Best Restaurant With a View of a Car Wash

Garibaldi

Garibaldi Mexican Bistro
Mark Antonation

While cruising Broadway through downtown Englewood, be sure to stop for tacos, a tank of gas and a car wash — all under one roof. Garibaldi shares a building with a Conoco service station; the little cantina is wedged between the gas station's convenience store and automated car wash. A window in the dining room even looks directly onto the whirling brushes and showers of suds as cars make their way through, so you'll be entertained while you enjoy lunch or dinner. Of course, we wouldn't send you to a taqueria if it wasn't top-notch; despite the scintillating setting, the food is still the main attraction here. Daily specials — lamb barbacoa, quesadillas with huitlacoche and squash blossoms — are worth investigating (check ahead on Garibaldi's Facebook page), or sample the unique quekas, which come in somewhere between an oversized taco and a corn-tortilla quesadilla. The thick, semi-crunchy shell enfolds layers of cheese and your choice of carnitas, chorizo, carne al pastor or the house specialty, suadero. Other hard-to-find regional dishes include pambazos (smothered tortas), nopales rellenos (stuffed cactus leaves) and mixiote (slow-cooked lamb). Fill 'er up!

Carniceria Aaliyah
Carniceria Aaliyah Facebook

Federal Boulevard is rife with good Mexican grub, much of it from market lunch counters where you can grab groceries and then sit down for a plate of tacos or a steaming bowl of caldo de res. Carniceria Aaliyah, which opened in the second half of 2016, has a tidy, well-stocked butcher counter, a few aisles of packaged goods and a steam table of hot foods for a grab-and-go dinner, unless you prefer to sit at the market's lone table for a quick bite. That's exactly the thing to do when you order tamales, because Aaliyah makes them so tender and rich with lard you won't want to save them for later. Available in red or green chile, these steamed bundles are smooth, dense and packed with flavorful shredded pork. After you've devoured your order, add a tamale six-pack or two to your shopping basket for dinner at home.

Readers' Choice: Adelitas

Best Breakfast Burrito — Handheld

El Zarape

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

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

El Camino Community Tavern
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.

Las Potrancas Mexican Restaurant
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.

El Tejado's potato tacos
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.

Dos Santos Taqueria de Mexico
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

Adelitas Cocina y Cantina
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.

Best Bloody Mary Deal
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.

Best Of Denver®

Best Of