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.

The Royal
Westword

Denver's best hamburger isn't a hamburger; it's a patty melt. We know that's just splitting hairs: The difference is really only in the bread. Because otherwise, the Jalapeño Mojo Melt at the Royal checks all the right boxes for a delicious burger — juicy, gooey, spicy, beefy and messy — while adding crunch and flavor with grilled marble rye bread. Mojo sauce, cream cheese aioli and grilled peppers and onions are piled on with abandon, but the just-pink patty is still the star. You can find other melts at this Berkeley burger bar, too, or stick with a plain-Jane bun for something a little more standard.

Readers' Choice: Park Burger

Hopdoddy's Impossible burger
Mark Antonation
Hopdoddy's Impossible burger

We wouldn't steer you the wrong way when it comes to veggie burgers, but do beef-loving Texans really know how to pull off a great meatless meal? Austin-based Hopdoddy does. In fact, the burger bar — located alongside Union Station — offers two distinctly different plant-based patties. The first is La Bandita, made with black beans and corn and topped with avocado, arugula pesto and lots of other wholesome stuff. But for a mind-blowing experience, try the Impossible, which boasts an uncanny appearance and texture — pink, juicy and tender. You're not being served the wrong burger, though; Impossible is a California company dedicated to changing to the way modern food is produced, starting with plant-based proteins. No matter which veggie burger you pick, though, you won't have a beef with Hopdoddy.

Readers' Choice: BurgerFi

Mexican hamburger.
Mark Antonation
Mexican hamburger.

The Mexican hamburger is a Denver original — not a regular hamburger with Mexican toppings, but a burrito stuffed with a burger patty, refried beans and cheese. A blanket of green chile is also a must, and La Fiesta gets it right on all counts. A char-grilled beef patty lends the unmistakable essence of a hamburger, while the house green chile — a neighborhood favorite since the early 1960s — adds warmth without the three-alarm fire. Everything about this Curtis Park eatery feels frozen in time, but the Mexican hamburger is a timeless classic that still holds up.

Old Major

A chicken thigh is a wise choice when building a better fried-chicken sandwich; the dark meat has more fat and flavor than the breast, so it cooks up juicy and rich, not dry and boring. The thigh is the sturdy foundation of Old Major's craveable and crunchy sandwiches, served as part of chef/owner Justin Brunson's Royal Rooster lunch. Keep it simple with a squishy potato bun, pickles, lettuce and mayo, or go bold with the Korean Rooster, amped up with spicy kimchi and Kewpie mayo. Then there's the French Rooster with ham, Swiss and thyme, if you're in a Cordon Bleu mood. Old Major may be hog heaven for some, but we're calling fowl at this LoHi eatery — at least when it comes to lunch.

Los Mangos
Mark Antonation

A hot dog in its purest form is little more than tube steak and bun, but you can handle that at home with nothing more than a microwave. For something more inspiring, a frankfurter can also come dressed to kill — and that's when you head to Los Mangos on South Federal Boulevard. The Sonoran hot dog here is as intimidating as it is delicious, with a bacon-wrapped wiener, a mountain of Mexican toppings and a side of salsa verde hot enough to melt your molars. Don't even try to pick this one up with your hands, or you'll be wearing dinner home on your shirt.

Readers' Choice: Biker Jim's Gourmet Dogs

Work & Class
Linnea Covington

Chef Dana Rodriguez is known for a lot of delicious things, but the fried chicken she makes every Sunday flies to the top of the list. Inside a crust boasting classic spices (garlic, thyme and smoked paprika), the bird is impossibly tender and tasty; you get three pieces for $10. Rodriguez started the Sunday night fried chicken extravaganza as a way to counteract football and bring in more traffic; it proved so popular, Rodriguez continued the special long after the last kick. Those in the know head to Work & Class early to get a table and make sure they can score at least one plate of chicken, which often sells out by 7 p.m.

Readers' Choice: Low Country Kitchen

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