Cochino Taco
Laura Shunk

Taco Tuesday is a legitimate draw at many bars around town, Mexican or otherwise. But Cochino Taco throws a wrench into the Taco Tuesday machine by making one of its burgers a special that day. Owner Johnny Ballen, who's also a partner in the Squeaky Bean downtown, designed this gut buster that features a ladleful of queso, poblano chiles, fried jalapeño shards and a pile of "lettuce fluff" — Ballen's catchphrase for the fine-shredded iceberg found on diner burgers across the country. A six-ounce patty gets a simple griddling on the flat-top, and then the whole mess is presented with a haystack of kennebec fries. With something this good on the menu, we're wondering why Ballen didn't name his Englewood joint Cochino Burger.

Readers' Choice: Park Burger

You know a veggie burger is good when you crave it even knowing how good a burger joint's beefy offering is. That's the case at American Grind, part of the Avanti food hall's rotating lineup of chef-driven projects. The force behind American Grind is the same crew that runs the Way Back in West Highland, and the veggie burger itself came after three years of R & D from co-owner Jared Schwartz. The Veggieburg, as its called on the menu, is made with beets, carrots, sweet potato, chickpeas and chickpea flour, resulting in a texture that's just shy of a meaty chew but still provides plenty of substance. The veggie-and-legume blend packs good, earthy flavor without pretending to be meat and highlights American Grind's commitment to sourcing from regional farms. Don't expect a weak substitute for an all-beef patty here; this Veggieburg stands on its own.

Readers' Choice: Park Burger

Arcana's menu is long on showstoppers; it reimagines familiar foods with unusual ingredients and innovative flavor combinations. But chef Kyle Mendenhall also knows that in order to truly wow a diner, every bite must sing, from appetizer through dessert, from the meal's focus to the lowly sides. And so his kitchen pays careful attention to things like fries, which accompany a handful of sandwiches on the lunch menu but get no special billing. And these spuds deserve acclaim. Arcana starts with skin-on russet potatoes and cuts them pencil-thin before frying them at two different temperatures — at lower heat to cook them, and at higher heat to crisp them up — and then dusting them with salt. This process, Mendenhall says, ensures that the fries retain a creamy center within a crunchy casing. They're served golden, crispy, salty and hot, and are so good you're likely to power through them and then consider a re-up before you've finished your meal. Give in to the temptation: Arcana sells a side of fries, though it's not listed on the menu.

Readers' Choice: Steuben's

Chef/owner Justin Brunson knows his pork; the hog, after all, provided the inspiration for the name of his LoHi destination eatery (Old Major was the pig in George Orwell's Animal Farm). But when it came to creating a happy-hour hot dog, Brunson and his team went all-beef — specifically, wagyu from Colorado's 7X Beef. The well-marbled meat of Japanese heritage grinds up nicely in Old Major's dog, resulting in a juicy, savory link that's smoked and served on a homemade roll with a tangy topping of house pickles and condiments. That's more than enough to earn our happy-hour dollars — seven of them for this shapely beast — in a neighborhood rife with deals.

Readers' Choice: Biker Jim's

Grind Kitchen + Watering Hole
Mark Antonation

Preston Phillips might be one of the youngest chef/owners in town, but he grew up eating gas-station fried chicken in his home state of Alabama, and he brings that Southern-fried experience to his subterranean Cherry Creek eatery. Grind's bird gets brined and then rested in a buttermilk bath before being fried so that a thick, crunchy coating forms around juicy, silky meat. Each piece comes out a dark reddish-brown, evidence of ample seasonings in the crust, offset by tangy housemade pickles and seasonal sides. In quiet Cherry Creek, the streets now echo with the crunch of Grind's crave-worthy chicken.

Readers' Choice: The Post

Departure
Mark Antonation

Take wing at Departure, the futuristic pan-Asian eatery from chef Gregory Gourdet in the Halcyon Hotel, which opened in Cherry Creek in the summer of 2016. While you won't want to miss Gourdet's authentic Korean, Japanese, Vietnamese and Thai cuisine on the main menu, be sure to start with an order of chile-glazed wings from the dim sum menu. These little nibbles have been lollipopped so that all the meat is at one end of the bone, making for a tidy little bundle with a built-in handle. A light, crispy coating of batter holds a sweet-hot glaze that packs a wallop of Southeast Asian flavors straight from a market stall. Take turns with your dining partner guessing the ingredients (lemongrass, fish sauce, garlic, ginger) — that is, if you can catch a breath between bites before all the wings are gone.

Readers' Choice: Fire on the Mountain

Olive & Finch Eatery & Bakery
Danielle Lirette

Olive & Finch is so much more than a sandwich shop, but chef/owner Mary Nguyen builds such amazing meat-and-bread constructions that most sandwich-only spots pale in comparison. Many of the choices are named after Nguyen's friends and family, so choose from the Luca, an Italian stack; the Bennett, a veggie mix with sweet basil pesto; or the Cashman, which combines roast beef and caramelized onion with Brie and horseradish aioli. Our favorite is the Greggers, a messy pile of beef tongue cooked for six hours and then topped with garlic, caramelized onions, roasted red peppers and tarragon aioli. In a stroke of pure sandwich genius, Nguyen puts many of the sauces on top of the meats and veggies instead of underneath, so the bread doesn't get soggy and the flavors come to the forefront. Get to know these creations on a first-name basis.

Readers' Choice: Stack Subs

Best Sandwich Shop to Rage Against the Machine

Parsley

Parsley
Photo by Johnny Molfetta

Just thinking about the mostly vegetarian grub at Jason Bailey's Golden Triangle lunch spot gets our mouths watering and our feet headed for Parsley. We're big fans of the texture tuna and hummus sandwich, as well as the scratch-made soups. But what really turns us on is the management's dogged distaste for corporate fascism. That temperament starts with lovely green touches: on-site recycling and composting, for example, along with a rooftop garden and mostly organic menu items. Rebel morale slinks out of the kitchen and onto the walls, which are pasted with civil-penalty notices — check out the Museum of the Late Fees — and art for non-conformists. And just so you don't forget your core values when you leave his store, Bailey also hawks a fantastic line of "Feminist as F*ck" T-shirts. Thanks for fighting the good fight, Parsley.

East Side Kosher Deli
Courtesy East Side Kosher Deli Facebook

During his two-year tenure as owner of the venerable East Side Kosher Deli, Joshua Horowitz has been carefully revamping the deli counter and grocery store. And earlier this year, he took things to the next level, gutting the establishment and reopening with a fresh cultural aesthetic and a mouthwatering menu that incorporates a healthy ration of smoked meats — brisket, turkey — along with something unexpected: sushi. An on-site sushi chef rolls out 100 percent kosher sushi, relying on clever alternatives for no-nos such as shellfish. He didn't reinvent the wheel entirely, though: Diners who wander in for the classics will still be greeted with matzoh-ball soup and one heck of a pastrami sandwich.

Roaming Buffalo Bar-B-Que
Danielle Lirette

Coy Webb may be Texan by birth, but he embraced Colorado as the inspiration for the menu at his busy south Denver barbecue joint. Webb and his wife, Rachael, keep the neighborhood — and a small army of barbecue tourists — fed with slow-smoked lamb and bison as well as more traditional beef brisket and pork shoulder and ribs. Housemade bison green-chile sausage (elk sometimes shows up, too) adds Rocky Mountain appeal, as do sides that are just different enough to raise an eyebrow while keeping with tradition. The coleslaw is spiked with lime and cilantro, the cheddar mac is studded with poblano chiles, and even the potato salad gets a little Southwestern flair. Head over for weekly specials like brisket tacos, burnt ends or smoked lemon-pepper trout, but head over early, because Roaming Buffalo nearly always runs out of food before dinner.

Readers' Choice: Moe's Original Bar-B-Que

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