Best Breakfast Burrito — Handheld 2017 | El Zarape | Best of Denver® | Best Restaurants, Bars, Clubs, Music and Stores in Denver | Westword

Best Breakfast Burrito — Handheld

El Zarape

If you want Denver's best breakfast burrito, you have to be willing to work for it, because it's hard to find. El Zarape is tucked away on Federal Boulevard, nestled into a shared parking lot with a used-car dealership. The best clue to its location: a line of cars that spills out onto Federal as hungry drivers wait for their unbeatable breakfast burritos, a bargain at $1.99 each. A homemade tortilla is wrapped around freshly fried potatoes, eggs and your choice of breakfast meat, wrapped in aluminum foil and then stashed in a paper bag with two packages of salsa. Grab the bag, pull out onto Federal and wait for a light before you attempt to spice up the burrito and take a bite. Traffic signal willing, it's a great way to start the day.

Readers' Choice: Santiago's

Lancer's Diner opened last spring as a neighborhood joint for Harvey Park, College View, Ruby Hill and Mar Lee, taking its name from the mascot of Lincoln High School, just across Federal. Big breakfasts are the specialty of the house, and the awe-inspiring breakfast burrito sticks close to that mission. A mountain of scrambled eggs, country potatoes, sautéed veggies and breakfast meat is barely contained by a straining flour tortilla. Order the standard for bacon and sausage (together, of course), or opt for spicy chorizo or steak. You can go meat-free, too, with avocado or unadorned egg and potato. But always, always ask for your burrito smothered so that you can wallow in a pond of the house green chile — a Denver-style gravy with plenty of chiles and a smooth texture that steers clear of gloppiness. Lancer's isn't a big place, so take care when ordering; this breakfast burrito could crowd out all the other customers.

Readers' Choice: Santiago's

Mark Manger

We've watched creative twists on nachos proliferate around town, and we can get down with many of those variations. But sometimes you just want the age-old combo, sans barbecue sauce or buffalo chicken. That's when we head to El Camino, which takes the classic version and improves on each ingredient without straying from the original form. Chips are thick-cut and freshly fried. Mild Jack cheese, tangy pico de gallo, earthy black beans, racy pickled jalapeños, a dusting of cilantro and a few ribbons of sour cream are used generously but in ideal ratios, so that the toppings balance each other without a single flavor becoming overwhelming. The crowning touch is the green chile, which you can order either pork-infused or vegetarian. The chile is applied sparingly so the nachos don't become soggy or soupy, but it imparts an addictive, savory head. Add chorizo or carnitas if you must, but the meat-free version works just fine for us.

Laura Shunk

Buried in a nondescript Arvada strip mall, Las Potrancas has much to recommend it: solid green chile, good chips and salsa, killer huevos rancheros, tequila bottle service (and tequila lockers, in case you'd like to store your purchase). But the best reason to venture to this cantina is the rellenos nachos, an inspired variation on the bar classic that dials up the indulgence factor considerably. For this snack, the kitchen replaces chips with a pile of chopped chiles rellenos — as in deep-fried chiles stuffed with Jack cheese. Add spicy green chile, more cheese and a little pico de gallo, and you get a platter that looks like a competitive eating challenge and eats like a guilty pleasure (and, oh, what a pleasure). Add chicken, steak or chicharrones to make these nachos a meal.

Mark Antonation
El Tejado's potato tacos

Complimentary chips and salsa, once a hallmark of many Mexican restaurants in Denver, are getting harder and harder to find. But at El Tejado, they arrive at your table before you can even ask. The flavorful chips are made fresh every day in the kitchen; they have an ideal crunch and don't sag before delivering a load of the tangy salsa. Since you're already a couple of bucks to the good, go ahead and order one of El Tejado's four special salsas or even a side of green chile — the hot is a killer.

Danielle Lirette

We are absolute suckers for a good Tommy's margarita, so named for the San Francisco restaurant that made famous the blend of tequila, lime and simple syrup. It's sweeter than your triple-sec-spiked version, but it sure does go down easily. And so does Dos Santos, which serves a Tommy's house margarita that had us — hook, lime and sinker — from first sip. To its simple blend of citrus and agave, Dos Santos adds high-quality Arette tequila, a complex and verdant spirit, then presents the drink simply in a jar with a wedge of lime and a bit of salt. Get it for a paltry $5 on Taco Tuesday, when several of the restaurant's excellent tacos are only $2 apiece, and enjoy it on the patio.

Readers' Choice: Rio Grande Mexican

Danielle Lirette

Brian Rossi's love affair with agave spirits has been developing for more than a decade, and since he launched Adelitas four years ago, Denver drinkers have been the direct beneficiary of his obsession. Rossi set out to highlight small, independent producers making high-quality tequila, and he amassed a sizable collection of such bottlings that continues to grow. After a trip to Oaxaca turned him on to the charms of the educational experience offered by mezcalerias, he opened Palenque directly behind his flagship, expanding his Mexican spirits offerings to encapsulate mezcal and other agave-based libations. This gives you, the discerning imbiber, an opportunity to taste dozens of rare finds, discovering whether you prefer smoky notes in a mezcal; verdant, smooth tequila; or another agave spirit entirely, such as raicilla. You'll have to bar-hop to take it all in, but you'll stay on the same city lot — and Palenque's cozy environs present a nice contrast to the slightly wilder Adelitas. More of a cocktail drinker? No problem. Both joints offer a list of drinks that nicely showcase their wares, including the excellent house margarita at Adelitas.

The Hornet

Because the weekend is just not long enough for Denver's favorite meal, the Hornet extended its brunch to include Friday, too. That means from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Friday through Sunday, you can buy yourself a pass at the Bloody Mary bar for just $2, and get a glass with ice and the house vodka, to which you add Bloody Mary mix (spicy or not), along with assorted sauces, seasonings and veggies. And in case this Bloody leaves you hungry, the Hornet has plenty of brunch deals, too.

Cassandra Kotnik

We've got an offer you can't refuse. The Bloody Mary bar at Gaetano's — a seventy-plus-year-old restaurant in northwest Denver started by the Mob-connected Smaldone family, then acquired by the Wynkoop Brewing group and finally by independent owner Ron Robinson — is a real liquid asset in this city. The $8-meal-in-a-glass starts with your choice from three vodkas (including one pickled by the Gaetano's bar), and then you add whatever you want from 75 sauces (hot or not), along with meaty items (succulent shrimp, jerky, housemade sugary bacon) and vegetables. Weekend bartender Cailyn Smith is in charge of this bountiful bar feature, and it's reason to raise a glass not just to a single Bloody Mary bar, but Gaetano's long history.

Readers' Choice: Gaetano's

Denver musician Nathaniel Rateliff teamed up with a couple of his bandmembers and the owners of the hi-dive to take over the former Bushwacker's Saloon and unveil it as the Overland in the summer of 2016. But don't go here because you're a fan of the Night Sweats; the team has created a bona fide Broadway watering hole, worthy of a stop for late-night whiskeys after a long shift, beers with friends at happy hour or a solid plate of grub (don't miss the poblano hush puppies) in an unpretentious setting. While not exactly a dive, the Overland feels lived-in and low-key, with just enough dining-room space for those who want to get a little rowdy without disturbing the regulars at the low-slung bar. That bar is a wonder in and of itself, with a sunken floor so that bartenders greet you at eye level rather than looking over your head for the next customer. Grab a stool and a drink and soak in the atmosphere without worrying about obscure cocktail ingredients or a head-spinning array of fancy beers. Sure, there are fancier saloons in town, but the Overland is where you'll want to go day in and day out, when everything else in Denver feels too fancy by half.

Readers' Choice: Palenque

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