Second Home Kitchen and Bar
Hunter Stevens

Just about every boozy brunch joint in this town offers some kind of bottomless-mimosa deal, and most follow this basic formula: Mix a little cheap sparkling wine and a strong pour of OJ, repeat several times, and three hours later, you need to nap until tomorrow. Second Home may very well get you to that outcome, but there are a couple of reasons to opt for this $14 all-you-can-drink deal over others. One, the restaurant serves a quartet of juices and doesn't require you stick to one, which means you can stray from the typical orange into cranberry, pineapple or grapefruit (or mix of a couple of these, like pineapple and orange). Two, the restaurant lets you designate your own ratio of sparkling to juice, which overcomes our biggest complaint about most bottomless mimosas: too much OJ, not enough wine. Fill 'er up to the top, please, and then give us a splash of juice. You get your money's worth quickly that way. And three, if you need that nap, you can book a room upstairs in the JW Marriott that houses Second Home.

Readers' Choice: The Lobby

Westbound & Down Brewing Company
Westbound & Down Brewing Company Facebook

What happens when a high-caliber chef like Scott Parker leaves an excellent restaurant like Table 6 and decamps for a brewery kitchen in Idaho Springs? You get a brewpub that's worth a stop, whether you're drinking or not. Westbound and Down deals in sports-bar classics — nachos, pretzels, chili and burgers — and each dish is executed by an exacting hand, resulting in a menu that's elevated in quality but not unnecessarily fancified. This food is immensely comforting, and ideal for pairing with an IPA after a hike or a day on the slopes. Friendly bartenders will set you right, plotting you a course through a trough of green-chile cheese fries littered with pork shoulder; housemade charcuterie ;and a buffalo burger paved with white cheddar. We never miss the hot-fried chicken, either: The poultry comes peppered with lip-tickling spice and sided with a fluffy buttermilk biscuit plus one additional side. Get the mac and cheese — the classic spirals in creamy cheddar are the platonic ideal of the version you loved as a kid.

Readers' Choice: Wynkoop Brewing Company

The Truffle Table
Danielle Lirette

You already know that the cheese collection is stellar at the Truffle Table's slice of space; how could it be otherwise, with proprietors who made their name running a wildly successful artisan cheese shop? But this neighborhood gem should also be on the radar of wine-lovers...even those who are allergic to dairy. We favor wine bars with thoughtful by-the-glass lists, and the Truffle Table delivers on that requirement. Its seasonally shifting list is well-balanced between old world and new world, strange and familiar, voluptuous and restrained. Curated with cheese in mind (of course), the list also has a strong section of sherries and fortified wines that you'll want to peruse, particularly if you like strong, funky cheeses. One of our favorite ways to play here: Pick a wine and then ask a staffer to build a cheese board based on your selection. Or do it the other way around, leading with cheese, and discover something new on the wine front.

Readers' Choice: Vesta

Distillery 291

In his past life, Distillery 291 proprietor Michael Myers was a celebrity photographer, but he'd acquired a fascination with whiskey and the West when he was a kid in Tennessee. In 2011, he moved to Colorado with his sons, and that September he launched 291, with a goal of capturing classic pioneering spirit in every bottle. Distillery 291's whiskeys certainly carry a whiff of Colorado — they're finished on aspen staves, which impart a bit of forest to the nose — and we're fascinated by the clarity of these spirits, a quality that make them comparable to Japanese whiskeys. You taste the precision through the entire line, from the lightly aged and mildly sweet American whiskey to the heady, woodsy Colorado bourbon. The spirits are a delight to sip neat or on the rocks, and their unique character makes us look forward to this operation's next release, be it a happy accident, like the recent high rye bourbon, or something intentional and unusual.

Readers' Choice: Stranahan's

The Populist
Courtesy The Populist Facebook page

Restaurant by-the-glass selections often prioritize accessibility and familiarity — chardonnay, cabernet, sauvignon blanc — and make you venture into the cellar to find something truly interesting to drink. Not so at the Populist, whose by-the-glass list is an immediate standout. Wines from unsung regions like Lebanon and New Mexico get equal billing with Rhone reds and Napa Valley whites here, forming an alluring and well-rounded board of offerings that will please wine geeks and novices alike. And talk about half-full: This restaurant offers every single pour in a half-glass size, which means you can both taste more and taste to educate yourself, sipping something totally different from what you'd normally order without having to commit to a bottle. Don't read this as a call to completely ignore the Populist's bottle list, though, because a few more unusual gems are listed alongside more classic showstoppers from Mosel, Chianti and Burgundy. Better yet, almost everything is priced below $100 per bottle, and the majority of these wines ring in under $60.

Readers' Choice: Nocturne

The Thin Man
Danielle Lirette

Strung with Christmas lights yet perpetually dark, the Thin Man looks like a tavern awash in beer and whiskey. But the bar has long anchored its business on a run of house-infused vodkas, which explains why you'll spy an inordinate number of martini drinkers when you belly up for a drink. Behind the counter sit vats filled with lemons, berries, pickles and sweet tea; they're topped off with vodka and dispensed neat or in cocktails. That practice enables the bartender to give white Russians a bit of a twist, replacing the usual vodka with a vanilla-bean-infused version. Into that goes a little Richardo's coffee liqueur — a locally made spirit pumped up with more vanilla — plus half-and-half. The final mix tastes a little like a vanilla milkshake (though less sweet), and it's a bit lighter than its more classic brethren. Perhaps that's why the Thin Man serves this drink in a full pint glass as opposed to the usual tumbler.

Milkbox Ice Creamery
Courtesy Milkbox Ice Creamery Facebook

Milkshakes aren't just for kids. At Milkbox Creamery, you can choose from four pre-determined boozy options, use a list of available spirits to make your own, or grill the counter staffers for their favorite liquor-fueled creations. How about Key lime pie and coconut ice cream with rum? Or maybe s'mores ice cream spiked with bourbon? No matter what you decide, each $10 treat is made with goods from Little Man Ice Cream and comes in a giant glass complete with whipped cream if you so desire. And because of Milkbox's location, you can enjoy your adult libation in the very grown-up lobby of Union Station.

High Point Creamery
Lori Midson

High Point owners Erika Thomas and Chad Stutz formulate each batch of their ice cream with the minds of chefs and the spirits of giddy children. So nearly every flavor has a little surprise, whether it's the curious hint of miso in the cherry-chocolate or the bursts of violet fudge that hide in a creamy lime base. When booze is used, it's used with abandon, as in the Tin Cup whiskey with pistachio brittle, and when ingredients are listed, you know those flavors will be bold — whether it's Earl Grey tea, fresh mint leaves or the basil in the blackberry-basil swirl. Housemade cones, ice-cream bombe cakes and rich milkshakes add to the sweet allure of this Hilltop shop that built a second location inside Denver Central Market, making for a pair of locations to get Denver's best brain freeze.

Readers' Choice: Little Man

Moxie Bread Co.
Mark Antonation

"We aim to satisfy the soul and nourish the body," says baker and Moxie founder Andy Clark. The nourishing part of the little Louisville bakery he built inside an old Victorian house comes in the form of rustic bread that ferments naturally (with no yeast added) over several days in the French pain au levain style before being baked to a hearty, crusty finish. Stop in at the bakery in the morning for an expertly made espresso drink and avocado toast or head over for a lunchtime sandwich built on chewy slabs of house bread. And to satisfy your soul, choose something a little more decadent, like buttery, flaky croissants — or even more buttery kouign-amann, which sport the same flaky layers crusted with sugar for one of the most pleasurable treats around, especially if you choose a fruit- or chocolate-filled kouign. Moxie is the perfect combination of Old World baking in a small-town America setting.

Readers' Choice: Grateful Bread

After showing off his pie skills at the Post Brewing Company in Lafayette, John Hinman opened Hinman's Bakery, a wholesale outfit that provides Denver restaurants with fresh rolls, breads and desserts. But lovers of good pie don't have to seek out Hinman's products on restaurant menus; they can call the bakery directly to reserve a pie for themselves. Among the fruit-filled wonders that have won baking contests against some of the city's proudest grandmas, Hinman has a bourbon pecan pie that really takes the cake. A perfect crust that holds its shape on the plate while yielding gently between the teeth is loaded with a rich and buttery pecan mixture spiked with bourbon from Denver's own Laws Whiskey House.

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