Photo by Johnny Molfetta
 

There's a feeling that you get when you walk into a coffee shop and see your favorite barista working: You know your drink is going to be perfect. At Aviano, an expertly trained staff means a high-quality experience every time. Denver has one of the fastest-growing coffee scenes in the country right now, and that means that coffee quality is improving everywhere. But while you may be able to find a good cortado across the city, Aviano has the most consistently perfect pours in town. That's guaranteed no matter who's behind the bar.

In the coffee world, there's little difference between a guy with a mustache and a barista — and there are a lot of great caffeinated 'staches out there. But veteran barista Andrew Norman takes the cake this year for the best barista mustache. He's pulled shots at both Aviano and Thump in the past, but is currently at Lula Rose General Store on East Colfax Avenue. Stop by to see the mustache you thought could only grace the likes of Ron Swanson and Alex Trebek, then stay for a cup of wonderfully crafted cup of coffee.

If you've never been to one, go. If you have a favorite barista, he or she will be there. It's the most energetic coffee-slinging event you've never heard of. Open to the public, latte-art throwdowns are well known in the coffee community, but wildly undiscovered by lesser humans (aka non-baristas). Structured with a bracket system, baristas go head-to-head, facing off to see who can pour a better heart, rosette or some other form of latte art. Winners move on to the next level, and in the end there is only one latte-art champion. People yell and jump and talk mad shit, and it's wonderful. Nobody takes it very seriously, but there are seriously talented people competing. Held at coffee shops around the city; keep your eye out for a flier at your favorite java joint.

Black Eye Coffee

We've hardly ever thought of a bathroom stop as a memorable experience — but then we made a visit to the unisex loos at Black Eye Cap Hill. Along with glowing neon signs that read "Forever is composed of nows" and "I dwell in possibility," the rooms entertain visitors with poetry on tape. How many times has the calm cadence of Walt Whitman's verse eased your nerves while you're relieving yourself? Located at the start of Poet's Row, Black Eye has taken up the theme, with poetry-oriented cocktails on its menu. Why not have it playing in the restrooms, too?

 
Photo by Johnny Molfetta
 

Denver goes crazy for a good patio, no matter where or what season it is. But a good patio — one that gets a lot of sun, has enough seating and is quiet — can sometimes be hard to find in a busy city. Escape to the land of people who don't work and drink coffee all day in Cherry Creek North, and you'll discover the relaxing patio at Aviano. There's not a lot of traffic noise here, and a giant tree provides lovely shade warmer weather. Bonus: A giant garage door opens to the outside, so when it's nice out, you can still catch a breeze without the UV damage.

Bistro Vendome
Bistro Vendome

As you walk along the southeast side of Larimer Square, head through the archway that reads "Kettle Arcade." At the far end of the vaulted passageway you'll find Bistro Vendôme, whose secluded, often sunny little patio seems airlifted directly from the streets of Paris. A seat at a wrought-iron cafe table with an aperitif in hand and the noonday sun shining off the brick walls of turn-of-the-last-century buildings provides an instant escape from the pressures of everyday life; it's also a lovely spot for a romantic summer evening. All your favorites from that memorable French vacation are available on Bistro Vendôme's menu, too: escargot, crepes, bouillabaisse and duck confit. But since you're still in Denver, no one will make fun of you for testing out your rusty high-school French — so let your "Oui!" and "D'accord!" echo off the courtyard walls as you call for another round.

Readers' choice: Avanti Food & Beverage
Kaos Pizzeria

Life would be pleasant indeed if you had a pizza oven in your own back yard — complete with a skilled pie baker, of course, because nobody wants to get hot and sweaty when patio drinks beckon. The next best thing is Kaos Pizzeria, where you can relax among friends, surrounded by flowers, trees and the delicate aroma of potted basil. Kaos is built into a vintage Victorian on Old South Pearl Street, with a tiny dining room inside, but the best seats are on the expansive patio, which wraps around the side and back yard of what was once someone's cozy home. The sunlight is always dappled and the beers are always cold in this neighborhood spot. And the pizza comes with crisp, charred edges wafting with the aroma of wood coals — just right for a summer night.

Avanti Food & Beverage
Danielle Lirette

Avanti Food & Beverage, which opened in Highland last year, is certainly a cool concept: seven shipping containers turned into professional kitchens and crammed under one roof, where they serve an international variety of street eats to hungry customers. It might look like little more than a boozy food court inside, but head upstairs on a sunny day for a rooftop patio with stunning views of downtown, the Rocky Mountains and the surrounding LoHi neighborhood. What better way to enjoy arepas, pizza, Japanese noodle bowls or farm-to-table fare than while sitting on a cushy lounge chair built from repurposed shipping pallets? Or grab a beer and a bleacher seat facing Coors Field and pretend that you're hanging out in the Rockpile, only with far better food and a winning team — Avanti's team of skilled bartenders, that is.

Readers' choice: Linger
Sub-Culture
Courtesy of Sub-Culture

Regardless of whether you have a dog, the patio at Subculture — a Capitol Hill sub shop famous for its seemingly endless variety of well-made sandwiches, including many vegan and vegetarian options as well as gluten-free breads — is a wonderful place to kick back and people-watch. But the fact that dogs are allowed on the spacious patio, which features fencing around the picnic tables that's perfect for attaching a leash down low, makes this a great go-to spot when you and the canine are out for a stroll. Water bowls are kept full, and staffers have been known to come out to pet pooches and slip them some meat scraps.

Readers' choice: Denver Beer Co.
To the Wind Bistro

Our 2015 pick in this category, To the Wind has spent the past year doing nothing but getting better. The tiny, casual, dinner-only eatery — named after the expression "three sheets to the wind" — offers a cheerful place on East Colfax to unwind and experience the innovative and appealing dishes cooked by owner Royce Oliveira. Along with his wife, pastry chef/owner Leanne Adamson, Oliveira breathes new life into old favorites. The menu changes daily (though the expansive beer list does not): One night you might swoon over melt-in-your-mouth veal sweetbreads with a ricotta pancake and demi-glace enriched with parmesan, and, on another visit, crispy-skinned buttermilk chicken served with wedges of tempura-batter fried green tomatoes. Whatever you start with, though, something from the also-rotating roster of Adamson's delectable desserts is a must — especially if the ganache-slicked stout chocolate cake is an option.

Readers' choice: Sassafras

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