I want to say one word to you. Just one word. Plastics…there’s a great future in plastics. Think about it. Will you think about it?

That’s what one of his father’s guests advises young Benjamin Braddock in The Graduate, and the same advice would have come in handy decades later for anyone considering a career that could survive a pandemic. The Colorado-based company that did the very best — at least financially — over the past year? Crocs. But somehow, despite stellar first-quarter results that sent the Crocs craze to an all-time high, we just couldn’t bring ourselves to give a Best of Denver award to those hideous plastic clogs. Not even the Crocs Lightning McQueen edition.

Instead, this issue — our 38th annual celebration of the city — is designed to honor the people, places and things that are truly wonderful about the metro area...right now, and we hope into the future. The shops that kept pivoting through the pandemic, the artists who kept working, the kitchens that kept cooking. The genuine efforts whose results were better than just good. They were the best.

And there’s nothing plastic about that.

Wild Corgi Pub
Best Breakfast
Eat! Food & Drink

This Broomfield breakfast joint's name doubles as a command — and you'll want to oblige once you make the difficult decision of what to order. Upside-down pineapple pancakes, fresh-baked apple fritters and monster cinnamon rolls beckon from the sweet side, while country-fried steak (with traditional gravy or Colorado green chile), loaded scrambles and biscuits that Eat! Food & Drink calls "shockingly good" (we wholeheartedly agree) call out on the savory side. A whole roster of Bloody Mary variations as well as other classic and creative breakfast drinks make a weekend visit a must, though it works for a fast weekday breakfast, too. Go!

Best Free Entertainment
Brandon Marshall

For skeptics, the term "free concert" might conjure up the image of a snoozy evening of nearly unbearable music...but, hey, at least it's outside. But when those naysayers finally get themselves to Denver's Ruby Hill Park to check out one of the fifty free shows offered every summer at the nonprofit Levitt Pavilion, they'll realize they had it all wrong. A Levitt show offers full production: high-quality sound, lighting design and massive projections to bring the audience up close to the action. In addition, the artists showcased by the venue are a who's who of up-and-coming local and touring bands. Chances are they'll soon be among your favorites.

Many libraries have expanded their services to include everything from social worker consultations to 3-D printers, makers' labs and comedy clubs. While these free resources are welcome, has the skill of recommending a good book been pushed to the bottom of the stacks? Not at Denver Public Library, which offers artful personalized reading lists based on online questionnaires that patrons fill out regarding their literary tastes. Librarians who specialize in reader recommendations then respond with thoughtful, handpicked lists along with explanations of their choices. The selections are dead on — and often more surprising and engaging than the picks that Google and Amazon algorithms dredge up.

denverlibrary.org/recommendations

LoCol Love's strains are covered so heavily in trichomes that you get free bowls of kief at the bottom of every eighth — but the wholesale cultivation's Colorado Cream Soda, a hybrid of Gelato and Kush Mints, took that snowy reputation to a new level in the past year. We still don't really know the color of the strain's buds, since each calyx of Cream Soda is covered in a layer of resin that looks almost unnatural. The smoke's flavor — a combo of vanilla, sweet dough and pine — tastes like a weed-infused root beer from 2012, sticking the landing with a creamy back end...which is admittedly hard to notice when you're coughing your brains out after an overzealous bong hit. Colorado's strain library has been asserting itself nationally for over a decade, and the rest of the country would be lucky to taste LoCol's Cream Soda — but maybe it's better served as our little secret for now.

locol-love.com

Marc Moser has been a staple in the Denver market for a quarter-century — he arrived in 1996 — and over the years, he's carved out a role as the voice of Colorado hockey, thanks to his combination of insight and passion. Simply put, he knows how to freak out in ways that make fans want to freak out, too. He spent eleven years calling Avalanche games on radio before jumping to the squad's television broadcasts for the past two. And while the ongoing battle between Altitude TV and Comcast offers limited opportunities to hear him celebrate every Nathan MacKinnon goal, Moser also co-hosts the morning-drive program on Altitude Sports Radio 92.5, where he regularly proves that his sports knowledge goes well beyond ice and pucks.

Altitude TV/Altitude Sports Radio 92.5 FM
The Denver Central Market
Danielle Lirette

With the arts community in an economic crisis over the past year, cultural groups and artists alike needed somebody to champion them. That somebody was Louise Martorano, executive director of RedLine Contemporary Art Center — an indefatigable advocate who knows how to work with large-scale institutions to bring their resources to often scrappy artists. Creatives in this city looking to get something done — and make it through challenging times — are lucky to have Martorano on their side. Not only does she go to bat for the creative community with the state and foundations, but she's also willing to help artists pull off their wildest ideas.

redlineart.org
Best Brunch
Danielle Lirette

Brunch rises far above a simple weekend breakfast. The relaxed and (ideally) decadent meal is a chance to sample both sweet and savory delights while alternating between coffee and cocktails. And there's no better place to enjoy a definitive brunch than the open, airy dining room or breezy patio at the Bindery, chef Linda Hampsten Fox's LoHi eatery, where each dish is conceived almost as a poem and the menu reads like an autobiography of the chef's journey through childhood memories and international destinations. Taste your way through Polish family meals, the hillsides of Italy and coastal Mexico while remaining grounded in Colorado ingredients and hospitality.

Best Of Denver®