Catfish at CoraFaye's on East Colfax Avenue.
Mark Antonation
Catfish at CoraFaye's on East Colfax Avenue.

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
Russell's Smokehouse
Joni Schrantz

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.

Roaming Buffalo Bar-B-Que
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
Blackbelly
Danielle Lirette

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
Wild Standard
Wild Standard

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

Ophelia's

Ophelia's Electric Soapbox

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

Ace

Ace Eat Serve
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
City, O' City
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

Restaurant breakfasts can be tough to navigate for those who must avoid gluten; even something as simple as a plate of eggs and bacon generally comes with a side of toast, biscuits, muffins or pancakes. Of course, you can skip the baked goods, but then you're missing out on some of the best morning delights. Revelry Kitchen solves the problem by not only offering all of its dishes with a gluten-free option, but by making many of its items gluten-free to start. So go ahead and plow into a pumpkin cinnamon roll with impunity, chomp on churros or breakfast on biscuits smothered in chorizo gravy: They're all made gluten-free, which means you can relax and enjoy this sunny West Highland spot worry-free.

Readers' choice: Vesta Dipping Grill
Lou's Food Bar
Brian Defoe

Upon receiving a delightful, fragrant bowl of Bones's carbonara ramen, you may notice that it doesn't look much different from a normal serving of tonkotsu ramen. But looks can be deceiving when it comes to Asian-Italian fusion, because instead of pork stock, this ramen consists of a rich parmesan-and-black-truffle broth filled with pork belly, broccoli, a poached egg and, of course, expertly prepared noodles. It's the ultimate in comfort-food fusion, and it also speaks to owner Frank Bonanno's Italian background and love for ramen and noodles as a whole.

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