Alchemy, Thai Mint, Barney's Diner 

Dine & Dash

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2625 W. Colorado Ave., 471-0887, alchemypubcolorado.com

The west side's answer to late grubbing, Alchemy earns respect for a fun and sophisticated cocktail menu above all, where even when you are drinking Jameson and ginger ale, ingredients like St-Germain elderflower liqueur and black bitters can join (in the Irish Elder, $8.50) to herbalize the affair.

The food remains mixed in execution, though. I appreciate a pan-seared tilapia as the highlight of the fish and chips ($12), which also sees nicely prepared spud wedges instead of french fries. Cheers, too, on the honey-lavender glazed carrots. But the Colombian Ajiaco soup ($6/small, $9/large) tastes little like the stunning beauty once served at the now-defunct Café Corto downtown. It's got the potato bounty and guasca (potato weed for astringency) but not the aji (an optional spicy pepper sauce), plus too much caper saltiness, and not deep enough of a chicken stock. — Matthew Schniper

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Thai Mint

1725 Briargate Blvd., 598-7843, thai-mint.com

Around its third anniversary back in August, Thai Mint expanded into an adjoining storefront, adding nearly 20 more tables and updating its menu. The new digs are modern and chic, with nice wood and dark tablecloths setting off the vibrant food placed upon them. I'd last visited in 2011, to uneven results. But this visit was seamless.

I went for the Gai Yang ($7.95), a new-to-me house specialty that survived the menu change. Considering its price, a beyond-generous portion of char-marked chicken pieces arrives garnished with soft bell pepper strands and scallions, the meat yellowed by marinating spices blended into coconut milk. No rice, no underlying cabbage or side item — this is the all-chicken show, and it's all awesome, juicy, grill-flavor-rich, and even better when dunked into a side bowl of sticky sweet chili dip. There will be bones (left). — Matthew Schniper

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Barney's Diner

129 W. Las Animas St., 632-1756

Barney's is unlike any other restaurant in the city, or maybe it just did a better job than even the Platte Avenue joints of keeping the feel of diners gone by. Wood paneling, booths, old pictures, a counter full of newspapers, coffee mugs with ads on them, a power plant outside — it's blue-collar dining at its best. Laughter regularly floats from the kitchen.

The two-burrito plate ($5.40) is as big and cheap as the old restaurant is awesome, but the filling tastes like the better bits that get scraped off the grill. A plate-sized pancake ($2.40) is packed with fat blueberries, though. And thankfully, our visit comes on Chicken Day, a multi-decade classic that's been expanded to every first and third Wednesday. (Jan. 7 and 21 are next.) Battered in just flour, salt and pepper — then fried in lard in a cast-iron skillet — the three pieces of juicy fried chicken ($7.75) arrive in a crispy shell that tastes kind of like bacon. — Bryce Crawford

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