Best Tacos 2016 | Taqueria El Trompito | Best of Denver® | Best Restaurants, Bars, Clubs, Music and Stores in Denver | Westword

El Trompito's Denver taquerias offer a wide range of the standards found at most Front Range taco shops, but to experience the house specialties, you must sample the slow-braised meats, which balance deep, cooked-down flavors with toothsome texture. Not to be missed is the barbacoa de borrego, shredded lamb so juicy you'll have to hold your elbows high to keep your wrists clean. But the beef cabeza, lengua and barbacoa are standouts, too, as are the tacos toñitas, stewed meat and veggies on a corn tortilla. Of course, a good taqueria is not complete without a salsa bar — and El Trompito doesn't disappoint, with tubs of chile blends ranging from tongue-warming to face-melting.

Readers' choice: Pinche Tacos
Danielle Lirette

For more than sixty years, La Popular has been defining Den-Mex, with thick green chile, smothered burrito torpedoes, and — most important — perfect tamales that somehow manage to be simultaneously fluffy and dense inside their corn-husk wrappers. Choose either red chile with moderate heat or green chile to please peppier palates, but don't be content with just two or three served à la carte; tamales this good should be ordered by the dozen. Mix and match for a colorful combo and grab a tub of green chile while you're there. In fact, make it a banquet, with housemade tortilla chips, salsa and fruit-filled empanadas for dessert. La Popular still assembles one of Denver's cheapest — and most satisfying — moveable feasts.

Readers' choice: Tamale Kitchen
Danielle Lirette

The third time's a charm for Adelitas. We've been fans of the house margarita — a generous pour of Cimarron tequila mixed with fresh-squeezed lime juice, agave syrup and triple sec — since our first sip, shortly after the casual Colorado cantina opened on South Broadway. Over the past three years, we've forced ourselves to swallow house margs all over town — some syrupy-sweet, some sickeningly sour — and have yet to find one as good as the marg at Adelitas. At $5, it's a bargain — and the bargain gets even better during the two daily happy hours (from 3 to 6 p.m. and 10 p.m. to close), when the margs are $4. And on Monday nights, the deal gets better yet: House margs are two-for-one.

Readers' choice: Rio Grande
Molly Martin

Happy-hour lovers can stop bar-hopping and doing endless Yelp searches for the best happy hours throughout the city, because the best all-day happy hour lives at Historians Ale House. The daylong happy hour repeats Monday through Friday and includes $2.50 select drafts, $3 wells and house wines for $4. Wash down the booze with $6 appetizers throughout the day, or pause for the $5.95 cheeseburger and soda/beer lunch special in the middle of it. Historians bartenders know better than to overserve you, and it's unlikely you'd be able to withstand the 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. happy hour even if they didn't cut you off. But if you happen to have a weekday off, make the most of it with a handful of beers and a few baskets of pizza sliders.

Molly Martin

The Bannock Street Garage is a dark dive bar that oozes character and happens to have the best all-day-every-day drink deal in Denver, the Billy Jack. For $5, you get a holy trinity of vices — a shot of whiskey, a PBR, and the cherry on top: an extra-long Pyramid cigarette. Besides the Billy Jack, there's plenty to keep you occupied at the Garage — old-fashioned ring-toss, a pool table that can be converted to play ping-pong, a vintage popcorn machine to cure the munchies, a music stage, and a few TVs for good measure. It's all housed in what used to be an actual body shop, and it retains that gritty, oily feel. Throw down your shot, grab your PBR and cigarette, and head to the bare-bones patio out back for some soul-searching. Act like a regular and prop the door with a rock; it locks from the outside.

It took a renovation and a menu revamp to make LoHi SteakBar into a happy-hour all-timer, but folks up north are sure glad it did. And whether the streets are boisterous or still after dark, SteakBar has happy hour covered. From 10 p.m. 'til last call at midnight (or 1-ish on the weekends), the grill is still fired up and tossing around top-quality meats. Almost everything at happy hour is deep-fried or riven with sinew and fat, all the better to accompany two-for-one drafts, wells and house wines. One exception: lovely buck-a-shuck oysters, serving as a fine entry into late-night gluttony. Green-chile cheese fries ($8) throw you right into the deep end with a savory serving of Southwest-style poutine. Mini Blue Smoke burgers ($3 each) offer a high-quality grind topped with blue cheese and bacon. But the standout is the mini steak sandwich with Gruyère and onions ($4), a simply prepared treat that brings the goods from SteakBar's meat locker for a bite-sized price.

Readers' choice: Highland Tap & Burger

With every visit to the Squeaky Bean, there's an ever-present lightness of being, an unspoken invitation to relax and let the serious world pass by. This atmosphere is especially appealing in the early-evening hours, when the 4-to-6 p.m. cocktail hour brings accessible prices and choices. The Bean just reinvented itself yet again, putting the emphasis on seasonal offerings from the restaurant's farm rather than kitchen theatrics. Local beets dashed with hazelnuts, crushed raspberries and sorrel ($8) present the bounty of Bean Acres with comely simplicity. Crispy cauliflower ($7) is brought to life with a soft smothering of sunflower seed-mint pesto. Meat gets its due in the complex Szechuan-style chicken wings ($6) and the all-American burger special ($15), complete with special sauce, fries and a 7Up. All of this complements a stellar cocktail list with retro recipes and modern ingredients for $5 apiece. The Squeaky Bean's happy hour changes with the seasons but remains one of the greats.

Readers' choice: Highland Tap & Burger

While sampling the finest sushi and omakase in Denver, you might not come across many generous happy hours. Ototo, dipping into the tradition of its Pearl Street sisters Sushi Den and Izakaya Den, is a surprising exception. Roaring back from the dead in mid-2015, Ototo immediately released a kaiju-sized happy-hour menu that shows off the restaurant's eclectic and cozy fare, served Wednesday and Thursday from 4:30 to 5:30 p.m. and 9:30 to 10 p.m. (both end one hour later on weekends). Scallops and enoki mushrooms from the charcoal-fired robata grill ($5 each) are wrapped in bacon and simply skewered, paired with $4 draft beers, half-price wines and hot sakes to keep the vibe lively. Crisply seared gyoza ($4) represent Ototo's classic roots, while sublime Japanese fried chicken expands on a very welcome trend. It's a happy hour that's true to the communal robata spirit, and a refreshing successor to the Den lineage.

Since longtime Denver chef Matt Selby — known for his cutting-edge kitchen work at Vesta Dipping Grill, Ace and Steuben's — came on board as a consultant in November 2015, Brik on York has been hitting its stride. With Selby's help, owner and level-two certified sommelier Travis Gee revamped the erratic menu, and the result is a lineup of delectable dishes — chile-spiked sizzling garlic shrimp, wood-fired Brussels sprouts, truffle-scented popcorn dusted with pecorino — that pair beautifully with wine. And what a wine list it is: eight pages of old- and new-world choices, available from the half-glass on up to a full bottle and poured using either the Enomatic or Coravin systems to maintain quality and prevent oxidation, with insider info on the regions providing context and Gee himself often stopping by to share his take. The wine bar and pizzeria (all of the pies are wood-fired, with scissors provided to cut your own pieces) sits in a 1905 building in the Wyman Historic District, and its motley past — including time as a matinee theater and a watch-repair shop — imbues the setting with a sense of bygone times that enhances the wine experience. Those who aren't into wine can enjoy the dozen or so beers available or a well-made cocktail, and late-night live music from local bands is a nice touch.

Readers' choice: Lala's Wine Bar & Pizzeria

It's no surprise that a farm-to-table restaurant devoted to deliberate sourcing would also offer wines — from a 27-page list, by the way — that have been carefully and individually chosen for their ability to pair properly with the elegant Boulder bistro's imaginative menu. But Black Cat's wine collection, usually comprising between 300 and 400 options from around the globe and chosen by general manager and beverage director Dev Ranjan, goes beyond a mere gathering of good and great wines. Ranjan seeks out exceptionally rare and older-vintage examples, and the restaurant's Coravin system allows unique wines — say, the 2011 Mauro Molino Barolo "Gallinotto," or La Follette's 2012 Sangiacomo Vineyard chardonnay — to be offered by the glass. Black Cat also features an unusually long list of grower Champagnes by the half and full bottle, and the bistro's commitment to farmers even extends to a namesake wine from Colorado: Black Cat has co-developed a full-bodied meritage with Boulder-based Bookcliff Vineyards. Without being pretentious or overly scientific, the wine list is sprinkled with truly helpful explanations of things like what natural wine really is and why biodynamics are important and how terroir affects outcomes. Drink and learn.

Readers' choice: Mizuna

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