Josh & John's
6896 Centennial Blvd., 532-0299, joshandjohns.com
Knowing the nearly 30-year-old downtown Josh & John's is kind of like knowing where to vote; it's practically a civic duty. That said, I'd totally forgotten that this second, Mountain Shadows location existed, since I rarely visit the Centennial Boulevard/Vindicator Drive area. It opened in a former Starbucks, post-Waldo Canyon Fire, with co-owner Lindsay Keller (whose mom's home was destroyed) seeking to tie in to the strong new sense of community there.
I of course sample no fewer than a trio of fine flavors — Malted Mazel Toff, SwitchBack Coffee, and white chocolate raspberry truffle — before deciding on some pre-packed pints ($5.75) of salted peanut butter cup and mocha java jolt to enjoy at home. The former would make George Washington Carver proud, with generous chunks of candy and salt-amped sweetness. Whole coffee beans in the potent latter may ruin your bedtime, but certainly not your moments of indulgence. — Matthew Schniper
111 E. Boulder St., 418-3484, supernova.com
Taco Tuesday at the local barcade sounds like a collegiate dream on Boulder Street. But SuperNova's hard-shell tacos ($1) — available with black bean, beef or chicken — bury scarce, if adequately seasoned, fillings within cheese, tomato and lettuce for a bite heavy on white-corn crunch. Save your dollars for the change machine and invest in something from the Pub Grub menu, half-price during happy hour every weekday from 3 to 6.
Meanwhile, the bacon ranch poppers ($8) skip the traditional breading for a bacon wrap, crisped on the grill before getting a quick dip in the fryer to finish. They're not greasy, though, featuring a nice mix of crunch and chew from the bacon, with a ranch cream cheese filling that doesn't cloy. Pair them with a $3 glass of wine, well drink or tap pint — all featuring Colorado sourcing — for a solid after-work bite. — Griffin Swartzell
302 E. Platte Ave., 650-2495, cupcakegirls.co
It's 2015, so naturally Cupcake Girls sells gluten-free cupcakes ($1.50 minis) and regular cupcakes ($1.25 minis). Both renditions of the Hostess with the Mostest feature just enough chocolate cake to hold the whipped-cream-and-cream-cheese filling and the chocolate frosting on top, but the GF version, which uses a blend of flours, presents a disappointing earthy flavor in a heavier cake.
The GF SoSo Sweet & Salty, though, might as well be a regular cupcake for its texture and taste. The chocolate cake is mild, and the salted caramel frosting towers, but it's a pleasantly sugary bite. That said, I'm taken with the Say Cream Cheese. The GF version swaps a solid graham cracker crust for better-yet buttery chopped almond. Both crusts come topped with a fluffy baked cheesecake, sour cream glaze and fresh raspberries and blueberries. Here's hoping the Girls begin offering a GF version of the Under the Tuscan Sun, a summery bite of Limoncello cupcake and macerated fresh raspberry. — Griffin Swartzell