Invariably, we are drawn northward for a concert or art exhibit or to visit friends and family, glad to have the opportunity to knock another recommended Denver eatery off our must-taste list. Just as invariably, we are jealous, even bitter.
Why isn't this place in Colorado Springs?
"We're cool, too! Huh, guys ... huh?
"C'mon, we'll throw money at your trendy stuff, when it backs up its pomp with bite."
The following eateries reached our radars via the usual combination of research and gossip — checking out the food coverage of Denver publications, the blogs and tweets of area foodies, and some direct referrals from chefs and industry folk. These days, you really can land in the right dining room seats with minimal effort.
Seek, and you shall be rewarded.
1514 York St., Denver, 720/475-1337, pinchetacos.com
The former food truck inhabits a corner spot in a neighborhood brick building in City Park West. Sounds easy enough, but with a small star-shaped sign just the color of aging brick, it may take you (as it did us) a few trips around the block to find it.
The trek is so incredibly worth it, though. This is the kind of spot that you feel cool just standing in. One wall's been covered with chalkboard paint and then filled with a list of 20 or so high-end tequilas.
But for pinche's sake, order the tacos, and make 'em the queso a la plancha ($2.95) or the pork belly agridulce ($3.50). The asada's ($3.25) good and the carnitas ($2.95) better, but the plancha is bracingly sour and creamy, while the pork belly melts like butter, over candied garlic and crispy slaw. — Bryce Crawford
2030 W. 30th Ave., Denver, 303/993-3120, lingerdenver.com
Opened in a former mortuary (hence "eatuaries" on the menu) in Denver's trendy Highland neighborhood last June by Root Down chef/owner Justin Cucci, Linger is painfully stylish in all the right ways. (Ironic mustaches unite!) The time to go is during Tuesday through Friday happy hours, 4 to 6:30, where cocktails and small plates (some not so) range from $4 to $6.
Our large, pre-concert party sampled nearly the whole HH menu (morbidly printed like a toe tag) on the newly opened rooftop bar with a killer city view. My favorite drinks: the red sangria and green tea ginger vodka cooler. Top eats: Kobe short rib bbq tacos with Napa slaw; Mongolian bbq duck on a steamed bun; Indian paneer of farmers cheese cubes in spicy chile. Gluten-free options abound. — Matthew Schniper
1555 Blake St., Denver, 720/524-4345, hburgerco.com
When in H Burger, eat the H Burger ($11.50). I'd say order some sweet liquid-nitrogen milkshakes, too, but we didn't taste them; only read that they existed and wept into our napkins that our budget wasn't sugar-based.
Joy beckoned, however, when a burger cooked to a gorgeous medium rare debuted on the table. Menu description: "Imagine biting into a perfectly ripe piece of fruit. Now imagine you plucked that fruit from a cow." Add a big bloody flavor laced with salty bacon, green chilies, smoked cheddar, Bibb lettuce, tomatoes, red onions and a bad-ass red pepper-tomato jam on a spongy brioche bun, and our tears became fears that we'd be done soon. Tip: Skip the hand-cut fries — they're unsalted and wimpy. Grab a plate of the balsamic-imbued asparagus ($4.95) topped with chopped almonds instead. — Bryce Crawford