Biker Jim's Gourmet Dogs
Summer Powell

The workhorse hot dog becomes far more than just a cookout, ballgame and kids' party requirement in the hands of Jim Pittenger, who built his tube-steak empire from a single pushcart to a nationally renowned brand from 2005 to the present day. Folks flock from all over for a taste of what Ludo Lefebvre, Andrew Zimmern and even the late, great Anthony Bourdain praised on their TV shows. What they all loved were the wild-game dogs topped with Biker Jim's signature cream cheese and Coca-Cola onions, or any number of other over-the-top combos. Not one to take it easy, Pittenger is always experimenting with new ideas and adding to his menu. Case in point: the fried pickled onions that add crunch and tang to the Drunken Pirate. Late nights in the Ballpark neighborhood are best with a Biker Jim's hot dog in hand.

Readers' Choice: Biker Jim's Gourmet Dogs

Pete's Kitchen
Danielle Lirette

Decades of hungry folks searching for a late-night fix of French fries can testify that those mounded alongside burgers, gyros and souvlaki at Pete's Kitchen are the pinnacle of potato perfection. Don't talk to us about hand-cut heirloom potatoes; stop waving your limp, unpeeled fries in our face. We don't care if these come from a bag or a big waxed cardboard box; they're exactly what's needed to absorb our whiskey sodas and draft lagers — drinks already down the hatch and any soon to follow in the long night ahead. Pinkie-thick, crispy on the outside and pillowy on the inside, Pete's fries miraculously maintain their crunch even when cold. Not that ours ever last that long; we're stealing yours when you're not looking.

Readers' Choice: Park Burger

Steve's Snappin' Dogs
Cassandra Kotnik

Steve Ballas has made it okay for Colfax Avenue hipsters to feel like kids at a carnival, with a hot dog in one hand, a cold beer in the other, and mustard on their shirts. (What, you didn't drink Bull & Bush's special Steve's Snappin' Ale with your dog when you were a kid? For shame!) And at Steve's Snappin' Dogs, he's made onion rings to match. Panko breadcrumbs give the wide-wale rings extra crunch, and they're cooked long enough so that the onion inside is soft and not stringy. Can't decide between these glorious onion rings and the more ballpark-style fries? Listen to your inner kid and shout out an order of frings!

Readers' Choice: Flying Pig Burger Co.

Au Feu
Linnea Covington

Poutine is a Canadian dish consisting of melty cheese curds, French fries and umami-rich gravy. Au Feu, a Montreal-inspired eatery run by Chicago transplant Jared Leonard (he of the Budlong Chicken) in Zeppelin Station, ups the ante by making its poutine with twice-fried pub fries, fresh cheese curds and luscious veal demi-glace gravy. Order it straight or add a pile of smoked brisket to make this already indulgent dish that much better.

FNG
Danielle Lirette

Though adding Goldfish cheddar crackers to macaroni and cheese might sound odd, it was a brilliant move by the team at FNG, Troy Guard's eatery in Highland. Like a classic breadcrumb crust, the cheesy crackers add a pleasing crunch to the gooey, rich, delicious four-cheese pasta dish; they also look neat. And that's just the start of the fun: You can enhance the dish with rotisserie chicken, fried chicken, bacon, tomato jam, jalapeños and more.

Readers' Choice: Max's Wine Dive

La Calle Taqueria y Carnitas
Mark Antonation

Some Mexican restaurants boast long rosters of dishes that take up page after page. La Calle's menu is lengthy, too — but it's nearly all tacos. Regional styles representing Yucatán, Campeche, Mexico City and other centers of taco excellence abound, and the menu is divided into how the fillings and tacos are cooked. Want something slow-cooked and stewy? Get the birria de chivo or borrego listed under "De la Olla." For something sizzling, look under "Del Sombrero," for meats seared on a sombrero-shaped grill. While all your favorites — tacos al pastor, carne asada, carnitas and chorizo — are there, we suggest branching out with unctuous Campechano (carnitas with pork skin), bold cochinita pibil (shredded pork in a tangy, fiery sauce), lengua or cabeza, all taqueria standards in their home country...and done deliciously right here.

Readers' Choice: Tacos Tequila Whiskey

Tamales by La Casita

Tamales by La Casita makes just two kinds of tamales: one stuffed with piquant red chile and pork, the other filled with heat-sown green chile with cheese. But that's all the restaurant needs to offer: The husk-wrapped masa pockets have been a hit since the tamale joint opened back in the 1970s. You can sit in the no-frills cafe and order a tamale or six (they're offered by the half-dozen); if you do, have them smothered "Christmas" style, with both red and green chile. But many La Casita patrons prefer to buy their tamales wholesale and by the dozen; during the holidays, standing in the hour-long line with half the neighborhood to pick up a batch is a rite of passage. Bonus: La Casita has an outpost at Denver International Airport, so you can buy a bag to take to your next destination as a taste of Denver.

Readers' Choice: Adelitas Cocina y Cantina

La Fogata
Mark Antonation

When is your green chile not green? When you're in Denver, where the Southwestern staple comes in shades of tan, brown and even orange, depending on the ingredients. Den-Mex green chile is often thickened with a roux of flour and oil, which can deepen the color if the flour is left to brown a little. That's how it's done at La Fogata, opened by Danette Calhoun back in 1990. The thick, warming gravy also leans just slightly into the orange color palette, the better to match swirls of shredded cheese that meld into the sauce atop burritos, rellenos and enormous Mexican hamburgers. But don't let the muted color fool you; this green chile still glows a little with a heat that slowly builds until you find yourself reaching for another cerveza.

Readers' Choice: Adelitas Cocina y Cantina

Nuggs Ice Cream Parlor
Danielle Lirette

When brothers Chris and Nick O'Sullivan decided to open Nuggs Ice Cream — the sweet offshoot of their popular mini-chain, Brothers BBQ — they wanted to do things right. So they took an ice cream-making class prior to opening their spot in east Denver and committed to making their ice cream by hand as needed, so that it always tastes fresh. Flavors at this passion project range from the more standard to the very creative — like Pablo's Danger Monkey, made with coffee from local roaster and purveyor Pablo's. And Nuggs lets you sample so you're sure to be satisfied with your choice.

Readers' Choice: Little Man Ice Cream

High Point Creamery
Lori Midson

Much of the buzz around High Point Creamery's refined and inventive ice cream flavors surrounds its seasonal innovations: It's hard to say no to a scoop of cozy toasted honey in the winter or a refreshing bite of cucumber-lime sorbet in hot summer months. But it's a mistake to ignore the shop's core offerings, even if they look and sound a little more classic — because then you'd miss out on the Salty Dog Chocolate. This addictive and voluptuously textured confection marries a nuanced semi-sweet chocolate to a tantalizing hit of salt, resulting in a well-balanced scoop that's catnip for both sweets fanatics and dessert doubters who prefer a savory edge on their sugar.

Best Of Denver®

Best Of