Longform

FOOD & DRINK

part 3 of 4

Best Cheap Burgers
Nick's Cafe
777 1/2 Simms St., Lakewood

For $2.50, the modest Nick's will cook you up a fabulously greasy half-pounder, stash it on a fresh bun with all the trimmings and throw in a huge batch of fat fries. Eat it there or take it with you; either way, there's no McWait and no annoying McTeenagers.

Best Burger
The Cherry Cricket
2641 E. 2nd Ave.

The key here is the Cherry Cricket's nifty Charglo grill, a contraption filled with lava rocks that cook the outside of the pattie quick without turning it into shoe leather. The Cricket uses 70-percent-lean ground beef with Black Angus trim for a hearty flavor; choose from a half-pound or quarter-pound burger. Throw on eight types of cheese or one of seven other toppings, and you've got a handful of the best burger in town. Added bonus: It's served up in the swell atmosphere of a true neighborhood bar--and in Cherry Creek, no less.

Readers' choice: My Brother's Bar

Best Out-of-the-Way Burger
Buck Snort Saloon
15921 Elk Creek Rd., Pine

The menu claims it's "THE biggest, juiciest, most sizzling, messiest, sloppiest, hard-to-eat" burger around, and we'll be darned if that ain't the truth. Particularly since there's not much around the Buck Snort, a log cabin at the end of one of the most treacherously steep drives in Colorado. Once you're inside, though, you can relax. The waitstaff certainly does--some of them walk around in bare feet, and Sphinx the Cat will try to beg away some of your meal. There's always plenty of sports-TV talk and drink-buying in the background. But the real reason to seek this bar out is the three-quarter-pound slab of lean ground beef stuffed into a hefty kaiser bun. A side dish of mustard-laced potato salad is only for the extra-large of stomach.

Best Side Dish With a Burger
Annie's Cafe
4012 E. 8th Ave.

You're given the option of coleslaw when you order one of Annie's juicy burgers (try the Norma Lee--bacon, avocado and ground beef under a healthy camouflage of alfalfa sprouts), but don't fall for it. Order the fries instead. They'll appear alongside your burger in a limp yet crisp humongous mound--thick-cut, with the skin left on, and overflowing with the comforting essence of fried potato. Enjoy.

Best French Fries
The Links at City Park
2500 York St.

At a public golf course where Rolls Royces sit next to beat-up Chevys, the Links is full of surprises. First it was owner Sam Taylor's finger-lickin' good barbecue ribs, then the spicy french fries--really more like potato slabs. Cut lengthwise, the skin-on slices have a perfect crispy-tenderness enhanced by seasonings that are hard to put a finger on. But it's not tough to lay your hands on these terrific fries. Fore!

Readers' choice: McDonald's

Best Subs
Pasquini's
1310 S. Broadway

There's nothing sub-par about Pasquini's, a wonderfully eclectic neighborhood Italian joint. The pizzas are great, the pastas are great--but those sandwiches! The made-for-Popeye torpedoes are huge meals of spicy, juicy meats, crunchy vegetables, fresh herbs and complementary condiments sandwiched between thick, crusty slices of bread made from pizza dough. The kitchen is happy to make such good eats, the waitstaff is happy to serve such good eats--and you, of course, are deliriously happy to eat them.

Readers' choice: Subway

Best Subs for Transplanted Easterners
Tommy's Terrific Subs
14011 W. Quincy Ave., Morrison

Ah, there's the sub. Granted, Tommy's is a bit of a drive for a sandwich. But for those who eschew upscale variations on the theme, Tommy submits the original Cosmo, a Pennsylvania-born sub filled with toasted cheese, meat and special sauce--a blend of three peppers and herb-infused oil. Submerge yourself in its subtle charms, and be sure to chat with the charming owners, a couple of ex-hippie types who provide entertainment, Eastern-style, in the form of good-natured verbal spouse abuse.

Best Chicken-Fried Steak
Bullwhackers
130 Main St., Central City

You may plan to squander all your hard-earned dollars downstairs at Bullwhackers casino, but the smart money heads upstairs to the dining room. For $5.99, Bullwhackers serves up a huge hunk of steak that's crispy on the outside, tender and peppery on the inside, and smothered in a traditional creamy white gravy. It tasted so good, we wondered if somebody's gambling Southern granny was tied to the kitchen stove, trying to work up money for bus fare home.

Best Rattlesnake
The Black Swan
Scanticon, 200 Inverness Dr. W., Englewood

Better you should take a bite out of him than vice-versa. And you get the tastier deal, anyway--when was the last time you were smoked, coated in a honey glaze and served alongside grilled apples and pineapples? The Black Swan's reptile is a local boy, sliced into nice fillets that taste just like...you guessed it, chicken.

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