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FOOD & DRINK

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More like a stew than a sauce, Mexico City's verde is a quivering mass of green chiles (blessedly mild on the jalapenos), tons of pork and extra onions and garlic. What it isn't: filled with cilantro, cumin or grease, the terrible trio that can bring down an otherwise good bowl of green. There are those who would prefer more heat, but this flavor can't be beat.

Readers' choice: Chubby's

Best Gringo Green Chile
Mr. Steak's Firegrill
7685 E. Arapahoe Rd., Englewood

Just because you don't crave heat is no reason to strike up the bland. Try Mr. Steak's Firegrill green instead. It's a sophisticated, soupy mixture of red and green chile peppers, tomatoes, a beef-stock base and the right balance of spices, with a particularly welcome hint of cumin. And while you're at this rodeo of a restaurant, you can also rustle up a top-quality steak.

Best Sinus-Clearing Green Chile
La Cueva
9742 E. Colfax Ave., Aurora

People who love this green chile also think it would be fun to douse a sword in starter fluid, set it aflame and then swallow it. We're talking hot, the kind of heat that raises your blood pressure and gives you that all-over just-came-from-the-gym sheen. The cumulative heat is so great, in fact, that we've held contests to see if someone can actually finish a whole bowl. But La Cueva doesn't completely sacrifice good taste. Under all the chile, there's actually an underlying layer of garlic and cumin. Trust us.

Best Soft Chile Relleno
RosaLinda Mexican Cafe
2005 W. 33rd Ave.

Of all the Aguirre family's exceptional dishes, we keep coming back for the chile rellenos. A monster-size chile is stuffed with Muenster cheese, coated with an eggy batter, quickly cooked and then smothered in potent green chile. Spoon on some salsa if you really want to feel the burn.

Readers' choice: Juanita's

Best Crispy Chile Relleno
La Fiesta Supper Club
2340 Champa St.

La Fiesta has become a lunchtime institution for all manner of downtown workers, and a plate of the crispy chile rellenos are the main reason why. Two egg-roll-like packages of batter and chile filled with molten yellow cheese, they're best doused with a hot, gravy-like green chile. All right, order the red--or at least a half-and-half combo--if you must, but Denver's movers and shakers will be watching.

Readers' choice: Benny's Cantina

Best Gringo Chile Relleno
Campus Lounge
701 S. University Blvd.

The Campus Lounge wraps a wonton shell around green chile-pepper strips and Monterey Jack, throws it in the deep fryer, blankets the deal with fiery green chile and more cheese, then broils the whole darn mess. The result: the perfect fuel for an all-nighter. Spring for a side of cooling guacamole and wash it down with Campus's only draft beer, the ultimate in gringo: Coors.

Best Soft Tacos
Chipotle Mexican Grill
1644 E. Evans Ave.

Judging from the lines alone, Chipotle is the taco the town. If you love burritos but don't want all the starch, this stylish storefront packs up a mean soft taco. A flour tortilla is rolled around the succulent marinated meat of your choice, sour cream or cheese and lettuce, then the whole package is salsified with one of three incrementally hot condiments. We recommend the corn salsa--a blend of sweet corn and jalapenos.

Best Taco
Las Palmas Jr.
3939 Federal Blvd.

Don't bother asking for whom the Taco Bell tolls--we know it's not for us. Instead, when we hear great tacos calling, we head to Las Palmas Jr., the tacos-only offspring of Las Palmas a few blocks further north on Federal. In this occasionally alarming authentic spot, you can order everything from chicken to barbecued pork to tender bits of tongue inside your taco. Try them all: At these prices, you can afford it.

Readers' choice: Taco Bell

Best Burrito
El Taco de Mexico
714 Santa Fe Dr.
2463 Sheridan Blvd., Edgewater

You can order your burrito smothered, but don't blame us if the person behind the counter shakes his head. Because there's no denying that the best way to enjoy an El Taco burrito is on its own merits. The big, fresh flour tortilla comes filled with flavorful rice and beans and your choice of chorizo, beef or potatoes. We'll allow you the great special sauce, too.

Readers' choice: Chipotle

Best Margarita
Margarita Bay Club
1301 S. Pearl St.

Not only is the Margarita Bay Club a good place to let loose, but it'll give you the proper tool with which to accomplish the task: a mean margarita with just the right proportions of sweet-and-sour to Cuervo.

Readers' choice: Las Brisas

Best Romantic Restaurant
Brittany Hill
9350 Grant St., Thornton

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