Eating your way through Denver

Admittedly, Denver has taken it’s time finding solid footing within the culinary community. Yet this vibrant metropolis has managed to attract more than a handful of good chefs and restaurateurs.

Denver’s food scene is more than beef, buffalo and brews. Sure, the annual National Western Stock Show, one of the nation’s largest winter livestock sales and rodeos, kicks up the cowboy hat and pick-up truck quotient this month. But barely meriting a gourmand’s sideward glance as some sort of fly-over cow town? Them’s fightin’ words. Admittedly, Denver has taken it’s time finding solid footing within the culinary community. Yet this vibrant metropolis has managed to attract more than a handful of good chefs and restaurateurs. Here are a few food-related stops guaranteed to fill your plate during a Mile High City stay:

Probably the toughest table in town to book is actually in Boulder, a 30-minute drive from downtown Denver. Frasca opened in 2004, and in ’05 Lachlan MacKennon-Patterson was named a Food & Wine Best New Chef. Frasca’s standout among its Friuli-Venezia Giulian dishes: house-made, hand-cut tagliatelli with spicy pork carbonara and oregano. (303-442-6966; www.frascafoodandwine.com)

Jennifer Jasinski still generates buzz a year after opening Rioja in Larimer Square. Of note on the Mediterranean-influenced menu: cranberry and duck confit-stuffed handmade ravioli with gorgonzola and red wine butter sauce. (303-820-2282; www.riojadenver.com)

Don’t mistake Vesta Dipping Grill for a fondue spot. Its menu lets adventurous palates pair signature dishes like ginger-chile seared tuna or garlic tzatkik grilled lamb with up to three of 30 dipping sauces. (303-296-1970; www.vestagrill.com)

Locals can’t get enough of Tamayo’s guacamole. The ingredients (avocado, tomato, onion and cilantro) are simple, but the result is perfect, especially when paired with a stellar view of the Rocky Mountains from the rooftop lounge. (720-946-1433; www.modernmexican.com)

The Fort is the place to go for game, like the buffalo, quail and elk plate. And try the pickled jalapeños stuffed with mango sweetened peanut butter. (303-697-4771; www.thefort.com)

For soup and sandwiches it’s Jay’s Patio Cafe, in Uptown. Try the Barbados chicken panini and Sherry Mushroom and Pumpkin Chowder. (303-455-9275; www.JaysPatioCafe.com)

In Castle Rock, Castle Cafe’s fried chicken recipe takes a page from Stroud’s in Kansas City—pan-fried with cracklin’ gravy and Parker House rolls. (303-314-CAFE; www.castlecafe.com)

Denver’s retail food scene isn’t fairly traditional, with one exception: Marzyk Fine Foods. It’s the only Colorado out let to sell Niman Ranch beef, plus it operates one of the few cheese caves in the state.   

Best of the best

The Buckhorn Exchange exudes a theme-park vibe, what with Wild West artifacts cramming every corner and hundreds of taxidermy (bear, moose, fowl, you-name-it) on the walls. But Denver’s oldest restaurant still serves up the Best Rocky Mountain Oysters. (303-534-9505; www.buckhorn.com)

The Best calamari is at Elway’s, where it’s served Rhode Island style—lightly breaded then sautéed with pieces of baby corn and bleu cheese-stuffed olives with pepperoncini and cherry peppers. (303-399-5353; www.elways.com)

Emil-Lene’s Steak House has only one dessert—served naked or with hot fudge—and it’s the Best homemade vanilla ice cream in town. (303-366-6674)

 

For the Best grilled cheese head over to Chedd’s, where you create masterpieces from 35 cheeses, 12 breads, plus meats, veggies and spreads. (303-386-3998, www.chedds.com)

The Best place for coffee that’s not a Starbucks is Perk Hill. (303-377-5282)

For the Best Martini head to The Cruise Room inside downtown’s Oxford Hotel. The joint opened the day after Prohibition was repealed. (303-628-5400; www.theoxfordhotel.com)

Touring around

Boulder’s own Celestial Seasonings offers daily tours to tea lovers. (303-581-1202; www.celestialseasonings.com)

Haystack Mountain Goat Dairy, one of 50 farmstead cheese makers in the United States, is open Tues. and Sat., noon til 2 p.m. (720-494-8714; www.haystackgoatcheese.com)

Hammond’s Candies, a local fave that specializes in hand-pulled, hand-twisted candy canes, lollipops and ribbon candy, offers tours Mon. thru Sat. (303-333-5588; www.hammondcandies.com)

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