890 14th St., Denver, 303/623-2811, pizzarepublica.com
Good pizza is a joy, but lordy, $16 for a 12-inch pie feels steep, even for Denver. On Republica's dinner menu, they actually run as high as $19. That said, my slightly-cheaper Pizza Georgio does its best to prove worthy. The fried garlic chips and fennel sausage (made using Republica's recipe at Denver-based Polidori Meat Processors) help bring Neapolitan bliss on a cardstock-thin crust with an elegant char, the garlic punch offset by the sweetness of the scorched pearl onions and the fennel.
The Pizza Rustica's bite of red sauce, salumi di Genoa and prosciutto di Parma imposes a mighty saltiness over red-pepper-flake heat, and the deep, savory flavor of the meat begs for a beer. Moretti la Rossa ($6/12-ounce pour) is tasty but safe, a Heineken-owned Italian take on malty doppelbock. Instead, get the Firestone Walker Hoppy Pils ($6.50/12-ounce bottle), three-time GABF gold medalist for German Pilsner. — Griffin Swartzell
1798 W. Uintah St., 634-8114, yoyogurtusa.com
The kid wants birthday cake flavor, and after sampling around, I'm sold on the peanut butter fudge gelato. So we share a cup down the middle and she tosses in some mint chips and peanut butter cups, and a few bits of this and that, just 'cause all the toppings are too alluring to an 8-year-old. It's dessert for two for $4.17 (at 49 cents an ounce).
That affordability has to be one reason the local self-serve frogurt boom has endured since 2011. YoYogurt has expanded to five locations, cannibalizing the likes of Buttercup's and outpacing competitors like iTopit. Consumers appear to still view frozen yogurt as the healthy ice cream alternative, though half a cup delivers between six and 23 grams of sugar (according to YoYogurt's online nutrition guide for its distributor's products), and the low-fat fad has been effectively undermined. Some flavors have a "real ingredients" icon, which makes me wonder what makes the others taste good. — Matthew Schniper
528 S. Tejon St., 444-8487, southsidejohnnys.net
"We're never going to be like Shuga's, and popular with the yuppies and fun, beard-growing millennials," says Johnny Nolan, owner of SouthSide Johnny's and Johnny's Navajo Hogan. "But we're doing more in-house now, like braising our own pork and making our own corned beef."
Indeed, SSJ's house menu has evolved a bit, with items such as the interesting Captain Crunch Chicken Strips ($8.95), which, yes, take the breakfast cereal and grind it down with some corn flakes and a little Panko. That noticeably sweet breading coats hand-cut poultry pieces and fries up golden brown and nicely crunchy — thanks, Cap'n! — while holding a freakish amount of moistness in the chicken. Nolan then makes a play off Bonefish Grill's Bang Bang Shrimp dip with a Sriracha mayo that comes off like a spicy remoulade. He calls it his Gangnam dipping sauce, inspired by the song. As a whole package, it's as beer-friendly as they come. — Matthew Schniper