Gaetano's Restaurant
Cassandra Kotnik

Old-school Italian joints are an endangered species in this town, particularly on the rapidly gentrifying Northside. But Gaetano's is a survivor. Under current owner Ron Robinson, this legendary eatery — it once belonged to the Smaldones, a famous Mob family — has become a neighborhood hangout, a popular destination for people who want a solid Italian meal flavored with history and decades of red sauce. Or maybe just a really good Bloody Mary. Gaetano's Bloody Mary bar boasts a spread that includes spicy infused vodka, three tomato blends, dozens of hot sauces and seasoning mixes, as well as pickled vegetables, cheese, shrimp, jerky, bacon and everything else you need to make a meal in a glass. A three-time winner, Gaetano's remains an offer we still can't refuse.

Readers' Choice: The Hornet

Chook Charcoal Chicken
Mark Antonation

Alex Seidel and Adam Schlegel created Chook with one goal: to provide quality food that won't break the bank and is easy to grab on the way home. The focus is on chicken, specifically Australian-style charcoal-broiled birds that can be ordered in whole, half or quarter sizes, with sauces ranging from piri-piri to chimichurri and gravy. There are sides, too: mashed Colorado potatoes with shallot butter, Hawaiian sweet rolls made by Seidel's Fudmill Bakery, celery-apple slaw and more. With so many options, fast food from Chook never gets old, and it's always delicious.

Readers' Choice: Chop Shop Casual Urban Eatery

Best Chicken-Pizza-Crepes-Ramen-Poke-Sandwich-Pasta-Seafood Restaurant

Denver Milk Market

Denver Milk Market
Danielle Lirette

Food halls are turning up faster than spring potholes around Denver, and all of them offer something unique. But only one, Denver Milk Market, is the brainchild of a single, tireless chef: Frank Bonanno. Every bite of fried chicken, every slurp of soup, every stacked sandwich comes from the mind of one of the city's most prolific restaurateurs. Many of the meats at deli counter S & G are made according to Bonanno's specifications; the fish counter, Albina by the Sea, is named after his grandmother; and the pizzeria, Bonanno Brothers, honors his two sons. Walk a circle around the cavernous — but likely crowded — space once to peruse the menu before picking exactly what you want for lunch or dinner, whether it's bao buns, a fresh salad or just a scoop of gelato. This Milk Market is the cream of the crop.

The advantage that food trucks have over full-fledged restaurants is their ability to explore untapped creative territory in street-food form. Chef Blaine Baggao is a former New Mexico resident whose family hails from the Philippines, and he puts his background to fine use on his food truck's menu. New Mexico-style green chile punched up with smoked pork carnitas struts its stuff atop fries, in breakfast burritos and on tacos; the chicken adobo, slow cooked in vinegar and soy sauce, is a Filipino recipe from Baggao's grandmother; and roasty carne adobada comes straight from the Land of Enchantment. Recent collaborative dinners with chef Penelope Wong have extended Adobo's brand of fusion into pan-Asian dumplings in fried and steamed format, further proving the versatility of Baggao's culinary heritage.

720-480-5898

adobodenver.com

Readers' Choice: Radical Sasquatch Dumpling Company

Brandon Becker has been around the block, cooking in a number of kitchens around Denver. But now, along with partner John Lugovich, he's got his own kitchen on wheels, so that he can bring his food to your favorite brewery or a special event where guests will find something a little more serious than simple street food. Becker offers a different menu of world cuisine each month or so, giving customers a taste of Moroccan or Venezuelan, Japanese or German; recent collaborations with chef Samantha New of Éclat Culinary have treated Cirque fans to a whole new range of flavors. Bring your own white tablecloths and candles to go with the gourmet grub.

720-833-8122

cirquekitchen.com

Crush Pizza + Tap
Mark Antonation

Jason McGovern loves pizza, and when the opportunity came up to rebrand his Denver Deep Dish and add pies that differed from the Chicago versions he grew up with, he gladly embraced the Sicilian style. Unlike the buttery, thick crust of his other popular option, the Sicilian's crust is fluffy —dense, but light — and comes loaded with just enough toppings to satisfy cravings without weighing it down. McGovern spent a lot of time researching before coming up with a formula he considers spot-on — and we're the happy recipients.

Readers' Choice: Blue Pan Pizza

Famous Original J's Pizza
Mark Antonation

New York pizza is one of the better-known thin-crust pie styles, so it should come as no surprise that this East Coast-influenced newcomer rises to the top. Helmed by Josh Pollack, owner of Rosenberg's Bagels & Delicatessen and Lou's Italian Specialties, Famous Original J's speaks to Pollack's heritage and childhood. Order it by the slice or get a whole heaping pie to go, choosing from such classic toppings as pepperoni, onions, sausage, ricotta, mushrooms and olives. Or you can go completely vegan. Any way you slice it, this is great thin-crust pizza.

Readers' Choice: Marco's Coal-Fired

Blue Pan Pizza
Paul Joyner

Ever since Jeff Smokevitch and Giles Flanagin opened their first Blue Pan in West Highland in summer 2015, they've served up consistently good pizzas, whether you go for the Chicago thin crust, classic Italian or cheese-crusted Detroit style, which really put Blue Pan on the local pizza map. The pair opened a second location in Congress Park two years later, and it was another fast hit. As a bonus, kids can make their own pies at Blue Pan, topping them with quality cheese or any of the tasty accoutrements, including natural-casing pepperoni, hand-pinched Italian sausage, fennel, New York ricotta and more. Denver is on a Blue streak.

Readers' Choice: Pizzeria Lui

Leven Deli Co.
Mark Antonation

If the pastrami is good, the rest of the sandwich is sure to follow. And at Leven Deli, chef Luke Hendricks makes pastrami from scratch, starting with whole beef brisket that's cured for more than ten days before being smoked. The result is tender, flavorful meat that stacks into sandwiches so tasty you don't need much else to make you happy. Rye bread forms the base of the straight-up pastrami sandwich; a little pickled cabbage, Jarlsberg, house sauce and mustard combine in Leven's Reuben. If you're craving something lighter, this Golden Triangle deli serves a savory salmon-salad sandwich, a summery sub stuffed with tomatoes and burrata, and a housemade sourdough flatbread stuffed with mashed-chickpea salad. Unlike at old-school delis, you won't find twenty different sandwiches here, but what's offered is done right, making Leven a truly special specialist.

Readers' Choice: Stack Subs

Pony Up
Mark Antonation

Chef Sheamus Feeley knows how to make a solid French dip, a specialty at this LoDo spot. While Pony Up offers many versions of the classic sandwich — even a pho style — we go for a more traditional option. Dubbed the Alameda Street Classic, it comprises shaved beef, rosemary and mayonnaise on springy French bread, and is served with a cup of velvety beef jus so good you could easily sip it like soup rather than use it as a dip.

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