Mile High City Foodies Dish on Dining in Denver
A great restaurant scene cannot thrive on great restaurants alone; it needs dedicated diners – “foodies” – who tirelessly spread the word about up-and-coming chefs, dishes that you simply have to try, and new culinary hot spots. Denver’s got plenty of foodies, including critics, bloggers and chefs, who love the Mile High City’s eating options and want everyone to know it!
Tucker Shaw, The Denver Post
Denver's restaurant world is fearless. Our cooks are audacious and creative, but their restaurants are very accessible – no foodier-than-thou attitude here. We have a young city which is reflected in the restaurant scene. Denverites won't let a restaurant rest on its laurels, so the cooks are energetic and smart, always changing up the game. Another thing that Denver cooks know about is throw-down pig-out food; few are the menus that don't have a solid take on meat-and-potatoes. Tucker's Recommendations:
The pan-fried chicken thighs with peanut mole and corn relish over at Lola
(1575 Boulder St.). I am currently a big fan of the roasted half chicken at Lou's Food Bar
up on 38th and Shoshone. Beautifully simple, a meaty homestyle bird roasted with herbs and butter, served with vegetables of the day. Salty fries on the side. Easy, not overthought, satisfying.
Elise Wiggins, Chef, Panzano
I love the Denver restaurant world because we honestly have so many talented chefs. Denver chefs are in an exciting place as far as the country's restaurant scene. We are slowly but surely making a name for Denver. Denver and our chefs are extremely “green”-conscious. A lot of people choose to live in Denver because it’s a healthy place to live compared to other cities. So, chefs that cook with healthy “green” foods are in demand. Elise's Recommendations:
The house-made charcuterie that chef/owner Jean-Phillip Failyau makes at Osteria Marco
(1453 Larimer St.) and tacos al pastor from Taco de Mexico
(714 Santa Fe Dr.)!
Claire Walter, Food & Travel Writer/Blogger
What I like most about Denver restaurants is the general lack of pretension. Local chefs and restaurateurs certainly compete with one another, but there is also a great deal of collegiality and generosity to each other and to worthy causes whenever called upon. It is possible to enjoy truly excellent food in restaurants representing many ethnic cuisines, in all price ranges and degrees of formality. I've had great food at tables covered with everything from fine linen to Formica. Claire's Recommendations: Solera Restaurant & Wine Bar
's (5410 E. Colfax) Mac & Cheese made a major impression on me because I don't really like mac and cheese. My mother never made this American classic, so the first time I had it was at in Miss McCabe's 8:00 a.m. home economics class. Dreadful then and every other time I've eaten it – usually out of politeness somewhere. I never bought the brand in the box and only ordered it at Solera because I heard it was really good. And it was. Discovering a delicious version of something I've shunned qualifies as a VERY big impression. Wherever you sit in Palettes
(100 W. 14th Ave. Parkway), a classy restaurant in the Denver Art Museum, there’s something to look at — sculptures on the plaza outside the large windows, abstract paintings against white walls, the semi-open kitchen or artistry on the plate. Two friends and I enjoyed a weekday lunch – to me the ideal time to visit. Highlights were the smoked sweet corn soup with guacamole and barbecued shrimp; an Asian-inspired entree of Togorashi seared tuna, bok choi, sesame sticky rice, gingered pickles and wasabi ponzu; and the inspired Sharp’s orange Creamsicle “pie” with white chocolate base, meringue crown, raspberry compote and a fresh strawberry for dessert.
Jen Jasinski, Chef, Rioja
I love that Denver’s restaurant scene is down to earth like the people here in Denver; We all know each other and share a mutual respect for each other. Jen's Recommendations:
I love the Vietnamese food culture in Denver, there are quite a few good Vietnamese places like New Saigon
(630 S. Federal Blvd.), [which has] a great green papaya salad.
Amanda Faison, Senior Editor/Food Writer, 5280 Magazine
I love that [in Denver] you can go completely casual at the iconic Cherry Cricket
(2641 E. 2nd Ave.) or go high-end at places like Fruition
(1313 E. 6th Ave.) or Table 6
(609 Corona St.). But at all of these restaurants there's a sense of comfort and familiarity that is so very Denver. Our city has made huge culinary strides in the last decade, and it's exciting to see the local restaurant scene offer a little something for everyone. Amanda's Recommendations: Root Down
's (1600 W. 33rd Ave.) offerings – especially the smoked portobello, leek, and mascarpone wontons and the organic carrot and red curry soup – have captivated my attention. Although Root Down is not solely a vegetarian restaurant, I appreciate that owner Justin Cucci and chef Ryan Leinonen look at vegetables as the building blocks of a dish, rather than an afterthought. Solera's smoked Snake River Farms pork chop with whipped yams, grilled onions, and chipotle-pork jus. Pork chops can often be overcooked and blah, but this chop is perfectly cooked to medium. The yams are heavenly and light (even though they're packed with butter), and the sauteed greens complete a wonderfully balanced, flavorful, and slightly smoky dish. The Gastro Cart
's caramelized cabbage roll with whole grain rice, cream cheese, smoked jalapeno-aioli and duxelle. I love this street cart's fare – the menu is limited but fun and always interesting. It doesn't hurt that the cooks manning the cart came from Table 6. [More] dishes that I keep coming back to: Trillium
’s (2134 Larimer St.) steelhead trout raaka – essentially a very fresh, exquisitely seasoned tartare – with apple, shallots, and fennel; and Charcoal
's (43 W. 9th Ave.) speck-wrapped monkfish with sweet potato tortilla espanola. While these both sound like complicated dishes, they’re quite the opposite with flavors that are simple and accessible.
Tyler Wiard, Chef, Elway's
Denver has a great network of chefs who talk to each other on a regular basis about new ideas, philosophies, what’s new, have you been here, etc. We also will go to each other establishments and dine. We like to hang out together, we like learning from each other. We know that there is really good food and restaurants in Denver and we are going to always let people know that Denver has a killer food scene through our food and passion. Tyler's Recommendations:
The dish that I would have to say has made a big impression on me in the last couple of months is the cured meat plate at Vesta Dipping Grill
(1822 Blake St.). Their charcuterie skills are amazing. It is a lost art and it is nice to see them make such excellent cured meats in a tradition that is slowly dying. They have a passion. The chicken wings at Marco's Coal-Fired Pizza
(2129 Larimer St.) are amazing. The large #7 Pho at Pho 79 I eat at least three times a week, I crave it. The green chile at Santiago's
on Leetsdale near Holly is awesome as well, the hotter the better.
Matt Selby, Denver Chef
What I love the most about the Denver restaurant scene is the resurgence of a chef community. While we are all certainly in direct competition, we've found ourselves doing charitable events, special dinners, and joining community-driven organizations together. Throughout all of this we are learning from each other, and growing with each other. It's sort of this realization that we are only as good as each other gets...so while it's a competitive market, it's also a reciprocal atmosphere. Ultimately, Denver diners benefit. Matt's Recommendations:
A dish that I had this summer keeps haunting me ... Alex Seidel at Fruition
(1313 E. 6th Ave.) does a pasta carbonara, with cured pork belly, handmade cavatelli, soft poached egg and parmesan broth. Delicious. The dish has everything I love, and they do it with precision... the menu even describes the egg as being a "six minute egg"! I also love that it's offered as an appetizer, rather than traditionally as an entree. Too much of a good thing is excessive! I keep going back to the Del Re pizza at Marco's Coal Fired Pizzeria
(2129 Larimer St.). Listen to this...truffle and porcini, pecorino sardo, fresh mozzarella, prosciutto and basil. Yes. That's what I'm talking about. I can eat two whole Del Re Pizzas in one sitting. Marco's is the best. I love that they started doing some sandwiches, and the salads are great starters. My kids freak out over the Nutella pizza for dessert.
Kristen Browning-Blas, food editor, The Denver Post
Having recently assumed the role of food editor here at The Denver Post, my dining to-do list is long. So far, the best meal I’ve had was lunch at Pinche Tacos
(1514 York St.). This simple (but not simplistic) Mexican menu made me want to stand up right there in the restaurant and say “hallelujah,” and I hadn’t even had any tequila. Each soft tortilla comes, like an offering, with carefully prepared fillings that taste of what they are – roasted pork, ripe avocado, citrus-y steak – unsullied by a chef’s fussing. The $3-$4.50 tacos are small (some say too). I don’t care, Pinche Tacos has become my go-to Friday lunch. I’m heading there now.
Ruth Tobias, food blogger, Denveater
It’s amazing to me that so many newcomers are absolutely living up to the pre-opening hype they generated: Le Grand
(1512 Curtis St.), Row 14
(891 14th St.), and Linger
(2030 W. 30th Ave.) all come to mind. That said, I was all the more impressed by the exquisite recent experiences I had at Black Cat Bistro, Izakaya Amu, and Twelve considering that all three have just been quietly doing their thing for some time now. I also think Ryan Leinonen is hitting it out of the ballpark, no neighborhood pun intended, at Trillium.
Denver On A Spit, food blogger
Denver On A Spit's Recommendation:
As a food blogger I feel compelled to write about everything I eat. But there are times when my wife and I slip away from the kids – and everything else – to have a quiet meal by ourselves. On those nights we leave behind both camera and cell phones — and try and do nothing else but enjoy the moment and the meal. One of these experiences last year was at Beatrice and Woodsley
(38 S. Broadway). After watching a surreal, enveloping film at the Mayan we stepped into the fairy-tale-like wooded confines of one of Denver’s loveliest restaurants. At the corner of the bar we shared sips of excellent wine, several delicious small plates and each other’s company. It was a much-needed escape from reality and a reminder of how important dining out is in our lives.
Stacey Brugeman, Dining Critic, 5280 Magazine
Stacey's Recommendations: Colt & Gray
’s (1553 Platte St.) Long Farm Pig Trotters. In keeping with the national popularity of nose-to-tail cooking, Denver chefs are doing a great job introducing diners to some incredible animal cuts, such as braised veal cheeks, beef tongue pastrami, porchetta di testa, and chicken livers any number of ways. One of my favorite dishes in town is the pig trotters from the newly opened Colt & Gray in the Platte Street neighborhood. The bar snack, a crab cake-like patty with whole-grain mustard, is an entirely approachable version of the meat and fat from a pig’s foot. Steuben’s
(523 E. 17th St.) Rock and Rye. Colorado, long known for its microbrews and density of Master Sommeliers, is now also making a name for itself in the world of distillation and mixology with bartenders across Denver creating their own infusions, bitters, and tonics to mix with a variety of area-produced spirits. One of my favorite cocktails is the Rock and Rye at Steuben's on 17th Avenue, where mixologist Sean Kenyon infuses Rittenhouse 100 rye whiskey with orange and lemon zest, cloves, cassia bark, horehound, and rock candy. It’s a perfect, Denver-made take on this turn-of-the-century cure-all.