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

Public School 303

Sure, basic macaroni and cheese is delicious on its own. But PS 303 proves you can mess with success...and improve on it. The downtown spot's chorizo mac and cheese is laden with spicy Mexican sausage, Emmentaler and cheddar cheeses, fresh kale and a pleasing pile of vinegar potato chips. The dish is rich, gooey, a little tart and so full of cheesy goodness, you won't be able to stop eating it.

Readers' Choice: Low Country Kitchen

Senor Bear
Danielle Lirette

We discovered the best French fries in Denver when we ordered the brocoli saltado at Señor Bear, the LoHi paean to Central and South American food. These are not traditional French fries: The crispy potato strands top a dish that's a vegetarian play on a traditional Peruvian stir-fried steak-and-fries dish. While the fries are fabulous on their own (and, in fact, you can order the spuds as a side), we'd be loath to give up the deeply umami-rich, stir-fried oyster mushrooms and broccoli that anchor this plate, nor would we want to part with the chile-sesame glaze finisher. So instead, we savor a few of these fries naked, then drag a few more through the pooled sauce on the cast-iron skillet in which the dish is served, and finally polish off the rest in bites combined with the vegetables.

Readers' Choice: BurgerFi

The Pig & the Sprout
Danielle Lirette

When a French fry is cooked properly, you almost don't need to eat it to know how good it will be; appearance alone gives away a kitchen's expertise. At the Pig & the Sprout, fries come out a golden hue that conveys crunchy from the get-go — and they stay that way to the final bite. You could eat them plain, but why not make the best better? Go hog-wild with Cheddah Pig Fries — a savory combo of Old Bay seasoning, bacon and cheesy fondue, or pig out on a gravy-soaked poutine loaded with the house-smoked brisket.

Best Fried Potatoes That Aren't French Fries

There...

there...
Mark Antonation

In Spain, potatoes are cut into cubes, not strips, for a dish called patatas bravas. There..., a LoHi bar and eatery where international small plates are served with a sense of whimsy and a set of chopsticks, patatas bravas stand in for French fries when something starchy is in order. These potatoes maintain their crunch under a robe of mouth-watering, slightly spicy sauce akin to another Spanish classic, romesco. Up the messiness factor with a sunnyside-up egg for the equivalent of a late-night breakfast, especially when sided with a jam cocktail.

DMZ Pub
Mark Antonation

Even in Aurora, where Korean restaurants are more common than a Fourteener in Colorado, DMZ is a well-kept secret, offering a menu of drinking food in the "hof" (or beer hall) tradition. After you've had a chance to order a round of beers, peruse the menu for something fun like tteok-bokki (fat rice cakes in a slick chili sauce) or cheesy corn; just be sure to start with an order of Korean fried chicken wings and an extra stack of napkins. Somehow simultaneously sticky and crunchy, DMZ's wings come in multiple heat levels; the hottest could kick off a nuclear reaction. Stay one step ahead of Trump by hitting Aurora's DMZ before the president visits Kim Jong Un and triggers a meltdown of his own.

Readers' Choice: Fire on the Mountain

Masterpiece Delicatessen
Summer Powell

A decade in and the master still reigns supreme as the king of Denver sandwich shops. At Masterpiece Deli, you can't go wrong with properly made classics like the Reuben, Cubano or Italian, but you can also step it up with originals like the braised beef brisket with Taleggio fondue (a better Philly cheesesteak), or the seared ahi tuna wedged into, of all things, an English muffin (which somehow works). Founder Justin Brunson does fancier things at Old Major just a few blocks away, but Masterpiece still lives up to its tagline: "Fine dining between bread." And not just for lunch and dinner; breakfast sandwiches here are equally stellar, especially if you include house-cured bacon in your stack.

Readers' Choice: Stack's Subs

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