Best Place to Eat Political Pork
321 E. Colfax Ave.
When the legislature is in session, lawmakers chew over more than the latest lobbyist's proposal at a J. Beatty's lunch. Some go for the quirky lamb quesadillas served with apple salsa, some for the nap-inducing chicken-fried steak. And those who just can't get enough pork at the State Capitol take on the BLT, a five-inch-high monster served on fat slices of butter-toasted sourdough. The bacon--which is meaty and not smoked--is piled on as thick as rhetoric, with plenty of leaf lettuce and ripe tomatoes along for the ride. The sandwich comes complete with manly fries or a cup of soup--the perfect amount of food for three martinis, which J. Beatty's also does well. If the place is too crowded for you to get a seat, try yelling that the IRS is on its way to inspect receipts--that'll clear things out.
980 Grant St.
We will sell no swine before its time. Instead, wait for the end of the week--when Charlie Brown's Friday Afternoon Club encourages you to go hog wild. Every Friday through the summer, the manager roasts a huge oinker on a spit on the patio and hands out the pork, free of charge, to all comers. (Chicken wings are available for the squeamish.) The first round of drinks is a two-fer (no Hamm's), and the crowd tunes in to classic tracks until the piano player shows up at six. There's no better way to start a night snout on the town.
Best Place to Eat and Act Like a Pig
Diamond Cabaret Steakhouse
1222 Glenarm Pl.
Watch grown men shell out a mere $5.95 for the all-they-can-eat-and-leer-at lunch buffet Fridays at Diamond Cabaret. Watch them gnaw like starved hyenas on barbecued baby-backs (ribs on Fridays only; the $3.95 buffet is stocked every day) while hot babes (stacked every day) reveal their innermost body parts. Watch that your wife doesn't catch you in there.
1381 Kalamath St.
They're called "stuffed sauerkraut" on the menu, but most Americans would immediately recognize them as pigs-in-a-blanket, that mainstay of potluck church suppers and family gatherings. Kalamath Korner--Denver's last surviving Hungarian restaurant--stuffs pickled cabbage with pork, rice, bell peppers, eggs and seasoned breadcrumbs, then bakes the little porkers eight to ten hours. Finally, they're served up to you with a side of sauerkraut mixed with onions, stewed tomatoes and garlic, and with sour cream for extra flavor. Feel free to make a pig of yourself.
Best Pig's Ears
11385 E. Colfax Ave., Aurora
Nipa Hut, the area's only Filipino restaurant, is up to its ears in flavor. Specifically, the flavors of sisig na baboy--a delicacy of pig's ears chopped up with garlic and jalapenos and cooked in a vinegary sauce. The cartilage itself is chewy, but it's covered with a thin layer of crisp-cooked meat that resembles bacon...if you close your eyes. If this little piggy still isn't for you, try Nipa Hut's roasted pork--a mound of meat cooked so tender that the chunks fall apart into strings, coated with a garlicky tamarind sauce.
Best Unexpected Appearance by a Pig
Mexico City Lounge
2115 Larimer St.
It's been a long night. A very long night. A very long, liquid night. Your head is pounding, your eyeballs hurt. And they're not going to feel any better when they catch sight of what's swimming in your medicinal bowl of Mexico City's menudo: pig's feet. But have faith--by the time you're done doctoring the tripe-and-hominy soup with raw onions, lemons, oregano and hot-pepper flakes, you'll have burned out enough of the poisons to appreciate just what a delicacy pig's feet can be. Although the hog hoofs are a sometime special, the menudo is always hot on Mexico City's stove--and the place opens at 6:30 a.m., which can be a lifesaver.
Best Place to Get Your Goat
Herbs and Spices Restaurant
9538 Montview Blvd., Aurora
Most people are only interested in the lowly goat for its cheese, and some just for its milk. In Europe, South America and parts of the Mediterranean, though, goat meat is prized for its delicate similarity to lamb. At Herbs and Spices, a teeny African eatery, you can get your goat in gumbo or soup. Either way, you'll be amazed at its velvety tenderness--the kitchen even uses kid, the young goat whose meat is much softer than that of a mature adult. A bowl of the soup--goat, peanuts and fufu (a cooked sweet potato) in a thin, spicy broth--is enough to bring out the animal in you.
Best Soft-Shell Crab
731 Quebec St.
Owner Rose is Vietnamese, and her husband, Tom, is Italian, so it's not surprising that this cafe does a nice job with both cuisines. And there's no better example of their multinational dexterity than the soft-shell crabs, which they offer in the styles of both Vietnam and Italy. The Vietnamese soft-shell is an appetizer, dipped in a cross between batter and breadcrumbs and fried in oil until the crab's skin seals in the juices (they'll spray at you at the first poke of a fork); it's served with lettuce for wrapping and Rose's vinegary fish sauce for dipping. The Italian version is sauteed in lemon butter and then served over linguini. True crab lovers should double their pleasure and order both.