Best of Denver

Denver's ten best brunches

We're suckers for a good brunch, that long, leisurely meal that usually involves copious amounts of food and hangover-killing cures -- or enough daytime drinking to get a start on the next day's hangover. Many restaurants try to lure the brunch bunch, but some definitely do it better than the rest.

Here, in no particular order, are Denver's ten best brunches:

10. Snooze When Snooze first hit the Ballpark neighborhood five years ago, it revolutionized breakfast in the Mile High City. The most important meal of the day became one of the most creative meals of the day, with flights of pancakes, re-imagined omelets and Benedicts, and a morning-themed alcoholic beverage list. Snooze nicely filled a niche that Denver hadn't even recognized existed at the time, and the niche keeps growing, as evidenced by Snooze's expansions into other parts of this city and beyond, where the restaurant continues to draw huge crowds willing to endure monstrous waits. 9. Gaia Bistro Located in a quirky bungalow with a stunning patio on Old South Pearl, this charming spot floats a raft of breakfast and lunch options that change with the seasons, incorporating produce from Gaia's own garden when available. We adore the Benedicts, baked eggs and quiches, but we're especially enamored of the crepes, both sweet and savory. As a bonus, Gaia landed a liquor license this year, which means you can pair your choices with a Bloody Mary AND a French press of coffee. 8. Jelly You'll fight hordes of Capitol Hill hipsters to land a table at Jelly, which has boasted a weekend wait time of at least a half an hour since the place opened in early 2011. But once you make it through the crush and get a table, you'll forget your wait woes as you savor donut bites injected with housemade jam, Bhakti chai French toast, salmon Benedict and creative twists on biscuits and gravy. And don't miss the homemade drop biscuits -- just the thing to slather with Jelly's housemade seasonal jelly. A side of thick bacon is recommended, too. Still have jittery nerves? Calm 'em with booze in your coffee or a red beer. 7. The Garden Terrace Stuffing ourselves until we need a long nap on the couch is standard procedure at brunch, and there's no way to do that more efficiently than at a brunch buffet. The Garden Terrace at the Inverness has one of the best in town, with a massive display of all the usual brunch fixings -- eggs and bacon, Benedicts, Belgian waffles and made-to-order omelets -- as well as an ocean of seafood, including crab legs, mussels, fist-sized prawns and smoked fish of several varieties. And, of course, there are desserts and mimosas -- everything you need to waddle out fat, drunk and happy. 6. Tacos Jalisco Many people swear by Bloody Marys and greasy breakfasts, but we're certain that there's no better hangover cure on the planeta than huevos rancheros. We're particularly fond of the version at Tacos Jalisco, which smothers over-easy eggs, refried beans and rice with a very spicy, restorative pork green chile.The breakfast burritos and chilaquiles -- which cover thick chips with a mess of eggs, beans, hot sauce and cheese -- are also worth your attention. Ay, que rico! 5. Root Down If you head to Root Down for brunch, prepare to wait: The place is always packed, and service can be slow. But since we're into leisurely morning meals, we don't really mind -- especially since those bottomless blood-orange mimosas quickly take the edge off and blur our sense of time. Before we know it, really, we're happily feasting on steak and eggs, a fried-egg sandwich or a pulled-pork omelet. Oh, and the almond pancakes? We have a friend who swears he'd kill for the recipe -- and we'd willingly be accessories to the crime. 4. Second Home Brunch is an important meal for a hotel restaurant to own, and Second Home in the JW Marriott really nails it. The Sunday pajama brunch -- where pajamas are encouraged but not required -- is a hit with both tourists and Denver residents, especially those with kids. But even if you don't have members of the under-ten crowd with you, you'll still find plenty to love with the build-your-own Bloody Mary bar and menu of morning food that includes chicken and waffles, Froot Loop pancakes and breakfast pizza. 3. Star Kitchen There's something immensely satisfying about spending a morning -- whether you're hung over or just have a healthy appetite -- plucking Chinese dumplings from passing carts and feasting until you are ready to explode, then paying a relative pittance for the meal. While a couple of places in town offer a decent version of the dim sum experience, our favorite is Star Kitchen, where we'll pop pork buns and shu mai until we're in danger of exploding -- and then order the sweet red-bean buns for dessert for good measure. 2. Beatrice & Woodsley Beatrice & Woodsley's decor is enchanting, and so is its food. We'll happily nab a seat in this forest-themed spot at any time of day, but it's on best display at brunch. The quirky, hearty breakfast menu features Kentucky hot brown, sausages wrapped in buttermilk pancakes (pigs in a blanket) and monkey brains -- a sticky-sweet pastry that kicks the meal off right. We like to add a side of grits and a couple of biscuits. 1. JaJa Bistro There are few places we'd rather be on a Sunday morning than cozied up at a table in this unpretentious suburban brunch spot, drinking bottomless mimosas and diving into French breakfast staples. And while we might have trouble choosing between delightful, delicate crepes filled with pork loin and Granny Smith apples, or nutella and bruleed bananas, or ham, Swiss and a sunny-side-up egg -- or forgoing the French pancake altogether for a Croque Monsieur or crabcake Benedict -- we're never shy about cleaning our plates of every scrap. And that's why JaJa Bistro earned our Best Brunch award in Best of Denver 2011.

Honorable mentions go to Table 6, Colt & Gray and Lola.

Have another favorite? Tell us about it below.

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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