Best White Russian 2017 | The Thin Man | Best of Denver® | Best Restaurants, Bars, Clubs, Music and Stores in Denver | Westword
Tony White

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.

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.

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

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.

Linnea Covington

For three years, this bright-yellow doughnut shop in Arvada has churned out quality pastries thanks to Peter, "just Peter," the baker, manager and one-man band who owns OMG Donuts with his Texas-dwelling wife. The specialty is a large, yeast-risen model that looks like a pine cone and pulls apart in neat little chunks of sugar-cinnamon goodness. Doughnut lovers should also order one or five of the freshly stuffed jelly doughnuts, a choose-your-own-adventure option that includes raspberry jam, lemon curd, Bavarian cream, peanut butter or vanilla custard. Take them to go or wolf down a doughnut at one of the two sports-themed tables in the tiny store.

Readers' Choice: Voodoo Doughnut

Beast + Bottle chef/co-owner Paul Reilly has a way with meat; that much is clear from his dinner menus packed with pork and lamb prime cuts and outstanding offal. Reilly's whole-animal philosophy spills over into brunch, too, served Saturdays and Sundays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. And while you can sink your teeth into the likes of smoked trotter confit, corned lamb and B + B's always craveable fig + pig flatbread, more delicate breakfast items — classic French omelets, airy flaxseed waffles, housemade pastries — demonstrates the kitchen's finesse. Anything made with eggs reflects a farm-to-table commitment; Beast + Bottle has its own dedicated egg-laying flock at Cottonwood Creek Farms. Combine that with gracious and cheery service that trickles down from co-owner Aileen Reilly, and you've got a warm and welcoming brunch from a capital crew.

Readers' Choice: Snooze

A classic eggs Benedict at Maddie's is like coming home for the Hollandaise. In this brunch-crazed city, where restaurants offer creative takes on every eggy dish under the rising sun, Maddie's stands out for sticking with tradition. Last fall, Maddie's made the move from its original tiny cottage to a big new home next door, built diner-style from the bones of a former service station; the retro digs serve as a good backdrop for a simple but delicious eggs Benedict, veering from the standard formula only by slipping some smoked Gouda between the ham and poached egg. Hollandaise sauce adds a sunny lemon zing, and the whole thing is built on, yes, an English muffin; there's nary a fried polenta cake or wedge of artisan bread to be found. A vegetarian version can be had, too, which swaps out the ham for sauteed veggies. If you're really feeling crazy, there's also a bagel-and-lox Bennie, which is really just a bagel-and-lox sandwich with a poached egg on top.

Readers' Choice: Snooze

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

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