Best Of 2013: • Indy Pick: Chicken pot pie
I didn't pick this just because of the heart-shaped cracker that comes on top of each pie. It helps, but this heaping dish hardly needs much décor — the crispy, flaky top covering creamy vegetables and healthy chunks of chicken are more than enough. According to the general manager, this house specialty is by far one of the restaurant's most popular items, and starts out as nothing more than a chicken dumpling soup blanketed with a puff pastry crust. And since it's a mere $8.95, you have cash left over to indulge in the joint's more adult namesake offerings. — Edie Adelstein
Bites 2013: Carrot Cake
Though it comes in the shape of a slice, this huge monolith of dessert has more layers than Shrek, feeds up to four people, and fits just fine in a completely empty, jumbo-sized freezer (because you're not eating this whole thing at once). It's a symphony of creamy frosting, soft layers of cake and all the caloric guilt you can muster. ($9.95)
Best Of 2014: Appetizers/Tapas
I've read that in Spain, having little snacks all day is such an important tradition that it even has its own verb: tapear means to eat tapas. And what a great way to spend the afternoon, evening or both. "We don't take reservations because people have been known to spend four to six hours enjoying tapas, drinks and conversation," says co-owner Jay Gust. The menu offers gluten-free, vegetarian and vegan options as well as a variety of seafood, meat, eggs, salads and a great selection of cocktails, wine and beer, including Colorado beer. "If it's not Spanish, it's from Colorado," Gust says. "And we like to support local farmers, too, as much as possible." — Kendall Kullman
Bites 2013: Chorizo & Figs at TAPAteria
No, those are not Vienna sausages, they're cured Cantimpalo-style Spanish sausages. Think piquant and smoky chorizo. And they're paired with tart California Conadria figs, which are stewed in sherry and balsalmic vinegar with spices that include cloves, which your nose will immediately sniff out. It's all a meaty, sweet-and-sour affair true to authentic Spanish flavors. As tapas go, luscious and addictive. ($6)
A renowned Sunday brunch and unbeatable city skyline view. No lunch service, but a special three-course Sunset Dinner menu available from 4:30 to 6 ($17.95 to $19.95). The prime rib and filet mignon are best-sellers, but nobody will steer you away from the Australian lobster tail.
Happy hour: Monday-Friday, 4-8 p.m.
The goods: $2 off wells and house margaritas, $2.50 domestics, $3.50 imports, $3.95 house wine
Happy hour: Daily, 3-6 p.m.
The goods: $3 wells, $2 Coors Light drafts, $4 house wines, $1 off any call drink, and half price appetizers
Bites 2013: The Inferno Burger
Lily-livered eaters with low heat tolerances need not apply. (Welcome to the jungle, baby!) The beer-batter-fried jalapeños will hit hardest, amplifying the spicy pepper jack's modest burn, followed up with a little chipotle character to the mayo. Yes on the lettuce and tomato, maybe on the bacon addition. The better-than brioche bun will handle it all, including the half-pound beef patty. Burn, baby, burn. ($9.99)
Best Of 2014: Neighborhood Restaurant: Central
How is it that Shuga's has won this award for four years running? For one thing, when you walk in, chances are you will see someone you know (or know of). Drew LiVigni, a server/bartender who has been there for more than seven years total, says it's a six-degrees-of-separation place. Which brings us to another reason, that being staff who stick around. Also, Shuga's has the food: The Brazilian Coconut Shrimp Soup is perfect for blustery days, but so good you'll want it even when it's nearing 90. The real extra touch here, though, is the To/From Board. Want to buy a drink for someone who's not there? You can do it — and their name is added to the board with the specific drink. The next time they're in, they can collect on it.— Laura Eurich
Bites 2013: Spicy Brazilian Coconut Shrimp
As prawn baths go, this one's epic. It's got peanut buttery, starchy sweetness, coconut milk smoothness, a mild ginger bite, medium jalapeño burn and a touch of cilantro influence. It's almost like a Thai dish doing a sexy samba dance. But it's more like the best damn thing in the world at that moment you're mopping it up with fat bread wedges, eyes rolled back, groaning like a mad fool. ($4 cup/$7 bowl)
Source: Purple Mountain Coffee
Get the: Spicy sipping chocolate
Rico's features a rotating selection of 20 wines by the glass. Look for an assortment of varietals including organic, vegan and sustainably harvested wines.
Rico's serves Purple Mountain Coffee products brewed in fancy Chemex carafes. You can also order sipping chocolates, alcohol and eats from Poor Richard's next door.
Best Of 2013: Upscale Bar
There are a lot of adjectives one could use to describe food and drink, but "gorgeous" is without a doubt the most romantic I've heard. That's how Rabbit Hole bartender Ryan Anthony explains what he calls the business' best drink, The Duchess, a pale yellow, sparkling-wine, grapefruit cosmopolitan, garnished with an orchid. Get your smartphones out, people — you're going to want to Instagram this one. In addition, the Rabbit Hole offers a dozen different Colorado bourbon whiskeys and frequently features wild game on the menu.— Gracie Ramsdell
Racking up a respectable number of Best Of awards in its first year, including Best New Restaurant, Rabbit Hole is the go-to for: great cocktails; a big Colorado craft beer list; full menu service until 1:30 a.m.; half-off-app happy hours; and playfully dressed, creative mains.
Best Of 2011: New Restaurant (since July 1, 2010)
With the Rabbit Hole, longtime area restaurateur Joseph Campana has made quite a comeback after "losing nearly everything." His chic, redesigned subterranean lair has been the talk of the town for some months now, thanks in part to his amiable staff and wicked happy-hour deals. But it's the full menu of luscious eats, like the rich, braised pork belly with red-eye gravy served until 1:30 a.m. nightly, that may have attracted the votes to edge fellow downtown newbie Springs Orleans. — Monika Mitchell Randall
Best Of 2014: Place to Shoot Pool
Best Of 2014: Bar Patio
Best Of 2014: Restaurant for Tourists
According to online billiards trivia gathered by "Dr. Dave" Alciatore, the largest pool hall ever built — a place called "The Recreation," in 1920s Detroit — held 103 tables, plus 88 bowling lanes, 20 barber chairs and 14 cigar stands. Yeah, but ... did it have a sweet patio looking down on the streets below, its own slate of brews and lemon Tabasco fried chicken? Then let's give some credit to Phantom Canyon, which does have all of the above, as well as a downtown location and responsive wait staff that help make it your favorite place to bring out-of-town guests. Plus, I'll gladly settle for "just" 13 tables when I also get a lively happy hour (3 to 6, seven days a week) and no rogue hairs from a barber's chair floating in my beer. — Kirk Woundy
Bites 2013: Blonde Ale & Smoked Gouda Soup
Like the Iron Throne in Game of Thrones or one of those geek-ass elven blades from The Lord of the Rings, this soup is legend. It's not so much that wars have been fought over it (aside from the personal mental battle of resisting eating it all the time) as the fact that it's pretty much the greatest beer-cheese soup in the known realm. With its Queen's Blonde Ale base and thick cheese, it's so rich it's royal. ($3.25 cup/$5 bowl)Click here for Phantom Canyon Brewing Co.'s Pork Green Chili
Best Of 2012: Beer Selection on Tap
Best Of 2012: Sports Bar
Best Of 2013: Cutting Edge Restaurant
Nosh has won this category since 2008, back when it was called "Innovative Menu." Which is kind of amusing, since the menu hasn't actually changed a whole lot since mid-2010, when then-chef Shane Lyons (who recently opened Distilled NY in Tribeca, to positive reviews) created many of what have become known as the "staples," in manager Tyler Schiedel's words. But that's how good they've been — to carry on at the forefront of the collective culinary consciousness, as if exciting introductions were still being made. Well, the good news, according to Schiedel, is that tinkering is about to begin again under consulting chef Andrew Sherrill from the Blue Star; expect new dishes in the next few months. Nosh's bar program, too, deserves a nod, highlighting quality craft beers and creative cocktails. "We couldn't do it without the entire staff," says Schiedel.— Matthew Schniper
Bites 2013: Spicy Bison Sandwich
If ever a better way to eat bison tongue has existed, we know it not. Nosh's chefs braise the meat stupid-tender with tomato paste and red wine over the course of 24-plus hours at 200 degrees. They then cook it with caramelized onions, jalapeños and Anaheims, receiving more kick from cayenne mayo and pepper jack cheese, melted onto Old School Bakery bread. Dunk that in a sweet jus constructed of the braising liquid refortified with extra carrots to draw out natural sugars. Tatonka! ($9.50 includes a side, lunch only)
Bites 2013: Lamb Stew
t's snowing outside, quiet little flakes, so you stop at the pub for some bites and a beer. You do a bowl of lamb stew, a mahogany concoction flecked with red chunks of tomato and scallions. You're enveloped in hot steam, you taste rosemary, Guinness and soft potatoes, and you sop with crumbly bites of soda bread. ($7.95 lunch/$12.95 dinner)
Best Of 2010: Weekly Bar Event
Geeks Who Drink Pub Quiz
With more than 20 primo Irish whiskeys in addition to a large, international beer list, McCabe's could be considered a drink destination first, especially during European soccer matches, pub quiz nights and Colorado College hockey games. But there's plenty of authentic Irish eats as well, in addition to a rockin' Sunday brunch. Grab the divine Rosemary Guinness Lamb Stew at lunch or a shepherd's pie or bangers & mash for dinner. Stay in Ireland with a rich Guinness chocolate cake with Irish cream sauce for dessert.
Bites 2013: Smoked Salmon Cakes
Precious few items remain fixed on Margarita's ever-changing menu, but this is one that's earned its spot by popular demand. The salmon's rubbed with brown sugar, salt and pepper and hickory smoked on the stove-top. Insert a bed of spinach salad, caper cream cheese and either a horseradish crema or lemon-dill tarter sauce. And son, you're in happytown. ($10 on the lounge menu/$13 at brunch)
Best Of 2014: Power Lunch
It's not that you have to order multiple martinis and cancel your afternoon appointments if you're descending into the warm dimness of MacKenzie's. Assistant general manager Linda Tolfa explains that part of what makes the place so popular for a business lunch is that people can get "in and out": "The service is fast," she says. "Food comes out in less than 10 minutes." But you certainly can stay a while, and since Tolfa says the food is "way better" than it used to be when she started 16 years ago (thanks to executive chef Pete Moreno), you may want to take your time and savor. Asked about the biggest business deal she knows to have gone down there in her time, she chuckles. "We have a lot of them," she says, adding, "Those lawyers who come in here, they don't tell us what they're doing. They really don't." If those walls could talk ... — Kirk Woundy