Laws Whiskey House
Danielle Lirette

Laws Whiskey House bills itself as a grain-to-glass distillery, a phrase you might be tempted to deride as meaningless, given that all distilled spirits start with grain. But pop into the tasting room, and you'll hear the lore behind the whiskeys, down to the names of the farmers who grow the wheat, corn, barley and rye. The operation even gives a nod to its growers with the Farmers Select Single Barrel, a run managed by the farmers who grow and malt Laws's rye. Much of what goes into these whiskeys is grown in Colorado, helping to create an award-winning core line as well as one-off experiments.

Readers' Choice: Leopold Bros.

The Family Jones
Danielle Lirette

When the Family Jones rolled into LoHi, it gave Denver a unique offering: a high-end bar program built entirely on spirits made in-house. The ambitious endeavor is only possible because of the staffing: Rob Masters, a top talent in Colorado distilling, runs the still, while Nick Touch, who cut his teeth at Williams & Graham, oversees the bar. The duo collaborates on what's coming off the line, with Touch giving real-time feedback on how spirits work in cocktails as well as driving the development of such staples as triple sec and a substitute for vermouth. You don't have to be a geek to enjoy the creative cocktails and twists on classics that serve as a showcase for the results; just settle into a plush booth, order something from the creative food menu to go with your cocktails, and join the family.

Bigsby's Folly
Mark Antonation

In a cavernous brick building that was once a factory, Chad and Marla Yetka built a winery and wine bar named after their departed golden retriever, Bigsby. The wine list at Bigsby's Folly isn't lengthy or built on big-name vintages; instead, you'll find a selection of varietals made from California-grown grapes, some created on site and some crafted at the company's satellite winery in the San Francisco Bay area. A slate of wine-friendly dishes, including flatbreads, sandwiches and antipasto boards, helps round out the experience, so you can judge your favorite food-and-wine pairings before taking home a vintage-labeled bottle or growler filled from the wine tap.

Readers' Choice: LaLa's Wine Bar + Pizzeria

Pizzeria Locale
Rob Christensen

Yes, Locale Boulder's older sibling, Frasca Food and Wine, has an indomitable cellar, lovingly tended by master sommelier and owner Bobby Stuckey, with the help of a sizable wine team. But Locale's list gets the nod because it shows off how well this crew can edit. The Italian-heavy roster was built with pizza in mind, traversing both classics and palate-expanding rarities at price points befitting a pie parlor. There's plenty to explore in the by-the-glass offerings, some of which are poured on tap; half-glass serving sizes enable a wander through the breadth. The bottle list offers further variety and great value; several options ring in below $50. And, as at Frasca, obsessive attention has gone toward ensuring that wines are served at the proper temperature and in good glassware, making it all the more pleasurable to drink. The kicker: If you ask nicely, you can access Frasca's cellar at Locale, too.

Readers' Choice: Mercantile Dining & Provision

Best Unexpected Restaurant Wine List

Hop Alley

Hop Alley
Danielle Lirette

With its hip-hop vibe and tricked-out Chinese food, Hop Alley immediately strikes you as more of a cocktail-and-beer joint. But it's the wine list — with an assist from the well-rounded cider program — that keeps us bellying up to the bar. Juicy high-acid whites like riesling and chenin blanc, bold Rhône varietals like syrah, and a robust list of sparkling options are ideal partners for the spicy-sour-sweet dishes coming out of the kitchen, and they make up nearly half of the offerings. But Hop Alley has also given the hip-hop treatment to its vinous offerings, offering plenty of interesting finds: orange wine, large-format stunners, odd varietals, even a white Zinfandel. We keep plumbing the depths of this list and have yet to hit even a mediocre bottle.

Annette
Danielle Lirette

Annette began garnering acclaim the moment it opened its doors, as fans flocked to Stanley Marketplace for chef Caroline Glover's inventive flavors and wood-fired cooking, served in a warm space with a homey vibe. Her pursuit of excellence extends to happy hour, which runs from 3 to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. Afternoons see Glover serving a beefed-up menu of snacks not available during dinner service. Recent seasonal highlights include the grilled cheese, which layers grilled mild rye with sharp cheddar, sweet apples and caramelized onions; and the egg salad toast, a deli-style lunch offering that Glover improves with the toasty notes of the bread and a layer of paper-thin radishes that add a crisp bite. The centerpiece of the menu, though, is one of the best steak frites in town, built on a generous heap of addictive and crispy pencil-thin fries, then topped with a refreshing arugula salad.

Readers' Choice: There...

Cart-Driver
Michael Emery Hecker

Cart-Driver's tiny shipping-container space ensures that the wood-fired pizzeria always feels full, but never is it more lively than between 10 p.m. and midnight. That's when it puts out a roster of late-night happy-hour deals that lure in a thrumming crowd, composed heavily of industry types getting off shifts at nearby eateries. During these hours, you can score a $5 Daisy (Cart-Driver's answer to the Napolitano-style margherita), a $5 rye Manhattan and a $5 pilsner plus a shot of Fernet. But don't miss the $5 plate of sardines and freshly baked bread, served with butter and sambal. For us, that's the ultimate late-night snack.

Readers' Choice: Adelitas Cocina y Cantina

The Populist
Courtesy The Populist Facebook page

Don't hold populism's Trump-era political association against the Populist: This ode to the common man is the polar opposite of abrasive or garish. In fact, it's so subtle, it's easy to miss entirely: The low-key signage and facade melt innocuously into more industrial surroundings. Come in the winter, for instance, and you might not even notice the twinkling patio. And that's a shame, because in warmer weather, this lush oasis, sequestered from the outside by verdant walls and glittering under strands of lights, is one of the best places in town for a glass of wine and a snack. It's a good spot to meet your neighbors, too, since community tables facilitate conversation among new friends. In keeping with its demure exterior, the restaurant itself yields its delights slowly, which is why we continue to fall in love anew with the place.

Readers' Choice: Low Country Kitchen

El Five
Danielle Lirette

When a new building usurped the view from Linger's rooftop patio, owner Justin Cucci made a logical move: He signed a lease for the fifth floor of that building, regaining his overlook for all time, since Denver zoning codes won't allow construction to rise any higher. We support the move, for it brought us El Five, a sultry homage to European and Middle Eastern Mediterranean cuisine. As at all of Cucci's restaurants, the dining room is a glamorous place to be. But when the weather's nice, that space doesn't hold a candle to the patio, which looks down on Denver's skyline and backs into the bar. Not surprisingly, that outdoor space is so popular, you'll need to get there early to score real estate, or be prepared for a long wait.

Readers' Choice: Avanti Food & Beverage

Romero's K9 Club and Tap House
Courtesy Romero's K9 Club & Tap House Facebook page

Romero's is serious about pleasing your pooch while providing a safe and clean atmosphere for humans. Some restaurants allow dogs on the patio, but this Lafayette beer bar takes the time to register dogs before they're allowed in the leash-free outdoor beer garden. It really is a club, with passes that can be purchased for a day, month or year, and there's also a temperature-controlled pavilion for on-leash furry friends. Even better, you'll find a stellar craft-beer list and bar snacks for both you and your faithful companion. Don't leave your labradoodle behind next time you're in the mood for a sudsy excursion.

Readers' Choice: Denver Beer Co.

Best Of Denver®

Best Of