quality pizzas, and savory waffles smothered in vegetable ragu and Taleggio cheese sauce. The Cap Hill hangout serves as a coffeehouse, full bar with requisite craft beers and cocktails, and happy-hour favorite for denizens of the neighborhood, with everyone from punk-rock kids to politicos to Macbook-toting hipsters calling it a second home. City, O' City has everything that Denver loves — except bacon. But with so much good stuff to choose from, bacon won't be missed.

Readers' choice: City, O' City

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