Rebel Restaurant
Mark Antonation

Given the resurgence of the mid-century-modern aesthetic, you might think that everything old is cool again. Not so, of course: Some recipes are better left in the past (jiggly Jello-O salad, we're talking to you). Fortunately, when the crew at Rebel Restaurant dipped into the archives, they chose a much better dish to resurrect: shit on a shingle. In appearance, the dish looks much the same as the original — creamed beef slathered over bread. But that's where the similarities end. In lieu of jarred, heavily salted chipped beef, the kitchen subs beef heart for a deeply beefy, far-less-salty smother, and swaps white bread for brioche. For a bit of 21st-century bling, the dish is garnished with — we kid you not — sparkly gold leaf.

The Corner Bar
Britt Chester

Not content to offer just excellent regular french fries — which are medium-thick, crunchy and golden, and sport a sprinkling of sea salt — the Corner Bar in the Hotel Boulderado also sends out spot-on sweet-potato fries that are soft inside, crispy outside, and not greasy or soggy. It also does terrific truffle fries, which come dusted with Manchego cheese and a nice shake of sea salt, plus a side of truffle-scented aioli. The twenty-year-old bar space was recently renovated and looks so very vintage, with an antique bar back topped by a moose head and other trappings from the hotel's circa 1909 history; the decor makes a lovely backdrop for snacking on fries, possibly accompanied by one of the bar's well-made cocktails.

Readers' choice: Park Burger
Bierstadt Lagerhaus
Bierstadt Lagerhaus

When the Rackhouse Pub finally reopened in its new location in RiNo at the end of 2015, we cheered. Not only did that mean C Squared Ciders on tap, but it also marked the return of the best mac and cheese in town. Not surprisingly for an eatery that sports a huge red sign that reads "Beer," an amber lager is one of the keys to this version's success. Of course, ample amounts of Brie, cream cheese, Gorgonzola, parmesan and half-and-half don't hurt, either, nor does the thin layer of golden-browned panko breadcrumbs that help hold the dish's penne pasta together in rich clumps. The resulting gooey goodness, served to overflowing in a long-handled one-cup measuring cup, comes four ways under the banner of "Mac Attack": the original (aka O.G.); topped with the weekly veggie or meat selection; or topped with even more cheese. We'll have one of each, please.

Readers' choice: Steuben's
Cho77
Courtesy Cho77

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
Cart-Driver
Michael Emery Hecker

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.

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

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