Benny Blanco's Slice of the Bronx
Mark Antonation

Denver has plenty of delicious pizza joints, but Benny Blanco's takes things to a whole new level with its Ghetto Jesus pizza boxes. The artwork depicts Jesus with a black bandanna across his forehead and a tattoo underneath one of his eyes, with "Benny Blanco's" written in an urban street art font. Ghetto Jesus is also holding a slice of pepperoni, while a delicious full pepperoni pizza halo frames his face. All that's needed to complete the Bronx Jesus look would be a puffy North Face, but Jesus would probably get hot in that with all the pizza ovens around.

Full Afterburner Calzones
Molly Martin

Ben Todd has a passion for fighter jets that began with a toy given to him by his grandfather, who was a fighter jet instructor in the '40s. He also picked up a penchant for making a unique calzone dough during his days as a student at Purdue. In 2018, he combined the two and launched the Danger Zone Calzones food truck; the concept led to a brick-and-mortar shop in 2021. Copyright trouble led to a name change, but the magic dough remains the same. Far more than just a pizza folded in half, these 'zones are a sleek, handheld version of the pizzeria afterthought, ideal for late-night, after-bar sustenance or even a quick on-the-go breakfast.

Baba & Pop's Pierogi
Courtesy of Baba & Pop's

Polish cooking smacks of home kitchens and generations of family members working together all day to create a celebratory feast. That's what you'll find at Baba & Pop's, which opened just days before the restaurant shutdown in March 2020. Fortunately, frozen bags of pierogi kept the business afloat until the dining room could reopen, and now guests can enjoy a full menu that includes such Slavic staples as cabbage rolls, kielbasa, sauerkraut soup and tangy cucumber salad. But a little Colorado has rubbed off on Polish-Canadian owner Jeremy Yurek and his wife, Katherine, so don't be surprised to find some zingy green chile hiding inside your pierogi.

House of Bread
Mark Antonation

Armenian cuisine doesn't get much attention in Denver — at least it didn't until House of Bread opened in late 2020. Now those in the know flock to the east-side bakery for ajaruli khachapuri, canoe-shaped bread filled with bubbly cheese and sunny-side-up eggs — and one of three styles of khachapuri sold at the bakery. There's much more to explore, though, whether you're craving dumplings (ask for the beef-filled sini manti), grilled meats (choose from several styles of kebab) or specialty breads (just pick something warm and fresh from the rack). House of Bread also serves a full range of coffee drinks and fancy pastries, so there's always something tempting, whether for breakfast, lunch, dinner or dessert. A visit is a delicious way to get to know Armenia a little better.

Stoic & Genuine
Danielle Lirette

Union Station has been swimming in seafood since Stoic & Genuine opened in 2014. Chef/co-owner Jennifer Jasinski and her crew have turned out beautiful seafood dishes from the start; the staff is still sourcing super-fresh, sustainable seafood from multiple coasts, and has one of the top oyster programs in the city. Start with a plate of salmon sashimi tossed in chili oil and yuzu-soaked orange peel, then follow it with a bowl of seafood bisque and a few choice items from the raw bar, such as Maine lobster and snow crab legs. While known for its innovative and delicious seafood entrees, Stoic & Genuine also claims the rights to a really great burger.

Best Oysters
Molly Martin

Despite the city's distance from either coast, fresh oysters make their way to the Mile High via Denver International Airport — often arriving faster here than they reach coastal cities by truck. But while there are a lot of places to slurp these briny bivalves in Denver, one Maine native is stepping up the oyster game. You may have spotted Ben Wolven, the man behind Oyster Wulff, shucking at Forget Me Not in Cherry Creek, or caught his oysters on the menu at A5. He has the goods shipped to him directly from Maine, and is not only an actual championship shucker, but also a pro at talking oysters and sustainability, spreading the word about the positive impact that oysters have on the environment — which makes eating them even sweeter.

oysterwulff.com
Best Use of Small Silverware
Molly Martin

Of course we love Cart-Driver for its wood-fired pizzas, but the dining experience is elevated when you order a tray of whatever oysters are on offer on a given day, served raw with a tiny fork for the bivalves and a tiny spoon for the mignonette. But to reach true Cart-Driver pro status, you need to dig into the restaurant's selection of tinned fish. At the newer, larger LoHi location, that means sardines, but the RiNo original also has a selection, including smoked trout, codfish and stuffed baby squid. Whatever you choose will arrive on a tray with charred, fluffy piada bread, black olive butter, sambal pepper relish...and even more tiny silverware.

A5 Steakhouse
Molly Martin

Denver has spent years trying to shed its cowtown reputation — which includes trending away from steakhouses toward a much more diverse culinary scene. But A5, which opened in 2021 in the former home of Morin, takes the classic steakhouse and infuses it with a modern sourcing ethos as well as fun, retro vibes. The result is a spot that feels anything but stuffy, thanks in large part to a menu from chef Max MacKissock that includes not only high-quality steaks — including the must-order Japanese wagyu striploin — but also updated takes on such classic steakhouse fare as a wedge salad with crispy guanciale and a crunchy seed mixture, and a beef tartare katsu sandwich with a perfectly soft-boiled quail egg tucked inside.

Bastien's Restaurant
Mark Antonation

With its iconic sign, sunken bar and mid-century aesthetic, Bastien's is a holdover from times past — and we wouldn't have it any other way. The family-run business dates back to the 1930s, but the current incarnation was constructed in 1958. That sign touts its famed sugar steak, but there are twelve preparations to choose from. And whether or not you splurge on a full steak dinner, nothing beats sipping Colfax dirty martinis delivered by friendly servers who've been working at this classic for years.

Columbine Steak House & Lounge
Erik Rangel

When Columbine Steak House won Best Steak House — Low End in the very first edition of Best of Denver in 1984, the joint was already 23 years old. And after 61 years in business, not much has changed, thankfully. The dining room is packed at lunch and dinner with people noshing on steaks cooked to order and served up with a side salad, a slice of Texas toast and a buttered baked potato — which you can get for under $20 if you opt for the sirloin or New York strip. Nothing on the menu is over $30, but don't forget to bring cash: Credit cards are no good here (though there is an ATM on site).

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