7495 N. Academy Blvd., 418-2279, tokyojoes.com
It's great to be inside Tokyo Joe's, the Centennial-based chain with roughly 25 locations, all but this new one located north of us. There's a bunch of lunch-seekers, including the mayor's wife, during our visit, but a sign advises me, "Don't Freak Out! JOE'S LINE MOVES REAL FAST! :)" And it does, but I'd be fine even if it didn't: The huge, square, red lamps hanging low over everything, the bamboo walls, the brushed stainless steel — it's all cool.
And the prices are killer. But I don't want to eat mushy gyoza ($3) again, and the four pieces of spicy tuna sushi ($3.60) were even tamer than they were pretty. And while the signature MoJoe chicken bowl ($7.90) blew up with bright flavors, I wish I'd replaced the fat, overcooked noodles with rice to soak up the soupy mess at the bottom. Loved the French-press Jasmine Pearl tea ($1.70), though, and the rich cup of miso ($1.90) rocked tofu cuts the size of dice. — Bryce Crawford
Dad & Dude's Breweria
6730 S. Cornerstar Way, Centennial, 303/400-5699, dankipa.com
To peg Dank IPA (around $9/16-ounce four-pack) — beyond the Reefer Madness-inspired tall green cans with D-A-N-K spelled out in a font I shall call Hulk-knuckle — one must clarify its origin. Brewer Mason "Dude" Hembree explains it is contract-brewed at Denver's Prost Brewing because his "breweria" qualifies as the smallest brewpub in the state. There, you'll find playful small-batch beers only available on-site, plus an agave-sweetened pizza dough made with 20 percent spent grain.
As the flagship of "Dude's Brews," and the only one currently distributed, 6.5-percent-ABV Dank showed up here around November. It blends citrusy Columbus and Summit hops, called "dank-centric" by Dude because they're a "resin bomb" of heavy hop character. C-60 malt, "with a nice caramel/vanilla backbone," balances that while contributing deep amber coloration. Pot-culture-appeal aside, it's plenty likeable. — Matthew Schniper
Bird Dog BBQ
6965 Mesa Ridge Pkwy., #190, Fountain, 322-0900, birddogbbq.com
The guy behind the counter walked us through every tray of meat back there, telling us when it was smoked and what his favorite was, giving us samples, advice and extra pickles. And it smelled incredible, too, the thick, campfire atmosphere implying that this is a place that stacks piles of dried oak by the bathroom, which it is.
So, upon our gentleman's recommendation, we ordered a smoked turkey sandwich ($5.50), and the day's special: the Shotgun Spud ($6), a large baked potato whose sole role in life was to prop up our melting butter, sour cream, cheese and piles of steaming shredded brisket. No complaints, and it's almost a meal for two. As for the sandwich, turkey meat so often disappoints, so to have its usually dry countenance transformed into a pink-white, slightly sweet bit of juiciness was a real treat, particularly with a bottle of thick, sweet, house barbecue sauce. — Bryce Crawford