No free munch: Blue Bonnet, the readers' choice, does charge for chips and salsa

The Food & Drink section of the Best of Denver 2013 contained more than a hundred categories (with a dozen more food-related awards in Shopping & Services); many of those also featured Readers' choice picks. And although readers showed good taste in choosing Smashburger over McDonald's for Best French Fries (the editorial winner was Jonesy's EatBar), they didn't exhibit the same smarts when it came time to choose the Best Free Chips and Salsa, an award that we gave to Zocalo, which now has two outposts -- both delivering free, fresh chips and an incredibly flavorful salsa to anyone who sits down.

The readers' choice? Blue Bonnet, a 45-year-old institution on South Broadway. There's just one problem: Blue Bonnet charges for its chips and salsa. Just a buck, true, but it does charge. See also: - Best of Denver 2013 - Best Free Chips and Salsa 2013: Zocalo Restaurant and Bar - Drunk of the Week: Blue Bonnet -- what's in a name?

And it has since the beginning -- July 1968, when Gary Mobell's family took over the place that had a distinctly non-Mexican name, and turned it into a Mexican joint. "We still have all the basics that our restaurant was built on," Mobell notes.

But there have been some changes. The Blue Bonnet is now in its second location, and has been expanding on that, including adding to the great outdoor patio. They've also added to the menu, with gluten-free fare, lighter dishes and innovative tacos. And then there's the drink roster, which now includes some "really fun kinds of margaritas," Mobell says, none of which rely on "purees out of a bottle." A couple of the cucumber and fire-roasted-jalapeno versions, or maybe the strawberry basil margs, and it would be easy to overlook that charge for chips on the final tab.

Blue Bonnet has won plenty of deserved readers' awards during the three decades we've been publishing the Best of Denver. Just don't go there expecting to get your chips and salsa for free.

Pass the buck. A version of this story appeared in Cafe Bites, our newsletter devoted to Denver's drinking and dining scene that lands in e-mail inboxes every Wednesday. Find out how to sign up for Cafe Bites here.

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