Have your coffee and eat it, too, with an affogato, Italian for "drowned." What could be better than delicious gelato from Gelato Boy drowned in a double shot of espresso from Dandy Lion? Nothing, really — at least when you want to get your caffeine jolt in the sweetest possible way (that is, in a creamy, delicious beverage/dessert). We suggest drinking the coffee while it's hot, then eating the remaining gelato at your leisure, to avoid brain freeze and savor the flavor. Our favorite is the sesame vanilla bean, which acts as the fanciest creamer imaginable. If that's too rich for your morning cup, Dandy Lion owner Duc Huynh also makes some of the finest iced Vietnamese coffee in town.

Acova
Danielle Lirette

Forget kids' menus that offer things like "chicken fingers" and "butter pasta." At Acova (which opened in the old home of Patsy's last year), the younger set can order "Whatever" and "I don't care." The "Whatever" is actually a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, and "I don't care" is pasta with red sauce. There's also the "I don't know" option (fried or grilled chicken fingers) and "I'm not hungry" (cheeseburger). Most of the kids' entrees come with a side such as regular or sweet-potato fries, fruit, vegetables or homemade chips. And if your little ones decide they don't want to eat what they've ordered, know that $2 from each kids' meal goes to charity, so you can at least feel good about that.

Readers' Choice: Chuy's Tex-Mex

Punch Bowl Social

Dining with kids is often a chore, but at the two Denver locations of Punch Bowl Social, it's actually fun. Between the bowling, board games, karaoke and arcade, there's so much to do that your children might just forget that they're there to eat. But eat they should, because the food at this homegrown chain isn't just pleasing to adults; it's tasty for young palates, too. The kids' menu includes chicken tacos, hummus with celery and potato chips, and pepperoni and mozzarella flatbread, and the regular menu has a lot of kid-friendly options, too.

Root Down

So much of the food at Root Down (Justin Cucci's popular LoHi eatery that just marked its tenth birthday) is gluten-free that the offerings marked GF on the menu seem to almost outnumber those that aren't, making it easy to avoid gluten and putting those who need or want to at ease. GF options range from diver scallops with brown butter and quinoa, to three-chili chicken with vegetables, to a delicious carrot Thai red-curry soup. There are even a number of desserts on the gluten-free roster, which changes regularly but usually includes things like tiramisu rice pudding, fruit cobbler and chocolate truffles.

Readers' Choice: Whole Sol Blend Bar

Azitra
Mark Manger

Not only does Azitra have a dedicated vegan menu, but this unassuming spot also has one of the top-rated wine selections in the state. First-course options include fried chickpea-battered veggies, potato samosas, a seasoned pulled jackfruit on naan wedges, and customer favorite gobhi Manchurian, cauliflower florets in a flavorful tomato glaze. The menu lists seventeen completely vegan traditional entrees, among them tofu makhni, eggplant bhartha and vegetable korma, all served with basmati rice. Azitra has also perfected dairy-free recipes for naan and garlic naan, and offers rotating sorbets, ice creams and a vegan dessert of the day to wrap up your meal.

Readers' Choice: Watercourse Foods

Watercourse Foods
Danielle Lirette

Watercourse takes the guesswork out of vegan eating by offering an entirely meat- and dairy-free menu that completely bursts the stereotype of what the uninformed think plant-based food is all about. At breakfast, go for the loaded breakfast burrito stuffed with tempeh chorizo and covered in green chile or country gravy, or the Big Rig, a platter of country-fried seitan, scrambled tofu and a biscuit smothered in gravy. The comfort food continues at dinner with farfalle Alfredo, mac and cheese with bacon, nachos topped with cauliflower chorizo and cheddar cheese sauce, and the crowd-pleasing seitan buffalo wings with blue cheese.

Meta Burger
Meta Burger

The goal of Meta Burger was to redefine vegan food in Denver, giving people the chance to grab an affordable, fast meal with the classic flavors they grew up with — and it succeeded. The menu is simple: burgers, hot dogs and a few essential sandwiches (buffalo chicken and Philly cheesesteak) along with the expected sides, such as waffle fries, chili cheese fries, mac and cheese and (soy-based) shakes. Burgers come in a variety of styles, including the Supernova, with habanero jam and pickled red onions; the Godfather, with pesto and giardiniera; the Texan, with chopped BBQ pieces and coleslaw; and the Classic, with pickles, lettuce, tomato and cheese.

Hops & Pie
Mark Manger

Hops & Pie is known for two staples: pizza and beer. Ditching cheese and meat sounds like it could mean the end of a good pizza, but that's not that case with the vegan pizza here. Start by choosing the crust — either a traditional, slightly thicker pan pie, or the square, deep-dish Detroit style. Vegan meat alternatives include a spicy Sicilian sausage made in-house or house-smoked tofu, and veggie options range from the standard — mushroom, onion, pepper, olives and spinach — to more unique options such as sun-dried tomatoes, banana peppers, roasted garlic cloves, caramelized onions, jalapeños, broccoli and pineapple.

All of the beautiful pastries at Beet Box are made without eggs and dairy, and some are gluten-free, too. While offerings change with the seasons, you can expect classic sweets such as turtle brownies, almond croissants, cinnamon rolls, chocolate doughnuts, lemon-poppyseed muffins, and chocolate-chunk scones. Savory baked goods include country loaf bread, a tomato-pesto tart, a spinach-mushroom croissant and a mushroom-green onion tart. Freshly made breads are the basis of vegan sandwiches, which range from a tofu banh mi to tuna salad made with chickpeas instead of fish and an avocado melt with cashew cream cheese.

Wong Way Veg, a bright-orange food truck, circulates around Denver serving inventive scratch-made vegan food that takes its inspiration from around the world. One of the most popular options is the Boulder Philly, a twist on a Philly cheesesteak with marinated portabellos and housemade cashew cream. But you'll also find surprises on Wong Way's rotating menu, like the thinly sliced seitan gyro topped with tzatziki sauce in a warm pita, or the barbecued-jackfruit burrito stuffed with mac and cheese. Don't miss the brunch special, which could be banana bread pancakes or a tofu scramble with maple sweet potatoes.

wongwayveg.com

Best Of Denver®

Best Of