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

Blue Pan Pizza
Paul Joyner

Choices, choices. We first fell in love with Blue Pan Pizza because of chef Jeff "Smoke" Smokevitch's rectangular Detroit-style pies, crunchy on the edges where the cheese caramelizes onto the pan, light and airy in the middle and topped with high-quality ingredients like prosciutto di Parma, San Marzano tomatoes and Tender Belly bacon. But then we tried the floppy New York-style slices and fell in love all over again. And the decisions got even more difficult when we branched out with the Chicago cracker-thin crust and a chewier classic Italian, and found we loved those, too. While a table can be tough to score on a busy weekend night, the pies travel well, so takeout is always an option. But it's fun to be part of the action in this pizzeria's lively, bustling dining room, where wine flows by the bottle (some pretty good ones, too, for a tiny pizza joint) and the pizza keeps coming out of the kitchen in all the shapes and toppings we crave.

Readers' Choice: Racca's Pizzeria Napolitana

Vero
Laura Shunk

According to proprietor Andrea Frizzi, Vero was born when Central Market developer Ken Wolf asked the Italian chef if he knew anyone who could do pizza. "I said, 'Dude. The fuck?'" recalls Frizzi. And he signed the lease for a market stall the next day. Vero offers Milanese-style pizza, which is thinner and crispier than its Napolitano cousin, and topped considerably more creatively. (Frizzi says Milanese pizzas in Italy can be topped with oddities like hot dogs and french fries.) Vero's crust is cracker-crisp, with a nice yeasty complexity; we like ours simply adorned with tangy tomato sauce, bubbling mozzarella and biting fresh basil, though pies here come topped with everything from ricotta and egg to tuna and olives.

Readers' Choice: Racca's Pizzeria Napolitana

Crush Pizza + Tap
Mark Antonation

Chicago-style pizza isn't everyone's bag, and some folks get all red in the face while proclaiming that it's not even pizza. We say: Relax. What's not to like about a buttery, flaky crust, a good, garlicky tomato sauce and a blizzard of mozzarella cheese that forms molten banks against the high edges of the pan? We like Chicago-style even more when it's served at Denver Deep Dish, which nails the basics while bringing a little Southwest to the game with a green-chile-topped pie. What's even better? Deep-dish pizza for brunch, with scrambled eggs topped with all manner of breakfasty goodies, including Denver's own Tender Belly bacon and Polidori sausage. Enough with the Windy City hate; it's time to get with Denver's own Chicago-style pie.

Readers' Choice: Blue Pan Pizza

Ohana Island Kitchen
Laura Shunk

Ohana Island Kitchen's tiny storefront space is perpetually warm and sunny, fitting for a restaurant that takes its inspiration from the Hawaiian islands. While Denver is suddenly swimming in poke, this lunch-only joint's version rises to the top. Raw tuna is the anchor of Ohana's short counter-service menu, supplemented by other Hawaiian treats like Spam musubi (a bit like a Spam sushi roll) and Hawaiian king sliders (slow-cooked pork on Hawaiian sweet rolls). But we can't get enough of the spicy poke, whose crowning touch is the textured pop of tobiko roe mixed into spicy mayo. This simple menu begs to be replicated, and we'd be happy if we saw an Ohana in every neighborhood. As it is, though, Ohana is such a catch for LoHi that it often runs out of poke altogether.

Readers' Choice: Illegal Pete's

McCoy's Restaurant
Mark Antonation

Watch daybreak over Denver or sunset over the Rockies from this all-hours eatery's perch above I-70 on Federal Boulevard. Slide into a vinyl booth or swivel on a stool at the counter while you wait for your chicken-fried steak or smothered burrito. The lonely lives of truckers, the frantic conversations of angst-ridden teens jolted with java, the slow shuffle of guests in their golden years: These are the sights and sounds of McCoy's every night of the week — sights and sounds that come with a free mini-loaf of bread and whipped butter. Pull an all-nighter with no-nonsense waitresses in this classic diner that hasn't changed in decades, then greet a new dawn with a Tequila Sunrise.

Readers' Choice: Denver Diner/Pete's Kitchen (tie)

Snarf's

With development on a tear in Denver, we're lucky that any mature building manages to survive this growth spurt. And we're lucky that Snarf's is doing its bit. Whether the Boulder-born sub chain acquires an old-school brick storefront in the University of Denver neighborhood or a dreamy Googie relic on West 38th Avenue, Snarf's knows how to treat vintage Denver right. Next up? Snarf's will turn a vacant Sinclair gas station into a sweet neighborhood hangout on South Broadway.

Barbecue and ice cream: that's a winning combination in any book. Churn & Burn offers both, plying Denver's streets with goofy but delicious creations like a cornbread waffle bowl loaded with smoked meat, mac and cheese, barbecue sauce and coleslaw. But the crew's traditional barbecue holds its own even without the bells and whistles: slabs of peppery brisket, pulled pork, chicken, hot links, pork belly and even smoked portabello mushrooms all satisfy our prehistoric urge to gorge on proteins cooked over fire. Ice cream flavors change regularly, but expect equally eccentric combos, like an ice cream sandwich made with shortcake cupcakes or brownies. First you burn, then you churn — or switch it up and have dessert first; you'll love Churn & Burn either way.

churnandburn.siterubix.com

Readers' Choice: Steuben's

Denver-based Smart Cookie makes all-natural small-batch dog treats from scratch that are available for purchase online and at many local pet-supply stores. But with luck and a little research, you and your pooch just might happen upon the Smart Cookie Barkery Cart — a treat-vending cart on a giant trike — at a variety of flea markets and other public events around town. Or you could throw a doggie birthday party and hire the trike to come to your home. If food trucks are for everyone, shouldn't dogs have their day, too? Hell, woof!

smartcookietreats.com

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