Best Veggie Burger 2016 | Watercourse | Best of Denver® | Best Restaurants, Bars, Clubs, Music and Stores in Denver | Westword
Danielle Lirette

Watercourse is a veteran when it comes to veggie food, but the restaurant has seen some noticeable changes in the past year. Celebrating a full year as a vegan restaurant, welcoming new owners and perking up the menu and decor, Watercourse is better than ever, and so is the veggie burger. What makes it so great is a new recipe that gives it a firm, toothsome texture from seitan along with a multitude of ingredients and flavors that add depth and pizzazz — from garlic and onion to beet and walnut. A topping of roasted mushrooms adds a final umami touch.

Readers' choice: Park Burger

Molly Martin

Even though Biker Jim's has only graced Larimer Street for a short five years, it seems as if Denver wouldn't be Denver without owner Jim Pittenger's outlandish arsenal of tube steaks topped with his signature Coke-braised onions. What started out as a simple cart on the 16th Street Mall ballooned into a citywide obsession — for sausages of Alaskan reindeer, wild boar and duck (just to name a few), grilled just right and topped just the way we like them, with a choice of seven different killer combos as well as a lengthy create-your-own roster. Such is Biker Jim's reputation for weirdness that when he added the BAT (bacon, avocado and tomato) dog to the menu, concerned citizens called in, thinking there was actual bat in the grind. But even if you prefer your proteins on the traditional end of the spectrum, the all-American dogs here are a ballpark-style home run.

Readers' choice: Biker Jim's
Molly Martin

At first glance, Biker Jim's menu appears to be a vegan's worst nightmare. Featuring meats like reindeer, boar and rattlesnake, it doesn't appear to cater to the more compassionate consumer. However, tucked among all that exotic carnage is the vegan dog, which can be served either "herby" or "spicy" (gotta go with spicy). The dog does not try to mimic its menu mates, nor is it "meaty"-tasting, but rather crisp and lightly fried. To make your vegan experience that much more satisfying, order a mountain of fries or chips (both housemade) and get a side of Biker Jim's excellent charred tahini cauliflower or "biker" baked beans — all vegan. With a full condiment bar that includes spears of dill pickles, the eatery delivers a full and hearty meal that provides true vegans with plenty of energy to hold their own against the carnivores.

Baur's excels at seafood, owing to chef/owner Dory Ford's connection to Monterey Bay, where his restaurant and catering kingdom began. But the downtown eatery's charcuterie program proves that the kitchen really knows how to grind. A rustic and earthy rabbit cassoulet shines thanks to housemade lamb sausage that holds up beautifully in the slow-cooked dish. For an unadulterated array of pure sausage goodness, the charcuterie menu (itself a butcher's bounty of terrines, pâtés and mousses) offers zingy Italian, rich boudin noir, street-style currywurst and lamb merguez scented like a warm breeze from Morocco. Each choice yields a toothsome blend of just the right ratio of fat to lean and a pleasing pop from the casing.

Readers' choice: Biker Jim's

Rebel Restaurant's iconoclastic style, with metal anthems rattling the glassware inside the DIY-decorated former dive bar, extends to a menu of ever-changing, offal-heavy creations, from tripe poutine to revamped shit on a shingle. While those dishes often rotate out, chef/owners Dan Lasiy and Bo Porytko make sure that customers can always get some head — roasted cow, pig or lamb head, that is. Accompaniments change with the season, but the skulls are always slow-cooked so that tender chunks of meat, bathed in a marinade or glaze, pull easily from the bone, ready to be scooped up with housemade flatbread and paired with pickled vegetables, dips and other sides. While the restaurant's environs are far from sexy — unless you have a thing for warehouses, train yards, truck traffic and factories — inside Rebel is a miniature pleasure palace where you can indulge in this most carnal of delights.

On occasion, chef /owner Mark Reggiannini's menu at Cafe Marmotte may stray from tradition — as with a light and airy French onion soup that gracefully shoves aside the heavy, cheese-capped original. But his coq au vin captures the soul of France. Bacon-studded whipped potatoes form a solid base to support braised, bone-in chicken and red cabbage, both deeply imbued with the herbal essence of the accompanying wine-red sauce; pearl onions balance on top as a playful crown for a seriously delicious dish. Cafe Marmotte may be a newcomer in the neighborhood, but with chicken this good, Reggiannini has something to be cocky about.

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.

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
Molly Martin

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

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

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