Best Chicken Sandwich
Courtesy of Chicken Rebel

There's so much crunch to Lydie Lovett's fried chicken sandwiches at Chicken Rebel that you'll likely be wearing a little of your meal after you eat it. Under that shattering crust you'll find the juicy, flavorful chicken requisite for any sandwich worth its sauce. Get yours with buttermilk ranch, bacon and avocado, or go with the Firebird for a brisk slap of heat. There's even a breakfast version with bacon and an egg, so you'll never have to wonder which came first — because the chicken and the egg hit your mouth at the same time.

Best Chicken Wings
Courtesy of King of Wings

Eddie Renshaw and Evan Pierce played it safe when they swapped out their King of Wings food truck for a brick-and-mortar eatery and bar: They built the kitchen on the outside of the restaurant when they opened last year. Not only did the shipping-container kitchen work to their strength — flame-grilled chicken wings — but it helped them build a business during the pandemic. The smell of cooking chicken and the reputation of the food spread in equal measure through the neighborhood, resulting in a growing fan base of loyal wing eaters drawn to not just the wings, but the ten saucy flavors offered, everything from Buffalo to spicy Thai. Add beer and sports on TV, and you've got everything you need to feather your nest.

Best Wings of a Different Feather
Mark Antonation

Josh and Jen Wolkon's Asian eatery and ping-pong hall is tough to pin down from a culinary standpoint, since it serves great food from a number of Asian countries. Chef Thach Tran does everything with equal style and skill, so you can't go wrong with anything on the menu. But you shouldn't leave Ace Eat Serve without an order of Tran's wings, which come as sweet, salty and tangy Tiger wings, or as Korean fried wings in spicy gochujang sauce (though you can get them naked, too). Either choice leads to plump, juicy wings and sticky good fun.

Best Fried Chicken
Courtesy of The Post Brewing Co.

At four locations and growing (including a Fort Collins ghost kitchen and new restaurants in the works there and in Estes Park), Dave Query's flock of chicken shacks (two with their own breweries) consistently fries up the best bird on the Front Range. Chef Brett Smith came up with a mouthwatering recipe for the dredge back in 2014, when the first Post opened in Lafayette — and it's gluten-free, in large part to achieve the loudest crunch for the buck, but also to ensure that as many folks as possible can enjoy the delicious bird. Whether you prefer fried chicken on the bone or in a sandwich, every meal at the Post feels like a family picnic, with great chicken, stellar sides and plenty of cold beers, including Top Rope lager and several other great brews made by the Post Brewing Company.

2200 S. Broadway 1258 S. Hover Rd., Longmont
Best French Fries
Mark Antonation

Last year was a bad one for the humble French fry. Hot and crispy don't hold up well in takeout packaging, and as a result, many otherwise great fries were left limp and lifeless after being taken to go. So why not put those fries in a spot where potato power makes a big difference but crunch doesn't? That's what Tacos Tequila Whiskey owner Kevin Morrison did last spring when he launched his Burro Rito pop-up — first in the temporarily closed Fish N Beer (his RiNo seafood joint that has since reopened) and then at his taquerias. The full Burro Rito menu was retired this year, but a couple of favorite burritos remain — in particular, the SoCal Rito, a two-fister wrapped in foil and loaded down with carne asada, French fries, guacamole, pico de gallo, Monterey Jack and sour cream. Fry problem solved — with delicious results both in-house and for the road.

Best Nachos
Mark Antonation

Does using Doritos for nachos automatically score the win, or is it just a cheap trick? We say the answer is both. Doritos really aren't that tasty on their own, but they look appealing, especially when piled with spicy ground beef, pickled jalepeños, pico de gallo and a healthy ladle of queso dip. And, okay, all that fake cheese dust does boost the flavor of nachos and helps the other toppings cling to each perfect triangle. As a result, these nachos are trashy-good, which is probably just the way Cochino Taco wants it.

Best Pizzeria
Paul Joyner

There's something to be said for the specific qualities of Detroit-style pizza: the crackly crust that's thick but riddled with air pockets so it's not heavy, the caramelized cheese that cooks up against the hot steel pan, and the tangy sauce that forms thick rivers down the middle of each slice. And when someone dedicated to perfecting the style, like Blue Pan's Jeff "Smoke" Smokevitch, almost single-handedly introduces Detroit pizza to Denver — with a major assist from his business partner, Giles Flanagin — it's worth listening up, then eating up. If, for some odd reason, you're not a fan of the rectangular pies, Blue Pan also does a stellar job with New York and Chicago cracker-thin crusts, and even the gluten-free pizzas are a cut above. Service is takeout- and delivery-only for now, but the pizzas are just as good at home as they are at the restaurant.

Best Thick-Crust Pizza
Mark Antonation

When Jason McGovern opened Crush Pizza + Tap, his Highland pizzeria, he was considered a Chicago-style specialist — but over the years he's expanded his repertoire. Still, the man knows his dough, so whether you're going with his original round, deep-dish pie or the newer rectangular Sicilian, know that you're in for a well-risen, airy crust that's filling but not stodgy. And if a thinner crust is your thing, Crush also does an admirable hand-tossed pizza that's just as good as its breadier brethren.

Best Thin-Crust Pizza
Michael Emery Hecker

Slow-risen dough, quality ingredients and a screaming-hot pizza oven are what make Cart-Driver a destination for pizza aficionados looking for balance and subtlety rather than gooey wads of cheese and wall-to-wall pepperoni. The Neapolitan pies produced at the tiny, industrial pizzeria in RiNo and at its posher sibling in LoHi offer the perfect amount of chew and char, whether you're noshing on a simple Daisy (with nothing more than mozzarella, sauce and basil), a seasonal special with garden-fresh toppings, or the Cart-Driver, dotted with kale and house sausage. The pizzaiolos here are perfectionists, but they're not snobs — since you can even get ham and pineapple. And rest assured it that will be the best Hawaiian pizza you've ever tasted.

Best Barbecue Restaurant
Mark Antonation

While Karl Frederick Fallenius's smoked meats are ostensibly Texas-style (simply seasoned, cooked over oak and with an emphasis on beef brisket), at Owlbear Barbecue he takes you on a meaty journey far beyond rigid guidelines and regional variations. You can go the purist route and get your meat — brisket or pork belly, ribs, shoulder and tenderloin — by the pound (sauce on the side, of course), or you can explore weekly specials such as hearty gumbo, housemade Colombian chorizo or smoked cheeseburgers. Fallenius adds equal parts creativity and nerdy expertise to everything on the menu.

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