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.

Best Colorado-Style Barbecue
Danielle Lirette

Barbecue in Denver has risen to new heights in recent years, and determining the best often comes down to a single sprinkle of salt on a glistening rib that otherwise could be coming from numerous spots around town. But Roaming Buffalo stands out for doing something a little different: smoked lamb and bison. The lamb is pulled shoulder, seasoned and perfumed with just the right amount of smoke to let the taste of the meat shine through. The bison comes in the form of big ribs with meat that pulls easily from the bone and carries a rich, fatty flavor. Stop in for lunch at the original location on South Downing (where the meats sell out quickly), or go for dinner at the newer Golden outpost. Either way, you'll get a true taste of Colorado.

Best Barbecue in a Hotel
Mark Antonation

If you like your barbecue in a comfortable setting with a full bar and a menu of other eats and sides, Smok is the place for you. Chef Bill Espiricueta knows his meats (he grew up in Kansas City and Austin), so the brisket, ribs, housemade sausage and chicken come out of the outdoor smoker perfect every time. But he also makes a great fried chicken sandwich, some uncommonly good deviled eggs and a mean mac and cheese. You may have to fight guests of the Source Hotel, where Smok is located, for a seat, but a shady table on the patio is another great place to enjoy your haul.

Denver-born Adrian Miller has been exploring the streets of the city to find great food for years, but as an author and food historian, his writings have covered African-American cooking all over the United States. And with each new project, he makes television appearances, accepts awards and engages in book tours to spread the word far beyond Denver. His first book, Soul Food: The Surprising Story of an American Cuisine, One Plate at a Time, won a James Beard Award in 2014, and his newest book, Black Smoke, about the evolution of Black barbecue in this country, is rapidly gaining attention. Miller's a busy man; catch him on Netflix when he appears on the upcoming series High on the Hog.

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