Ruth Tobias/Thrillist
Ruth Tobias/Thrillist
Ruth Tobias/Thrillist
Ruth Tobias/Thrillist
Lori Midson
Christopher Cina
Ruth Tobias/Thrillist
Ruth Tobias/Thrillist
Adam Larkey Photography
Ruth Tobias/Thrillist
Ruth Tobias/Thrillist
Ruth Tobias/Thrillist
Ruth Tobias/Thrillist
Ruth Tobias/Thrillist
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1. Avery Brewing Co. 4910 Nautilus Ct, Boulder, CO 80301 (Boulder)

This mega-facility in Gunbarrel has a full-service restaurant that actually looks like a restaurant, with decor and napkins and stuff. Granted, no one goes to a brewery for the food -- but that doesn’t stop the kitchen from putting some forethought into pub standards like quadrupel-braised onion soup, brisket-topped nachos, and smoked prime rib. Still, it’s the beer you come for, and it’s beer you shall have from 30 taps, many of them devoted to one-offs and experimental releases that you can only get right here. (By the way, there are 30 more in the taproom downstairs, which means the math is in any avid Avery fan’s favor.)

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2. bubu 1423 Larimer St, Denver, CO 80202

Part of Chef Troy Guard’s Colorado restaurant empire, bubu is a fast-casual, Asian-inspired bowl concept in Larimer Square. Known for its build-your-own-bowl customization, bubu’s customers can pick a bowl (different bowls come with different toppings), build the base (brown or white rice, rice noodles, or salad mix), select a protein, and cover it in their choice of dressing, or start entirely from scratch. Dairy kings and queens, take heed: there is not a single shred of cheese on the menu.

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3. Chowder Room 560 South Broadway, Denver, CO 80209 (Baker)

This dead-ringer for a Cape Cod clam shack serves up all sorts of seafood, from crab cakes to barbecued shrimp -- but its forte is its namesake (because if it weren’t, that would be confusing). Both New England-style clam stew and red chowder with salmon, tuna, and halibut are always available, while the bowl du jour changes constantly.

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4. Cho77 42 S Broadway, Denver, CO 80209 (Baker)

Cho77 is ChoLon for the cool kids. This spot from Lon Symensma is all about hawker stalls, snack carts, and beer shacks from Hanoi to Chiang Mai. We probably don’t have to tell you twice to get the fusion-inspired buffalo-chicken bao or the mashup of ramen and pasta carbonara, but we wouldn’t be doing our job if we didn’t insist on the only fruit plate you’ll ever love, tricked out with mint syrup and chili salt.

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5. The Good Son 2550 E Colfax Ave, Denver, CO 80206 (City Park)

Who hasn’t, at one time or another, thought to himself, "Hmm, I sure would like to visit the circus, but I also want some thick-crust pizza?" Well, you’re in luck. Paying homage to the theater that once stood here, the Bar-on family filled the former Silvi’s Kitchen with fanciful depictions of zebras and harlequins and carnival masks. The menu centers on Detroit-style pizza, noted for its rectangular shape, crisp bottom crust, and wall-to-wall carpet of cheese. It’s as well-constructed as you’d expect any dough-based dish from the folks who launched the Udi’s empire to be, especially paired with loads of craft beer. But don’t overlook daily specials like the commendable chicken & waffles, either.

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6. Harley’s A Hot Dog Revolution 1500 W Littleton Blvd, Denver, CO 80120

If an Italian sausage is good, an Italian sausage in a garlic bun topped with spaghetti and cheese-sprinkled marinara sauce is better; if an all-beef wiener is right, covering it in roast beef, pastrami, or brisket can’t be wrong. After paying his dues at a mall food court, Harley’s owner, Ed Ginsburg, now serves up these and other beasts in a patio-flanked space of his own.

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7. Nocturne 1330 27th St, Denver, CO 80205 (Five Points)

This supper club has a sleek, silvery Art Deco look; a live-jazz lineup; fancy cocktails, and chic nibbles like raw oysters with rose foam. Actual supper could have been an afterthought; instead the super-talented chef, Dustin Beckner, channels the improvisational spirit of jazz greats to create effortlessly elegant tasting menus that also happen to be a crazy good deal. It’s all pretty snazzy -- which is another way of saying it wouldn’t kill you to comb your hair and tuck in your shirt before you go.

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8. Onefold 1429 E 18th Ave, Denver, CO 80218 (Uptown)

With all of 35 seats and no more than seven or eight items on the all-organic menu at any given time -- including free-range bone broth and a $9 breakfast burrito -- this here is one boutique coffee shop. That might sound like a bad thing. Oh, but it really, really isn’t. Take said burrito, which is wrapped in a handmade tortilla and contains potatoes fried in duck fat. Also cooked in duck fat: the eggs topping a giant pile of bacon-fried rice. Also topped with an egg: the luscious comfort that is congee with smoked ham, drizzled in chili oil. Also drizzled in chili oil -- you, when you try to stick your whole head in the bowl. It’s called getting what you pay for, and Onefold delivers.

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9. Ophelia's Electric Soapbox , Denver, CO 80202

Given a midcentury gas station, Justin Cucci built the retro, subtly roadside-themed Root Down; given an old mortuary, he designed Linger to put the “fun” in “funerary.” Then he got hold of a former-bordello-turned-porn-shop. So yeah, you bet this sprawling two-story restaurant, lounge, and music venue revels in every louche touch, from nudie posters to black-velvet curtains to bars constructed from pinball panels and Jäger bottles. (As for the “dildos in the window,” Cucci’s still considering -- fingers crossed.) There’ll be funk, country, and hip-hop acts to catch on the downstairs stage. Kung fu flicks to watch on the giant movie screen. Lip-synch battles to wage. But here’s the funniest part: amid all the shenanigans, the kitchen’s keeping it classy, what with delicately smoked bay scallops and miso-bacon ostrich burgers and porter-teriyaki duck wings to soak up your Sex Machines. (That’s the name of a cocktail. Or is it?)

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10. Roaming Buffalo Bar-B-Que 2387 S Downing St, Denver, CO 80210 (University)

Considering Coy Webb’s roots, you’d expect glorious brisket at this craft BBQ spot; what you might not expect, however, is to get that brisket sliced and layered with tender chopped pork, spears of zesty jalapeño-cheddar sausage, smoked Gouda, and pickled peppers, all on a soft honey-wheat bun. You might also be surprised by Webb’s Colorado pride, but pulled lamb shoulder, bison short ribs, and thick-cut house potato chips flavored with green chile might finally put Denver on the national barbecue map.

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11. School House Kitchen and Libations 5660 Olde Wadsworth Blvd, Arvada, CO 80002

Old desks hang from the ceiling beams in the bookshelf-lined “library bar” downstairs, while the upstairs bar is designated the “teacher’s lounge.” The dining room’s illuminated by lamps made from globes, the bathroom walls resemble chalkboards, the menus look like classwork -- and all in all, this Olde Town Arvada spot is one big, hilarious flashback to first grade. Except that your elementary-school cafeteria probably didn’t carry some 700 different whiskeys from all over the world, along with more than 50 craft beers, and your lunch lady probably didn’t offer burgers and flatbreads with dozens upon dozens of toppings including shishito aioli, dried apricots, and pork jerky.

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12. Solitaire 3927 W 32nd Ave, Denver, CO 80212

Solitaire is a fine-dining destination in a renovated Victorian. Mark and Andrea Ferguson erased every last trace of quaintness from the property, stripping down the interior to give it a modern texture while adding a full bar and patios on all sides. The cocktail program has a freewheeling feel: think mezcal-sherry spritzers, jalapeño Hemingways, and a mix-and-match selection of gins and tonics. And constantly changing small plates like uni-quail yolk shooters or charred octopus in saffron zabaglione with black garlic and roasted grapes combine luxury with novelty. Sure, you’ll still be paying traditional fine-dining prices here -- but you’ll have an untraditionally fine time doing it.

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13. Wurstküche 2036 Broadway, Denver, CO 80205 (Northwest)

This LA-based German sausage and beer spot is offering its own brand of Cali-Germanic cool, serving up a slew of brews and links in an ingeniously renovated space at the edge of Five Points.

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14. Zoe Ma Ma 1625 Wynkoop St, Denver, CO 80202 (Lodo)

Bet you didn’t know you had a Taiwanese mom (unless you’re Taiwanese, in which case, bets off). But it’s true, because Edwin Zoe’s mother became everybody’s mother when she started cooking at his tiny homestyle-Chinese counter joint in Boulder. Now there’s a Union Station outpost -- bigger and shinier than the beloved original, with a built-in coffee bar called the Orient Espresso, but otherwise much the same. So get ready to devour plump and juicy potstickers, suck down duck soup or egg noodles in pork gravy, demolish deeply savory lion’s head meatballs while knocking back a Tsing Tao, and finally grapple with the guilt as you think about your real mom asking why you never come home for supper anymore.