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.

Roaming Buffalo Bar-B-Que
Danielle Lirette

The smokehouse competition has gotten fierce in Denver in recent years, with a whole new truckload of pit masters bringing their distinct styles to town. But none stands out quite so much as Coy and Rachael Webb's four-year-old joint, where the meats seldom last beyond lunchtime. The reason is Roaming Buffalo's dedication to Colorado meats and cooking traditions combined with Coy's Texas upbringing. Locally raised lamb shanks and bison ribs and sausage are among the daily selections, but there's almost always something special coming from the smoker, so frequent stops are encouraged. And just when we think we've had our fill, the Webbs roll out something new, like mouthwatering brisket tamales just right for dunking in the eatery's Ragin Buffalo barbecue sauce. Just follow the smoke signals to south Denver.

Readers' Choice: Roaming Buffalo Bar-B-Que

Rolling Smoke Bar-B-Que
Danielle Lirette

Oklahoman Terry Walsh brought his brand of 'cue to the streets of Denver in 2014, perfuming the air with slow-cooked pork shoulder and other meats for three years before settling in at Stanley Marketplace, where two enormous outdoor smokers give a hint of the flavors awaiting at the walk-up counter inside. In spring 2018, Rolling Smoke became a duo, with a second outpost in Centennial. Whichever one you choose, be ready to stuff yourself with sliced brisket, burnt ends, pork spare ribs, turkey or hot links. Since the mark of any great barbecue is a stupid-big sandwich, you'll want to fast for a day or two before clamping your jaws around El Jefe, a monster layered with slaw, beans and three kinds of meat.

Smok
Linnea Covington

Yes, this RiNo hotspot is known for its really good barbecue, but it also serves some mean deviled eggs. To make the classic dish, chef Bill Espiricueta whips creamy egg yolks with puréed pickles, imparting a tangy green and slightly salty essence. Each batch gets piped into egg-white cups to order, so the appetizer never comes out rubbery and always tastes fresh. A slice of pickled jalapeño on top adds crunchy heat to each bite, making the best even better.

GQue Championship BBQ
GQue Championship BBQ

When you love barbecue as much as Kansas City native Jason Ganahl does, it's only natural to surround yourself with the stuff. After winning numerous competitions around the country with his meats, Ganahl went on to open not one, but two barbecue joints. Good as his barbecue is, it's his dry-rubbed chicken wings that really fly. Each batch gets slow-smoked over hickory logs until the flesh is smoky and juicy; a last-minute dip in the fryer gives the wings a crispy skin, as well.

Readers' Choice: Fire on the Mountain

Welton Street Cafe
Mark Antonation

If sweet tea isn't on the menu, you probably aren't getting the city's best fried chicken. Luckily for diners, the Dickerson family's Five Points spot has both. While you sip on that tea, choose from thighs, legs, wings and breasts, all coated and seasoned with a secret shake. The Welton Street Cafe is a no-frills place (unless you count the lacy curtains covering windows looking out onto Welton Street), and no one will blink an eye if you polish off half a bird by yourself; in fact, it's encouraged. Sides of collards, beans, fried okra and mashed potatoes add even more Southern goodness to the picnic-style spread.

Readers' Choice: The Post Brewing Co.

The Budlong Hot Chicken
Linnea Covington

When someone spends as much time researching the proper way to do things as the Budlong Hot Chicken owner and chef Jared Leonard did, you know the result is going to be good. The Chicago transplant studied Nashville-style hot chicken across the South, starting with Prince's in Nashville (where the style originated), then testing recipes until he perfected his version. He launched Budlong last year, serving spicy bone-in chicken and sandwiches from a food truck parked outside various breweries and events. But now you can get that chicken from a brick-and-mortar spot in Zeppelin Station; fans can also find the bird at AJ's Pit Bar-B-Q, Leonard's Texas-style barbecue joint in the Overland neighborhood.

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