Best Wine Bar 2017 | The Truffle Table | Best of Denver® | Best Restaurants, Bars, Clubs, Music and Stores in Denver | Westword
Danielle Lirette

You already know that the cheese collection is stellar at the Truffle Table's slice of space; how could it be otherwise, with proprietors who made their name running a wildly successful artisan cheese shop? But this neighborhood gem should also be on the radar of wine-lovers...even those who are allergic to dairy. We favor wine bars with thoughtful by-the-glass lists, and the Truffle Table delivers on that requirement. Its seasonally shifting list is well-balanced between old world and new world, strange and familiar, voluptuous and restrained. Curated with cheese in mind (of course), the list also has a strong section of sherries and fortified wines that you'll want to peruse, particularly if you like strong, funky cheeses. One of our favorite ways to play here: Pick a wine and then ask a staffer to build a cheese board based on your selection. Or do it the other way around, leading with cheese, and discover something new on the wine front.

Readers' Choice: Vesta

In his past life, Distillery 291 proprietor Michael Myers was a celebrity photographer, but he'd acquired a fascination with whiskey and the West when he was a kid in Tennessee. In 2011, he moved to Colorado with his sons, and that September he launched 291, with a goal of capturing classic pioneering spirit in every bottle. Distillery 291's whiskeys certainly carry a whiff of Colorado — they're finished on aspen staves, which impart a bit of forest to the nose — and we're fascinated by the clarity of these spirits, a quality that make them comparable to Japanese whiskeys. You taste the precision through the entire line, from the lightly aged and mildly sweet American whiskey to the heady, woodsy Colorado bourbon. The spirits are a delight to sip neat or on the rocks, and their unique character makes us look forward to this operation's next release, be it a happy accident, like the recent high rye bourbon, or something intentional and unusual.

Readers' Choice: Stranahan's

Restaurant by-the-glass selections often prioritize accessibility and familiarity — chardonnay, cabernet, sauvignon blanc — and make you venture into the cellar to find something truly interesting to drink. Not so at the Populist, whose by-the-glass list is an immediate standout. Wines from unsung regions like Lebanon and New Mexico get equal billing with Rhone reds and Napa Valley whites here, forming an alluring and well-rounded board of offerings that will please wine geeks and novices alike. And talk about half-full: This restaurant offers every single pour in a half-glass size, which means you can both taste more and taste to educate yourself, sipping something totally different from what you'd normally order without having to commit to a bottle. Don't read this as a call to completely ignore the Populist's bottle list, though, because a few more unusual gems are listed alongside more classic showstoppers from Mosel, Chianti and Burgundy. Better yet, almost everything is priced below $100 per bottle, and the majority of these wines ring in under $60.

Readers' Choice: Nocturne

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

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