Denver Pho
Mark Antonation

This west-side Vietnamese eatery won't win any awards for its name, which offers few clues about the variety and beauty of the food found within. There's something here for everyone, from first-time noodle slurpers to experienced international travelers to Vietnamese expats looking for a taste of home. While the pho is as good as any you'll find around town, the much longer list of regional specialties is what makes Denver Pho a real find. Many of the dishes hail from Hanoi, in northern Vietnam, or Hue, in its narrow center, so expect a far more diverse range of ingredients and flavors than at your typical pho shop. Little rice or tapioca dumplings steamed in miniature saucers or banana leaves come with shrimp and sausage fillings or crackly dried-shrimp toppings; a steaming bowl of bun bo Hue is pho's more assertive cousin. And bold, pungent dipping sauces give your tastebuds a real workout.

Readers' Choice: New Saigon

Pho Duy
Mark Antonation

Pho Duy is a perennial Vietnamese standby that's been serving Federal Boulevard for decades, and it only gets better with age (maybe it's the seasoning of its pots). Every bowl here is built with an ideal ratio of chewy rice noodles, greens, and bits of meat or offal, and sided with a generous platter of aromatic basil, crisp bean sprouts, lime and jalapeños. What takes the pho here to transcendent, though, is the broth. The murky beef stock is silken from long-simmered bones, and endlessly layered, deeply savory and redolent of five-spice. Its complexity is haunting; you'll always need one more bite to try to pinpoint an elusive and tasty note, which may be why you'll keep coming back for more.

Readers' Choice: Pho 95

Morin
Ben Wolven

In the last decade or so, upcoming Parisian chefs striking out on their own have veered away from formal dining and prescribed menus of classics in favor of hipper enclaves and inventive takes on their inherently locavore cuisine. It's to these restaurants, collectively bundled under the label "bistronomy," that Morin pays homage, even if the restaurant doesn't use the French-invented term. Steeped in seasonal produce and abundant with delightful surprises, the menu takes diners on a playful romp through well-executed bites and indulgent dishes, none of which are quite as straightforward as they 0x000Aseem. Best to surrender your experience to the kitchen via one of the tasting menus — which will be crafted especially for you 0x000Aand different each time you dine. Don't ignore caviar and foie gras supplements (or spring for the apple-shaped foie gras terrine, an Instagram darling) and make sure to add one of the excellent potato-based sides to your main course. Turn over control of your drink pairings to the bar, too: They'll treat you to natural wines, funky ciders, and well-crafted cocktails that match just right.

Readers' Choice: LeRoux

Mama Sannino's
Mark Manger

Over the decades, north Denver has lost dozens of Italian markets, bakeries and restaurants as the families of Italian immigrants who first settled in what's now the Highland, Sunnyside and Berkeley neighborhoods moved west for bigger houses and newer schools — but not too far west. Wheat Ridge became the beneficiary of some of the city's best family recipes, many of which you'll find at Mama Sannino's. While the restaurant isn't that old (opening in 2005 before moving to its current location in 2013), Jimmy and Karen Sannino serve dishes that their family members cooked after arriving in Colorado in the 1950s, both at home and in several north-side eateries, including the long-gone 3 Sons. Smell the red sauce simmering and remember the old days over meatball sandwiches and plates of ravioli and spaghetti. Old Denver lives on in Wheat Ridge.

Readers' Choice: Gaetano's

Chow Morso Osteria

Ryan Fletter doesn't need to prove himself when it comes to Italian cuisine and wine; he earned a stellar reputation with his first restaurant, Barolo Grill, which he purchased from Blair Taylor years ago. But Chow Morso is a different kind of eatery — a breezy ride with the top down compared to Barolo's chauffeured Rolls-Royce. The food is taken just as seriously at both restaurants, though, even if Chow Morso turns to the streets of Italy for some of its inspiration, from the puffy little balloons called gnocco fritto topped with shaved prosciutto to creamy arancini wearing crackly coats. But hand-rolled pastas, an intriguing wine list that won't break the bank, and warm service that never approaches overbearing take Chow Morso beyond a simple neighborhood spaghetti joint. And, oh, that carbonara!

Readers' Choice: Il Posto

Guard and Grace
Danielle Lirette

You know pride and love will be part of the recipe when a restaurant owner names an eatery after his own daughter. Since 2014, Troy Guard's sizzling steakhouse has had the chops — and the filets, ribeyes and New York strips — to draw beef aficionados in herds. Whether you stop in for a French dip at lunch or blow your Christmas bonus on a shellfish tower and dry-aged steaks for the table at dinner, you'll taste Guard's commitment to great meat. Old-school steakhouses seem to be an endangered species these days, but Guard and Grace ensures that Denver will remain a cowtown — in the tastiest way — for years to come.

Readers' Choice: Guard and Grace

Citizen Rail
Danielle Lirette

When a hotel restaurant feels like its own entity, then you know it's a good one. Such is the case with this downtown eatery, helmed by chef Christian Graves. The focus remains on really good meat, dry-aged and well-sourced beef, lamb and pork in all sorts of delicious cuts. There's also a strong push for wood-fired goods, which get cooked out in the open for guests to see. Choose from a housemade-charcuterie menu, wood-grilled oysters, plenty of seasonal vegetable plates and one of the best burgers around. You don't have to be a guest of the Hotel Born to enjoy this fare, though it does make stumbling to your room easier after sampling the wonderfully constructed cocktails at lunch, happy hour or dinner.

Readers' Choice: EDGE Restaurant & Bar

Death & Co.
Danielle Lirette

The mixologists at Death & Co. perfected their craft in the crucible of New York City's bar scene for ten years before forging something new in Denver. Their trend-setting establishment isn't just the Ramble Hotel's bar, it's the entire lobby. If you're a hotel guest, you might be tempted to check in first — but you should have no reservations about making a beeline for a barstool and grabbing a cocktail. The drinks roster is categorized by mood, so you can choose Light & Playful if it's your first day of spring vacation, or Boozy & Honest if you're ready to get down to some serious drinking. There's no need to make dining decisions; Death & Co. handles the food here, too, so every dish is sure to have a cocktail that will bring out its best. Denver didn't need an outsider to breathe life into its cocktail game, but a little fresh blood always helps up the competition.

Readers' Choice: Death & Co.

Beckon
Danielle Lirette

Chef Duncan Holmes doesn't have to worry about dividing his attention between a chef's counter and a dining room: His restaurant is one big chef's counter. At Beckon, seventeen guests a seating are grouped around a U-shaped bar and treated to round after round of exquisite small plates, along with explanations and other tasty talk from Holmes and his team. The dim lights, intimate space and low-key decor bring to mind a dinner party in a friend's home, without the hushed reverence you find at stuffy temples of haute cuisine. For example, as casually as though he were delivering a bowl of party mix, the chef may hand you a perfectly plated quail with tiny claws still intact. Each new dish builds on a theme, and the themes change with the seasons. This is one dinner party you won't want to miss.

The Wolf's Tailor
Rob Christensen

At this unusual Sunnyside eatery, chef Kelly Whitaker and his team are busy grinding grains, rolling pasta, simmering stocks, saving scraps and fermenting almost everything in order to build complex layers of flavor and marry the culinary traditions of two ancient cultures: Japan and Italy. The best way to experience it all is with the "Entrust" option, where a set price will land you and your table a tasting menu of the best things that the Wolf's Tailor has to offer on any given night. While it would be easy to use the word "fusion," Whitaker doesn't force disparate things together, but rather finds common ground in cooking techniques that have evolved half a world apart. A little faith will be rewarded with a tailor-made and unforgettable banquet.

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