Best Vegan Doughnuts 2016 | Beet Box Bakery & Cafe | Best of Denver® | Best Restaurants, Bars, Clubs, Music and Stores in Denver | Westword

We hesitate to share this winner, for fear that Beet Box Bakery & Cafe will sell out of our favorite doughnuts before we get there. But this vegan bakery's goodies are simply too good to keep to ourselves. And by ourselves, we don't mean folks who eschew the milk and eggs that typically go into these breakfast treats. We mean everyone with a soft spot for morning dessert. Baked, not fried, with coconut milk and applesauce for extra moistness, Beet Box's doughnuts are healthier than average. But trust us, you won't be thinking about what is and isn't in your doughnut when you order a dozen vanilla, chocolate, pumpkin and apple-cake creations, frosted and modestly topped with nuts or coconut. As a bonus, the bakery offers a solid selection of gluten-free options, too.

Danielle Lirette

Ah, the apple fritter. What a glorious creation, full of plump, sugary nubs concealing sweet nuggets of America's favorite fruit. But too many versions aren't worth ordering — so pale and soft you wish you'd just ordered a regular doughnut. At Brider, though, the fritters are always light and crisp, thanks to an extra-long stint in the fryer. Pastry chef Michael Conti finishes them off with an apple-cider glaze that drips over very whorl and ridge, making them mandatory a.m. eating. Move over, apple pie: There's a new kid in town.

Danielle Lirette

Filled doughnuts are a thing of beauty. But Dos Santos's filled churros? Talk about a flash of brilliance. This Uptown taqueria gussies up the classic Mexican treats, dusting them with cinnamon and sugar, plumping them with rich chocolate ganache, and sprinkling them with spicy, honey-glazed bacon. If they sound a little too hedonistic for brunch, maybe this will seal the deal: They come with fresh fruit. That makes them sort of healthy, right?

Katie Knoch

These sweet, deep-fried nuggets at Osaka Ramen have broken a lot of stereotypes. First, they've convinced us that doughnuts aren't just for breakfast anymore. They've also taught us to push back our bowls of lush tonkotsu and spicy miso ramen long before we normally would, if only to save room for the mochi-filled doughnut holes to come. A cross between doughnuts and candy, these addictive fried dough balls boast chewy centers, thanks to the glutinous rice cakes known as mochi tucked inside. And did we mention the over-the-top salted-butter smear? Apparently, culinary director/owner Jeff Osaka's wife has a thing for both mochi and doughnuts (hence the name). And after an order of My Wife's Donuts, so will you.

The gelato at the modest but colorful and cheerful Amore is made fresh daily and tastes as close to the Italian original as you can get — and on the 16th Street Mall, no less. Made with half the air of American ice creams and whole milk rather than heavy cream, Amore's gelato is dense but still creamy, and while its dairy products are local, many other ingredients are brought in from Italy. The offerings change daily, but our favorite is sea-salt Oreo; we're also smitten with the addictively spicy white chocolate-habanero. And the stracciatella — inspired by the soup of the same name, a broth studded with egg and cheese — is a not-too-sweet but rich vanilla rife with bits of high-quality imported chocolate. For those who crave the gelato experience but are lactose-intolerant, Amore features several dairy-free options each day. Love it!

Readers' choice: Sweet Action

Sure, brain freeze can be had by quickly indulging in ice cream or a smoothie — or even a 7-Eleven Slurpee — but why go for lowbrow sweets when you can achieve cranium frostbite with the ultimate in frozen desserts? We're talking about the crazy concoctions coming out of the Inventing Room, chef Ian Kleinman's new brick-and-mortar version of the catering company he runs. Start with a simple s'mores ice cream sandwich, and as the cold starts to seep in, move on to one of Kleinman's wilder creations, like the frozen cherry-vanilla mousse with chocolate cotton candy. This dessert shop also whips out one of the city's most intense sundaes, a treat guests can design and get topped with homemade caramel pop rocks and exploding whipped cream. While all of these delights prove worth the trip themselves, part of the fun is visiting the Ballpark neighborhood shop and watching the magic the staff works with liquid nitrogen, sugar and cream.

Best Food Cart on the 16th Street Mall


Chris Utterback

The edible offerings of the 16th Street Mall are a blur when merely glimpsed from the MallRide. Step off and take a sniff, and the reward will be a fleet of fantastic Mediterranean street-food purveyors, from Saffron Grill to Shondiz. But WikiPita, in the shadow of the Daniels & Fisher clock tower, stands out. The operation recently expanded from a mobile cart to a kiosk, bringing more Mideast goodness to the concrete jungle. Run by Leah Gal and her Israeli-born husband, Itay, WikiPita serves handheld Mediterranean fare, with gyros, falafel, chicken skewers and more, all stuffed into warm, fluffy bread pockets imported from the motherland. For a small fee, WikiPita will even stuff fries into your sandwich, which might be all you need to hear, but there's more: Open at 9:15 a.m. Monday through Saturday, WikiPita also offers Mediterranean-style breakfast pitas and platters with hot sauce and Israeli spices, to help burn away anything you might have done on this very same street last night.

South African cuisine is such a rarity in Denver that the names of the dishes cause nothing but looks of bewilderment. Jozi's started out as a semi-permanent food shack (called a shebeen in Johannesburg's townships) at TheBigWonderful, serving delicious, homey food influenced by waves of South African settlers — Dutch, British, Indian — as well as indigenous traditions. Now on the streets in a bright-red mobile kitchen, Jozi's introduces Denver to bunny chow (beef or vegetarian curry ladled into a hollowed-out bread loaf), borewors and pap (farm-style sausage served over polenta-like cornmeal), and spiced kebabs called sosatie sided with saffron rice. The names may be hard to pronounce, but every bite reads as simply delicious.

Readers' choice: Steuben's

Denver's first full-service salumeria, with everything from pâté to pig-stamped chocolates made in-house, opened in Berkeley last fall with a deli case full of pork products and plenty of slow-agers curing in the back. But before you load up with salami, coppa, chorizo, country ham and other expertly made meats to go, hang out for a while with a sandwich so good you may never want to leave. There are several to choose from, and they're all stuffed with Il Porcellino's housemade meats. Perhaps the best is called simply the Bacon, with layers of thin-sliced bacon (cooked soft, not crunchy), tomato, apple butter and a heady fondue made from Italian cacio pecora cheese, all swaddled between slices of jalapeño-cheddar bread from the Grateful Bread Company. For a more traditional grinder, order the Hoggie, piled thick with coppa cotta, ham and Genoa salami cotta. Go ahead: You have our permission to pig out.

Readers' choice: Snarf's

Sugar rushes come in many forms, but the high quality of the goods popping out of Shauna Lott's oven push this bakery over the top. Lott has been making pies since she was five years old, and you can taste that experience in all of the creations peddled under the moniker Long I Pie. For years she sold her infamous salted-honey lavender pie and a decadent bourbon-chocolate pecan pie online and out of a 1966 Airstream trailer named Stella. Now you can find Lott delivering sweets through Temple Bakery, the storefront and bake shop she started with Eden Myles (of Black Sheep Bagels and Five Points Pizza) in Curtis Park. While you should definitely go for the seasonal and year-round pies, sweets such as the chocolate-laden monster cookies are worth a try, too.

Readers' choice: Wooden Spoon
2400 Curtis St.

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