Viet's Restaurant

Viet's has long been a staple in the Far East Center, but since moving one door down from its original home to spacious and well-appointed new digs, the Vietnamese restaurant has been elevated from a neighborhood joint to destination dining. Simple dishes such as pho and chao (rice porridge with a choice of toppings) still stand out, but the real draws are the group entrees, including hot pots loaded with fresh greens and savory meats, appetizer platters with make-your-own spring rolls, and the impressive bo bay mon (seven-course beef), mounded platters of meaty greatest hits. For a quick smoothie or banh mi, hit V Express, which sprang up in the space next door after Viet's moved.

Readers' Choice: New Saigon

Best Outdoor Restaurant on Federal Boulevard

Tacos Marlene

Tacos Marlene
Mark Antonation

Watch for a gathering crowd and smoke rising at at the corner of South Federal Boulevard and West Exposition Avenue: That's the site of Tacos Marlene, a spot that cooks up some of the best street food in town. Take your place in line and peruse the display of bootleg DVDs for sale before placing your order; carne asada, lengua or pastor are good bets, but the adventurous shouldn't miss the tacos de tripa — not spongy tripe, but beef small intestine diced into manageable, delicate pieces cooked to order. You'll be asked if you want them crispy or soft; we recommend crispy for beginners and soft for a wonderful (but more difficult) texture that's almost like broad egg noodles. Eat up as you enjoy the lowriders cruising the boulevard on a weekend night.

Villagran Restaurante
Mark Antonation

Villagran opened last spring as the brick-and-mortar version of popular west-side food truck Villa Real, serving a more upscale version of its original street-food menu. Thankfully, some of the food-truck favorites made the leap to dining-room status; one of those was the suegra, which takes its name from the Spanish word for mother-in-law. There are many explanations for how the quesadilla-like construction got its name; most involve descriptions that sound mean when applied to your spouse's mom, but delicious when applied to food. At Villagran, two housemade corn tortillas are glued together with molten white cheese loaded with onion, cilantro and a choice of shredded beef, carne asada or carne al pastor. The lightly crisped handmade tortillas are what elevate the suegras above run-of-the-mill Mexican fare — and make you wonder why mothers-in-law have gotten such a bad rap for so long.

Best Restaurant at Denver International Airport

Root Down

Root Down at DIA

Once a bleak landscape of sad takeout and fast food, Denver International Airport is offering increasingly tasty options for travelers. One airport restaurant is even a destination in its own right: Root Down, which beckons visitors to Concourse C, even if their gates are elsewhere. That's thanks in large part to inventive cocktails and a menu of bright farm-to-table American fare inspired by the offerings at the original Root Down. It helps, too, that Root Down is a sure bet for gluten-free diners and vegetarians, who'll have no trouble finding a pre-flight meal on this menu. And, like all Justin Cucci ventures, Root Down is also a pleasant place to sit: The decor here takes inspiration from the glamorous age of air travel, and elements coalesce into a soothing lounge. Give yourself enough time to enjoy your meal; after that, your flight will be a breeze.

Readers' Choice: Root Down

Just Be Kitchen
Mark Antonation

Many restaurants offer tempting gluten-free menus, but celiac sufferers and other diners who can't eat gluten still worry about cross-contamination, lack of staff training or kitchen slip-ups. At Just Be Kitchen, though, there's no wheat, barley or rye in the house, nor are there bottled sauces or other condiments that often contain hidden gluten. The restaurant is entirely gluten-free (and grain-free, too), which means you can order anything on the menu without concern. Roasted veggies, pork green chile and a bone-broth bar add comforting warmth, while lighter fare such as grainless granola and beautifully composed salads make for a guilt-free lunch choice. Don't miss the bullet coffee, rich with butter, for a morning pick-me-up that will keep you fueled all day.

Readers' Choice: Just Be Kitchen

Pizzeria Locale
Mark Antonation

We held our collective breath when Pizzeria Locale expanded out of state, moving beyond Colorado into Kansas, Missouri and Ohio. What would expansion do to one of our homegrown faves? Turns out there was no need to worry: The only thing that expansion has done is put more people in reach of these dynamite, reasonably priced pies. Pizzas come in red or white, with toppings you expect on Neapolitan pies (basil, prosciutto) and some that you don't (barbecue chicken). Whichever you choose, you'll love every bite, thanks to dough that gets its complexity from a 24-hour cold fermentation, then goes into a very hot oven. Bubbled and puffy on the edges, with a pleasant chew and just enough char, these pizzas are everything you want from Neapolitan pie, minus the typical high price tag. Round out your meal with butterscotch budino, then go home happy.

Readers' Choice: Illegal Pete's

Next Door American Eatery Union Station

It's easy to dumb-down kids' food, which is why the team behind Next Door American Eatery strives to make sure that children are offered not just tasty dishes, but healthy ones, too. This isn't surprising, given that the five-location chain was started by Hugo Matheson and Kimbal Musk of the Kitchen Restaurant Group (which owns several outposts of the Kitchen as well as Hedge Row), who also teach childhood nutrition through their Learning Gardens at elementary schools. Their dedication is reflected on the kids' menu, which includes grilled cheese, mac 'n' cheese and cheeseburgers, as well as a beet burger, grilled chicken and a bowl full of rice, beans, chicken, cheddar and tortilla chips. Save for the latter, each comes with a tasty side, be it kale chips, tomato soup, crispy smashed potatoes or a salad. In a nice touch, kids can play with an Etch A Sketch while they wait for their meals.

Readers' Choice: ClusterTruck

Pete's Kitchen
Danielle Lirette

When is an all-night diner ever about the food? What night owls yearn for is someplace in the heart of the action, where the freaks come out and the lights never dim, making a corner booth the prime spot for crafting the next chapter of a noir thriller over bottomless cups of java. Pete's Kitchen has been providing pulp-fiction fodder for sixty-some years, all night, every night. Oh, and those hash browns, gyros omelets and breakfast burritos: They still do the trick, soaking up a bellyful of booze and providing sustenance for another red-eyed all-nighter.

Readers' Choice: Pete's Kitchen

Bacon Social House
Mark Antonation

The folks at Bacon Social House call their morning meal brunch, mostly because the menu is full of meaty entrees and dishes not normally associated with a modest breakfast. But you'll also find omelets, Benedicts, waffles, pancakes and French toast, most of them accented by bacon, of course. From light to hearty, classic to modern, there's something for every taste. Want a breakfast salad? Bacon has one, complete with a poached egg. And there's hipster chow, too, in the form of avocado toast topped with scrambled eggs and a nest of arugula. You can even get a burger at 7:30 a.m. if that's your thing. No matter what you order, every bite is made with care — because Bacon is first and foremost a neighborhood spot, where friends and family gather to chew the fat. And everything else.

Readers' Choice: Snooze

Fred's Breakfast Burritos
Courtesy Fred's Breakfast Burritos Facebook page

Who wouldn't want breakfast cooked by a guy named Fred? The Fred in this case previously owned La Fuente (already known for its foil-wrapped favorites), but his namesake eatery has been turning out morning magic since late last summer in far north Denver. Take a load off and stay for a fork-and-knife breakfast burrito smothered in a gravy-like green chile and stuffed with just-right scrambled eggs, molten cheese, potatoes and a choice of chorizo, ham, beans, bacon or sausage. But get this: Fred's also doubles down with a breakfast burrito jammed with all the usual goodies — plus a whole tamale thrown in for good measure. That's a stroke of genius that lifts this tiny shop above the competition.

Readers' Choice: Santiago's

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