Best places to eat breakfast at DIA (a Thanksgiving gift for you)

On Thursday, we'll be fighting with our relatives, stuffing ourselves into a purple-hazed food coma and passing out on the couch while a football game drones on in the background. On Friday, we'll scratch each others' eyes out and throw adult temper tantrums in commercial establishments, all in the name of saving a couple of dollars on that load of holiday gifts we're purchasing. And over the next week, over one million of us will pass through Denver International Airport, getting manhandled safety-checked by the TSA before boarding flights and officially kicking off the travel season.

The holidays are upon us, and sometime in the next month or so, you're bound to have time to kill at DIA -- whether it's because you're waiting on a delayed plane or because you vastly overestimated how much time it would take you to get through security.

So we've created a guide to eating -- and, more important, drinking -- your way through DIA. Today and tomorrow, we'll post suggestions for maneuvering gastronomical options in the airport -- and we're starting with a list for those of you with early flights on Wednesday. If the idea of choosing between a stale pastry and a mealy apple hawked by an airport shop or an Egg McMuffin makes your stomach clench, rest assured that DIA is deep in other breakfast options.

Best full breakfast: ChopHouse If you're after eggs, bacon and a side of toast -- and you've got plenty of time for a leisurely breakfast -- score it at the ChopHouse, located front and center in Concourse A. This spot serves up full morning meals on linen tablecloths that you can wash down with orange juice -- or mimosas.

Best liquid breakfast: Mesa Verde Grill If it's a Bloody Mary morning, Mesa Verde Grill, the Concourse A smoking lounge located on the mezzanine level, offers a handful of varieties, helping you to overcome your vicious I-don't-have-to-work-tomorrow hangover and arrive at the relatives' place nice and fresh. They go well with equally soothing breakfast burritos.

Best breakfast on the go: Einstein Bros. Bagels Buttery pastries give us indigestion on the plane, and if we have to eat one more package of tasteless, pre-cut fruit, we're going to barf. A bagel with cream cheese isn't particularly creative, but crisp and toasty, it's a hell of a lot more satisfying than our other options. Good thing Einstein Bros. Bagels has a center-core outpost on Concourse C.

Best secret breakfast: ¡Que Bueno! Que Bueno! claims to just hawk breakfast sandwiches and burritos in the mornings, but we happen to know that it will usually hook you up with breakfast tacos, too, if you ask really, really nice. Dripping with eggs and cheese and smothered with hot sauce, they're pretty damn good. This is an oasis of good eating by B-52 on Concourse B.

Best coffee: Starbucks Usually we're coffee snobs, turning up our noses at the Seattle-based megachain that brews mediocre cups of joe and doesn't even really pull espresso shots. But in the airport, there aren't a lot of good coffee options, and so we bury our head in the warm bosom of familiarity. The Starbucks is buried at one end of Concourse B, in the gate 80-95 area. Even when we're running late, we'll jog there, pulling our carry-ons clumsily behind us, rather than sip weak stuff from elsewhere.

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Laura Shunk was Westword's restaurant critic from 2010 to 2012; she's also been food editor at the Village Voice and a dining columnist in Beijing. Her toughest assignment had her drinking ten martinis and eating ten Caesar salads over the course of 48 hours. She still drinks martinis, but remains lukewarm on Caesar salads.
Contact: Laura Shunk